Episode 304: Remedial Chaos Theory

Remedial Chaos Theory Review by Shinigami Apple Merchant for Greendale A.V. Club

  Shinigami Apple Merchant

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COMMUNITY SEASON 3 REVIEW: REMEDIAL CHAOS THEORY  

Prologue

 

Picking an iconic image for this episode is the easiest part of this whole review. Heck, this image could stand in for Season 3 itself (if not the whole show):

Prologue– a picture tells a thousand words (and it better because this is gonna take awhile so I need all the help I can get condensing things) :

It's a tale of two study tables, essentially.

A tale of two meetings in the evening– the time of the Pilot when the group''s creation was sparked as Steve the Pencil got snapped, and this evening when that die gets caught and all those possibilities for failure get pushed aside, albeit temporarily.

In the former, everyone's a little lost and embrace change for the better– what have they got to lose. In the latter, fear of change is the theme for the season– and it's a relief to the audience and the people in the shot when chaos is kept at bay.

You have the gang we love, in a place of comfort, yet everything is slightly off. Troy's assertion of manhood places him in the way of Jeff's usual adjacent seat to Annie, Shirley and Pierce are stuck in the rear view mirror of the group trajectory (not to mention Shirley and Pierce have swapped positions somewhat), and Britta never truly fits in anywhere (so she's just sort of inserted).

They're prosperous in school (no Dean Spreck antics or high stakes shennigans as of yet), but still on edge. They're playing a game where they don't even understand the rules ("OK! How to play Yahtzee…"). And as Abed says, they're trying to navigate this game together even when they excel (Pierce finding peace but losing Troy, Shirley gaining back Andre but feeling left out, Annie having independence but feeling apprehensive about her future, etc).

And MOST importantly– the two people who truly brought this group together, Jeff and Abed sharing eye contact. The two halves of Harmon– respectively externally and internally embracing the world with humor and pop culture filtering, sincerity and logic, both trying to make sense of things. But in this case, these are the two people holding the group back the most. One's keeping the group in stasis as a referee when he used to primarily serve as The Watcher– the other has the potential to act selflessly and keep things together but just doesn't know how to step forward the way he is right now. The majority of this review will focus on the referee– Abed.

I believe each Season of Community has a character who serves a dual role as primary protagonist and antagonist (who also features prominently in the paintball event for each season). Jeff being the central character of the series has the longest and most drawn out character arc to be sure, but his journey is most prominent in Season 1. Pierce gets his biggest and sharpest arc in Season 2. And Season 3 is all about the internal struggle for Abed.

I'll develop this point to a much stronger degree in just a moment, but I don't want to leave this awesome fishstick just yet– there's one more point to convey before proceeding.
Abed's words in this scene tell his whole story for the season– this die catch is his own personal Psychology of Letting Go moment, truly. He's saying Mother Pierce's words, but also holding Pierce's insecurities and delusions of control and stability amidst chaos.

"Chaos already dominates enough of our lives. The universe is an endless sea of randomness. Our job isn't to fight it, but to weather it, together– on the raft of life… It won't matter what happens to us as long as we stay honest and accepting of each other's flaws and virtues."

These words mirror speeches Season 1 Abed has given in the past– inspiring, poignant, and gripping– but they're just words. Abed needs to learn this Season that knowing the path is one thing– having the courage to accept the path for all its high and lows and taking it is an entirely different thing. It'd be like Bilbo Baggins writing There and Back Againwithout actually having gone anywhere– platitudes and uplifting statements with none of the weight of life's trials and tribbulations to bolster it. The blade needs to be tested in the fire sometime, Abed.

He SAYS they all have to weather chaos together, but he STILL grabbed that die– he still prevented the chaos. He talks of the conniving crafty nature of Jeff, but poor Abed /comfort. Abed himself has devised a system during this episode wherein he can try to keep everyone together without leaving anything to chance or making it seem like he's trying to control things. His actions show his struggle even when his words are all about enduring that struggle together. He has to learn to let that die go– everything will be ok.

Final point for this Prologue– one set of images that perplexed me over and over since my first RCT viewing:

 

My thoughts from the first viewing of this episode: "This episode is unbelievable– but why show this shot here? Why stop the action in this crazy timeline for that one shot of Abed course-correcting his Indy figurine?"

Here's my final analysis after years thinking on this in the back of my head: Regardless of if you want to view this episode as truly separate timelines or all in Abed's head (and frankly, the episode's so fucking awesome it works perfectly both ways), if the prior iconic image notes Season 3 in all its glory, this image of Abed course-correcting is the symbol for Abed in this episode and Season– his neurosis. Even in total chaos, even if it's all in his mind in a simulation– he HAS to have everything in its place– he has to keep this raft from falling apart. And those shots are a tip of the hat to that.

Minor digression within this prologue digression: Frank Oz's The Score : decent caper movie highlighted by Edward Norton, Robert De Niro, and Marlon Brando all sharing screen time. In the film, Edward Norton plays a con posing as an inside man to get info on the secure Montreal Customs House to steal a valuable relic– his act/con is that of a mentally handicapped, friendly, unassuming janitor named Brian. Just prior to the heist, Edward Norton as the arrogant Jack buys shoes for the job and then pretends for the final time to be Brian amongst the Customs House crew. His inside man's best bud in the place says, "HEY Brian– those are some really nice shoes." "Thank you, Danny– I know." Frank Oz in the commentary admits the awesomeness in this performance here in that it's the arrogance of Jack in the guise of Brian because Jack– he can't help being himself when he's got his eyes set on the prize all to himself. Jack being Jack as Brian.

Abed's actions in these images reminds me of that– even in an alternate history where Pierce is dying, his apartment's on fire, and they all have that shared history of the chloroform moment ("Ok I usually have only one foot in reality and even I'm freaking out right now"), or EVEN in a simulation of a possible timeline– Season 3 Abed has to be Season 3 Abed. This Indy effigy has to be here– got to keep everything together. And again, the journey this episode marks is one where Abed learns to listen to his own words and believe them– truly accept them in his life.

Discussion:

    • Shinigami, I LOVE everything you have to say here about Abed. I can't wait to read the rest of your thoughts on this episode.

      In particular, "this die catch is his own personal Psychology of Letting Go moment, truly. He's saying Mother Pierce's words, but also holding Pierce's insecurities and delusions of control and stability amidst chaos."  This is precisely why I chose that specific moment as my avatar, but you've expressed my feelings about it much better than I ever could. /cheer!

    • /cheer right back at yah for the awesome avatar selection ^^.

      And /praise to Harmon and company for that wonderful monologue in Psychology of Letting Go. Viewed that only a few weeks before my mother passed away but it still connects so much with everything this show is all about for EACH of these characters. And it translates here directly in Abed's actions and speech as well– that's why it's so outstanding.

      Component #1: Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward reference (Non-Spoiler) : "Elapsam semel occasionem non ipse potest Iuppiter reprehendere– Not even Jupiter can find a lost opportunity." Symbolism here– Abed wants to cheat fate and keep the group in neutral because he fears change– trying to be the hand of fate himself.

      Component #2: Let's change Pierce's Mom with "A Moment" and Pierce with "Abed."

      Result:

      A Moment:

      "I'm gone, Abed. Gone forever and, that's how I like it. Life is only worth a damn because it's short. It's designed to be consumed, used, spent, lived, felt. We're supposed to fill it with every mistake and miracle we can manage. And then we're supposed to let go. I can't force you to do that for yourself, Abed. But you can't force me to stay."

    • Beautiful! You've connected both monologues in such a perfect, emotionally resonant way. 

      And condolences on the loss of your mother, Shinigami. It's quite something, isn't it, the way these 22 minutes on Thursday nights can bring us such comfort and connection during times of great personal upheaval. (Also want to add that you are a treasure, and we are lucky to have you as a fellow Communist!)

      • This is so good!

        Indeed the episode works either way, but I like it better as Abed's little Charlie Kaufman side adventure (he's got practice after all…). Not only is Abed one of the central characters of S3 (the other being Jeff), but the best developed arc is his psychodrama: his fear of being left behind, of being seen as the Undiagnosable, the Non-Grouper is doubled by an equal fear of devolution – of Abed turning into Evil Abed. It's essential, I think, to note that Evil Abed exists only in Abed's imagination – that he exists as Abed's second biggest fear: that loneliness will, essentially, drive him insane.

        So Abed calmly righting Indy while the world burns around him is the start of Evil Abed. "That's how supervillains are created." Left behind and pushed too far, Pierce turned into a dick. With the group in shambles, Abed can't bring himself to care anymore.

      • Oooo that just made some things click together– great observation /cheer.  

        If Pierce is the most honest, unapologetic, and darkest in morality for the group– his statements in Abed's view of Britta's Timeline ("Because you're lonely and CRAZY") aren't just Abed's fear being projected back at him– they're Evil Abed 1.0 talking through Pierce.

        And with Pierce dying/dead, Abed adjusts the figurine, and we get the coda where the transformation is complete– the lightning rod's gone and the goatee comes on.  

        Agreed wholeheartedly on what Evil Abed represents.  Whenever Abed falls into despair with what he believes is his inevitable isolation– there's Evil Abed trying to "cheer" him up with the "truth."

      • I didn't think of the possibility that all the other timelines were in Abed's head upon initial RCT viewings, but ever since I have come across the theory, it has gradually solidified as right on the money in my mind, and the adjustment of the Indy figurine may just be the clincher in favor of that interpretation.

        • Wow.  Gotta say, I always dismissed the "It's all in Abed's head" camp–despite the whole "running scenarios" bit from later in the season probably lending credence to it–but your Indy figurine theory has me reconsidering.  Like you, I always felt like that shot was a big "thud" in the middle of the sequence, which, as you say, must mean it's there for a reason, but I'd never considered that angle.  Do you think it in any way invalidates the timelines as representative of what each character brings to the group, since, in VSA Annie sort of says Abed's scenarios aren't reality?

        • I do believe that, if all the timelines are derived from Abed's head and not as they "actually occurred," this doesn't necessarily invalidate them so much as it filters all the actions in them through Abed's perspective/fears for the season.  

          From Jeff's perspective in Season 1, everyone looked like dorky mad men:
          http://fishsticktheatre.com/TV…
          http://fishsticktheatre.com/TV…

          From Pierce's perspective in Season 2, everyone was out to exile him and steal whatever he had left(however unwarranted his fears were and self fulfilling his defeatism was, so to speak):
          http://fishsticktheatre.com/TV…
          http://fishsticktheatre.com/TV…

          We were viewing things from Jeff's side in S1, the gang's side in general for S2, and the only that's changed with Abed's side is we're not sure what's real and what's not, just like him. 

          So maybe Shirley really did have a baking problem– maybe it was Abed venting through Jeff that she was compulsively baking JUST because of that one pizza/pie incident.  Maybe everything that happened aside from Troy's timeline would have happened but just in not so exaggerated a fashion.  I definitely think Troy's timeline was exaggerated to the Nth degree because Abed's so afraid of losing him.  

          And THAT'S why, while he's watching TV with Troy in the living room, after the die roll situation was "resolved," Evil Abed/Abed's fear course-corrected inside his head to find another way to poke at him– so he couldn't just let this timelines thing drop.  What if his fears could get to the Prime Timeline?  And as SBT pointed out above/below– fear and loneliness are crafting Abed's biggest dread– that he IS starting to truly lose it (as exhibited in Contemporary Impressionists.

          In any event, like Lost always said, "What happened happened– all of this matters."  So just because it wasn't a potential canon reality for the group doesn't mean it didn't at least mean something deep about what it was showing (with regards to Abed, or anyone else in his projections).  At the very least– it shows us what ABED views as everyone's special virtues to the group (and since he's a pseudo-stand-in for Internalized Harmon and/or the Viewers, that works out well).  So /cheer to us, we win no matter what! ^^

        • Playing the devil's advocate for a moment, I'll make a quick hypothesis here. In the case of severe trauma, such as seeing friends you love on fire or hurt, certain personality types may take refuge in whatever modes of comfort they previously established for themselves. There are modes of dissociation, repetitive behaviors, or defensive positions which may look odd to an outsider, but which are the traumatized mind's way of dealing with tragedy. Real world example: my grandfather, who is a bit OCD, started collecting newspapers when some things went wrong in his life, during the Nixon administration. This is a holdover from the Great Depression, and the thought that you had to hoard food and knowledge in order to manufacture a way to keep everyone fed and safe.

          So I see Abed's Indy Jones move more as that, really. If you create some little pocket of structure amid the chaos, maybe the structure will magically set everything right externally, too.

          Beautiful job! I'll keep chiming in on the other sections when I get back home later tonight! /cheer

        • Well said and that makes perfect sense– a coping mechanism to keep everything in place or hold some semblance of normalcy to endure what hurts him most in all the timelines and in particular that darkest timeline– Troy not being there to center/compliment him.  And Abed catches the boulder when Troy runs off to talk with Britta in Pierce's timeline as well.  So this could conceivably make the Raiders Model, to use the Inception connection fully, Abed's Totem, as it were. A nest egg of Abed sanity hoping to spread outwardly.

          And from moving around so much, everyone in my family's a pack rat– keep what you find around you to make home a part of your luggage.  In particular with my mother– literally thousands of VHS tapes and TV guides.  She kept extensive notes on episode playlists so she could slowly, systematically knock one series off after another, week after week (took forever to get her to use online episode guides instead of a notepad and TV guides).   

