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Why Community’s Remedial Chaos Theory Is the Show’s Best Episode


Community delivered plenty of unforgettable episodes throughout its six seasons, but none of them come close to summing up what the whole show stands for as Season 3, Episode 4, “Remedial Chaos Theory.” In this episode, the gang attends a housewarming party at Troy and Abed’s place, creating six different timelines when they decide to roll the die to decide who’s going to fetch the pizza downstairs.


“Remedial Chaos Theory” marks the start of many things, introducing the concept of the darkest timeline and strengthening the friendship of the group as Troy and Abed invite Annie to move in with them. Most importantly, it’s the episode that best showcases the show’s ability to take an ordinary thing, such as getting a pizza, and turn it into an event of massive proportions.

Community

Release Date
September 17, 2009

Cast
Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Alison Brie, Jim Rash, Ken Jeong, Paget Brewster, Keith David

Main Genre
Comedy

Seasons
6


Troll in Community Episode
NBC

Community has never been a conventional sitcom, refusing to settle on just the confines of Greendale and the study room and taking its pop culture references to unimaginable extremes. It’s possible to trace the show’s big turning point back to Season 1, Episode 23, “Modern Warfare”, in which a seemingly innocent paintball match takes apocalyptic proportions as Jeff wakes up in a literal warzone after taking a nap in the car. Making strong visual references to action masterpieces such as 28 Days Later, Die Hard, The Matrix, and Scarface, the success of this episode granted four more paintball-themed episodes, but Community‘s tendency to turn every little situation into something huge has showed up in almost every episode since then.

What makes “Remedial Chaos Theory” so unique, though, is how it takes advantage of this trademark and connects to every other aspect of the show. The episode calls up many forgotten storylines from past seasons — Jeff and Annie’s sexual tension, Pierce’s resentment about Troy moving out, Shirley’s religious intolerance, etc — but instead of moving the plot forward, “Remedial Chaos Theory” plays with the many possibilities these loose ends could lead to by going back and forth in time. In the episode, Jeff rolls a die to choose who will fetch the pizza, ignoring Abed’s warning that he’ll be creating six different timelines.

Chevy Chase and Yvette Nicole Brown in Community episode, Remedial Chaos Theory
NBC

Referencing Groundhog Day and other movies about being stuck in the same day, viewers get to see how the same period of time unfolds as different characters leave the room. Each distinctive timeline shakes the fate of the group based on the absence of one of its members. What could easily backfire as a repetitive episode that never goes anywhere actually reveals how each member of the OG group is crucial to Community‘s character dynamics, and how an innocent remark or a small gift can drastically change the course of the night.

In a meticulously thought-out chain of events, the characters fight, fall in love, and even set the house on fire with each timeline, exposing how the show is at its best when it’s making fun of the absurdity of chance. The whole idea of sitcoms revolves around embracing the mundane and the casual, yet Community takes these little slices of life and flirts with the impossible, taking ambitious proportions without ever leaving its feet off the ground.

Related: Will the Community Movie Ever Happen?

A chaotic scene from Community
NBC

The climax of “Remedial Chaos Theory” happens when the die sends Troy to get the pizza, unleashing a chain of unfortunate events that causes Annie’s gun to accidentally go off and shoot Pierce, Britta to set the house on fire with a joint, and Troy to break down at the sight of the terrifying troll that Pierce brought to scare him. Abed later explains that there’s always a timeline where everything goes wrong. He calls it the “darkest timeline,” commencing one of the best and most exciting running gags of the show, while also hinting at some of Dan Harmon’s creative ideas in his other show, Rick and Morty.

The darkest timeline is the best showcase of Community‘s tendency to embrace the absurd, which nearly makes it a sitcom with fantasy elements. Throughout its six seasons, the Greendale gang fell victim to a paintball war, a rocket simulator, a literal zombie outbreak, and now alternate dimensions. The ease with which these fantastic elements blend into Greendale’s everyday life is essential to episodes like this.

Related: Community: Where the Cast is Today

“Remedial Chaos Theory” wasn’t the last fans saw of the darkest timeline: the chaotic dimension ruled by Evil Troy and Evil Abed where Piece died, Jeff lost his arm, and Shirley became an alcoholic returned later in later episodes and was continually referred to in other occasions.

Abed in Community Episode
NBC

For an episode that revolves entirely around disrupting the study group’s dynamics over and over again, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that, for the first time, Jeff isn’t the one behind the big speech at the end. Another recurring Community trademark is Jeff’s ability to bring the study group under control with a moving speech about friendship and trust, reminding fans that even though he failed as a lawyer, he has a natural talent for making a good argument. Jeff can be mean, manipulative, and selfish, but deep down he’s the one who cares the most about the group remaining united.

However, “Remedial Chaos Theory” isn’t about Jeff but actually about everyone’s favorite Community character, Abed, and his aptitude to rationalize the little details he perceives in the world around him. In the one and only timeline, Abed is the only one who notices Jeff designed a system in which he never has to get the pizza, given there’s only one six-sided die and seven of them. Stopping the die, he makes a speech about the importance of weathering the oppressive randomness that surrounds them by embracing the few predictable virtues that keep them together.

The best timeline is the one where they remain honest with themselves, accepting each other’s flaws and welcoming their best attributes. “Remedial Chaos Theory” ultimately is a tribute to this unique set of characters and how their differences are precisely what glue them together.

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