Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Jenn’s Pick: A Definitive List of My Favorite Community Episodes [Contributor: Jenn]

A few years ago, Community ended. It was a show that put my blogging on the map. That blogging led to reviews and thinkpieces and more writers and show reviews on my Just About Write staff. I got the chance to go to Comic-Con in San Diego and sit across the table from writers, producers, and actors of new and established shows. Over the years, this site has fluctuated in what shows we talk about and how many people talk about pop culture. But one thing has remained true: Community put me on the map.

I’ll always have a complicated relationship with the show, don’t get me wrong. There are periods of the show (and not just season four) where the storytelling was rocky, and the character development was nonexistent. I have qualms with a lot of things (and if you were around when I reviewed the show, you’ll know that I can talk a lot about things that needed improvement), but I’ll also always love the show more than I love most comedies on television. When it was good, Community was so good. And when it was bad, I stuck around because I remembered what was good.

Over the years I’ve tried to narrow down my favorite episodes of the show, and I think I’ve finally arrived at my definitive conclusion. That being said, everything from #15 through #8 is probably subject to change in order. I said what I said.

Let’s dive into my top 15 favorite episodes of Community though, shall we? 

15. “Cooperative Polygraphy” by Alex Rubens

I talked about this episode when Chelsea, Jaime, and I discussed our underrated favorite episodes of Community in my podcast. “Cooperative Polygraphy” is meant to sound like Megan Ganz’s classic (which is included further down this list), and it functions like it too: it’s season five’s bottle episode, taking place right after Pierce died and right before Troy leaves. It’s an emotionally-charged episode where the study group members take a polygraph and then reveal some of their deepest secrets.

The interrogation is led by Mr. Stone (Walton Goggins) who tells them that if they agree to the test, they’ll be rewarded with Pierce’s estate. Initially, the interrogation seems like a way for Pierce to get in one last jab at the study group — he forces the study group members to own up to various secrets including but not limited to the fact that Abed put tracking devices on everyone, Britta was high in Shirley’s church, Annie overcharges Troy and Abed for the rent, and the list goes on and on.

The study group begins to unravel, as they usually do in bottle episodes. And Jeff decides to have the group air their grievances and secrets once and for all so that there’s nothing left between them and — more importantly — nothing that Pierce can hold over them. The irony of the whole episode is that Pierce doesn’t really instigate a lot of their in-fighting; they manage to do that all on their own. And then, in the final round of questions, Pierce tells the study group members how he really feels about them. It’s a scene that makes me weep every time (especially when Britta gets her iPod and Troy gets his bequeathing).

This bottle episode is a solid, emotional one that provides a great bridge between two other excellent episodes.

14. “Pascal’s Triangle Revisited” by Hilary Winston

In terms of season finales, “Pascal’s Triangle Revisited” is such a tightly-written and delightful story. It sets up a lot of what’s to come in season two, and it provides a great balance of laughter and emotion. I didn’t get the chance to watch this episode live, but my friend and cohort Jaime did. And she was so surprised by the ending, in the best way possible, that she told me I needed to watch Community.

The episode serves as the rom-com of season finales, where Slater and Britta compete for Jeff’s heart and attention at the end-of-school dance. Instead of choosing either of them, he runs into Annie outside of the dance, they have a good heart-to-heart, and the two end up passionately kissing. That’s how the finale ends! It was so breathtaking that it’s no wonder Jaime told me to get on board.

Additionally, “Pascal’s Triangle Revisited” is a clear example of Hilary Winston’s prowess in writing each of the characters. Her episode “Football, Feminism & You” remains one of the all-time best for this reason too. Even though I know that many writers contribute their ideas and voices to each episode, there’s something special and notable about a Hilary Winston episode. There’s a charm and an endearing lightness to it. In “Pascal’s Triangle Revisited,” one of the things that still makes me laugh to this day is the running gag of Troy eating a giant cookie. It’s so subtle, it’s so funny, and Donald Glover completely sells it. We get a lot of character growth in this season finale and it really does feel like the entire season built up to the moments we witness.

It’s one of my favorites for a reason!

