Community, I can’t stay mad at you.
It’s no secret that last week’s mean-spirited dud got my goat and that the season as a whole has got my whatever the word is for a group of goats. So when I saw the teaser to this week’s episode, my hopes shot up: “Troy and Abed’s housewarming party turns into a surreal, postmodern world with parallel realities.” A peek inside the BFF’s nerd lair? Something fun (i.e. a party) instead of a drag (a terrarium assignment)? The words “postmodern” and “parallel realities?” Yes, please! But could they pull it off?
Yes they could! Last night was Community at its best: a bottle episode—with a bottle made of quirk. It’s the gang and only the gang, locked in a small space and forced to have their chops busted to hilarious, tragic and sexy ends. It’s the kind of episode that our friends who don’t like this show wouldn’t get, thereby making us feel superior because we get it so, so hard. We earned this, you guys. We earned it for suffering through the Todd trauma last week.
So let’s get our house warmed!!!
Troy and Abed’s pad, the Apartment of Perpetual Virginity, is exactly as you’d expect. Weird, wood-paneled, and because this is a fancy party, with olives by the toilet. By the time Annie and Britta arrive, Shirley’s been there for hours, baking her god-fearing ass off in a “He is risen” apron. (Guests like her are the worst.)
Abed’s snappier than usual: He snarks Annie for removing the brick propping open their vestibule door (foreshadowing!) and cold-stares Shirley for her cream-cheese-and-ketchup pizza. Something’s amiss (in a good way this time). I want to get a look at those photos on the wall, and there are things happening in the background with Britta, Annie and Abed. I’m intrigued. But Community, you better not be fucking with me. I’m pretty sure things are about to get awesome (like, Single-Malt Platinum Boobs and Billiards Club awesome), but I’ve been wrong before.
Game night’s under way, and when the real pizza arrives, no one wants to go get it. Jeff sees only one solution: roll the die, and the person with the corresponding number goes down. (Like Eartha Kitt.) As Jeff tosses, Abed warns—nay, Abed says in that matter-of-fact Abedy way of his—that Jeff’s about to establish six parallel timelines. Abed’s not often wrong, so here we go:
As soon as Annie (unlucky No. 2) is out the door, things are…wonky. The guys find a gun in her purse, and Jeff smacks his head on the ceiling fan. (First LOL of the night.) Britta excuses herself to the bathroom and makes it smell weird.
Annie’s back, and after Britta’s happy pizza dance (another LOL—god bless Gillian Jacobs for somehow making her 4-pound frame look like a Sid and Marty Krofft character), we’re on to timeline No. 2: Shirley’s turn, and while she’s gone, her pies burn. YA BURNT, SHIRLEY! She ain’t happy. The group fights, Shirley flees. Timeline completed.
Four more trips through the ringer, and what do we get? Norwegian troll. Weed. Airplane sex. A rolling boulder. Googly eyes everywhere. Nurse Annie. “Roxanne.” Candy cigarettes. Blood. Mini pies that taste exactly like regular-size pies.
To give you a play-by-play wouldn’t do it justice. Just watch it again. I’m going to.
Prepare for me to be a little dramatic: I thought tonight was kind of brilliant. Like paintball and D&D and the sheet fort before it, Chaos Theory was an episode that kept on giving. Yes, it was clever and hilarious and stood on its own, not advancing the plot much, a fun little study of the hurricane that happens in an apartment when the pizza guy downstairs flaps his wings (or something like that). But in other ways, it set up lots of important things and did so sort of miraculously.
That gun in Annie’s purse? It’s there to go off (and wreak havoc in the tragic parallel), but it’s also there to remind us that Annie lives in a terrible neighborhood—which is why Jeff worries about her. And why, I’m guessing, she’s going to move in with Troy and Abed. That freakish little troll is there to make us remember that when shown just the tiniest bit of humanity, Pierce Hawthorne isn’t such a dick. And that rolling boulder? Well, sometimes a rolling boulder is just a rolling boulder.
In the end, the real stuff doesn’t change: Annie will always be driven, Shirley will always be giving and Jeff will always be a (lovably) conniving son of a bitch. Last night was a delicious little gem. (The sole annoying moment was wrapping up Britta’s timeline with an engagement to Toby the pizza-delivery guy, but nobody’s perfect, Community!) I’d like to think of it as a letter of apology for last week, and on behalf of all of us, we accept, writers. We accept.
So what did you think? Am I fawning too much? Did you love last night’s episode as much as I did? Should I guard my heart like Jeff’s toiletries against the possibility that Community will abandon me again? Keep it real in the comments, you guys!