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Recap: Community S 3 E 20 Digital Estate Planning
Community: Game of the Year Edition

Pierce is summoned to a remote facility by Gilbert Lawson (Giancarlo Esposito), the executor of his father's estate. Instructed to bring seven of his closest friends, he brings the study group (LeVar Burton was a maybe), only to find a multiplayer gaming console set up waiting for them. It transpires that the last wish of Pierce's father was that he and his friends play a very special video game programmed specifically for Pierce... one which, if he and the group fail to win, could see him left with nothing. And Gilbert seems very intent on making sure he loses...

Has a YMMV page.

Tropes appearing in this episode of Community include:

  • Abusive Parents: We receive yet more confirmation, if any was needed, that Cornelius Hawthorne was an utter bastard to his son. Both of them.
  • Actor Allusion: Did Lawson's avatar's way of cleaning his glasses remind anyone else of a certain Chicken Brother?
    • "Right. White Crystal. You think dad was into meth?" I wonder what other business Gilbert Lawson used to run.
  • Adjusting Your Glasses: Lawson's avatar does this occasionally.
  • Archnemesis Dad
  • Badass Boast: Cornelius delivers one upon going One-Winged Angel: "I bequeath my fortune to no inferiors!"
  • Batman Gambit: Jeff uses Britta's "strength potion" this way.
  • Bears Are Bad News: One of the topics Hilda knows about is "Unkillable Bears". Good thing the group never encountered those.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Annie and Shirley try to buy weapons for the group. They somehow end up stealing them, murdering the blacksmith and his family, and then burn his house down. Shirley in particular seems to take to the new morality of the video game world a little bit too quickly and efficiently:
  • Big Bad: Lawson
    • Bigger Bad: Cornelius. Not that this is exactly surprising.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The study group shows up with enough firepower to kill God when Gilbert is being chased by Cornelius.
  • Big "NO!": Lawson gives one when the program of Cornelius refuses to give him the inheritance and attacks him instead.
  • Black and Nerdy: Lawson.
  • Black Comedy: Abed uses his "children" as infant soldiers in a massive Zerg Rush, at one point shooting them from cannons at Cornelius's Humongous Mecha. There's also a baby skeleton hanging from a noose in a jail cell within the underground mining complex.
  • Blatant Lies
    Annie: The store was lost in a freak accident.
  • Bookcase Passage: Opened by straightening a crooked painting.
  • Breather Episode: This is an episode about video games in between the group discovering Chang's total takeover of the school and stopping his plan.
  • Butt Monkey: Britta. As usual.
  • Call Back: "LeVar Burton was a maybe."
  • Captain Obvious: Jeff's warning to the study group not to die. They immediately lampshade this by pointing out that they weren't really eager to die to begin with.
  • Check Point Starvation: Death causes the players to respawn in the study room at the beginning of the game and without equipment.
  • Chekhov's Gun: At the start, Pierce mentions that he was asked to bring seven of his closest friends to the warehouse, but only brought six (Levar Burton was a maybe). Gilbert uses the empty spot to enter the game himself.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Britta's skill at screwing up everything. She creates a "strength potion" that ends up killing Lawson who was on the verge of Total Party Killing the Study Group.
    • It's even possible to see Britta finding a secret passage as screwing up "playing as a girl".
  • Child Soldiers: Abed's children.
  • Chocolate Baby: Lawson, who Cornelius hated even more than Pierce.
    • Although this is an unusual example, being that in this particular case the father is white and the mother is black.
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • Pierce fails to see the obvious racism and thinks the directions are alluding to his father taking crystal meth.
    • Abed, upon discovering Gilbert's note to Pierce:
      Abed: "After you've squandered the last of your savings, I'll watch you writhe, penniless, in the gutter, through a telescope in the penthouse office of Hawthorne Tower." You can leave notes. This game is incredible.
  • Collapsing Lair: Hawkthorne Castle.
  • Coup de Grâce: Cornelius is finished off after his Final Speech with a single kick.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Troy's jealous that Hilda can have Abed's babies, but he can't.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: Britta.
    Jeff: This place is twenty cat turds and a Pixies poster away from being your apartment.
  • Crime After Crime: Annie accidentally kills an NPC and to cover it up, she and Shirley commit murder and arson.
  • Death by Racism: Britta certainly seems to believe this is the case for Mega-Cornelius:
    Britta: Die, racism!