13. “Regional Holiday Music” by Steve Basilone and Annie Mebane

I watched Glee, and after season one the show went completely off the rails. But when I heard the summary for “Regional Holiday Music,” I knew I would immediately fall in love with the episode. And I was right. After season two’s incredible foray into a stop-motion Christmas, how would season three hold up? Spectacularly. The episode features guest star Taran Killam as Mr. Rad, a delightfully crazy parody of Glee’s Will Schuester. Mr. Rad convinces Abed to recruit the study group to fill in for the glee club during the Christmas pageant. What happens next is the study group slowly getting brainwashed via song (“Teach Me How to Understand Christmas” is the best parody of “Santa Baby”). The best thing about this episode is that it’s not just funny like a normal Community episode: it’s funny through the additional element of song as well! It was the perfect parody of Glee, with subtle moments and jokes throughout that wouldn’t confuse a viewer who’d never seen the FOX musical comedy but would also reward those who had.

I watched this episode live (kids, watching an episode live means that there were commercials you had to sit through and you had to time it perfectly to get back from the bathroom or kitchen before the show returned because you couldn’t rewind the episode). I remember clearly because my aunt, her fiancé, and my cousin were in town visiting and I still lived with my parents at the time. I recall shutting myself in my bedroom to watch because this was the last episode that would air and we had no idea when it would come back. It wouldn’t, as it turns out, return after a normal winter hiatus; the show wouldn’t come back until almost three months later.

“Regional Holiday Music” spends a lot of the episode being silly and hijinks-y with a Christmas flair to it. But the end of the episode is what truly hit me, as the kids say, in the feels: the study group shows up at Abed’s apartment singing “The First Noel.” And then they settle in to watch television while a choir quietly sing: “We’ll see you all after regionals.” The ending of this episode still makes me emotional and a little nostalgic for that reason.

Overall, “Regional Holiday Music” is such a solid episode of television and I rewatch it every Christmas season.

12. “Basic Intergluteal Numismatics” by Erik Sommers

Some of the strongest episodes of Community aren’t, in my opinion, the high-concept ones. They’re ones that are quintessentially Greendale — which means a bit chaotic, odd, and quirky. “Basic Intergluteal Numismatics” is one of my favorites for a reason. It’s shot like a David Fincher film, dark and gritty with suspects and suspense around every corner. But it’s also the episode right before “Cooperative Polygraphy” which means that this episode ends on a somber note: Pierce is dead. And this time, it’s real.

The reason I love this episode so much is that it features all of the characters at their best: Jeff and Annie are playing detective and chasing leads about the ACB (a nice throwback to “Intro to Political Science” and in the series finale, I think we can all assume Annie was the ACB somehow...), Duncan and the study group play various roles, and the end of the episode has such an emotional gut punch to it — the shot of the study group hugging each other as they look at Pierce’s empty chair stays with me all these years later — which is what Community was good at. It would make you think you were in the midst of the silliest, most pointless capers and then remind you of the emotional foundation the show was best when it leaned on.

Season 1 community jeff winger GIF - Find on GIFER

11. “Romantic Expressionism” by Andrew Guest

I think this episode, along with Hilary Winston’s “Football, Feminism & You” proves that I enjoy when the show is simple and features character-based shenanigans. I don’t care for Jeff and Britta as a romantic pairing, but I absolutely love when they team up as friends. So “Romantic Expressionism” makes my list for that reason! It features Jeff and Britta trying to break up Vaughn and Annie’s budding relationship. They use Troy as a pawn in their schemes which leads to some laugh-out-loud moments from Donald Glover.

Elsewhere in the episode, I enjoyed that we get the chance to have Shirley, Abed, Troy, Chang, and Pierce sharing a story together. It’s something that rarely happened then and rarely happened later on. But the idea that the characters on the show hang out together apart from when they’re all in the study room is a great one.

Ultimately, my enjoyment of “Romantic Expressionism” comes down to the tightly-written jokes, the chemistry between the cast members (that scene around the table, though, especially the look between Jeff and Annie), and the way that the episode drives the plot forward.

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10. “Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television” by Dan Harmon and Chris McKenna

As we round out the top ten, I have to include the series finale in this list. Though it’s no shock that I didn’t care for the sixth season (there was no real emotional depth to many of the episodes, which relied on extraneous characters or jokes to anchor them), the series finale gave me a fairly decent sense of closure and returned us all to the sentiment that made me fall in love with the show in the first place.