          And of course there's that gripping bit in Maus where Vladek is chastizing his son that he can't waste goods so much.  The beauty of human capability to adapt to a multitude of environments and circumstances no matter how harsh, mixed with the utter chaos those moments can perpetually instill in one's spirit.  /comfort  Or in my mom's case, a whole ton of Star Trek TNG reruns on cable and Miami Vice tapes

        • Going along with the idea that it works either way, if it is in Abed's head, perhaps he recognizes this moment of crisis would lead him to resort to a compulsive behavior like adjusting the Indy figure, and he made sure to include it.

      Part I

      Part I:  Holy Shit, wait… there are multiple parts? The Protagonist/Antagonist System of Community :

      To be clear and comprehensive to start– everyone at that Study Table (+ Dean and Chang at least if not Greendale itself), has a Hero's Journey ahead of them from Day One. But the actions, the INTERactions, the plot, and the driving force of those journeys ebb and flow into one another– usually with one prominent journey in the foreground for each season. For my money– it's Jeff in Season 1, Pierce in Season 2, Abed in Season 3. And I just want to illustrate this quickly to emphasize WHAT's going on to Abed in Season 3 to make Remedial Chaos Theory so special, such a marker for his journey and that of the show. 

      Jeff's happened first obviously, but Pierce's journey is the easiest to depict in short form, so I'm going to do Season 2 first, then use that template to reflect on the other two Protagonist/Antagonist candidates. 

      A character exists– something happens to change that character– they fight and eventually accept that change, and then fight who they were, and then they're truly who they were AND who they've become– and then they move on to the next journey, and so on. 

      Psychology of Letting Go — Pierce's mom dies and he can't let go. Simple as that. He is fragmented, shattered, and desolate inside. What makes him him at this point? She gave unconditional love when no one else would be his friend, wife, or step child throughout the decades. His Season 1 complacency and words of wisdom– were they real thoughts he held or just echos from her trying to help him over the years (the umbilical cord story, etc)? What does he have left?

      Pierce has a renewed adolescence (the B plot of Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples), he fights against the Piercenault identity his father thrust upon him (bashing Colonel Sanders, his loneliness at Christmas where he shares a moment with Abed, his desperation for attention in Celebrity Pharmocology). He rebels against his friends for fear of losing them (AD&D, IDF, heck the whole latter half of Season 2). And then when he finally loses everything, he finds himself and realizes Greendale is his center– now he has a new starting place of unconditional support and love. He's not fixed– he'll never be fixed. But he's no Piercenault either– he's Pierce Hawthorne, perpetual student of Greendale Community College. And his victory of the Paintball tournament symbolizes the conclusion to that journey.

      Jeff's Psychology of Letting Go in Season 1 is obviously a mixture of the Pilot with Home Economics among other great moments– letting go of the first shell of Jeff Winger© and trying to find the human Jeff underneath the lawyer persona/defense mechanism. His relationship with Britta symbolizes the impetus/catalyst and a sort of divining rod throughout the season for progress in finding a real Jeff buried beneath duplicity (but in a human, organic way and not a "Jeff Winger thinks he knows everything but he'll find out soon DERPITY DERP DERP" cliche). 

      Advanced Criminal Law is that first marker– Jeff helps Britta and stresses it's out of friendship, not lust. And she believes him. And even though from the Pilot forward he was trying to find a way to break her down and "find a road in there," when the awkwardness of her drunken dial does break things down to his advantage in Communication Studies— he just wants balance restored (the Slater romance helps ground his reasoning but if Jeff Winger© wanted Britta at all costs, the Bootynater would have gone for it, no question). 

      It's a reversal of Pierce's arc in a way– being his lawyer persona does nothing for Jeff– and he doesn't need it to be accepted– allowing his inner sincerity to come out instead of defensive cynicism (he'll worry about losing everything MUCH later in Season 3). And it culminates partially in Modern Warfare and completely in the transition from Pascal's Love Triangle Revisited (his speech to Annie) to Anthropology 101 (the moment with Starburns where he realizes truly he's not the same Jeff he was a year ago– he wants respect and friendship). 

      MW is that tipping point though– Jeff and Britta commensurate all that season long sexual tension– but they don't lose their friendship– and Jeff does the right thing– not to placate Britta but because it's the right thing to help Shirley and he doesn't have to prove the world is full of bull**** anymore just to justify his lawyer defense mechanism (the world is full of lying, sucky people so it's okay for me not to care about them– he doesn't HAVE to make that concession anymore). The first part of his Intro to Finality transformation at that point hath begun. 

      And now we come to Abed in Season 3 (and I swear, we're ALMOST to discussing the actual darn episode, sorry folks). I talked WAY WAY back about Abed saying one thing in Season 1 and DOING another thing in Season 3. Let's get down to specifics here with his journey:

      Abed Season 1 PE: "That's why I was willing to change for you guys. When you really know who you are and what you like about yourself, changing for other people isn't such a big deal." 

      Abed Season 3 DEoID: "I shouldn't have to compromise my craftsmanship to placate mediocrity." 

      But I thought the point of the fort was for Abed and Troy to spend time together and enjoy each other's company?

      Abed Season 1 : "We are– BEST friends. That's why we shouldn't be roommates– we'll end up fighting, and putting a masking tape down the middle of our room…. if you and I move in, that'll Jump the Shark– that'll end it." 

      Abed Season 3 CI
      "Troy: You're gonna have to trust that… you're gonna have to trust me. " 
      Abed: "Well.. I don't want to stop being your friend so… I guess I'll let you tell me what to do sometimes." 

      If Abed Season 1 was so certain that he and Troy needed to be separated to keep things together, then why does he move in with Troy at the start of Season 3? 

      Not to mention Season 1 Abed didn't even invite Annie to the Study Group in the Pilot, but here he is in Season 3 inviting her to move in, and without discussing it with Troy first, to boot.

      And on top of all that– how many times has Abed directly intervened in the actions of the group from Season 1 up to Season 3? Compared to how often Abed gets involved with everything from the background in Season 3 itself? It goes up CONSIDERABLY in Season 3.

      Point is– The Abed of Season 1 who filters everything through TV as his language for embracing and connecting with the world and people IS a shaman– but untested. Season 2 tests Abed and he breaks— then the study group fills that void (much as it does with Jeff in Season 2).

      And here, I believe, is the Event Horizon for that shift (he can't separate himself from the Study Group at this point):


      http://fishsticktheatre.com/TV…

      He loses the stability of his pattern, his ritual in bonding with his mother– his centre is slightly cracked, and he filters that pain through TV– Christmas is still here as a special– Greendale is my Christmas special. Abed's life is now NBC's Community©. And then it ends with this:


      http://fishsticktheatre.com/TV…

      The Study Group becomes his filter– becomes his #1 show– becomes his point of stability for facing life (or at least a key fixture of that). Before AUC, Abed's looking for sitcom plots in S2, trying to be Jesus, trying to be Robocop, connecting with Cougartown and Apollo 13 (and childhood nostalgia therein), and talking about Farscape because it's really fun talking about Farscape. 

      After AUC? Abed stays out of Jeff's texting shenanigans, course corrects like crazy to keep things stable as the impartial DM in AD&D, maintains his romance with Troy in ECR, and only uses pop culture as a focal point for connecting with Jeff the way he tried to use chicken fingers and Goodfellas to connect with his friends in CAP. 

      Even in CWT– he wants to take Who's the Boss seriously to discover the pathology and history of it all– who's in control of things (not trying to read too deep here– just saying it's not Season 1 Abed– he's shifting– trying to find a way to handle the chaos). Sure, he gets his grand western/Star Wars adventure but the campus almost breaks apart as a result. That's where we are in our reality– our perspective going into Season 3.

      Discussion:

      • I've always been fascinated by Abed's role in the pilot. Focusing on Jeff, and to a lesser extent Britta, obscures that Abed is the person who drives everything in the pilot. Down to even helping Jeff hit on Britta in the first scene.

        The timeline of the episode breaks down like this:

        Jeff approaches Britta in the cafeteria and comes up with the idea of the study group on the fly to spend time with her.

        Britta leaves the cafeteria, meets up with Abed, and invites him to join.

        Abed invites Pierce, Shirley, and Troy in between when Britta invites him, and when he joins Britta and Jeff.

        Jeff and Britta meet talk, Abed shows up.

        Jeff leaves.

        Pierce, Troy and Shirley show up. Annie sees everyone from her class studying, and forces herself in.

        Jeff returns.

        Now, the question becomes, why did Abed invite Shirley, Pierce, and Troy? We know the study group comprises less than half the Spanish class, which means it was either random chance, or intentional. If it was random, then those three people are simply who he ran into between talking to Britta and joining Britta and Jeff (or, possibly, those are the only three people whose contact information he had).

        Now, if it was intentional, then it becomes a lot more complex. Abed's reference point for the pilot was always The Breakfast Club. If we view Jeff and Britta as Judd Nelson and Molly Ringwald, then it makes a bit of sense. Troy can sort of fit into Emilio Estevez's role. But Pierce and Shirley don't have any obvious counterparts, so why were they invited?

        And there is also the problem of Annie. Why was she not invited? Obviously in the pilot she has a more hostile, and acidic personality than she eventually developed. However, she'd still fit in better with the theme Abed was building off of than Shirley and Pierce.

        But it does seem an interesting inversion that Shirley and Pierce, traditionally on the outskirts of the show, are invited, while Annie, so often the center of the show she sometimes overtakes Britta as female lead for long stretches of episodes, is on the outs.

      • Ooooo- intriguing analysis of the events in the Pilot /cheer.  Were I to speculate– I'd say Abed went to invite Troy for the Emilio Estevez factor.  

        Pierce being Pierce he immediately mentioned Hawthorne Wipes a million times and tried to insert himself into their dynamic so Abed took that as Eccentric Old Guy with Little Life Left– acceptable group member criteria.

        And if memory serves, Shirley already got kicked out of her earlier group amidst all the rumor-mongering and what not so she'd be on her own– maybe trying to get people to go to her church's socials, etc.  

        Maybe she helps Abed get a pencil (Steve, even)– maybe she hears Pierce being Pierce and comes to keep him from being Pierce too much.  Who knows.

        As for why Annie WASN'T invited– my guess is she didn't fit the Primary Study Group/Breakfast Club Criteria superficially speaking– not on first glance.  She's studious, courteous, well organized, and polite.  She's not an uncomfortable genius like Brian, or too much of a Princess like Claire.  She has no immediate deficits or visible vulnerability.  

        So Abed wouldn't think to invite her offhand to fill a void in her or in the group itself– she already seems complete.  It's only when she invades the party that she tips her hand on things.

      • It would amuse me if Abed invited Shirley in order to be the sassy, black best friend. Particularly considering Shirley is the least sassy member of the group.

      • I guessed that Annie not being invited was a simple matter of portraying her as supremely "driven", and equally insecure, so she made sure when Abed invited Shirley (since Shirley appeared to be her closest acquaintance at that point and she would've been nearby) that she had a place in the group too. I like that the backstory isn't so neat and tidy because that would be lame.

      • Oh, yay, Pilot talk (my review). Actually we even had this same discussion there (see snowmania's thread).

        Loki, I think the timeline begins with the very first scene in the Pilot where Coach Abed meets Jeff and is left thinking "I can build a team around this guy". Britta did invite Abed but the idea was planted in that first scene.

        What seals the rest as intentional for me is the show going out of its way in Interpretive Dance to mention that "Abed is great at inviting people" and then reinforcing that throughout the series. Another hint is the running joke about the group's "accidental diversity". Maybe that's a reference to the group's makeup in fact being very intentional. Personally I'd like to believe it's a matter of having your cake and eating it too: There's some design but the rest is some mix of chaos (wink) and destiny (fuck you, Heroic Origins). Of course, the ultimate irony is that Abed himself ended up being the most profoundly effected by his creation. Season 3 was all about how having friends with such acutely contrasting personalities and places in life can be a very bad idea.

      • "Another hint is the running joke about the group's 'accidental diversity'."

        …Hispanics not withstanding.

      • Lloyd and Loki: it almost feels like Abed is casting, but he's casting several things at once: a Breakfast Club-style "unlikely group become friends" story, a romantic comedy (Jeff and Britta), some kind of buddy show (himself and Jeff, maybe Troy), a sitcom of some sort, and so on. Pierce and Shirley seem chosen because they fulfill several roles: the mentor (hell, Jeff accidentally calls the cafeteria lady that, so why wouldn't Abed see the same thing in Shirley?), wacky comic relief etc.

        Another explanation would be that, to borrow my poor friend Will's words, Abed just wanted to wind everybody up and see what happens. Except with less cannibalism. But it's still because he was intrigued by the possibility of friendship.

      • /cheer

        Abed does indeed seem to act against his own character in S3. And I think there's a specific catalyst for that ad well – Jeff's axe happy moment in 301. Jeff has been a constant aspiration for Abed, so seeing him break down so completely under the threat of change likely led Abed to ponder how would HE do. Hence his more domineering, controlling behavior – running scenarios (even wacky sitcom cliches – there's a girl in the boys' appartment, oh noes, what will they do? It's worth noting that Abed extends the invitation to Annie AFTER all the other timelines have collapsed: it's like a hail Mary pass to introduce some zazz in the group).

        S1 Abed was chill, S2 was melancholy, S3 is desperate and depressed.

      • while i agree that abed is a mastermind and talented creator of comedic situations, i always took his inviting annie in as a merely human moment of wanting to help a friend.

      • Yes, that too – most of the timelines include Jeff expressing concern for Annie's living situation.

      • Ooooo wait a minute- that's right.  And while Jeff is protective of Annie in general– it'd be interesting if Abed is projecting his feelings to help Annie through Jeff in these multiple timelines. 