  • Defictionalization: There are currently hundreds of fans out there working on a real-life version of "Journey to the Centre of Hawkthorne".
  • Deep-Immersion Gaming
  • Description Cut:
    Britta: Here's the thing about women, Jeff. We don't hack and slash our way through life, because we're one with life.
    (cut)
    Annie: Help me hide the body!
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: About what you'd expect from a game that's been continuously developed with presumably very strong funding for over thirty years, to be played whenever the producer dies.
    Cornelius: [gasp] I suppose you're wondering why I [gasp] recorded myself gasping for breath and dying? [gasp]
  • Digitized Sprites: The game automatically digitizes the group into avatars.
  • Doorstop Baby: Subverted in the tag, when Abed and Troy think they've found one on the table in the study room, but the mother was actually under the table looking for a lost toy.
  • Driven to Suicide: Pierce tries to suffocate himself by burying himself alive, believing he can't win the inheritance. Partly Played for Laughs since this is occurring in a video game.
  • Dull Surprise: Shirley doesn't do a very good job at acting surprised about the blacksmith's store 'randomly' catching fire:
  • Egopolis: The village turns into this after Abed takes it over, including a giant fortress with a statue of his face on the roof. Kinda justified since the entire thing was built to his specifications by an army of his own babies.
  • Escort Mission: Turns into one of these as the other study group members have to protect Pierce and get him to Hawkthorne Castle.
  • Fan Remake: Whilst not in the episode itself, there's a fan-project to create a working version of "Journey to the Center of Hawkthorne" that goes so far as to include elements & characters from Community that weren't in the game seen in the episode.
  • Fetch Quest: The White Crystal.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Of a sort; Pierce and Gilbert initially clearly cannot stand each other, but by the end — after learning that they're half-brothers who both had to suffer the abuse of their father — are clearly starting to bond with each other.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In the blacksmith's house, there's a picture of Hilda on the wall.
    • Pierce's conversation with Gilbert at the beginning of the episode. At one point Pierce refers to Gilbert as "soul brother". He doesn't suspect at the time, but this turns out to be more true than he realizes...
    • When the study group first arrives at the gaming centre, Gilbert initially appears by suddenly announcing himself and startling the study group. He keeps doing this in the video game, but is a lot more malevolent each time.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: How Gilbert sees Pierce's and his respective relationships with their father over the years.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Lawson, subverted. Seems like a villain at first, but as it turns out he's just a nice guy who becomes crazy when it comes to his estranged dad. He even takes the group out for drinks after the game's done.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The menus that display when Abed interacts with Hilda. On the first display of possible actions Abed can do with her is "I will wear your skin." One of her leveled-up actions is "Kickpunch" and another is "Spacetime RPG".
    • At one point Lawson types in a Long List of parameters for the game program, including such items as "God Mode", "Testicular Fortitude", "Intestinal Fortitude", "Giraffe Mode", and "Nuclear Wraith".
    • Speaking of Hilda's list of topics, the gaming references go beyond 8-bit.
    • The "legally-binding agreement" that Cornelius attempts to get Gilbert to sign in order to claim the inheritance while simultaneously preventing him from ever making any claims of paternity on Cornelius' part appears to originate from the infamous Three-Fifths Compromise.
  • Friendship Moment:
    • Pierce is surprised when the study group announce that they're going to cooperate with him to win the game. They point out that not only are they friends, it's kind of weird to be friends with someone for three years only to steal their family inheritance.
    • Britta attempts one of these when she convinces Pierce that the study group are fighting for a friend, not greed, "which means we can't lose!" Unfortunately, it's a bit undermined when she accidentally punches his character's avatar to death seconds afterwards:
      Britta: ...I guess there's no hug button.
  • Gainaxing: Hilda. An 8-bit sprite.
  • Game Between Heirs: The main plotline of this episode. Pierce's father leaves his will in the form of a video game. Whoever wins the game gets the inheritance.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar:
    • Abed going through Hilda's options looks like he's touching her rather large breasts.
    • After losing their clothes in the poker game, for 8-bit graphics the nude avatars of Troy and Pierce look to be remarkably detailed in certain places.
  • Gilligan Cut: Britta claims that women wouldn't use a violent approach to problem solving. The next building over the two other women of the study group are in the process of covering up their murder of a shopkeep.
