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Recap / Community S3 E20 "Digital Estate Planning"

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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 Pierce. And, as we discover in this episode, to his illegitimate son Gilbert.
  • 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.
  • Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: The price for weapons is extremely high, leading to a chain of events where Annie and Shirley kill the blacksmith, take everything not nailed down and burn the place down.
  • Archnemesis Dad: Cornelius, to both Pierce and Lawson.
  • Art Shift: Most of the episode is in 8-bit.
  • Badass Boast: Cornelius delivers one upon going One-Winged Angel: "I bequeath my fortune to no inferiors!"
  • Badass Crew: The study group actually manages to become a pretty competent team by the end, especially during the Black Cave sequence and while fighting the Final Boss.
  • Advertisement:
  • The Bad Guys Win: Subverted by Lawson. He started the episode as an antagonist but is already a sympathetic character by the time he wins the game.
  • Bastard Bastard: Lawson appears to be one initially, but turns out to be quite sympathetic.
  • Batman Gambit: Jeff uses Britta's "strength potion" this way.
  • Battle Couple: Subverted by Abed and Hilda during the Final Battle. Abed fights with Troy in their Humongous Mechas while Hilda fights alongside Jeff and Britta.
  • 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 Ensemble: Lawson is the antagonist for much of the episode while Cornelius is the Greater-Scope Villain and ultimately the Final Boss.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Pierce is presumably older than Gilbert note  and comes to the rescue on learning they are related. As he puts it, Gilbert definitely didn't deserve their father's crap and should be entitled to his wealth at least.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The study group shows up with firepower and a friggin' child army when Gilbert is being chased by Cornelius.
  • Big "NO!":
    • Hilda after her parents' "unexplained" deaths.
    • 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.
    • This also occurs when Annie and Shirley kill the Blacksmith and his wife. His daughter is the virtual woman that Abed ends up with
  • Blatant Lies:
    Annie: Everybody go shopping? That's all we did.
    Abed: Is that hut on fire!?
    Shirley: Oh my. What an unexplained tragedy.
  • Bling-Bling-BANG!: Troy and Abed ride golden mechanical dinosaurs in the Final Battle.
  • Bookcase Passage: 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.
  • Boss Banter: Cornelius is perpetually mocking everyone during the Final Battle.
  • Breather Episode: The episode takes place in the thick of the expulsion arc, just after they've discovered the extent of Chang's control over Greendale and just before they execute an elaborate heist to resolve the arc.
  • Buried Alive: Lawson kills Pierce in this fashion by closing up the top of the hole he was stuck in, Minecraft-style. Pierce tries to do the same thing to himself later on when he's convinced there's no beating Lawson, but Britta saves him.
  • Butt-Monkey: Britta. As usual.
  • Call-Back: "LeVar Burton was a maybe."
  • Character Development: Compare Pierce in this episode to the Pierce that spitefully used a Dungeons and Dragons game to torture Neil, and cheated by bribe another classmate for a guide to the advanced dungeon. This Pierce willingly forfeits the inheritance he wanted so badly because he acknowledges that using a game to torture a real-life person for existing is wrong; he outright says that Cornelius refusing to acknowledge Gilbert as his son, even within the game, is worse than anything his father ever did to Pierce.
  • Checkpoint Starvation: Death causes the players to respawn in the study room at the beginning of the game and without equipment.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • 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. Turns out his character is more important than just being a filler.
    • Abed drops out of the quest to stay with Hilda while the rest of the characters go on; oddly enough, Troy is okay with this. When they have to respawn, Abed has turned Hilda's tiny village into a prosperous city, and he's created an army of children to create weapons for him. This allows them to turn the tide against Cornelius.
  • 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.
    • Britta finding a secret passage by "playing as a girl".
  • Child Soldiers: Abed's children.
  • Chubby Mama, Skinny Papa: Inverted by the blacksmith and his wife.
  • Chocolate Baby: Lawson, who Cornelius loved more than Pierce.
  • Collapsing Lair: Hawkthorne Castle.
  • Combination Attack: The Final Battle has the group members attack Cornelius in rapid succession.
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • The group learns that, in order to win, one has to free the White Crystal of Discipline from the Black Caverns. Unlike Shirley, 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.
  • Coup de Grâce: Cornelius is finished off after his Final Speech with a single kick.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: Britta, according to Jeff.
    Jeff: This place is twenty cat turds and a The 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.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Lawson singlehandedly trashes the entire study group three times. The third time around they're actually prepared for him, but he's used cheat codes to become invincible.
  • Death by Racism: Britta certainly seems to believe this is the case for Mega-Cornelius:
    Britta: Die, racism!
  • Deep-Immersion Gaming: The game is a ridiculous example.
  • Description 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.
    Britta: Here's the thing about women, Jeff. We don't hack and slash our way through life, because we're one with life.
    Annie: Help me hide the body!
