Recap: Community S3 E04: Remedial Chaos Theory
The study group gets together for a housewarming party for Troy and Abed's new apartment. In particular, they bring attention to a piece of decoration they are very proud of: an Indiana Jones boulder escape scene diorama in the living room. After everyone has shown up, the group starts playing Yahtzee until the pizza arrives and nobody wants to go down to get it. Jeff suggests rolling a six-sided die to decide who gets to go downstairs, and Abed mentions that in doing so he's creating six different timelines. They even come conveniently numbered by the die roll they're associated with.Just as Abed predicted, the die roll causes the episode to split into six different stories depending on who went down to get the pizza.Timeline 1 (Community 2): Annie goes to get the pizza. While she's away, Jeff stops Britta from singing "Roxanne." Britta goes to the bathroom. Pierce volunteers the fact that he had sex with Eartha Kitt in an airplane bathroom. Troy notices something in Annie's open purse and realizes that it is a gun, which he points out to Jeff and Pierce. Pierce scuffs at the gun, calling it a "girl's peashooter" and gives Troy a housewarming present, but Troy is too worried about the gun to pay him any notice. Jeff declares he is getting himself a drink, but hits his head on the ceiling fan as he rises from his seat, much to Pierce's amusement. Shirley returns with her finished pies, but is disappointed when nobody seems to care. Meanwhile, Abed confronts Britta about the unusual smell in the bathroom, which offends her. Annie arrives with the pizza, saying that the pizza guy was a bit weird.Timeline 2 (Community 4): Shirley goes to get the pizza. Annie asks Jeff why they just can't talk to Shirley about her obsession with baking, instead of ignoring her, but Jeff answers that they already tried that but it didn't work so they just have to ignore her, before he stops Britta from singing "Roxanne." Britta goes to the bathroom, while Pierce volunteers the fact that he had sex with Eartha Kitt in an airplane bathroom. Pierce gives Troy a housewarming present. Troy opens the box and freaks out as he finds a Norwegian troll that he was scared of when he lived with Pierce. Jeff and Pierce are quite amused by Troy's negative reaction to the doll, but Annie isn't, telling Jeff to do something about it. Jeff rises from his seat and hits his head on the ceiling fan, and is tended to by Annie. Shirley arrives with the pizzas to find that nobody took her pies out of the oven and now they are burned. Jeff tries to smooth things over, but inadvertently makes everything worse. Deeply hurt, Shirley berates the group and leaves the apartment in tears.Timeline 3 (Community 3): Pierce goes to get the pizza, but not before he volunteers the fact that he had sex with Eartha Kitt in an airplane bathroom. Jeff stops Britta from singing "Roxanne" and she goes to the bathroom. Jeff insults Troy, so he goes to the bathroom to find Britta who was trying to covertly smoking a joint. Troy pulls out a box of candy cigarettes, which the two bond over, and they discuss why Jeff's always picking on him. They agree it's because he has a overly guarded personality and feels threatened by Troy, who is a more open and friendly person. Meanwhile, Jeff hits his head on the ceiling fan and is tended by Annie. Shirley returns with her finished pies, but is disappointed when nobody seems to care. Pierce arrives with the pizza, lamenting that he misses all the fun. Britta and Troy returns from the bathroom together, and it is clear to everyone that something between them have changed.Timeline 4 (Community 6): Britta goes to get the pizza without playing "Roxanne." Pierce volunteers the fact that he banged Eartha Kitt in an airplane bathroom. Jeff hits his head on the ceiling fan and Annie takes him along to the bathroom so she can tend to him. Abed and Troy start talking about bunk beds and secret handshakes, something which clearly annoys Pierce. Meanwhile, Jeff tells to Annie that he is concerned about her living in a violent neighbourhood, to which Annie tells him not to treat her like a child all the time. Jeff answers that even adults needs protection sometimes, and admits to Annie that he just can't help but worry about her because she is important to him. The two share a look, but their tender moment is interrupted by screams coming from the living room. Turns out it is Pierce terrorizing Troy with the Norwegian troll. Shirley returns with her finished pies, but is disappointed when nobody seems to care. Britta arrives with the pizza and the pizza man whom she is now engaged