        Layers within layers– sometimes with tunnels between those layers, or a subway– and one time a snake…  

      • Shinigami alluded to it in the review: He invited Annie as a buffer between him and Troy, a replacement for the "making tape down the middle of the room". But then again it was also pretty impulsive, suggesting that ABED DOES WHATEVER THE FUCK HE WANTS, K THANKS.

      • You even manage to talk about The WAY, WAY Back in this review?!  Or, well, not quite, I see.  But, good God, maybe actually review the actual episode in the review of THISepisode!  No, but seriously, this is awesome.  Where do you find the time?  Do you type as fast as you think?  How do you do that?

      • Glad you like it /cheer!  It took about 9 1/2 hours to type up the first draft.  

        I kept a *.txt file on my desktop from back when the review assignments got posted.  Whenever an idea came up, I'd stick it in there and quickly forget about it.  On the end of that given day, I spent 5-10 minutes organizing said *.txt ideas into a template and working out what I wanted to say about that tidbit, and so on, and so forth.  

        Fast forward several weeks later– take a huge nap on the weekend, wake up, and write nonstop immediately.  This time I was most fortunate to get into The Zone© as it were, at least until I hit the Britta discussion.  Then I snapped out of it, had to take a 5-10 minute break, and got self conscious about jumping right back in. So if any section got reworked a ton– it was the Abed/Britta section (yeah I may have Britta'ed the Britta part).

        But no complaints from me– if I was struggling to piece it all together in the first place and NOT in The Zone to start it might have taken twice as long and I would have felt like shit after typing it up.  I hate that kind of writing experience– Sisyphus Personified. People say Writer's Block sucks the worst– but I think that's primarily long-term PTSD-esque fear you're never going to get the spark back talking more than anything else in the immediate turmoil of "trying to write something and failing."  There, to me personally, it feels more like "trying not to procrastinate and getting the will to try once more."  

        For me the real pain is ALMOST having that great idea complete and then fucking it up, coming up short and forgetting how to finish it– AND then trying to make this homunculus monstrosity a success story out of the 85-90% good stuff you were able to piece together up to that point.  Like playing Castlevania and almost getting past the Medusa Heads before the Grim Reaper on the FIRST fucking try, only to die 16 more times just to get back to that point, and 20 more times to get to the Reaper.  Masochism for the win.

        Finally, I have Audio Processing Disorder, so there's a slight delay between when I hear things and when my brain actively listens (read: 1 second delay max).  If there's too much noise at once, I either get this white noise level frustration with the ambiance and tune everything out, or I'm exponentially behind in a conversation the more I fail to successfully anticipate what everyone's going to say.  

        Best analogue/example of this is on a foreign correspondent broadcast where the local anchor asks the overseas reporter and there's a split second delay in the reporter's response (where you can see their eyes blink in recognition of what was just asked RIGHT before they're able to respond verbally). 

        Anyhow, long story short– I've focused heavily on reading lips, taking notes, and communicating in written form to shore up my deficits in verbal communication.  So writing a lengthy dissertation comparing Gilligan's Island to Silverhawks is no problem, but I'll stutter and stammer if a stranger comes to my door say, dressed as a clown without a clown car– since unless he's a serial killer, I have no way to anticipate and prep a reaction for what he's going to say.

       

      Part II

      Part II:  The Mind of Season 3 Abed as a Protagonist/Villain: WE HAVE TO GO DEEPER:

      So we've made it to Season 3– a lot of crazy stuff has happened, and Abed hooks up with Troy, gets the construction approved for his Dreamatorium by playing Dinosaurs vs. Riverboat Gamblers. He has a place to daydream in his own way similar to Jeff's dream at the beginning of the season– projections of what he'd like to have happen versus the contingencies and chaos that can break everything down. And Abed has to know his time with the group and Troy is limited. 

      So I'm betting he looks back on everything that led to this moment, JUST before Biology 101. As such, I'm going on an Inception leap here and trying to view Season 1–>Season 2 events through Abed's mind of Season 3. 

      Community Events Analyzed By Season 3 "The Watcher" Abed :

      Spanish 101

      Premise– "What if I didn't trade cards with Jeff to get that shirt I'd been eyeing since registration?" 


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      Analysis: Abed doesn't end up partnering with Troy. There's a strong chance Pierce would pay Troy to switch cards, but regardless– it's either Troy and Jeff or Pierce and Jeff but with a different conclusion to the project's events. No Britta speech= no Jeff conversion. No Troy project with Abed= no comradery established with La Biblioteca song. With Pierce shamed or failing to bond with Jeff, the lightning rod is gone. Lightning strikes everywhere.

      Conclusion: If I didn't trade for Jeff's shirt, the group would have broken apart.

      Communication Studies 

      Premise– "What if I didn't help Jeff drunk dial Britta back?"


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      Analysis: The awkwardness Britta feels would be so equitable to the self loathing and self destructiveness of her actions when cheating earlier in "the season" that she'd most likely leave the group or do something to necessitate her departure– better to fail on her own terms then have everyone break her down (note when Britta expresses this self doubt later, and on her own terms to the group– she is instead accepted and overcomes it– thinking she is helping and being accepted when she fails keeps her going). Jeff loses interest in the group, everyone's beliefs and goals become divergent. Tainted soil.

      Conclusion: If I didn't help Jeff there, the group would have broken apart.

      Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples

      Premise– "What if I didn't reciprocate Shirley's selflessness?"


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      Analysis: Shirley has her baby, finds no one in the group will lend her an ear to her beliefs or her character– she's just an archetype to these guys and an extra grunt for their busy diorama work. She departs and the group loses the most giving person it has. Even if she stays– doing her movie had a side effect- it kept Duncan on track by declaring the internet broken by Abed– potentially gets him on the wagon. 

      Without the need to actually teach and focus on a task (as opposed to blatantly goofing off) at this exact point and time– maybe he gets fired in the Fall. Maybe he doesn't push Fat Neil with his "actuarial standpoint" comment to setup the events of the AD&D game. Maybe he's not there for Shirley's pregnancy and things go awry. Maybe the group's grade gets invalidated and in frustration everyone breaks apart. Too many variables to discern what would "really" happen– but it's certain all possible results ARE bad.

      Conclusion: If I didn't reciprocate Shirley's deed with the movie, the group would have fallen apart.

      Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 

      Premise– "What if I didn't create Kyle the Gnome Waiter?"


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      Analysis: Factually proven– Britta needs to feel she is helping– an essential function of her character. Corollary from previous premise– coming to something on her own terms allows her to relent as opposed to approaching her directly (which causes her to self destruct or push against authority in a destructive manner). Without a problem to solve in her own way (being the only person who speaks Gnome and cares about the plight of his diminished social standing), she keeps interjecting in Neil's journey. Pierce wins and/or Neil leaves depressed, and the group instead of pitying Pierce exiles him immediately. Pierce doesn't win paintball– the whole campus becomes a City College extended parking lot.

      Conclusion: Every time I don't act when I could– the group can fall apart or worse. And that can't keep happening. This show needs an Executive Producer.

      And there we have it– Abed in Season 3 viewing his past actions– whenever he chose to act– chaos was averted– the group stability was maintained, and they could still be happy together. He can't let that change– too much has changed already. 

      So we enter Season 3 Abed's mind frame from Biology 101 to Remedial Chaos Theory— Pierce doesn't mind being the lightning rod, but he doesn't HAVE to be it anymore to be fulfilled. He's content to be a Greendale student. Shirley has Andre back and a chance at her dreams on her own terms. She doesn't need the group's acceptance and affection (though she still wants it and wants a focal point for her gifts and her love). 

      The parallel path Abed travels with Troy is reaching rocky ground– Troy can ascend to the heavens but Abed can only change so much– he has to keep things stable or the group will "fall apart." Annie has her independence and doesn't necessarily need Jeff or anyone else to be fulfilled, but she still has anxiety and trepidation on choosing the future path for her driven nature. In the same day she could bond the group together on an activity and just as soon break everything apart because she's decided she "found the real Annie." She needs a homing beacon. Jeff was the center of the group's admiration and stability– even when he brought tension everyone was bound for or against his actions– now everyone seems fragmented and Jeff doesn't want to be Jeff Winger© anymore, but he doesn't know how to change. And Britta is… Britta. 

      Not to beat the point to death– but AGAIN– Abed says he wants to accept everyone as they are and that's how to weather this storm, but what do his actions suggest this season? Even the most altruistic one that comes to mind (helping the Dean out in DF: Redux) is poignant and beautiful but ironically in light of all this serves as a symbol of Abed's anxiety this season. 

      Premise: if the Dean self destructs, who will help keep the group focused on fun shenanigans and keep the campus secure? The group will fall apart. 

      I don't say this to diminish Abed's wonderful act there– just to point out this isn't the Abed from Season 1– he's not JUST helping people now that he's learned to connect with them beyond the camera– he's acting to help because he NEEDS to as well. 

      That need to not only be The Watcher but also the Executive Producer for this season drives so many of this season's episodes, doesn't it? Regional Holiday Music, where Abed just wants the holiday happiness backs (if AUC made the chaos go away then, why can't it do it again?). Contemporary Impressionists , where Abed ODs on pop culture the same way Pierce ODed on attention whoring in Celebrity Pharmacology in his own S2 protagonist/villain arc. His insistence (note the INSISTENCE) that people focus on watching Blade during Origins of Vampire Mythology. Shipping only leads to chaos– let Britta be Britta and she'll come back. His clashes with Annie Part I (Nocturnal Vigilantism) and Part II (Virtual Systems Analysis), where he starts to mend himself. 

      And of course, Pillows and BlanketsCurriculum Unavailable, and Introduction to Finality. He finally battles the study group externally, in his fractured way. Succeeding in Paintball (not necessarily winning but being the victor of the Paintball scene depicted) only underscores the hollowness of Abed's actions this whole season. And ITF gives Abed his renewed center after losing everything. He's inadvertently breaking the group apart and hurting himself in the process– and all he wants this season is for them to stay together. It's heart wrenching. And Remedial Chaos Theory is a brilliant, subtle microcosm of ALL that– no joke. I'm going to analyze the episode now (FINALLY) under the filter of it being a series of predictions/constructions in Abed's mind– but really, as separate realities or as figments of Abed's creativity– Abed's the hero and the villain here.

      Discussion:

      Part III – Actual Episode!

      PART III– We Finally Get to the Actual Episode (YAY!) :

      OK, for ease of discussion and analysis, I'm breaking this down in the following manner:

      1.  Actions pre-die roll.
      2. Visions/Actions of specific die rolls.
      3. Actions post die catch and how this all reflects on Points #1 and #2.
       

      But first– the mastermind behind the gifts and the invitations. Who's most likely to have orchestrated this housewarming party? Abed notes they "read a book on how to be the perfect party hosts." Not to knock Troy in any way/shape/form, and Abed's not necessarily studious himself (their coda with the fire alarm to avert failing a final comes to mind), but if Troy's primary student method is the following:


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      My guess is the impetus for this party was Abed's. Sure, Troy wants to be seen as a man, but he's just as happy to be Abed's playmate. And sooner or later Troy will try to break away and do his own thing anyway.

      BUT– if Abed suggests to Troy to get a housewarming party organized (coupled with their registry at Linens n Things from Biology 101), it'll be Troy's idea to be a man and host a party for his very own place– but with Abed's Executive Producer skills at play. TheRaiders of the Lost Ark set in the middle of the apartment? Even the Dreamatorium by comparison is hidden away (since that's what's most essential to Abed's calculations for the group's stability). No way is some girl coming back to Troy's place and necking in front of that (not that there aren't girls into Raiders, just saying within the confines of sitcom plotting even in Community's organic world– and from Abed's mindframe viewing the world AS a sitcom– this plan is fullproof). Troy comes up with the plan because of Abed, and Abed helps him keep everyone together. Plus Troy's in such proximity to Abed he can keep a beat on things and prevent chaos from intervening at every step and turn in their relationship. Win-Win.

      Next we have the gifts everyone presents to Troy and Abed. This is my favorite symbolism for the episode and just a real pleasure to analyze, I must say. Even if the Set Design weren't extradordinary for this apartment (and it IS and then some), we have gifts as thought out as the costumes from all the past Halloween specials.

      Shirley's giving but also trying to insert herself into the group's activities from a pivotal standpoint– she must cook for them.

      Annie gives a gift of hope and prosperity. A plant takes life in exchange for life and grows with the warmth of the apartment it inhabitats– its everything she hopes for the future and for Troy and Abed.

      Britta's is a shiny package that could have anything underneath– a fancy card, a donation made in their name, a controversial CD or book– the point is Britta's Britta this season– she doesn't need justification or a cause anymore– she's just giving herself and while she's the most chaotic to Abed, she's also the one most content this season (next to Pierce and Shirley).

      If we go by the deleted scenes and drafts, Troy's gift could either be his RELEASE THE KRAKEN plumbing skills or the sheer enthusiasm he provides for the group– the spearhead for playing games and telling the group just how important they are to his current happiness. To Abed, Troy's mere presence IS enough as a gift.

      Conversely, Jeff just brings himself, and Abed had to trick him into showing up and staying (again, a parallel to the end of the episode where Abed taking control of the situation internally puts Jeff in a bad light externally towards the rest of the group). Back in Spanish 101, Jeff's presence alone was enough to get everyone but Britta to cheer him on with endless adoration. Now– only Pierce acknowledges him, and at this point just to share his Serbian Rum.

      And Pierce is content Pierce, but he's still got that sinister spiteful side beneath. The Troll Doll trap ready to be sprung when/if needed, and the "OMG I'm such a rebel and STILL RELEVANT" alcohol to try to gain any attention from his fellow buddies. Like Shirley, he doesn't need it to complete himself anymore, but that doesn't mean he doesn't still desire it and gain joy from ANY attention received.