  • Digitized Sprites: The game automatically digitizes the group into avatars.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Gilbert Lawson is the Big Bad of the game for much of the episode until the Final Battle with Cornelius.
  • 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.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • Even with their issues with Pierce, no study group member wanted to take his inheritance. They say it would be weird to do such a thing.
    • Even Pierce thought that Cornelius refusing to acknowledge Gilbert as his son was cruel and unfair. He said his dad was even worse to Gilbert than to Pierce.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: Abed fights using a raptor-shaped Humongous Mecha in the Final Battle.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good:
    • It's within the game design and terms of the will. Cornelius ordered that Pierce bring "seven" of his closest friends to play the game and didn't tell his son it was to win his inheritance. It's implied he wanted to break up any serious relationship that Pierce had as they would all fight to the death, in a video game, for the money. The study group instead rallies around Pierce and says they'll help him win since they've been friends for three years. Cornelius never saw that coming. Fortunately for him, Gilbert can trip Pierce up.
    • Cornelius is mocking when the study group comes to rescue Gilbert. He says using "friendship" is for the cowardly. Gilbert gets a Heel Realization that he cheated to win the game, and the study group came to save him.
  • Evil Laugh: Pierce's dad in game.
  • 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 center, 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. Deconstructed when Pierce saves Gilbert's avatar in a Heroic Sacrifice and then forfeits the inheritance, acknowledging that their dad hurt them both but Gilbert was worse off since he doesn't even have the Hawthorne name.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Subverted with Lawson; he 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", both presumably added by Abed using the scripting language.
    • 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 announces that they're going to cooperate with him to win the game. They point out that not only are they friends, but it's also 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.
  • Geeky Turn-On: Abed is attracted to Hilda for her in-depth knowledge on geeky topics.
  • Gilligan Cut: Right after Britta's Straw Feminist speech about women not hacking and slashing their way through things, the scene cuts to Annie and Shirley's (sort of) bloody visit at a weapons shop.
  • Girls with Moustaches: The blacksmith's wife and Hilda's mother has a viking-like beard.
  • Goddamned Bats: In-universe, the Hippies are meant to be this.
  • Goomba Stomp: Pierce, Shirley, and Troy use this tactic to defeat the Mooks in the first corridor.
  • 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.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Despite Gilbert Lawson being the Big Bad for much of the episode, Cornelius is ultimately the game's biggest threat and Final Boss. Not that this is exactly surprising.
  • 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. He really didn't foresee them forfeiting to ensure he won the inheritance.

  • 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.
    • It turns out Abed knows enough about programming to not only create an army of weapons and fodder using game scripts, but also saves a copy of Hilda to his USB so they can be together.
  • Honor Before Reason:
    • Pierce's father has an explanation for why he recorded a death scene for his avatar.
    • Gilbert has a moment. When Jeff and Pierce get up from their seats to confront him, he tells them to sit back down and play, rather than distract them until thirty seconds have passed for them to forfeit.
  • Horror Hippies: The earliest enemies faced in Journey to the Center of Hawkthorne are hippies that attack the players. They're surprisingly tough for an early enemy. It should be noted that the game was developed through the vision of someone who would find hippies villainous.
  • Human Shield
  • Humongous Mecha: Troy and Abed fight in ones during the Final Battle. Troy's is a standard one whilst Abed's is dinosaur (specifically Velociraptor) themed.
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • Inside a Computer System: Where most of the episode's action takes place.
  • Interspecies Romance: Between Abed and the NPC Hilda.
  • Item Crafting: Lawson demonstrates the item system by combining tree branches and a rock into throwing knives.
  • It's the Principle of the Thing: It's established that technically Pierce is wealthy enough to not need his father's inheritance, repeatedly. The reason why he's fighting for the inheritance is that he thinks his dad owes it to him after being a jerk his whole life. Pierce forfeits the inheritance when witnessing Super-Cornelius chase down Gilbert and attempt to kill him like a sitting duck while mocking him for wanting to be his son. As Pierce puts it, his dad was never as horrible to him as he was to Gilbert.
  • 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.
    • He's not entirely wrong to specifically bring up arcades, either; while hugely prevalent in the 1970s and 1980s, video game arcades suffered from both the Great Crash and from the rise in popularity in home console and mobile gaming, and while not exactly extinct are today far less common than they once were.
    • 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.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Cornelius makes a game the challenge for Pierce to win his inheritance, all because Pierce asked if his dad could let him invest in video games. He also designs it so that Pierce can get himself killed easily. And if the study group hadn't already united in their hatred of Pierce's father and their love of Pierce, the game was meant for Pierce to sever ties with his "closest friends".
    • Gilbert gets this from Cornelius's avatar; he's asked to sign a document that means he'll never be acknowledged as a Hawthorne. When Gilbert refuses, Cornelius goes One-Winged Angel and chases him down with a "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • Kill It with Fire: Attempted, with limited success, on Cornelius. Played straight with the blacksmith and his family (except Hilda) who are burned to death by Annie and Shirley.