to.Timeline 5 (Community 1): Troy goes to get the pizza and leaves in a hurry, so as not to miss anything interesting, and slams the door, which causes the Indiana Jones diorama to eject the boulder which rolls off the table and onto the floor. Jeff stops Britta from singing "Roxanne." Pierce says he banged Eartha Kitt in an airplane bathroom. Jeff hits his head on the ceiling fan, and when Annie walks over to to tend to him, she slips on the boulder and falls on the coffee table, in turn displacing Pierce's bottle of rum, which shatters on the floor. Pierce abruptly rises from his seat, knocking Annie's purse on the floor in the process, causing the gun to go off and the stray bullet hits Pierce in the leg, and he falls to the ground, which sends his gift tumbling across the floor. While Abed and Annie ruses to Pierce's side to try and stop the bleeding, Shirley runs out of the kitchen in time to get a face full of spraying blood, and she screams in horror. Britta comes out from the bathroom and goes slack-jawed over the spectacle, which causes her to drop her lit joint into the spilled alcohol, which starts a fire. Jeff takes off his shirt and swings it wildly around in an attempt to smother the fire, but it only ends up catching fire itself and wraps around Jeff's arm. Meanwhile, Britta frantically tries putting out the fire by throwing glasses of water at it. Troy arrives with the pizza and stares in horror at the complete pandemonium that has erupted, before he sees the Norwegian troll in the middle of the flames and screams.Timeline 6 (Community 5): Abed goes to get the pizza. Jeff stops Britta from singing "Roxanne." Pierce blurts out that he banged Eartha Kitt. Jeff hits his head on the ceiling fan and is tended by Annie. Britta returns from the bathroom and, overcome with the munchies, eats some of Shirley's mini-pies, then lets slip that she shouldn't have, as they are not supposed to encourage her to bake, and that she is high. Offended, Shirley calls her a drug addict and Britta retorts that Shirley only bakes so much to make people like her. Before he opens the present from Pierce, Troy takes a moment to warmly thank him for housing him. Pierce is hit with guilt and tries to take back his present before Troy opens it, but fails to and Troy sees the Norwegian troll, making him angry at Pierce. Jeff admits to Annie that he just can't help but worry about her because she is important to him, and the two of them kiss. After breaking the kiss, Annie tells Jeff that him worrying about her reminds her of her dad, which instantly kills Jeff's mood and he backs away from Annie before she can kiss him again, while belittling her for the remark and for using too much lip gloss. As Abed arrives with the pizza, everyone is arguing with each other. As the group sits down for pizza there is only awkward silence at the table as everyone, except Abed who is still oblivious to what has happened, is stewing in anger.Timeline 7 (The "Canon" Timeline, Community Prime): Abed catches the die and says that they should stop creating alternate timelines for two reasons: a) together they can weather anything and b) Jeff is a conniving son of a bitch who used a six-sided die when there were seven people - so he would never be the one to get the pizza. Jeff goes to get the pizza and hits his head on the ceiling fan. The others laugh and call it karma. Britta starts to sing "Roxanne" and Shirley joins in. Soon everybody is singing and dancing. Pierce throws the Norwegian troll in the trash. Annie notices that she likes the apartment, and Abed invites her to come live with him and Troy. Jeff arrives with the pizza, watches in detached bemusement at his friends singing and dancing, and says "Look what happens when I leave you guys alone."The Tag: In the timeline where Troy went to get the pizza, Pierce has died from his leg wound, Jeff lost an arm in the fire, Shirley has become a drunk, Annie is in a mental ward as she blames herself for Pierce's death and had a nervous breakdown because of it, Troy lost his larynx (from trying to swallow the Norwegian troll), and Britta has dyed a strip of hair blue. Abed declares that this must be the darkest of the timelines, and tells the group that they should all agree to be their evil counterparts, wear evil goatees made of felt until they have grown real beards, and try to break into the prime timeline to take over their counterpart's lives. While Jeff, Shirley, and Britta leaves the room in frustration, Troy and Abed put on their felt goatees: "Evil Troy and Evil Abed!" Meanwhile, in the normal timeline, Abed senses a disturbance, only to brush it off.Has a YMMV page.