      I think it goes without saying that if this episode were just the gang exchanging gifts and playing Yahtzee, we'd still give it an A+- the interactions and cohesiveness of their discussions with the rest of the show's history is just so vibrant and beautfiul. But then the pizza boy shows up. And a new Premise/Analysis/Conclusion MUST take place in Abed's head to avert chaos. And Remedial Chaos Theory takes us fully into the fear and anxiety of Abed for Season 3. This is Remedial Abed Theory.

      Shirley

      Shirley and Abed :

      Pre-Die Roll– let's let the picture set things up.

      "We ordered REAL pizza."

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      Even if we don't include the draft with the Hannibal Lecter homage– Abed's not the Shaman from S1 here, is he? Not by a long shot. This Abed's scary and he doesn't mess around. But the show doesn't dwell on it– it immediately undercuts the tension because its point has been made– Abed wants things to go a certain way tonight. This party is to keep everyone together and happy– this isn't Shirley's party, it's the GROUP'S party (as controlled by Abed).

      Actions during the Die Rolls– 

      I'm going to go out on a limb here and submit that Shirley might not even have a problem with baking, or that at the very least it might not be so pronounced as it is in her timeline.

      Again, Jeff and Abed are partners this season– the former has externalized fear of change and takes an ax to a table, the latter internalizes his doubts and acts indirectly. Jeff doesn't step up in any of the other timelines to push anyone around directly so negatively, period. He pushes back against Troy's manhood to make himself feel better about his own stagnation and insecurities. He pushes back against Annie's advances with his cynicism and awkwardness. He pushses back against Britta so she won't do her sing-a-long. But he outright shuts Shirley's plans down, period.

      So I assert and posulate the following: This Jeff in Shirley's timeline is Abed speaking through Jeff. He's anxious about Shirley trying to bake for the group and take the reins away from him. So this vision of things that might happen when Shirley's away is Abed venting about how they must keep her from trying to dominate the group's agenda– to stop everything from being about her baked goods in exchange for love– she's not taking the hints.

      But as listed above in my earlier parts for this review, this is EXACTLY what Abed's trying to do this season– domintate things (but "for the good of the group"). Shirley wants to help the group and be a part of things by baking– Abed wants to help things in his own way as well. But there can be only one cook in this kitchen. It wouldn't surprise me if Abed made sure Shirley sat close to him after the pizza incident so he could keep an eye on things– I mean if she's baking, wouldn't she want Pierce's seat (most adjacent with eye-line to the stove)? Plus it'd match the Study Table's usual setup more with her between Annie and Pierce. Food for thought.

      And what of the events of this specific timeline– did we EVER see the gang bash Shirley's cooking or pushing her goods BEFORE this episode? Did we EVER see the gang bash Shirley's actions to give to the group with her pastries AFTER this episode?

      Off the top of my head, there's the pivotal example of pushing faith and religion inComparative Religion, and her pushing the cosmetics on the gang (Abed included) inParadigms of Human Memory. But that's IT. What's to say Abed didn't take these earlier events and conclude that this one infraction (Shirley trying to contribute to the rarer and rarer group outings she can attend post pregnancy with some baked goods) was emblematic of a greater epidemic on the horizon? And if Abed doesn't act– the group might fall apart. And who better to voice this concern than Abed's chosen external protagonist, Jeff?

      Post Die Catch–

      Shirley wants to insert herself into things. I'll give Abed that. Shirley wants to still have a reason to see these people and be the person who didn't need Andre and who could run her own business if she wanted and who learned all this by being with these people. No question.

      But Abed himself said, Shirley's giving. The Shirley after the Die Catch got to sing-along sure, but I don't think she needed the pies to keep from breaking down. I think Abed just saw it that way. That's not to say she wouldn't get upset the way she did in her timeline over their getting burnt. And that's not to say her cooking isn't important to her.

      All I'm saying is what Abed is saying, BUT doesn't himself believe… yet– Shirley is giving. So, if the group is happy, and it comes at the expense of her pies, that's just the way it goes. THIS is the Shirley who humbled Abed in Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples. She did relent on the pizza without a fight this episode, did she not?

      And this was BEFORE the die was rolled (I doubt, even done off-screen, her disposal of the self made pizza would have bothered her to so strong a degree if she still stuck around, pies in the oven or not). The Shirley who came to help hours before the party is the Shirley who fought in P&B to help Troy keep off the weed and Britta. And who wanted to stop her court case so it wouldn't hurt Jeff in ITF? The Shirley who left during her own timeline is Abed's fears of Shirley's actions spiraling into chaos, all the while Abed is being Abed even in that moment.

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      "I don't know why she's so upset– her pies probably didn't burn in the other timelines." Everything's still ok, remain focused. That's numberwang! Let's rotate the boards.

      Annie

      Annie and Abed :

      Pre Die Roll-

      There's the most appropriate house gift the learned man would appreciate– Annie's plant.

      There's her warnings about the safety and security of the place, and her prior experiences of having lived on her own.

      There's Annie keeping the ball in play in her own way by taking Abed away before he goes to town on Shirley for trying to make her own pizza. 


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      There's Annie's jump when the buzzer for the pizza delivery man arrives.


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      So Abed sees Annie driven to help keep things stable for the evening, disheveled at her own living environment, and maybe some remnance of the Jeff/Annie romantic tension from earlier in the season.

      Actions during the Die Roll- 

      "Not much to say about Annie's timeline," is pretty much the de-facto statement for any review of this episode, but time to do some brain wrinkling– yes this is primarily first to set up the continuity bits for the time shifts by the writers, but it's also the timeline where the least consequences stem from the character's departure.

      Yes that's a very obvious statement, but let's take this back a step and say it in Abed's head viewing this: "I'm analyzing what effect this random event will have on the group dynamics, and Annie's presence adversely affects things the least, so long as she doesn't hang with Jeff too long."

      She's a point of stability. As we'll see in Virtual Systems Analysis, Abed insists the Jeff ship is a point of chaos, and it takes until that point for Annie to correct that this was all resolved to a great extent from the events of Season 1 and Season 2– Annie loves the idea of Jeff, but the reality's not happening the way they are now and she's ok with that. So from THIS point in RCT– Annie to Abed is an asset to the group staying together– so long as Jeff doesn't deviate the course, so to speak. I won't go so far as to say Abed pushed Troy to sit between Jeff and Annie, but it's really interesting, isn't it? They're the exact same table setup they always have at the study table, but with Troy between Jeff and Annie. Knight to Queen's Bishop 3. In any event, let's review what we "learn" about Annie in these timelines.

      1. She has a gun in her handpurse.
      2. She had to apply a tourniquet outside her building — her living conditions are very dire.
      3. She bonds with Jeff's machismo and adult spirit so much it's chaotic to Troy's happiness.
      4. She won't really be happy or easily fulfilled by Jeff as he is now.
       

      Post Die Roll-

      Does she really have a gun? Is her living situation that terrible? Would proximity to Jeff be that toxic to the group's stability? And why does Abed invite Annie to live with them when he didn't even invite her to the Study Group in the first place (not knocking Annie– just citing the irony– Abed jumps at the chance to do this at episode's end).

      Abed could have easily inferred second-hand from Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design that Annie is becoming skilled at firearms (she handles that prop like a pro), if not from Season 2 Paintball events as well. But there's never mention of it again after this episode (I guess because she moves in with them, but all the same– this gun only shows up here). From the Ballad of the Exploits of Spaghetti, I won't question her horrid living conditions that we witnessed first hand in Celebrity Pharmocology. But again, the chaos from connecting with Jeff seems to me to be projection from Abed's fears of chaos.

      To Abed right now, Annie can be what Troy says of her in Nocturnal Vigilantism– a buffer whose moving in is "supposed to tone us down." And that sounds like quite the Abed thing to say, doesn't it? That was probably how he explained it to Troy later. Annie has her own mind and instincts and drives– she may get swooned by Jeff, but NEVER eclipsed by the chaos of his own Season 3 problems. Again Abed witnessed their chaos in Geography of Global Conflict but he didn't learn from it– those two CAN survive and did survive tension with each other. Abed embraces Annie as an asset, but he still doesn't respect her virtues, her personality– who she IS. Once he does that, he can believe what he said at the end of RCT.

      Until then, she's not allowed to have his buttered noodles or interfere with them. She can't be trusted around their DVDs. He busts out Batman but not the same way he did in Intro to Statistics, and she's not allowed to do their morning show initially or sing-along with them. His Batman is his defense mechanism now (not a filter with which to connect to people– but a shield like it was in AUC's beginning- to avoid reality's harshness). And Annie's there to keep chaos away (other girls, keep the place clean so Troy can still play around with Peter Pan/the Lost Boys)– they needed a Wendy, not someone to barge in and ruin his damage control with Troy or poke his increasing vulnerability. Annie BECAUSE of her drive, gets through to Abed eventually– but right now it's all words here– he doesn't truly believe in her virtue, not yet.</virtual>

      Pierce

      [SUBSECTION B- ABED & PIERCE/ ABED AND ABED]

      Pierce and Abed: 

      Pre Die Roll-

      Pierce is Pierce and Abed is Abed. And Abed's right– "Pierce will never apologize." I might have the least to say about this one in terms of how it's reflected in this particular episode, but contrary to Paradigms of Human Memory, I think Abed and Pierce do have a unique relationship (one that simply was never really developed). A quick summation of this relationship below.

      Pierce is a hollowed out boy of a man– instilled by his mom with unconditional love but no outlet or methodology for embracing others, and beaten down by his father with platitudes on racial purity and obtuse ignorance where the only important people are the ruthless winners. Pierce's mom won out in Pierce's mind but he's still this Wounded Man that's all too much like Jeff– he wants to connect but can't reconcile his douche bag shell with the vulnerability inside. So instead he lashes out. Like an immature child. And he may have a center/a foundation from which to build Pierce 2.0 now via Greendale– but he's never gonna be rid of his dad's platitudes or his own social obliviousness/obsolescence.

      I say all this because if Jeff and Abed connect on pop culture upbringing, Abed and Pierce can relate on their disconnect from society. No matter what, neither will ever truly fit in. Not even close to pretending they do. Pierce will always resort to some off color joke or bit to gain attention he feels he's being slighted and ruin the fragile deck of cards he has established, and Abed can't compromise the workings of his mind with the workings of reality– other people can have time shares in his imagination land, but that's it– regardless of what he feels, the brain trumps all– it is the final landlord.

      So we learn over these years that Abed has someone he wants to nail in the group, from Pierce. We learn that Abed went to Pierce's place in the middle of the night that time he forgot how to fart. Helping him zip his fly up, etc. And Pierce may mock Abed's racially on pure instinct, and may mispronounce his name endlessly, but these are superficial details– and Pierce doesn't strike against Abed in IDF per se like the other group members. Pierce accepts Abed as Abed The Eternal Outsider the way no one else in the group does (not even Troy or Jeff) even when he's making some thoughtless racial slur (emphasis on thoughtless). 

      I say all this because I think Abed sees Pierce as a source of chaos this episode only in the most generic sense– he's Pierce– chaos incarnate, but containable as the lightning rod for the group. I bet it's actually MORE unsettling that Pierce doesn't escalate things as much as he used to– now the group can't just blame everything on him when things go crazy– Pierce is still Pierce but he's not actively poking at everyone as much anymore (aside from some of tonight's activities). Hence Jeff becoming the pseudo-patsy at the beginning and end of this episode– another course correction. 

      Actions during the Die Rolls-

      So we have Pierce's boxed housewarming gift, but prior to the rolling of the die, we don't know what's inside. And we have his Serbian Rum to boot, plus the hilarious Eartha Kitt insinuations. But again– note the diminished presence of this chaos. Everything else bad that happens this evening is so pronounced– Britta and the pizza guy, Britta fawning for Troy, the fire in the apartment, Jeff banging his head. Pierce just acts like Pierce and tries to taunt Troy with a troll doll on terror steroids. He is always a source of chaos– but predictable and relate-able. And that's where things get a little interesting.


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      "Pierce is terrorizing Troy because he's jealous that we're moving in together."
      "You're the one who's jealous!"
      "Why would I be jealous?"
      "Because you're lonely and CRAZY!"

      Jeff and Abed are bonded by pop culture.
      Pierce and Abed are bonded by perpetual isolation.
      Jeff and Pierce are linked by A Christmas Carol Marley/Scrooge-esque fate:


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      And the above dialogue is ABED's version of that Bio 101 premonition.
      On initial viewing, we think it's Pierce projecting his own insecurity about losing Troy as Abed's motivations. 
      BUT– if this is Abed viewing events, with him stuck in the middle between Pierce's chaos and Troy's perseverance:

      Pierce's terror mirrors Abed's loneliness and craziness. This is a potential evolution of Abed talking to himself. He's starting to lose it. And let's say all that "This is how Abed just analyzed Season 1 and 2" stuff I wrote is true/canon– that emphasizes all the more how, with this episode's Darkest Timeline Coda, Abed's REALLY starting to lose it. Everything worked out with his die catch, but he still can't let go of this chaos– it hit too close to home. Why keep poking everything that happens following this die roll JUST based on this die roll– why not let this go?

      "Because you're lonely and CRAZY!" 