  • 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 Request: Pierce father's dying wish was for him and seven of his friends to play the game.
  • 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."
  • Lethally Clueless: Pierce tries to help Gilbert in the final battle by handing him a pistol... in real life, not in the game.
  • Level-Up at Intimacy 5: 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."
  • 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.
  • Mêlée à Trois: The episode is pretty much Pierce and the rest of the study group vs. Gilbert Lawson vs. Cornelius Hawthorne.
  • 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.
  • Mister Seahorse: Troy seems disappointed when he realizes he can't have Abed's babies, unlike Hilda.
  • N-Word Privileges: Pierce calls Lawson a mulatto in the final scene which Britta calls him out for. Lawson dismisses it saying he doesn't mind since Pierce is his family.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Pierce and Troy lose their clothes in a poker game.
  • Never My Fault: Cornelius is not only a Politically Incorrect Villain who opposes miscegenation, but he can't even take responsibility for doing it himself. He completely blames Lawson's mother for his birth, calling her a "colored seductress", and refuses to even acknowledge his part in the affair, referring to Lawson's father (Cornelius himself) as an "unknown, weak-willed miscegenist".
  • 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.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Cornelius's One-Winged Angel form and "The Reason You Suck" Speech convinces the study group to attack save Gilbert. If he had just given Gilbert the inheritance, then the study group would have left the game hating Gilbert on Pierce's behalf. The way it ended up, Gilbert wins the money and keeps the right to the Hawthorne name, and Pierce is delighted on learning he has a brother, not caring if he's mixed-race. Not too much, at least.
  • Noob Cave: Greendale itself serves as this trope for the game, complete with the avatars respawning in the study room every time they're killed.
  • Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught: Jeff thinks this. He calls out Gilbert for being terrible at cheating.
  • 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.
  • The Place: Despite the Double-Meaning Title of the episode, it refers to both the video game world the episode mostly takes place in and the Hawthorne estate in which the game is held.
  • Player Tic: Troy, considering leaping to be faster than walking, just keeps spamming the jump button while everyone else moves normally.
  • Political Overcorrectness: 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.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Cornelius, as always, displays his contempt for everyone who is not white, straight, and able-bodied.
  • 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!
    • 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.
  • Rain of Arrows: Troy and Jeff fire a ton of arrows at Lawson, which have no effect.
  • Rapid-Fire Typing: Lawson when calling up the Master Console.
  • Raptor Attack: Abed fights in a Velociraptor Humongous Mecha during the Final Battle with Cornelius.
  • Recurring Boss: Gilbert Lawson is fought three times.
  • 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 and Gilbert keep appearing out of nowhere and startling the study group.
  • Rousing Speech: Jeff gives one, which is subverted in that the entire group gets killed right after it. See Gilligan Cut.
  • RPG Episode
  • Second Place Is for Winners: Pierce forfeits the inheritance when he sees how cruel Cornelius was to Gilbert; as he said, it was about the principle of showing up his dad and not about the money. He also gets to blow up an avatar of his dad, and says he always wanted a brother.
  • 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?!
  • Shielded Core Boss: Cornelius as the Final Boss is contained inside a giant stone colossus. Once the study group manages to destroy it, it only takes one measly hit from Lawson to deliver the final blow.
  • 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.
  • Sincerity Mode: Pierce says that he always wanted a brother and hugs Gilbert after the game is done.
  • Special Edition Title: Introducing the cast's game avatars to the accompaniment of an 8-bit instrumental version of the theme song.
  • Stealth Pun: Britta calls out the game's racist and sexist elements, and eventually takes to hacking through them with her sword; she's a literal social justice warrior.
  • Strawman Political: Several areas in-game, including the Mexican-themed "Valley of Laziness", "Gay Island" and the "Free Ride Ferry" (a wheelchair).
    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.
  • Team Spirit: Cornelius Hawthorne doesn't think much of the group's teamwork approach.
    I see you've chosen teamwork; a coward's strategy.
  • Tempting Fate: 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.
  • 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'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.
  • The Unfavorite: Gilbert was looked down on by his father.
  • 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 shows genuine affection for Hilda especially after her family's death, and marries her to save her from an awful Arranged Marriage. Troy also voices his concern over the potential for the inverse trope.
  • 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 Does This Button Do?: Britta tries to hug Pierce in-game by pressing a random button on her controls. Instead, she attacks and kills him.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Annie and Shirley maximizes the Video Game Cruelty Potential of the game, with Annie even citing that they shouldn't be hung-up on "real world morality" after Mercy killing a blacksmith. Shirley then immediately decided to kill the rest of the blacksmith's family (except Hilda, who was outside with Abed) in order to Leave No Witnesses, then both women proceeded to steal their products and burn the shop to destroy evidence.
  • 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!
  • Your Mom: Cornelius calls Lawson's mother a colored seductress.
  • 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.