    • When the group respawn, Jeff gives a Rousing Speech over how they've gotten better at the game and that they're heroes. They instantly die to the hippies right outside the respawn point.
  • Goddamned Bats: In-universe, the Hippies are meant to be this.
  • Go Through Me: During the battle with Gilbert at the village, Annie yells for everyone to get behind her and Shirley, as they have all the armour and weapons; Gilbert just ends up shooting through them. Abed can also be seen acting as a human shield for Hilda.
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: While Pierce may have never been loved by his father, he did get to be the CEO of Hawthorne Wipes simply by being his true born son. Gilbert worked hard his entire life to gain recognition from his father, but never even got to inherit his name.
    • This occurs once again in the game, where he spent a long time building up his level to take on the study group. Despite being clearly stronger than them, he dies after being outwitted by Jeff. After that, the gloves come off and he resorts to the easy way, cheating.
  • Heel Realization: At the end, Gilbert apologises to the study group for being a dick and offers to take them out for margaritas in order to make it up to them.
    Gilbert: I wasn't myself. Family can make a person do a lot of crazy things.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Pierce does this to defeat Cornelius' final form. See Riding the Bomb.
  • Hidden Depths: Lawson at first seems like a blind sycophant of Cornelius who's willing to cheat in order to get the inheritance. It's later revealed that he's just a son trying his best to impress his father, who alienated him even more than he did to Pierce.
  • Honor Before Reason: Pierce's father explanation for why he recorded a death scene for his avatar.
  • Human Shield
  • Hypocritical Humour: In the Black Caves:
    Britta: I don't know what's more offensive, the actual racism or the insulting notion that it might somehow rub off on us. Look out! Jive Turkeys! Kill them before they start multiplying!
  • I Am Your Father: Lawson telling Pierce that he is his half-brother.
  • Imagination-Based Superpower: Once Abed has an infinite slave army that can build anything they're told to, he tells the gang to go nuts. See Crazy Awesome on the YMMV page for the results.
  • Inside a Computer System: Where most of the episode's action takes place.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Pierce's father apparently thought this about video games.
    Cornelius Hawthorne: Piercenald, in 1980 you said that video games, not moist towelettes, were the business of the future. Today, moist towelettes are stocked in every supermarket while arcade after arcade closes.
    Troy: He's got a point.
  • Jerkass: Even if there weren't already copious amounts of evidence for the theory in his omnipresent racism, homophobia and arrogance, the fact alone that Cornelius Hawthorne invested thirty years and God-knows how many millions of dollars into a video game purely for the purpose of forcing his son to play it upon his death and risk losing his entire inheritance, apparently merely because Pierce once requested some money to invest in video games, should be all the proof anyone needs that Cornelius was a spiteful bastard of epic-scale proportions.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: He may be be a racist homophobe, but Cornelius Hawthorne was right about investing money — in some ways, at least. Although video games are a billion-dollar a year industry today, investing in video games in 1980 would have been a very bad idea. Even Troy states he had a point.
    • When Britta makes her "strength potion", Jeff shoots her down and assumes it's poison. Turns out, he was right.
  • Jive Turkey: Literal ones as enemies, no less.
  • Kill It with Fire
  • Kiss Me, I'm Virtual: Abed and Hilda.
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: Annie accidentally steals a torch in the smithy, and Troy smashes all of the pots in the tavern.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: Pierce states that Gilbert can't be his brother because he's half... white. "Nice save".
  • Lava Adds Awesome: ♫Troy and Abed shooting laaaaa-VA!♫
  • Leave No Witnesses: "Don't give me that look, these are your loose ends, I'm just tying them up."
  • Level Up At Intimacy Five: A truly Game Breaker variant. Once Abed has seduced Hilda, she turns into a Mook Maker capable of producing near-infinite numbers of babies. The babies themselves can be tasked with adaptive programs, making them capable of enormous feats of Minecraft-esque engineering.
  • Literary Allusion Title: The game's title, to Journey to the Center of the Earth.
  • Lord British Postulate: Played With, the game was probably never meant to handle relations leading to hundreds of NPC kids building megaweapons to completely Sequence Break the game, but Cornelius does use Dynamic Difficulty to up his game, and ultimately falls to Pierce Riding the Bomb as a finisher.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Or rather, Pierce I Am Your Brother.
  • MacGyvering: Lawson demonstrates the item system by combining tree branches and a rock into throwing knives.