      Post Die Catch-

      The scene above definitely works both ways– but it's fascinating how this helps underscore Abed's dilemma in this episode. Again, so what if that doll is in there and Pierce gets it out? Everyone has a laugh, Troy shrugs it off unlike Shirley in Mixology (not bashing her, just point of comparison), and they endure the chaos. This is PIERCE– he messes with people all the time (and this DOES play out that way in Shirley's timeline!). But Abed can't abide even though he again– acknowledges Pierce's unrelenting personality as a virtue (which it is). Perhaps it just hits too close to home. How so? Let's check out Abed's absence as imagined by Abed.

      Abed

      If A= Abed then Not A = ? : 

      Since this whole darn review is Abed centric, I'll forgo the paragraph breaks and get to the nitty gritty. Abed's absence mirrors Pierce's presence in an interesting fashion. Let's take note– pre die roll Abed's determined to keep things stables, as he is post die catch. But with him gone, not much ACTUALLY falls apart, does it? Everyone interacts with their more chaotically influential partner, to be sure, since there's no referee or Executive Producer to keep things balanced and sorted. But the world doesn't end, either. I will say that aside from Troy's timeline (since I don't see Britta staying engaged to pizza guy for long), none of the events of the other timelines are that dire or consequential– but Abed's does seem to have the most potential for long term damage. Sure, everyone gets theirParadigms of Human Memory venting done, but it's very, how should I say, Pillows and Blanket-esque?.

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      Note how everyone's completely separated in gaze, poise, and position from where they were in the iconic image from waaaaaaayy back at the beginning of this review? And Abed's complacent with just finding a nickel in the hallway. I think he's underlining the potential for his obliviousness to all this chaos– if he shirks in his S3 duties, everything could break apart and he wouldn't even see it (everyone's hurt each other but out of his view and he's not great at judging emotional states from facial expressions). 

      Tonight, things might not be that ruined if he leaves, but the seeds of doom are there–

      Shirley has an actual problem with Britta now and vice versa that they'll remember (compare this to their ACTUAL fight and quick reconciliation in Modern Moving– the fear of what might happen versus how it actually plays out in reality– but Abed doesn't see that occur).

      Jeff and Annie connected briefly and now the awkwardness has been amplified– they know now they like being with each other but they hurt each other. In Abed's mind this could be a rehash of Communication Studies, but there's no way for him to assist this time ala drunk dial back, so to speak– he was out getting the pizza and the damage/imbalance is done.

      Troy and Pierce struggle with gift giving and receiving, but now Troy's spirit is crestfallen. In Britta's timeline Troy said "you guys are my BEST friends":


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      In Shirley's timeline, Troy gets the doll straight up and the situation's defused.
      But here with Abed gone we get "You're sick, sad, twisted old man and I hope you die alone." 

      This damage is for keeps.

      I think what this tells us is that from Abed's perspective– he's doing what he's always done– more so since the latter half of Season 2– help keep things going for the synergy of the group's stability. And here the futility of his attempts to control things mirrors the futility of Pierce's attempts to induce chaos into things. They're both poking at a force of nature trying to be relevant to the proceedings.

      To Abed in Abed's timeline– if he's not there– these people will be their darkest selves to each other and the damage is irreparable, but at the same time, when he is there– there's only so much he can do. And by comparison– Pierce's doll is a bad joke, his rum is a barely drank waste, and he's a non-event. BUT he's at least content with his new station in life for the most part. THAT'S where Abed and Pierce differ– Abed's still stuck in neutral.

      Troy probably told Abed about the doll in stories of Pierce's Mansion, so we know he could easily infer that's in the mystery box (since in the canon timeline it's never opened). And yes, we have the twin doll with the missing spot in Season 4's Halloween episode, but there's also Pierce's LeVar Burton "gift" to Troy– Abed knows that Pierce knows how to poke Troy deepest. So if Troy mentions this doll as the worst thing about living at Pierce's mansion, case closed– that's what Pierce has brought because Pierce is Pierce. 

      But Pierce isn't fighting change anymore– he doesn't HAVE to punish Troy– he just doesn't want to be left out needlessly anymore and he'll attack if he feels slighted or threatened. He embodies chaos as an option to stay in the game as he always had– to lash out. And with his conquering of his Piercenault father issues this season, he really expels that part of him handedly. "Don't use 'Gay' as a derogatory term! Boo-yah! Good person!"

      Britta

      [SUBSECTION C….FOR BRITTA (DOH!) ABED AND THE BRITTA OF IT ALL(DOH!)] 

      Britta and Abed- Abed is Batman Now– and the Opposite of Batman: 

      "She may walk like she just got off a horse but underneath all that clown makeup, she's… she's a good kid." Pierce from Home Economics

      Abed sure is right and honest here– Britta's real wild card. She's a little apprehensive about changing her path in life (or rather, deciding to form one finally rather than define herself by combating everyone else's life choices), but she's the one most content with that path she has chosen (aside from maybe Pierce and Shirley). And she revels in exactly what Abed is trying to combat. 

      What happens if she gets to complete her sing-along? 
      What happens if she gets to smoke weed in that bathroom? 
      What happens if she sees that pizza guy?
      What happens if she spends too much time with Troy?

      Before the roll she over-enthusiastically supports the Raiders model and after she over enthuses her support/connection to Abed's speech. Conclusion: Unpredictable response. But throughout it all– she's just being Britta– anything could happen. But Abed doesn't take the right lesson from that, does he? 

      Abed says they need to weather the chaos together– accepting flaws and virtues equally. But more so than with any other party guest, I think Abed's projections here originate subconsciously to counter Britta's randomness. It's fascinating. Separately viewed, the timelines represent what people contribute to the group with their presence and absence. 

      But what's interesting HERE, viewing them sequentially under the filter of "Abed analyzing and countering Britta"– we can see a little course correction bit by bit– plate spinning, whack-a-mole, juggling, Groundhog Day– pick your preferred analogy. Each timeline compliments what came before and after as Abed reflecting, "ok, what if we tried THIS to keep things going?" So let's go quickly, sequentially through the timelines and note the randomness and the counter-attacks to it (adding the Premise/Analysis/Conclusion elements from WAAYY back in Part II).

      Annie Timeline (Abed's 1st Analysis):

      If Britta doesn't get to sing-along, she goes with Abed to the bathroom and smokes weed.

      Conclusion: Relatively harmless, but playing Yahtzee with stoned Britta might turn Shirley off and ruin the evening– results inconclusive at this point.

      Shirley Timeline (Abed's 2nd Analysis):

      Britta still smokes her weed, no one protects Shirley's pies (which she shouldn't be allowed to bake anyway), and Troy encounters the troll doll. No way that evening's going well.

      Pierce's Timeline (Abed's 3rd Analysis):


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      The picture doesn't illustrate the change aptly- but Abed points at Pierce to rimshot his joke. 
      Give Pierce recognition so he doesn't bring out the doll. Shirley can take care of her pies. But no Pierce means no contained chaos– lightning strikes. Jeff puts down Troy in Abed's mind– Troy seeks out the Opposite of Batman. 


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      Obviously this shot is here to setup the chaos in Troy's timeline for when the ball hits the floor, but it's interesting to note Abed's expression here– he's lost Troy– this timeline can't happen. Even though things don't turn out badly, mind you. Why not grab the die and find some way to get Pierce to go get the pizza, Abed? It didn't have to be Jeff at the end– Pierce is easily manipulated ("HEY PIERCE, DON'T COME OVER HERE!"). 

      Abed takes Britta to the bathroom so he's not around to keep Troy stabilized– battle lost. Chaos wins. Reset the board. Britta has to go.

      Britta's Timeline (Abed's 4th Analysis):

      There's NO music– so there can be no sing-along woes and no bathroom trip. Jeff hits the ceiling fan as planned so he and Annie can have a muted sexually tense encounter without things going crazy. Shirley's checking on her pies. Pierce didn't get to do his joke but Jeff's gone so things are stable. Then this happens and Abed reacts:


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      He already knows what's in there and that he messed up. We hit the lonely and crazy line, Britta still does something nuts that could mess with the entire fabric of the group (if she doesn't change her mind two seconds later). 

      Conclusion: Results insane.

      Troy's Timeline (Abed's 5th Analysis):

      Can't protect Troy by sending out Pierce or Britta– what if Troy goes to get the pizza? No conflict with Jeff, Jeff has Annie, Pierce can poke at Jeff instead of Troy. But all those little random variables all stack up.

      1. The Raiders boulder knocks Indy to the side and hits the floor rolling.
      2. Abed leads Britta to the bathroom without noticing the boulder.
      3. Jeff hits the fan as planned, but Annie slips on the boulder and knocks the Serbian Rum down, and the gun in her purse goes off.
      4. Pierce, getting up to react to the loss of the liquor, gets shot by Annie's gun.
      5. Shirley and her pies get rained on by specs of Pierce's blood.
      6. This moment (discussed earlier):

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      7. Britta STILL gets high, and inadvertently sets fire to the apartment.
      8. Troy STILL encounters his Troll Nemesis.

      Conclusion: This is truly the darkest timeline.

      And note above how, in the Darkest Timeline where Troy leaves, we have, coincidentally, ALL the random variables Abed couldn't have predicted for the evening (the rum, the weed, the gun) all sort of escalating and conspiring against his best wishes. It's all his anxieties about chaos stacking up until he can't overcome them. 

      Abed's Timeline (Abed's 6th Analysis):

      Ok, what if I go? I can get back fast like Troy, but not hit the boulder off the Raider's model. Shirley checks on her pies. I can get back before Pierce shares his gift. Only I can't. Britta still smokes marijuana. Annie and Jeff connect in the worst way.

      Conclusion: No dice.

      Jeff's Timeline (Abed's final Analysis):

      The only way to stop this chain of events from spiraling out of control is to get Jeff out of there so Britta can sing-along, Shirley can deal with her pies if she wants, Pierce can do his sexual barb, Annie and Jeff don't have too awkward an encounter, and everything stabilizes. 

      So namely, if we view Britta from Abed's perspective as the most random element in all his projections and each of those projections seen as individual but sequential attempts to course correct that first problem (Britta doesn't sing, has to go to the bathroom to smoke weed, chaos spreads), we understand the Abed presented in the coda to this episode.

      "Oh I LOVE how this is my fault somehow."

      "It's mine– I've run through that night over and over again in my head and I keep coming back to one thought- I should have caught the die and not let you roll it. I failed to do that and we all suffered for it." 

      Note we don't get humility or shaman words of wisdom– we get certainty that it's all within Abed's power– it's his responsibility and his control to stop this. 

      "When I told you that if Gotham no longer needed Batman, we could be together- I MEANT it. But now I'm sure the day won't come when you no longer need Batman." Keep that little bit of randomness in check for now and everything's fine, sure (which necessitated Jeff gets the pizza). But Abed is still learning the wrong lesson or not listening to his own speech and truly embodying it. Messiah complex– thy possessor is Abed. "This IS the movie!" Anyhow– I'm simply saying in all this that Abed doesn't have to catch that die– he doesn't HAVE to stop chaos– he's just built himself up to believe that's the case. He HAS to be Batman here. Gotham needs him.

      Contrary to her best efforts– Britta's the most normal/ordinary person in the group (in terms of outlook, capability, and sensibility). Because of her desire to be different and change, she comes off as a hurricane– as pure chaos– but even at her artificial craziest– she's still a force of nature– she's still life. She's not something to be averted or combated– she's the water for the raft. Abed accepting Britta and her chaos at the end of ITF signals the close to this conflict truly– but he doesn't accept it here. He only accepts that there's darkness on the horizon, but Batman's there to watch over things and save the night.

      Troy

      [SUBSECTION D- ABED AND TROY AND ABED AND JEFF]

      Troy and Abed sewn togeth-er :

      Let's start by listing my personal assumptions for the arrangement of this evening.

      1. That it was all Abed's idea indirectly presented through Troy.

      2. That Abed set up where everyone sits (keep Shirley close to him and Annie close but not too close to Jeff).

      3. That they have pizzas ordered and a party game all set to go.

      4. No direct movie/pop culture shenanigans– Troy and Abed being Good Hosts© only.

      As stated earlier– I feel the whole point of this party is a variation on Abed's plan in Regional Holiday Music and with Paintball, etc– go back to the well of great group memories to help keep everyone happy and together. And it also serves as a love letter to Troy about how awesome living together is/will continue to be.

      Given how much Troy and Abed's relationship plays out so thoroughly in the rest of this season, there's not much new to discuss here with this particular episode or Troy's die actions.

      Troy butts antlers with Jeff because he wants to be a fully realized man of convictions too– but he's coming to that road naturally (Jeff's taking the long way around since he was on a phony trail as Jeff Winger© for so long).

      He's apprehensive about his future in the same vein as Annie and Britta, but following Mixology Certification he and Annie can support each other in their dreams, and from Interpretive Dance onward, Britta's unbridled spirit and enthusiasm challenges Troy in a positive way (which only fuels Jeff's insecurity and resentment towards him).

      I say all this because it's clear Troy has a path and knows what it is, but he's not taking it. And Abed knows this too but he's not letting his friend go either. Why not choose Annie's timeline, Abed? Again, Jeff didn't have to get the pizza even if you caught the die– Implore Annie's goodness to make her get the pizza. Why not Pierce's timeline? Why not have Britta be enaged to the pizza guy? I think Abed really grabs that die because he can't accept the possibility of Troy's timeline EVER happening. Take control JUST to be safe– THIS time (and the next and the next and the next and the next).

      And the saddest thing is– in the deep recesses of his mind– the fallout's still going to happen, and still potentially affects who Abed is in Season 3 and what he does. He's just trying to hold onto Troy and that connection as long as he can.