The Community episode "Remedial Chaos Theory" provides examples of:
- Almost Kiss: Jeff and Annie in one timeline.
- Subverted in another, where the two successfully make out, only to stop when Annie mentions Jeff reminding her of her father.
- Alternate Timeline: Six different ones are explored during this episode.
- Amusing Injuries: The darkest timeline version of Troy destroyed his vocal cord trying to eat the troll doll and now has to speak with an electrolarynx, but its okay since this isn't the "real" timeline.Evil Troy: Clearly, you don't understand anything about defeating trolls.
- In the same scene Jeff's missing arm is represented by one of his expensive suits having a tied-off sleeve.
- We get to see Jeff hit his head on the ceiling fan multiple times.
- Bait and Switch: In the first timeline shown, Troy suddenly notices something in Annie's purse after she leaves to get the pizza.Troy: Uhhh guys, what does a pregnancy test look like?
Jeff: (not looking up from something he's reading) It's like a thin piece of plastic with a thing on the end of it.
Troy: (pulls a revolver from Annie's purse) Okay, so this is definitely a gun.
- In the third timeline, after Troy catches Britta smoking a joint, he pulls out a cigarette case, opens it, takes out what looks like a joint and holds it to his mouth. It turned out to be a candy cigarette.
- Beard of Evil: Evil Abed makes felt fake goatees for everyone until they can grow their own.
- Berserk Button:
- Played for laughs; while everyone else more-or-less laughs off the fact that Jeff was manipulating them in order that he wouldn't have to get the pizza and considers making him go down for them a fitting punishment, Pierce seems genuinely offended and outraged by it.
- Abed does not react well to Shirley's suggestion that they should have her (admittedly very unappetising) home-baked pizzas instead of getting them delivered like had already been arranged.
- Big "NO!": Troy upon seeing the troll standing amid the chaos of Timeline 5. The reasons have to be seen to be believed.
- Bittersweet Ending: One way to interpret the last timeline. The last thing we see is Jeff obliviously smiling, unaware that it is because of his absence that the group got the happiest timeline. All the while hinting that he may become the new Pierce for this season.
- Bloody Hilarious: Happens to timeline 5 Pierce.
- Bottle Episode: Save for the final scene in the study room the episode takes place entirely in Abed and Troy's apartment. Ironically, though, according to the DVD commentary it was one of the more expensive episodes because it took a long time to shoot.
- Brick Joke: Several, given the 'alternate timelines' nature of the storylines:
- In the first few timelines, everyone who goes to the door to get the pizzas makes a point of noting what a creepy weirdo the pizza delivery guy was. So of course, when it's Britta's turn, she falls madly in love with him at first sight and they get engaged.
- Annie literally finds a brick at the very beginning of the episode, which becomes the catalyst of the different timelines (since the pizza guy can't come straight to the door).
- Broken Record: Just so the audience understands that we've left one timeline and gone back to the point where the timelines diverged, we hear the door buzzer and Abed explaining the creation of new timelines seven times. There are also several events that happen in almost the same way immediately after those timelines diverge (especially Jeff stopping Britta from singing and hitting his head on the fan when he gets up).
- Call Back: "Duh-doy!"
- Call It Karma: Annie in the real timeline, when Jeff hits his head on the ceiling fan.
- Cassandra Truth: A metaphysical example:
- Cerebus Syndrome: Timeline 5 as it gets incredibly dark by the end. But this is Played for Laughs as it has Refuge in Audacity. Also, since it's an alternate timeline, as far as we can know it never happened.
- Chekhov's Gun: Literally, Annie's gun which is shown off in one time line (first act) only to go off in another (third act).
- Another is the Indiana Jones temple replica. In each timeline, Abed catches the boulder before it goes over the table... until the timeline where Troy gets the pizza and the boulder causes Disaster Dominoes.
- Becomes more of a Chekhov's Armoury if one considers the boulder, the gun, the high-proof vodka, Britta's joint, and the troll doll each as their own Chekhov's Gun.