  • Manly Tears: Troy invokes this with "his and Abed's" child in The Tag.
    Troy: He needs to see that a strong man can cry!
  • Master Console: Lawson uses this to greatly increase his stats after the study group defeats him.
  • Matrix Raining Code: When the game boots up.
  • Medium Blending: Most of the action appears as 8-bit graphics from the game.
  • Mercy Kill: Annie killing the blacksmith, who was on fire because she accidentally threw a torch at them. And hit him with an ax.
    Annie: He was suffering!
    Shirley: Yeah, from ax wounds!
  • Mercy Rewarded: Abed and Hilda.
  • M Preg: Troy seems disappointed when he realizes he can't have Abed's babies, unlike Hilda.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Pierce and Troy lose their clothes in a poker game.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Jeff's attempt to save Annie from a hippie ends up killing her.
    • Also see Beware the Nice Ones.
    • Britta also learns that there's no hug button... the hard way, by accidentally killing Pierce.
  • Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught: Jeff thinks this.
  • Notice This: Britta is bothered by an askew painting, and Jeff tells her to stop being a girl and ignore it. Turns out it's the switch to a Secret Underground Passage.
  • Not Worth Killing: The group offer two reasons for not turning on Pierce and trying to steal away his family fortune; the first is that he's been their friend for three years and it would be wrong and weird of them to steal his inheritance. The second is that, given he's just managed to literally dig himself into a hole in an attempt to figure out how to fight them, he wouldn't exactly be much of a challenge to defeat:
    Abed: There wouldn't be a lot of sport in beating you; look at yourself.
    The others: He's right. / Yeah, you really do suck.
  • One-Winged Angel: After the study group shows up to the final battle, Cornelius transforms into an enormous stone knight.
  • Parents for a Day: The Tag has Troy and Abed finding a baby apparently abandoned in the study room.
  • Player Tic: Troy, considering leaping to be faster than walking, just keeps spamming the jump button while everyone else moves normally.
  • Political Correctness Gone Mad: Parodied; there is only one character who could possibly be Britta, and yet:
    Britta: Which one is me? I assume nothing because I'm not racist.
  • Pokémon Speak: Abed's children are only capable of saying "cool cool cool" over and over.
  • The Power of Friendship:
    Britta: We're fighting for friendship! And that means we can't possibly lose!
    • Cornelius Hawthorne obviously didn't think much of this:
      I see you've chosen teamwork; a coward's strategy.
    • Pierce says that he earned the White Crystal thanks to this trope.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: Abed's castle was made possible by his children slaving in the mines.
  • The Rainman: Lampshaded when Abed chooses to stay behind with Hilda, Pierce complains that he is "playing the Rainman card."
  • Rain of Arrows: Troy and Jeff fire a ton of arrows at Lawson, which have no effect.
  • Rapid-Fire Typing
  • Retraux: The game is done in the style of 16-bit games.
  • Riding the Bomb: Pierce rides a bomb as the final attack on his father.
  • Roaming Enemy: Lawson.
  • Rousing Speech: Jeff gives one, which is subverted in that the entire group gets killed right after it. See Gilligan Cut.
  • RPG Episode
  • Running Gag: Gilbert keeps appearing out of nowhere and startling the study group.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Lawson cheats and almost steals the inheritance for himself, but refuses to agree to a degrading and racist non-disclosure contract that Cornelius wants him to sign first. Because of his Heel-Face Turn, the group agree that he deserves the money in return for putting up with Cornelius' treatment of him all his life.
  • Servant Race: Abed's children.
  • Shame If Something Happened: Gilbert, with a lampshading from Pierce.
    Gilbert: You're not supposed to cooperate; you're supposed to compete.
    Jeff: Thanks for the advice, but I think we can choose how we want to play.
    Gilbert: I suppose we can.
    Pierce: Is he being ominous? Why are you being ominous?!
  • Ship Tease: Troy gets very jealous of Abed's 'relationship' with Hilda.
    Abed: If you max out a character's trust and affection levels you gain access to a front-end scripting language. Watch. [Abed enters some commands, producing a Baby!Abed] She can make babies for me.
    Troy: Oh — and I can't?! [Despondent] I can't.