The series finale hinges on meta-ness; each character pitches to the others what their ideal “season seven” would look like. Jeff isn’t humoring anyone by pitching a new season of their “show,” and begrudgingly listens to everyone riff. In his mind, next year changes nothing. They’ll all be where they currently are.

And Jeff sticks to this — until Annie announces that she’s leaving. She got an internship in Washington, D.C. for the summer. She’ll be gone the whole time, and maybe will return in the fall. But maybe not. This new uncertainty startles Jeff, and he returns to the idea of pitching a new season. Then Abed announces he’s leaving too because he got a job in California. This shakes Jeff even more, and his new reality — one without two people he loves — is beginning to terrify him.

The finale resolves itself with Jeff pitching a new season of the show to the group and then privately imagining what could happen if Annie didn’t leave (they’d get married, have a kid, and be happy... right?). Jeff and Annie have a conversation I wish they’d had years ago where they discuss their age difference but in a very mature, realistic way. She laments that she’s not more accomplished; he laments that he’s not heading out into the world for the first time. He tells her he loves her, in his own way, and she tells him to kiss her goodbye. It’s sweet, romantic, and comes a billion years too late but whatever. I’m not bitter. Their relationship is left open-ended, but it’s clear that they care about one another (though we never got Annie saying how she feels about Jeff). The timing just is off. Maybe the movie, ahem, can remedy this.

“Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television” lives up to its name. It’s an emotional, full-circle journey for its characters and caps off a season that was missing the heart I’d fallen in love with so much over the years. We end the finale believing that the characters will all probably be okay in the end. Even if they’re sad, even if they’re displaced from each other, Jeff makes a point: they saved his life. He loves them. And we love them too.

9. “Asian Population Studies” by Emily Cutler

“Asian Population Studies” is probably the most innocuous choice to include in my top ten, but it’s become a favorite of mine over the years. I think this episode plays with the Jeff/Chang dynamic in such a fun way (Joel and Ken bounce off each other so well), sets up some good story for Shirley, has the return of Rich from pottery class (while also giving us a reference to kettle corn that I make every time I eat it: IT’S A FUN TIME SNACK!), gives me some nice Jeff/Annie moments, and features Ludwig Göransson’s “Running Through Raining” which is one of my favorite scores from the show.

This is a great group-centric episode, which as you’ll discover tend to be some of my favorite ones. Though there’s a slight B-story I suppose — Pierce and Troy trying to figure out if Shirley’s baby could be Chang’s — but there’s only really one plot here: the study group has returned from break, learned Annie has a crush and it’s Rich, and vote whether to admit him to the group. It’s a simple, straightforward storyline that gives me big laughs every time (Jeff stalling, Chang’s slow clap, Pierce and Troy’s minor story together, “MEZZANINE?!”, etc.) but also gives us a glimpse into these characters’ strengths and weaknesses.

Plus... kettle corn.

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8. “Debate 109” by Tim Hobert

We all knew this would make it onto my list, didn’t we? You might think that since I mentioned earlier I’m a fan of Jeff/Annie, it’s only for that reason. But truly, this episode has the most solid storytelling all around. Even the C-story is fun! The A-story, as you very well know, features Jeff and Annie teaming up for a debate. While “Football, Feminism & You” gave us a bit of their dynamic, this is the first episode that really kicked the two into high gear when Annie kissed Jeff at the debate, after the two fought off their tension for most of the episode. It’s a turning point for the show (one that comes up in “Romantic Expressionism”), and things aren’t ever the same between them. I have to say, Joel McHale does an immense job in this episode; he really gives that rom-com LOOK when Annie lets down her hair and after she kisses him. He never gets enough credit for his subtle acting, but Joel deserves it.

The B-plot is one of my favorites, honestly: Britta asks Pierce to help her quit smoking. And while the two clash as they typically do, in the end Pierce only really does want to help her. He’s so used to being excluded that he’s absolutely delighted when someone asks him for help. Even though his methods are unorthodox, Pierce ends up actually helping Britta. It’s an endearing little story and while Pierce has his moments of being annoying, I wish we had the chance to see more of this dynamic in the show.