      In Abed mind, when Troy leaves for just a few minutes– potentially all those random variables, all those things he can't predict or form contigencies for– they all come back to haunt him. He can anticipate the Troll doll, but not the Serbian Rum. The gun, the rum, the weed, the boulder, the pies– it all falls apart at once. Troy needs to be in the picture for now– it's just that simple.


      HUGE Suikoden III Digression that Ties into the Above

      (Complete Disgression– skip ahead if you wish– this is just me connecting the end plot of an old Playstation 2 antagonist to Abed's motivations with regards to Troy and Abed's place in life– if you stick around, bless your patience, truly).

      Suikoden is this RPG series of games primarily from the Playstation/Playstation 2 era, developed by Konami. In this series, you have what's basically a mixture of Chinese folklore, War and Peace, and Star Wars. The main mystical element at play are Runes– specifically True Runes. It is foretold in each major conflict of the world in Suikoden– 108 stars of destiny (108 people who will possess regular Runes and True Runes) will come together and change fate. True Runes are essentially the nuclear arsenal of Suikoden's world of magic– they give you immortality (I think it's better to say they rob you of your mortality though, given Suikoden's sometimes morose, sober outlook), they have the power to devastate cities and countries if abused, and their the most divine elements available to mankind.

      Long story made less long– In Suikoden I through III, one of the 108 Stars of Destiny is this clone named Luc. You see, one of the evil empires out there is this place called the Holy Kingdom of Harmonia. And the major limitation of the True Runes is you can only hold onto one per person. So the Emperor of Harmonia got the idea long ago to make clones bred and trained to hold onto HIS runes. And in the first game– that's all Luc is– a glorified, surly vessel. He aids the typical protagonist in turning the tides of war and crushing a rebellion.

      And in the second game he does so again– he's just there on the side, watching, acting where he can. He seems throughout all this to accept his fate– he exists only to house a rune for his owner– he resents his lack of control, but it is what it is.

      Then at some point and time– he encounters and rescues Sarah– unique because she is BORN with a Flowing True Rune already attached (usually you encounter these things in ruins and perform a ritual or some such to connect with them directly). She's outcast as a witch and continually abused by groups who want to exploit her power for their own interests. But Luc rescues her and helps her form her own path– her fate's not set in stone like his is. But he doesn't exactly let her go off on her own, either.

      And then we reach Suikoden III. Someone's collecting runes and testing out exploding/imploding them. Someone's using subterfuge and trickery to convince different nations to go to war as a cover for these thefts and other insidious deeds. Evil nations from past games even band together with the protagonists from this game to figure out what's going on– it gets so bad. And it turns out the enemy is Luc– he wants to collect enough True Runes to end human existence.

      He figures– the runes are from whatever created mankind. And all these dark empires, all this human corruption– it'll just destroy whatever goodness people have– take over their lives– he's seen it again and again already. Even when you win a rebellion, you just become the next empire that needs to be overthrown. And his own fate is to wait for the Harmonia kingdom to collect all these runes, and then what? One major empire? Blow up the world anyway? At least THIS way, he has control of the chaos– they can smite the gods for trying to manipulate them, and get people true freedom once and for all.

      Obviously this is a sad and tragic contortion/distortion of the Hero's Journey all the other Suikoden protagonists faced– this as if someone watching Luke Skywalker save the world twice over decided it's better to be Darth Vader and built his own Death Star. But through Sarah and her devotion to Luc, we see his irrational plan, his insanity, for the poignant humanity within. His hideous deeds emphasize his most inhumane qualities, but the motives for these actions highlight that he is a person– not an empty shell.

      When Luc's plan fails and he's about to die, he apologizes for pushing Sarah to help him when she could have had her own life on her own terms (something he could never have). He askes her to leave his side but she won't let him die alone. It's clear however crazed his plan was– he just wanted to be a hero in his own way. He just wanted to stop the chaos. And because he had the hope of being with Sarah eternally beyond whatever this echo of life he had, he wanted it on his own terms.

      Rescuing Sarah and living for her welfare gave him the impetus to change his life–by getting hope from Sarah he finally tried to stop being Harmonia's clone– to be something more no matter how destructive that turned out. And that's not the act of some cloned entity devoid of a soul, used to house some divine/alien/transcendent rune– that's pure humanity.

      He couldn't learn the lesson that– despite all these hardships, people endure and live on together– no matter how fleeting things can seem– the time inbetween when these 108 stars intertwine is when LIFE happens. It just always happened beyond his reach– but Sarah DID help him gain a piece of that for himself.

      END OF SUIKODEN III DIGRESSION


      Connecting this all the way back to Abed and Troy's connection in Season 3– Abed doesn't even mention Troy's virtues in his speech. I think it's because he needs Troy so much words just won't do justice (or maybe it's again that tragic blindsided obliviousness where Abed can inadvertently not register Troy at all because he's so stuck in his own mind- EVEN when he's trying to think of a way to keep Troy with him).

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      Humanity always just beyond the grasp of his Chicken Finger plans, but Troy gives him hope. Not to mention the fear from the despair isolation from Troy would bring. Abed knows Troy must move on someday– it's inevitable– he just can't accept it yet. Not if he still a chance to keep things going (as opposed to future Season 3 moments where he accepts the inevitable even though it slowly means the end of everything inside his head– the darkest timeline is encroaching!).

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      The darkest timeline in Abed's head at the end of this episode is the embodiment of Jeff's fear of looking uncool in Physical Education and Pierce's fear of losing the study group inAdvanced Dungeons and Dragons. It's an exemplification of him giving in to despair that he can't control or change anything, least of all himself, and there's nothing left– so he might as well destroy things his way– be chaos incarnate himself and control things that way ("Jeff may lose an arm in the darkest timeline, but larynx damaged Troy and I are still together!").

      And just as with Luc– that irrationality in grabbing the die– in holding onto that fear of the darkest timeline and letting it stir his thoughts over and over again in Season 3– they affirm Abed's humanity. He's not some filter of pop culture cliches or a computer to calculate popularity within the group. He's someone who doesn't want to lose his friend or his current life to change and it scares him– but he still thinks he can think his way out of it because what else can he do?

      Jeff

      Jeff and Abed- Where it all Started :

      Suppositions on my part–

      I believe that if Abed set Jeff up to attend the party no matter what, he also setup Jeff's mishap with the fan. If he knows about the cold spot in the apartment with the AC unit from his stand-up routine later this season– he has to know sitting at the table there with a certain height makes you a target for that fan's blades. Pure and simple.

      And even with Troy between Jeff and Annie (and in light of their friction in Geography of Global Conflict ), they're getting close to each other. So Jeff banging his head means Annie will go into medic mode (I don't imagine anyone other than Shirley jumping to help Jeff and as it turns out Shirley was pre-occupied with her pies). In an enclosed environment with everyone else present– any sexual tension they have will be minimal (they can really do it in the bathroom with these shower curtains [I wonder if Abed got this JUST for that possibility? DUN DUN DUNNNN]).


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      So yes– I believe the fan blade assault was intentional– it only happens if Jeff gets up from the table– Jeff's our leader– we need him here to keep the group together. If he stays, no problem. If he gets up– he'll be with Annie before he gets mended– all the more reason to stay invested in the party afterwards. Win-win.

      I also believe he had Shirley placed closer to him rather than Pierce so he could keep an eye on this pie situation (shame since maybe he could have dealt with that Troll doll variable if Troy or Pierce had been adjacent to him instead).

      And finally, I believe another motive for getting Annie to stay with them is to keep her from getting TOOOO close to Jeff (moving in or near him so she doesn't have to stay in her bad neighborhood anymore, however unlikely that option would be). Annie stays with them– Jeff's not going to be able to inadvertently shake up the group dynamic without Abed noticing and being able to contain things.

      Princess Annie gets to be "saved" by Troy and Horsebot 3000 (Abed's narration, mind you):


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      So prior to the die roll– everything's in place to keep things fun and light– everybody wins. Except Jeff's going through some stuff himself and everything he does breaks the group dynamic apart. I'd say, with the exception of his rant about Shirley, we can confirm everything Jeff does in Abed's projections fits his personality both before the die roll and after it is caught.

      Jeff taunting Troy out of insecurity? He does it just as badly in the beginning of the episode as he does in front of Annie later with the Troll doll and the mahogany bunk beds. Jeff connecting with Annie over their feelings but his cynicism and self doubt breaking everything apart? Jeff was all too happy to think he was just going to make a superficial appearance and then be out of there, ASAP. He wants Annie but he doesn't want to deal with any of this now.

      That ax attack and his own fear of change is eating at him too much. I think Abed gets that too– this is the Jeff that avoided Abed post AUC (I again assert that this is because he thought he'd just make things worse for Abed if he tried to hang out with him as Jeff Winger©). When in doubt and potentially capable of embarassing yourself, divert and avoid– that's Jeff Winger©. "I don't like being excluded, Jeff, do you? YES!"

      Frustration with Pierce? Putting down Britta's randomness and cheer? All seen in the Season 3 episodes prior to this one, if not the series as a whole up to this point. And just like in CFS– he's stuck at an awkward outing he didn't anticipate– but this time it's just hanging out with the gang– what's the problem, Jeff? And later on he'll avoid Annie's Moving Day and we'll get a part of that reason– which the gang will accept. Because they've all been there.

      But right now, he's entirely in a defensive formation– keep the weirdness to a minimum, play some Yahtzee, get the heck out of there and sulk about the future at home while you work out upside-down and then drink booze alone. Again, he's externally working through all the issues Abed's internalizing.

      And you may think the key to all this is that Jeff is subconsciously combating Abed's control of the group– which is what I thought about this episode before writing this review. But I don't think that's correct now.

      I think the most wonderful thing about Intro to Finality in retrospect is how Jeff's courtroom speech answers all of Abed's fears here– all his theories, his analysis, his plans– it counters them ALL. This is the answer to Abed's Schrodinger's Pizza Dilemma.


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      "So I guess we all walked in here pretty bad. But now Shirley's gone good. Shirley's helping me. It's that easy: you just stop thinking about what's good for you and start thinking about what's good for someone else…. and you can change the whole game with one move."

      The way to avert this chaos was in Jeff's possession all along (and everyone there, really). Slowly stand up to avoid the fan, say "you know what, guys– I didn't bring anything to the party– I'll go get the pizza– don't have too much fun while I'm gone." We'd be denied the fantastic episode and this really frickin' long review, but ITF's speech applied here proves it's really just that simple.

      And that's the last lesson Abed has to learn from this– from his RCT speech. Jeff may be a conniving son-of-a-bitch– but he doesn't HAVE to be the bad guy either. He can change for the better in a given moment, he can do what's good for everyone else, and still retain his Jeff-ness. Abed says to accept everyone's virtues– but Jeff still ends up the bad guy, and Abed still gets to hold onto that die when it's all over.

      But at least we know from watching the rest of the season that it doesn't have to end this way (with Jeff in the Abed position of The Watcher who can't connect, and Abed trying to keep everything in check as a hidden de facto leader).


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      Discussion:

      •  
      • Holy crap, is my scrolling broken?

        JK, Shinigami, looking forward to reading all this.

      • i haven't finished reading this, but this seems like as good a place as any to randomly note how fucking disgusting the pizza shirley made must have been. 

      • Yeah– duly noted– Ketchup and Cream Cheese?  Bleeeeh.  That's like Eddie Murphy's Mom in Raw making a burger "better than McDonalds?"  Her heart was in the right place though– but she was tampering in Abed's master plan to return to basics.  

        Note in Regional Holiday Music when Abed decides he's had enough– he doesn't just end the recital (since he IS centerpiece Mouse King).  He uses Britta as an agent of chaos because he needs to stick to the plan– keep everyone happy, get rid of the recital director now causing potential long term instability.  Always Be Course-Correcting.

      • It is weird. It's the only instance of Shirley's baking that comes to mind as being presented as less than delicious.

      • It's suggested she did something vile to Pierce's hoagie, if that counts as Shirley baking.

      • That's true, but it shows just how committed she is to baking something,anything, even as the world around her gives her no viable options to do so. Of course, this theme isn't really explored again, nor was it explored before, so it's always kinda made me uncomfortable about RCT. When Shirley bakes at the beginning and everyone's mad about it, it really never felt to me like the stakes were properly set.

      • There's a really wacky HTML screw-up in here.  I wonder if it was on purpose.  What does it mean? #rct #vsa <experiment>let me see something here</experiment>

      • It was supposed to be <.i>Virtual Systems Analysis <./i> for italics (sans .). 

        I'd edit it to change it, but I feel I was lucky Disqus didn't flag me for editing the indentation for all of these to get them just right in Georgia 13 PT. I'll go back later and correct these but at least for now there's nothing major.

      • Yeah, it's kind of impressive that that is the biggest mistake.

      Part IV: Conclusions

      Conclusions (Hurray!) :

      Anyone still reading this? Really? Wow– you are a trooper, truly. 

      First, let's do the Season 3 Doppeldeaner Counter for this Episode : Infinity and beyond– because every lovely second of this show had some duplicate element to it. 

      Second– I was going to originally use a gimmick doppelganger account to post a negative opinion of this episode in reply, but after reviewing these 22 odd minutes over and over again, I think I'm gonna pass on that idea. 

      While I wasn't going to bash the episode at all, more merely point out that from a given perspective, it can be seen more as an exceptionally executed episode of television than an ESSENTIAL episode of television (as opposed to, say, Mixology Certification and Advanced Dungeons and Dragons in my opinion). But everyone's struggle this Season to keep things together– all it all breaks down and re-asserts itself– how every action real or duplicate or fantastical reverberates and escalates exponentially throughout the remaining episodes here– I think it transcends that minor "criticism" by a wide margin. 