    • Also, Jeff rushing to protect Annie from the hippies. Even though he ends up accidentally killing her, it's a sweet gesture and in-character for a Ship Tease for Jeff/Annie since Jeff has long been protective of her and clearly, at this point, would probably take a bullet for her, as this moment suggests when he ends up getting killed a moment later.
  • Shock and Awe: Lawson acquires lightning powers early by Level Grinding. Annie gains the same powers later, but she shoots Britta accidentally.
  • Shoplift and Die: An accidental triggering of this trope causes Annie to panic and set the shopkeeper on fire by mistake. And then put him out of his misery with an axe. And then Shirley to kill his grieving wife to cover it up. And then burn down the shop. Having gone to all that trouble they decide to loot the shop in the process.
  • Shout-Out: As this episode is an Affectionate Parody of 8-bit games, these are numerous.
  • Special Edition Title: Introducing the cast's game avatars to the accompaniment of an 8-bit instrumental version of the theme song.
  • Strawman Political: Several areas in-game, including the Gay Island and the Free Ride Ferry.
    Cornelius: I see you've chosen teamwork, a coward's strategy.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Both Jeff and Shirley express equal dissatisfaction with the "random body shapes" that their avatars have been produced to reflect, and equal alarm upon hearing that the multiplayer gaming console chairs have weight-sensors built into them.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: After Annie and Shirley's shopping expedition:
    Annie: Everybody go shopping? That's all we did!
    [The blacksmith's hut catches fire]
    Abed: Is that hut on fire?
    Shirley: Oh my. What an unexplained tragedy.
  • The Theme Park Version: Befitting its financier, the game constructs entire world maps around bigoted stereotypes of various minority groups - The Valley of Laziness, Gay Island, The Free Ride Ferry, and The Black Caves.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Britta mixes a bunch of random ingredients, assuming that it would make a strength potion. Jeff uses this as an advantage and tricks Gilbert into drinking it instead. Turns out, it wasn't a strength potion.
  • Total Party Kill: Lawson does this to the group during his first attack on them.
  • Tragic Villain: Lawson turns out to be this.
  • True Final Boss: Cornelius. See One-Winged Angel.
  • Try Not to Die: Jeff says this as part of a Rousing Speech.
  • Unfortunate Implications: Invoked; given that it was designed by Pierce's father, who is even more prejudiced than him, it's only natural that the video game is filled with these.
  • Verb This!:
    Lawson: I think I'll have that crystal.
    Annie: I think you'll have this! [tries to attack him and electrocutes Britta instead]
  • Video Game Caring Potential: Abed ends up falling in love with a program. It reciprocates.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential:
    • Starts with an accidental theft, but quickly snowballs.
    • The sheer level of detail that the NPCs have been programmed with seems to provide countless opportunities for this. They seem to feel pain and have a complex social system wherein, upon the death of her parents, Hilda will be forced to either be forcibly married to one of the male villagers or take her chances in the wilderness for survival:
    Troy: ...What kind of game is this?
    • You can have children in the game. Fine. You can also have thousands and thousands of children and put them to backbreaking menial labor as soon as they can walk.
  • Virtual Ghost: Cornelius, despite being dead, interacts with the group through a program of himself.
  • Welcome to Corneria: The reason Abed likes Hilda is because her behaviour is entirely predictable, unlike real people.
    Abed: I've never felt this way before.
    Pierce: Abed, don't get weird.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy:
    • Pierce once again gets the opportunity to tell his dead dad to suck it by piloting a nuclear bomb into him in the video game.
    • Lawson turns out to be this. He puts up with all kinds of crap from Cornelius just so he could gain some recognition. He even turns down the inheritance at first when he finds out that Cornelius still refuses to see him as his son.
  • Wham Line: "So. Am. I."
  • What Could Have Been: The tag that was supposed to go with this episode ended up not being filmed owing to Creative Differences between Dan Harmon and Chevy Chase. It would have reportedly involved Abed rewriting the video game so that it allowed Pierce to play a game of catch with his dad, and his dad to shower Pierce with praise.
  • A Winner Is You: The fireworks are disappointing, but winning the inheritance helps.
  • With Friends Like These...: Lampshaded.
    Jeff: He [Pierce] is still technically our friend!
  • Worst Whatever Ever:
    Cornelius: Worst son ever! Hahaha!
  • Zerg Rush: The group's strategy for defeating the giant Cornelius involves using dozens of Abed and Hilda's children to hack away at his joints.
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