- Continuity Nod: Several, such as in the tag where Shirley becomes an alcoholic again and Annie goes to a mental ward after a nervous breakdown, not unlike her addiction to pills back in high school.
- In the tag, Regular!Troy and Abed are watching Inspector Spacetime, introduced in the season premiere.
- The flag that the study group designed for Greendale in Basic Rocket Science can be seen in Troy and Abed's apartment.
- The refrigerator resembles a vending machine with Troy and Abed stuck in it.
- Among the apartment's decor is a movie poster for Kickpuncher Detroit.
- Abed's "suggestive eyebrows" make a reappearance.
- Annie is described as a good nurse, a phrase used in "Epidemiology".
- Critical Failure: Abed calls attention to that fact that the dark timeline came about because Jeff rolled a 1.
- Dance Party Ending: In the prime timeline.
- Dark Is Evil: In The Tag everyone is wearing black, reflecting that they are (a) mourning Pierce's death, (b) the results of the darkest of the seven timelines and (c) the timeline that Abed suggests should be the Evil Twin-filled Mirror Universe.
- Development Gag: Abed and Troy's apartment is number 303, the production number of the episode. The episode was difficult to make, and as such, it ended up being the fourth episode aired. The first lines of the episode, dubbed in at the last minutes, are Britta and Annie confirming that the apartment number is 303, not 304.
- Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: Britta in timeline 6. Blame it on the pot.
- Disaster Dominoes: Timeline 5.
- Erudite Stoner: Britta in timeline 3 is very perceptive of the root cause of turmoil between Troy and Jeff.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: In the tag set in the "dark timeline" where Pierce is dead, Annie went insane, Shirley is drunk, Troy lost his larynx, Jeff lost an arm and Britta...Jeff: "Britta, you put one wash-away blue streak in your hair and I lost an arm."
Britta: "Exactly! Life got dark!"
- Jeff's hair is also notably unkempt (well, more so than usual) and starting to prematurely grey from stress.
- For Want of a Nail: All based on a dice roll.
- Freudian Excuse: In one time line Shirley eventually admits to Britta that the only reason she bakes excessively is because she feels excluded by the rest of the study group, and baking is her way of feeling needed and included. Unfortunately, this means that Jeff's plan to confront her excessive baking by colluding with everyone to refuse to eat what she cooks unwittingly works to validate her fears of being left out.
- Funny Background Event: In the tag, Regular!Troy and Abed are watching Inspector Spacetime, introduced in the season premiere.
- In the true timeline, when everyone is dancing, you can spot Pierce taking the troll doll out of the trash and throwing it out the window instead.
- Gilligan CutJeff: Abed, there are no other timelines!
cut to next alternate timeline
- Good Samaritan: Annie, who we learn had to apply a tourniquet to a stabbing victim outside her apartment.
- Goatee Of Evil: In the tag, Abed makes fake Evil Spock goatees these for the group since this is the "dark timeline". Only Troy is willing to wear one with Abed.
- Held Gaze: Lampshaded by Shirley, who calls the group a bunch of horny toads making googly eyes at each other. Like in Romantic Expressionism, another set of glances go around, starting with Jeff/Annie and then going from Troy/Britta and ending with Troy/Abed (who does his eyebrow thing again.). On top of that, several of the alternate timelines have Jeff and Annie staring schmoopily at each other and every time they do so, Shirley excuses herself to check on her pies.
- Hypocritical Humor: Discussing Shirley's 'baking problem':Jeff: I don't like being the bad guy more than anyone.
Jeff:: [Brutally] No.
- Related to this, Jeff is adamant that Shirley is "not allowed an identity around baking!" Given that we learn in this episode that Jeff keeps his toiletries locked up in a safe, which one way or another suggests incredible vanity, he's probably not the best person to be making decisions about what other people are allowed to base their identities on.
- Britta says Abed asking what she was doing in the bathroom isn't dignified, then immediately does a very goofy song and dance routine when the pizza arrives. Though it turns out it because she just got done smoking some pot.
- Seeing as Britta sneaks off to smoke pot, Shirley isn't the only one with a baking problem.