      Besides, gimmicks and meta comments already dominate enough of our lives. We reflect on things to gain substance but sometimes that introspection can hurt so much we can't deal with life's troubles directly– so we use pop culture and jokes to filter it and make sense of it all in the aftermath. 

      And we can best utilize Community to that purpose by being honest and accepting of its flaws and virtues. 

      Long story short– I think I saw a better ice cream place back there… "the place I was gonna take you was… kind of depressing."


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      Stray Observations :

      1. I don't know about you guys, but no matter how many times I watch this– I still want to see how that Yahtzee game turned out(no matter what the timeline). I just like spending time with the characters.

      2. Possible Discussion Topics

      A. If you want to discuss that possible "criticism," I'm game- namely that the episode's more essential for fans of Community and in particular Season 3 than a stellar singular episode of television in its own right. Or that it mirrors elements from more prominent episodes (Mixology and AD&D) without contributing something substantive beyond the timelines element. Does it stand well on its own as an episode of television? With core themes and values– or is its worth measured more by its reflection of the show's mythology (these are where the characters have been and where they're going– essentially the characters looking into a mirror for 22 minutes in an interesting way)?

      B. There's also the good ole inquiry: Would this episode be just as good if you dropped the timelines elements and had them just hang out together (see Observation #1 for my response to this)? 

      C. Is there any "foreshadowing" or other notable elements in this episode you were disappointed didn't get more screen time/expanded upon in the remainder of Season 3 (Jeff potentially being an antagonist to the group's progress, Annie and Jeff connecting, Shirley's baking, etc)?

      D. Make your own Timeline– What if the Pizza Guy gets let in by someone else?
      [Let’s say Rick the landlord or even our friendly neighborhood Officer Cacowski– heck anyone you want– how would your Abed analysis play out?]

      E. I largely tried to avoid breaking the Coda apart so why not break that down? Or more importantly– do you feel the attention and callbacks it received since airing has tarnished its initial awesomeness? Does the Darkest Timeline still hold up today when watched?

      F. Since I focused primarily on these Timelines as part of Abed's "Science Fiction" projections (to paraphrase VSA), how do you think/feel about the relationships depicted in these different versions of reality (as if they actually occurred)? Is Jeff/Annie a bond for the ages only being denied due to bad luck/circumstance? Does Pierce just need the right organic setup to become leader of the group (see Origins of Vampire Mythology for a counter example)? 

      G. Six sides to a die and six possible avenues of discussion– roll to see which of these discussion points you answer? If you do roll– just so you know, you'd be making six different timelines.

      3. Seriously– how painstakingly detailed and wonderful is the set design here? Everything's perfect. "He is Risen" indeed. I can't praise it enough.

      4. Now everyone say, "Single Malt Platinum Boobs and Billiards Club" out loud so you know how it sounds in your own voice (if you've never done it before).

      5. "Wait… there are other timelines?" I guess Pizza Guy never saw that Next Generation episode Parallels with all the different Worf timelines. He probably likes Troi episodes too–stupid jerk– don't hook up with him, Britta!

      Well, that's it. Thank you so much as always for your patience, time, and effort in reading this. And thanks to everyone for the opportunity to contribute to our series of reviews for this glorious television program. Fake Beards for everyone (Goatees)!

      So, whaddya think, sirs?

      Discussion:

      • I think you just won Community, the board and I'm pretty sure everyone who reads this.

        Fucking awesomely legendarily amazing. 
        *hugs Shinigami Apple Merchant *

        http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…

      • E. People love alternate timelines. When you create a universe, you have to be protective of it. The character's actions are constrained by the fact that they can't do anything truly irredeemable, and the consequences of storytelling can't be too dire. 

        A perfect example, Buffy and Angel are often thought of as misery porn. But if you break it down, the consequences are only really dire when backstage elements crossover to the front of the camera. Buffy dies twice and is resurrected twice (the epitome of no-consequences). Angel gets sucked into hell, which is a pretty ambiguous fate and is undone quickly the next season. Angel looses his soul, which the show goes out of its way to impress upon the audience makes him a completely different person (with a different name even). Fred dies, only to immediately jump up alive as a different character (which is basically half-death). Wesley, Anya, and Spike all die in their respective series finales, when the story is (at least in that form) over. Cordelia and Doyle were written out over problems with the actors. Which means all the deaths with actual intentional dramatic consequences for the continuing series, are the deaths of peripheral characters such as Joyce, Tara, and Jenny Calender. They're important characters, but they aren't Willow.

        TV Tropes refers to this as having "character shields." Alternate universe storylines rip those shields off, and anything can happen. Which people love, because it allows them to recontextualize the characters.

        If you follow the X-Men, there are several wonderful examples of this to draw from. The first, and most obvious (and future film) is "Days of Future Past." In it, the X-Men (along with basically all mutants) have been brutally killed by robotic Sentinels. It is dire, bleak, and underlines the themes of the X-Men comics perfectly. Another story line, "Age of Apocalypse" moves in the exact opposite direction. In that story, mutants (under the leadership of Apocalypse) have taken over a huge chunk of the planet. Again, it is a dire, bleak story that underlines the themes of the X-Men. In both stories heroes are villains and villains are heroes, characters die with impunity. The stories take the emotions we have for the characters as they exist in the main property, and uses those emotions to fuel the audience's care twisted, alternate versions of those characters.

        But once you establish a different sandbox with different rules, it becomes a temptation to endlessly revisit it. Which dilutes the power of the original concept. With "Days of Future Past," the X-Men essentially became a plodding series of stories marching towards that future, with characters seemingly endlessly crossing over. Jean Grey is dead? Jean Grey 2.0 from "Days of Future Past" can join the X-Men. The story becomes a source of annoyance, rather than an interesting, emotionally satisfying diversion.

        But it all really depends upon the quality of the story telling. "The Wish" was Buffy's alt-universe episode. It was revisited, rather brilliantly in "Doppelgangland." Revisiting the Darkest Time Line has been pretty consistently unsuccessful. Because the story telling has never equaled the initial coda. That coda is so brilliant because it establishes 7 different character arcs, along with an actual narrative, in just a few moments. Going back to it has resulted in a lot of sloppy, sci-fi joke telling. What if Annie was Hannibal Lecter? is just a joke for the sake of a joke, not a conscientious attempt to expand on the original premise in a reasonable way.

      • Shit, I just got spoiled big time on Buffy. I wasn't even reading the post, just scrolling through. :(

      • I'm "liking" this comment first because I like to skip ahead and know how stories end.

      • I really like* what you said about the execution of the episode. I'm not breaking any new ground here, but that is what has always stood out to me. Everything in this episode happens exactly as it is supposed to, given all that we know about the characters. Considering that there are seven seperate timelines in this episode, the fact that it works in that manner in the context of the episode itself is impressive enough. However, when you consider that it also works in the context of the entire row of the show, it becomes quite clear that this episode represents a masterful piece of writing. 

        *The fact that I really like the entire review goes without saying. This is just the one point that I wasn't too overwhelmed to comment on and felt like I could add something to the discussion.

      • OH MY GOD I JUST GOT THE "HE IS RISEN" / BAKING PUN YOU GUYS.

      • I have nothing else to say than to compliment you on your fantastic work. Thank you for helping me see into my favorite episode even more deeply than I thought was even possible.

      • H. I guess I'll be the one to say it: if there's one knock on this episode (from me and a few others here) it's that it isn't very funny. There's a lot of awkward, strained jokes; some even cringe-inducing in their hilarity like Britta's pizza dance. The episode's repetitive structure and inner-workings tend to stifle much of the comedy. All the other pantheon episodes are also among the funniest episodes, with the understandable exception of AUC. Discuss.

      • I felt that way the first time I watched it, although I find it funnier each time I rewatch it.

      • I will say that the cold open isn't very good. Trobed's weird strained smiles doomed that particular scene from the start.

      • On the other hand, the strained smiles perfectly symbolize that Troy and Abed aren't very good at hosting parties, and are just doing their "version" of what they think a party is supposed to be (greeting guests with a smile, playing Yahtzee). It's a sort of precursor to "Troy and Abed Being Normal" but not as advanced, perhaps.

      • I saw that as a Perfect Strangers reference, where Abed of course is Balki.

      • Chops busted, fellow adult.  Chops busted!  ^^
        I certainly don't think the humor here sucks harder than the toilet in an airplan-I HAD SEX WITH EARTH KITT, but it's definitely not gut splitting– much agreed on that.  

        I attribute it to two things:
        1.  Again we all seem to be having the same initial reactions to these S3 episodes, aren't we?  "Jarring– odd– out of place– disjointed."  Same thing here with the Troy/Abed smiles– they could have been funny in a given context, but it's so in your face we get more of the cringe than the gag. 

        But I mention the previous episodes with this reaction in that this is probably another one of those things done this season to try to put us in the Study Group's place here– "something's off– what's going on" and in a meta sense address Shark Jumping Anxiety woes.  Probably could have been more smoothly executed in the first half of season 3 to minimize the off-putting energy of it (which is definitely a difficult balance to maintain tonally and admirable to attempt in the first place so I don't mean to knock the crew about it).  

        What definitely happened in the latter half of Season 3 is this hiatus/fear of everything ending= Evil Harmon takes over and we get a "you can't fire me, I quit!" energy behind the chaos.  We still get funny bits and memorable lines with character development and thematic resonance like we always have– but the tonal shifts get more and more jarring (particularly for me- CI and CourseLU, though I love the idea BEHIND every episode this season).

        So Point #1– symbolically erratic comedic energy to shake up our world as the viewer inadvertently lead to our world really getting shaken up, feedback loop error ensues-  now a kid's singing about how Chang eats the sun while Abed bitches about his wife's account at Marshalls (just kidding– who doesn't love that place amirite!).  

        2.  The timeline structure of the episode= VERY little room for sharp adlib insertions ("YOU'RE THE AT&T OF PEOPLE").  A bunch of well placed one-liners brightens up any part of the script lacking energy, and the structure here is definitely brilliant (EVERYONE gets something to do that's engaging for their character and their group dynamic)– but there's little wiggle room by default.  Not even like in P&B where Harmon can insert "LEONARD LIKES THIS POST" or the English Memorial Spanish Center joke.  The only on-the-spot joke that comes to mind for RCT is the inside joke about the Door Number at the beginning of the episode (that was Gillian's idea), and is a meta ref.

        That all having been said– this episode has more than enough memorable moments and jokes that it works for me on an entertainment level by far even if the jokes aren't all top notch compared to the rest of the season/series. 

        If nothing else, that one line you can say whenever you have someone setting some grand point up is always available to tie things together:
        "ROPES?  VINES! Vines?   LET HIM FINISH!"

      • it's that it isn't very funny

        only if you're comparing it to paradigms or something. i don't have access to the episode while at work, but here's a few things off the top of my head:

        * pizza pizza in my tummy me so hungee me so hungee
        * toilet olives
        * "there are other timelines?"
        * "of you." 
        * "you clearly don't know anything about killing trolls."
        * "bakedown, i know! i didn't say it on purpose!"
        * pierce holding the troll up in front of troy's face in the return of the googley eyes scene
        * the candy cigarette revelation

        and this is just off the top of my head in a few minutes on my lunchbreak. i'd say it's an incredibly funny episode.

      • There are plenty of jokes, just as there are in AUC, but most are ridden with angst just as the episode itself is. The googly eyes, the entire Evil Timeline, Torg, pie pushing, etc. It's a very toxic episode.

      • that might be so (i'd have to rewatch with that in mind to address it), but i don't think that makes it unfunny.

      • The tag is probably one of the funniest things Community did all season. I can't watch it now without feeling seething contempt for AITF, but it's still a really funny scene.

      • "What does a pregnancy test look like?"
        "It's like a thin piece of plastic with a thing on it"
        "So this is definitely a gun"

      • My biggest issue with this episode was always that it didn't tell us anything about the group that we didn't know, although it repackaged what we did know in a clever way.

      • This is a good way of putting it. RCT's pleasant surprises are in it's format, rather than coming straight from the characters in the way of "Romantic Expressionism" or "Cooperative Calligraphy" (to name two examples of eps I'd rank slightly ahead of RCT).

      • Eh I guess, but my thinking is if it's superlative or novel in so many ways I don't really care too much. FWIW this episode contains the moment that made me laugh harder than anything I've seen on the show which is Troy's timeline when he comes back and surveys the scene and it cuts back and forth between him and the troll. I lost it when I was watching the ep for the first time.

      • There are a few big laughs
        -"Wait, there are other timelines?" and Britta kissing his knuckles individually.
        -"Chop busted, fellow adult, chop busted."
        -Britta's blue streak of hair — "Exactly. Life got dark!" Just a great joke about the character.
        -Evil Troy's "clearly you don't understand anything about defeating trolls"
        -Ropes? Vines. Vines?

        But it's nowhere near the likes of Calligraphy, Mixology, Conspiracy Theories, Anthro 101, APS, [pick a season 1 ep].

      • Here's something for the Jannie folks that TheTuna noticed after the airing.

        When Jeff comes back with the pizza, he's watching everyone dance and at one point the camera goes from

        Everyone but Annie
        http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…

        immediately to

        Annie alone
        http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…

      • Copying over a roundup of great RCT comments I compiled on that board…

        Since I went through the comments, like an idiot, here's the roundup people wanted. Can we please keep the comments to ~1000 next time? For my sake. [Ed note: LOL!!]