- In Spite of a Nail: See "Out of Order" on "Competitive Ecology". Despite neither event taking place in this episode's true timeline, in seems that at some point Pierce tells his Eartha Kitt story and Shirley catches Britta getting high.
- Irony: In Timeline 5, Troy rushes out of the room to get the pizzas in order to ensure he doesn't miss anything. He not only consequently goes on to miss the most chaotic, action-filled and destructive of all seven times, but in rushing out the door he accidentally triggers Abed's Indiana Jones boulder model, which initiates the entire Disaster Dominoes process. He is thus directly responsible for everything he ended up missing directly because of his eagerness not to miss anything.
- In six of the seven timelines, Pierce latches on to any feeble pretext to bring up the story of the time he had sex with Eartha Kitt in an airplane bathroom, justifying it by claiming a natural opening appeared in the conversation. In the seventh timeline, a natural opening does actually appear when Troy compares Jeff to an airplane bathroom — but Pierce is cut off before he can reveal the story and doesn't get another chance.
- Pierce, in one timeline, derides Annie's gun as a "lady's peashooter." Said peashooter kills him in Timeline 5.
- Killed Off for Real: Pierce in Timeline 5 after being shot in the leg.
- Libation for the Dead: Evil!Shirley pours one out for Pierce. May he Rest In Pierce.
- Mile-High Club: In six of the seven timelines Pierce shoehorns in his story about having airplane bathroom sex with Eartha Kitt.
- Missing the Good Stuff: In Timeline 5 Troy has to go get the pizza, saying "I'm gonna go as fast as I can so I don't miss anything." He comes back to find Pierce shot, the apartment on fire, etc.
- Mood Killer: Troy & Britta and Jeff & Annie bond because Pierce isn't there trying to be the center of attention.
- Murder Is the Best Solution: Evil!Abed upon deducing they occupy an evil timeline: go back to the "prime" timeline, kill their counterparts, and assume their normal lives.
- My Significance Sense Is Tingling: In the final scene, Abed in the prime timeline, while watching TV with Troy, somehow senses the birth of "Evil Troy" and "Evil Abed" in the "dark timeline". Abed doesn't know what the feeling is though and dismisses it as "nothing".
- Narrator/Alternate Character Interpretation
- It's fair to assume that each roll of the dice is Abed playing out each scenario in his head. Each moment is exactly what would happen when every person's number came up as Abed is a great student of the group's character. Abed knows Annie would get herself a gun because he knows she lives in a bad neighborhood. He knew Pierce would be jealous of Troy moving in with him and would try to get back at him, and, presumably, Troy told Abed about the Norwegian troll watching Troy sleep. Crosses into Fridge Brilliance.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: A downplayed example. Annie removes the brick propping open the apartment door because she reasons that it might allow undesirables to enter the building. Abed points out that it was also what was allowing their guests to enter the building without someone constantly going up and down to the door to let them in. Furthermore, the fact that the brick isn't there to let the pizza man come up kicks off the dice roll that creates the seven different timelines.
- Nightmare Fuel: In-Universe, Pierce's Norwegian troll doll which literally gave Troy nightmares when it was placed outside his bedroom at Pierce's. May cause this for some viewers in Real Life too! See for yourself.◊
- Abed's attempt at a smile, which looks more like barely restrained murderous rage.
- Not So Different: Only two members of the study group aren't joining in the fun at the end — Pierce and Jeff.
- Off The Wagon: Shirley in the evil timeline tag.
- On Second Thought:Abed: Tonight we offer something far more than boobs and billiards.Jeff: What?Troy: One word, two syllables.Jeff: Don't say "charades."Troy and Abed: Yahtzee!Jeff: Is charades off the table?
- Only a Flesh Wound: Averted big time in Timeline 5 when Pierce only gets shot in the leg and dies.
- It probably didn't help that at the time, the apartment was on fire, and he was obviously the one who'd be least likely to escape it. Crosses into Fridge Horror over how exactly he died.
- Alternate possibility: Pierce appears to be bleeding from his upper leg, so the bullet may have hit his femoral artery which would cause him to bleed out very quickly.
- Out of Order: With the previously aired episode "Competitive Ecology", which was ordered by Harmon due to fears that this episode wouldn't be complete in time.
- Pizza Boy Special Delivery: Pierce mentions that all the good-looking pizza delivery guys must have gone into porn.
- The Pratfall: Annie pulls off a magnificent one that would have made Pierce proud. That is if she hadn't accidentally shot him while doing it.
- PunJeff: Shirley just had a mental breakdown.
Pierce: More like a mental-
Jeff: BAKEdown, I know, I didn't say it on purpose.
- Reality Ensues: The Stinger shows off the grim aftereffects of Timeline 5: Pierce died from his gunshot wound, Annie went mad with guilt, Shirley became a drunk, Troy destroyed his voicebox after trying to eat the troll, Jeff lost an arm in the fire, and Britta put a blue streak in her hair.
- Room Full of Crazy: The episode's creation resulted in a minor Real Life version, apparently.
- Running Gag: Several, given the nature of the episode, but the most notable is Pierce finding an opportunity in every timeline to mention how he had sex with Eartha Kitt in an airplane bathroom.
- Sarcasm Mode:Jeff: Of course I am, Abed.
- Schrödinger's Gun: A literal interpretation of the trope, the gun only goes off in one timeline.
- Ship Tease: Troy and Britta have a heart-to-heart in the bathroom, Jeff/Annie have moments in almost all of the timelines and make out in one, and Jeff/Annie, Jeff/Britta, Britta/Troy and Troy/Abed share googly eyes. The apparent offer for Annie to move in with Abed and Troy also helps the chances of Abed/Annie and Annie/Troy happening in the future. Also, everything to do with Troy and Abed's apartment is awash with HoYay.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: The song "Roxanne" by The Police (which plays on an iPod speaker in six of the seven timelines) becomes this in Timeline 5 during the chaos that erupts with Pierce being shot and the apartment catching on fire.
- Shout-Out: Abed has a model of the boulder scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
- The whole episode was inspired by the German film Run, Lola, Run.
- Squick: Jeff is greatly turned off when Annie tells him that his protective instinct reminds her of her father.
- Status Quo Is God: In the Prime timeline all the conflict, Ship Tease and Character Development of the other timelines is avoided.
- Stealth Pun: In the first timeline, we discover that Annie keeps a gun. This is also a Brick Joke, because we learned in last season's episode "Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design", that Annie carries a gun due to her apartment's neighborhood being dangerous.
- One of the sources of tension throughout the episode is what is described as Shirley's baking problem. In several of the timelines, Britta also has a bit of a problem with getting baked.
- Whenever "Roxanne" by the Police comes on the mp3 player, Britta begins to sing along, but is bluntly ordered not to by Jeff. Essentially, he's acting as the behaviour police.
- Super Reflexes: Abed catching the die in midair is much more impressive when you consider that he did it after coming to the conclusion that the group shouldn't fight against the chaos of the universe, and that Jeff was manipulating them so he wouldn't have to get the pizza. And he had roughly 3 seconds to come to these revelations.
- Take Another Option: In the 'true' timeline, Abed grabs the die before it hits the table, noting that A: too much of their lives is run by fate already and B: Jeff is a conniving son of a bitch for using a method that ensures he'll never have to get the pizza.
- Timey-Wimey Ball / Anachronic Order: This particular theory.
- Too Good To Be True: Jeff fails to notice something off about the club he's received an invite to:Jeff: Look at this place. It's like it was designed for me.
Abed: It was. I made that in Photoshop and mailed it to you a month ago so you'd keep tonight open on your calendar.
Jeff: There's no such thing as Single-Malt-Platinum-Boobs-And-Billards Club?! [Realizes] Oh. I guess I never said it out loud.
- The Unsmile: Abed pulls an absolutely terrifying one◊ when he and Troy open the door for Annie and Britta.
- Values Dissonance: Invoked; Troy and Abed discuss a handbook they consulted for advice on how to act as hosts for their party. The first piece of advice was "dress to impress". The second was "avoid touchy subjects like 'the Negro problem'". Turns out it was written in the 1940s.
- Watching Troy Burn: Troy in the darkest timeline, followed by a Big "NO!".
- Wham Line: Abed tells Annie "You should move here".