        Paraphrased goodies
        -They sit in their regular study room places, except Troy is next to Jeff to symbolize them "butting antlers".
        -"According to the episode, without Troy the group falls apart, while without Jeff 
        the group makes the most of its similarities."
        -Annie having a real gun explains why she was suddenly so good with one in last year's paintball and in Conspiracy Theories. She was practicing all last year, 
        like the good non-dogmatic conservative she is.
        -There is an actual Norwegian Troll ride at Epcot
        -Jeff's timeline is the anti-"It's a Wonderful Life"
        -Abed catching the die is reminiscent of the "bad dates" scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
        -The above also fits with one of the themes of Raiders of the Lost Ark: some things should be left respectfully unknown (or your face melts off).
        -The irony of Troy setting off the disaster in his timeline because he ran off so as not to miss anything. He bumped into the Raiders model and the boulder fell for the only time.
        -Dean Pelton had a goatee in the first episode. Mind blown.

        Full comments – Sorry, but these are unorganized and uncredited. You'll figure out the context. And if you want credit, take it.

        -On Shirley and the song, I think it makes perfect sense. She probably does know what the song is about, but she truly likes it. In most any other setting, she would default to her Christian persona and talk about how it's a nasty song. Here, among friends and in the moment, she can enjoy herself. A little guilty pleasure.

        -Jeff, at a certain point, seems to have stopped trying to grow and change (Probably Intermediate Documentary Film making) and seems to be doing everything in his power to avoid growth. He is threatened by the growth of other members in the group, wanted to cast out the group member he doesn't want to admit has him figured out (Pierce), and is attracted to a young girl that wouldn't expect him to be extremely mature and together. The group is another status quo, like his being a hotshot lawyer, where he feels empowered while simultaneously worrying it could all be taken away (via his lie about going to college).

        In season one, Jeff eventually embraced his role as the leader and started tearing down walls, but when it got too real, he tried to revert to his season one self. Meanwhile, the rest of the group seems to be growing out of whatever led them to need someone like season one Jeff in their lives.

        -I'm sure Harmon has his own idea that he's building toward, but for me, so much of it is about that Jeff-Annie talk in 302. He IS trying to be a better person, but there's a point where this work comes up against your innate characteristics, who you are deep down. That defining core characteristic that Harmon has talked about in the past. Jeff wants to be better, but it's difficult, if not impossible, to honestly size up all of your flaws. Jeff is probably not all that determined to change, probably because the group is in some ways a crutch for him now. But all the determination in the world can only address so much, given our blind spots. "Don't fuck a teenager" is a pretty obvious moral rule. "Let your friend be dorky for a moment" is not so obvious, particularly for someone with Jeff's insecurity. This characteristic may not be innate, something he was born with, but it may be so well engrained in him that there's no hope in ever truly overcoming it.

        That, I suspect, is where the show will end up. The characters improve through their shared experiences, but only so far; they're still flawed, and what improvements are made can be undone. I don't see that as pessimistic, but it's certainly not as optimistic as the show originally appeared to be*. It's realistic.

        *which is why I love that music cue at the end of last week's episode: the show is trying to keep its optimism (their finding each other makes them better people) even as we see that their being together as a community has seemingly made them worse

        -The study group we've come to know and love are not destined to be life-long friends. Yet, through their mutual dependance, they are serving an equally valuable purpose by holding up mirrors and showing one another exactly what 
        immature or untenable behaviors/beliefs they need to disabuse themselves of to function in the adult world.

        -I think the power Jeff has over the other characters, his ability to manipulate, shame, and influence them is also shifting rapidly into a destructive force. The "Winger speech" ties things up by affirming that their frequently selfish behavior was actually juat a manifestation of their love for one another. But increasingly, Jeff hasn't felt love for the rest of his group, but thrived on contempt and exclusion.

        "Classic Winger" zingers (ha!) are funny but frequently discourage the characters from stepping outside of their prescribed roles, or showing any growth, thus Jeff's problems with Troy and Annie or his difficulty to re-accept Pierce.

        This puts the "Todd" speech of last week into perspective. Jeff was attempting to reclaim his position as the leader, but chooses to attack an innocent instead of forcing the group to confront the lack of love between them.

        -there was also a moment this season where the group all called for the winger speech. It is almost like a drug to them now, it allows them to just forget their problems and go back to normal. So the Winger speech is the opiate of the study group.

        -Pierce is actually surprisingly nice in this episode, troll excepted. Not only does he reach out to Shirley when she is hurting, but Pierce-PIERCE!-looks *genuinely upset* when Jeff shuts down Britta hard in Troy's timeline.

        -Indeed, given his past family life, it sounds like he's got virtually no experience at fitting in with a functional, healthy group of individuals. In many ways he's just as inept at social interaction as Abed, except he hides behind snark and charm instead of TV references.

        -I don't think Jeff's a bad person, per se. I think we've overestimated how much he's changed since the beginning. Sure he's embraced and come to care about the group, which IS a big step, but he's still the same person at the end of the day. He's afraid to let people in, the Britta conversation with Troy in the bathroom is really revealing, especially since they;re both in there because Jeff pissed 
        them off.

        -Jeff isn't necessarily afraid to go for it with Annie because of her age, but because he's a very emotionally stunted person. This, I feel, is also why he won't let Britta sing or Troy express himself, or Shirley bake, because he's scared he has nothing to offer these people and no part to play in their lives, so he shuts them down and brings them down to his level.

        -But Jeff, more than anyone, is interested in preserving the status quo out of fear. I think that's what he'll have to address as the season goes on. More serialization means less use for the reset button – and Jeff, as someone who likes his status within the group (as leader), likes the reset button. He loves Winger speech-ing. 
        This season so far is following his path to becoming less and less effective at hitting that button at the end of each adventure.

        -The 2001 reference was no accident: really set the tone for episode 3 and 4 and, I'm sure, beyond. Evolve or die- right now, the younger members of the group are growing into adults and Jeff is losing his grip on them.

        -It also suggests that the solution to the group's internal dysfunction is for Abed et al to be active. If not kick him out of the group, they at least need to confront Jeff.

        Which turns the 'Winger speech' on its head. Jeff does not provide resolution, but delusion. As long as the other characters allow Jeff to take the position of leader and healer, the group will continue to have these problems. They need to stop passively accepting Jeff's self-serving solutions and start resolving issues themselves. They need more Abed speeches, and Troy speeches, and Annie speeches, and Pierce speeches, etc.

        -You know, maybe the real reason for Jeff's relative unhappiness this season is that you can tell he REALLY likes Annie. You can see it in every interaction with her. Actually, he's probably in love with her. If anyone has ever wanted someone and couldn't have them, you know how much that can pretty much trump anything else. In Jeff's case, it's even worse, because he probably knows he COULD have her if he wanted, but there are so many reasons he feels it is wrong, so the inner turmoil must be killing him. It would be another reason to leave the group 
        because how much must it suck to be with her all the time and keep telling himself he can't have her?

        I am also sure he is completely conflicted because he truly cares for her in a father-like capacity as well, in that he worries about her, encourages her, and helps her. You saw this even in this episode. So, he also has the inner turmoil of loving her like a dad and loving her as a woman.

        -I think you are entirely right in your first point, and that it goes quite nicely with what others have said. Jeff clearly cares about Annie a lot; that's why he's actually managed to restrain his libido in the face of an attractive women actively pursuing him, something he is not generally known for. This is clearly an entirely different situation from his relationship with Britta; he didn't think anything of having 
        casual sex with her for nearly a year, while he continues to actively push Annie away, another sign that he's actually emotionally invested in her. As other commenters have noted, Jeff's really displayed his reluctance to get involved emotionally in these episodes. I see Annie as both a primary catalyst for turmoil for Jeff this season and potentially one of the main factors in pulling him back into the group.

        -Annie can really be the best of the group (because she'll defend morals and substance, and even stand up to Jeff over a principal) and the worst (she'll play mindgames and subvert the greater good for no real goal, just overwhelmed by pride).

        I felt bad for Shirley, again. There's almost no mercy for her as it regards being close friends with three hot, young, white people who don't have a lot of regard for her own pride or sense of self. I guess I like when people on TV have to just admit sometimes that they value beauty over whatever they claim is their personal philosophy.

        -Without Jeff (the leader), they lose their inhibitions and can step outside of their perscribed roles, no longer plotting against one another.

        Without Troy (the goofiest), there's no one "catching the boulder," and the group descends into chaos.

        Without Annie (the perfectionist), there's mostly exposition and setup. Also a dick-swinging contest between Tory and Jeff.

        Without Pierce (the black sheep), the characters all enter into to romantic pairs that exclude Shirley and Abed (since he doesn't give Troy the troll, laugh at Jeff for hitting his head).

        Without Abed (the robot), they dissolve into petty emotional conflicts about their differences – mostly regarding age, weirdly enough.

        Without Shirley (the mother), they regress to their meanest and most backbiting selves. They also make googly eyes at one another!

        Without Britta (the WILDCARD, BITCHES!), they aren't stopped from doing things that might be self-destructive? I don't know, actually. I feel like that one's the most important in a lot of ways. I feel like Britta somehow acts are a force stopping the group from doing things they'd regret and at the same time makes her own stupidest descisions when outside the group.

      • LOVE the art direction and set design of "Chez Trobed". It's so wonderfully lived-in and beautifully lit, especially with that warm orange glow coming from the window. I compare it to something out of Pulp Fiction. The episode itself felt a lot like Pulp Fiction, the series, with Troy and Abed wearing suits, all the pop culture miscellanea (both show-specific and real), the dancing at the end, the shooting, and the fact that it was set in a somewhat dingy apartment. The apartment served season 3 so well. We couldn't even get an Emmy for that?

      • I'm sorry Lloyd, we don't call them Emmys anymore; it's Modern Family Awards now.

      • I forgot to mention this

        Just after the M&Ms leave the bowl here
        http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…
        they remain in place, stuck together like one of those beaded car seat things.

        Prop imperfection or proof that it's not a timeline and indeed all in Abed's head?

      • Wow cool.   Also, where are all the yellow M&Ms?  I'm assuming those are normal M&Ms so there'd be Red, Orange, Yellow, Blue, Green, and Brown.  Ooooo a new mystery!  The case of the Missing Yellow M&Ms©!

        To the Research Room!
        You mean that spot near my desk where I pace in a circle?
        ….yes.

      • Yellow M&M Crisis Update :
        OK– I re-watched the whole episode checking out all the snacks available in any given shot.  

        Yellow Candidate Photo #1
        http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…
        These are just pieces for the Yahtzee scoring.

        Yellow Candidate Photo #2:
        http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…

        On the table by the sofa where the Serbian Rum is, you have gummy bears, M&Ms with every color but Yellow, and popcorn.

        On the counter adjacent to the kitchen, we have Starburst Candies, M&M bowl without yellow M&Ms, and a bowl with yellow M&Ms.  The larger mass could be peanut M&Ms, but regardless there should be yellow ones present.  There is always the possibility that the Yellows were moved into the smaller bowl from the bags divided up in the first place, but according to the M&M cursory analysis websites:

        http://files.joshmadison.net/m…

        The average per pack is pretty well balanced.  So there should be a heck of a lot more yellows in the small bowl if they're from the equivalent number of bags to fill BOTH bowls up in the first place.  

        As such, I'm going to go with the conclusions/guess that it's a production thing where they glued/stuffed/whatever the M&Ms in there and not yellows (maybe less photogenic for that flying shot), or someone really likes Yellow M&Ms/is superstitious of Yellow M&Ms on the set.  I can't think of Abed having some weird Yellow M&M fixation from the past necessitating this oddity.

        Oh well– at the very least it was cool seeing this again:
        http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…

        GHOOOOOST TROY IN THE VENDING MACHINE FRIG FROM THE PAST OOoooOOoooo~

      • I think those are Skittles next to the Starburst.

      • B. I think the timeline element is so integral to this ep. that asking how it would be if that element were dropped is a question that just does not compute.  It would simply be a completely different episode.  But, like you, I'd be happy to watch "Intro to Yahtzee."

      • This is all tremendous. The early parts can serve as the legend for mapping Abed's arc throughout the series (and more generally the outline of all the main characters). Thanks for putting so much effort in and trying to cover so much substantial territory in such a clear way. Also for making it fun…I enjoyed the "Disqus Master" stuff as much as the review proper. /superlatives

        Your connective insights into Abed kind of remind me of Lloyd's post (I don't remember when but a long time ago, maybe all the way back on RHM or even further) that charted Troy's decisions throughout the show in a way that made his character not only consistent, but used lines of dialogue I might have seen as throwaways or jokes to underline his emotional honesty. There's so much intelligence to be tracked down, hiding between the lines of Community, that it's hard to tell how much is coming from creative intent and how much from the viewers/critics/CZ interpreting it (or maybe less "how much" than which parts specifically begin where, and what precisely "canon" means when it comes to understanding each character).

        I realize now that I've always watched RCT as if we are literally seeing each timeline, each universe splintered off from a minor decision or variation. That way it contains a less dense perception of each character (or at least a less centralized view). But I'm inclined towards chaos > organization at that level, and this episode flatters the idea of unlimited possibilities in the extreme, by showing us some that would normally be beyond "canon." Though as your review outlines so well, it flatters both perspectives equally. I think I tend to favor a view of the creation of TV as "chaos", too… whole story and character arcs branching out from an accident here or an unexpected limitation there. In that way, TV is less like American football, all Xs and Os, and more like soccer, where heavy doses of tactical planning try to compensate for how much a random bounce can effect an outcome. Either reading can be seen as semi-autobiographical for Harmon, though… either he's looking at the creative process as an attempt to manipulate the world totally by seeing every angle, one that can be both human and ultimately limited, or looking at the creative process as chasing whichever "timeline" results once an infinite number of choices are made…taking what control remains in the wake of a chaotic activity.

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