There’s even a C-plot that ties into the A-plot: Abed makes movies that predict the group’s behavior, and this episode provides a line (“Why am I crying? Was I listening to ‘Come Sail Away’ by Styx again?”) that comes back around in the next episode on my list. But I digress: Abed’s film and observance of the other characters leads to some epic and hilarious lines (“You’re right, Britta. My feet are long and stupid. You can’t un-ring that bell!” and “I’mma die by werewolf,” and “Jeff, I think your shirt’s trying to get out of your pants” among others) that have stayed with me to this day.

The combination of all of these solid storylines, plus the introduction of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes into my life makes “Debate 109” a classic.

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7. “Geothermal Escapism” by Tim Saccardo

It must be hard to write the departure of such a beloved character. The writers had their work cut out for them with “Geothermal Escapism,” the episode which says goodbye to Troy Barnes. The reason that I love this episode so much is because it blended a high-concept episode (a game of “The Floor is Lava” goes horribly awry of course) with an incredibly poignant emotional storyline. Troy is leaving soon and the group decides to play this game as his send-off. Abed offers a prized comic book valued at $50,000 and because season five of Community had no paintball game, this episode serves as its surrogate. Britta spends most of the episode at odds with the rest of the group — while everyone split into teams or groups, Britta’s roaming the hallways trying to find Abed so she can get him to come face-to-face with Troy leaving. She thinks he’s put on the game so that Troy won’t go.

But that’s not the truth. Or the entire truth, at least. Abed does admit that he’s playing the game because he’s sad about Troy leaving. And the way that Danny Pudi as Abed heartbreakingly explains that by playing the lava game, the group could see the world the way he sees it: engulfed in chaos and flames because Troy will be gone. Troy also admits to wanting to play the game because he’s afraid of leaving too. Britta was right about the conclusion, but her sole focus on Abed makes her see beyond the problem to the person. Her compassion and heart that she’s so known for are evident at the end of the game, and I love that Donald, Gillian, and Danny got to share such a heartbreaking but lovely scene.

And then Troy says his goodbyes, and I weep. Troy wishes he’d been friends with Annie in high school because he’d lost out on four extra years of her awesomeness. Jeff tells Troy he’s braver than he is because he’s never even left Colorado. Troy leaves the group on a boat with LeVar Burton as a rendition of “Come Sail Away” plays. And then I weep harder. “Geothermal Escapism” was an incredible episode from start to finish.

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6. “Basic Lupine Urology” by Megan Ganz

Megan Ganz makes a back-to-back appearance on this list. First off: I know that all of these episodes are influenced by many different writers and their voices/ideas. But just like there’s something special about a Hilary Winston episode that sets it apart, there’s something special about a Megan Ganz episode that sets is apart too. “Basic Lupine Urology” doesn’t just function as a stellar tribute to Law & Order — and boy is it stellar — but it also serves, again, to hit us with an incredibly emotional ending. And it allows the ending to just hang there. No punchline. No joke invalidating the emotion. Just the reality of Professor Kane finding out about Starburns’ death, Jeff and Annie looking at each other, and the audience hearing out that a character they spent most of the episode with is gone.

“Basic Lupine Urology” is an incredible foray into homage without ever diverting from character growth. Abed and Troy easily slip into their pseudo-roles as detectives with Jeff and Annie assuming the roles of prosecutors. Britta is the computer tech, Shirley the captain, and Pierce is... well, being Pierce. The entire episode is framed around a destroyed yam experiment in Biology which leads to a lot of wonderful moments from the minor characters in the show. A lot of what Community hinges on is the idea that Greendale Community College is absurd, filled with absurd people, and everyone gets roped into overreacting to things. Thus, it makes sense that there’s a trial for a tampered yam, and that numerous days are devoted to this.

One of the things I love about this episode, besides how wonderful of an homage it is, is that it furthers some character growth on Jeff’s part. He genuinely takes Professor Kane’s advice (“A man’s got to have a code”) to heart and passes it on to Annie when he sees the way that winning has swallowed up some of her character. He tries to steer her back in the right direction and for Jeff Winger, that’s growth. To put someone else’s well-being above his desire to win is tremendous growth. And that’s why I love this episode.

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5. “Cooperative Calligraphy” by Megan Ganz

We’re heading into the final five, and of course the Megan Ganz classic bottle episode is on my list. This episode fires on all cylinders. It’s hilarious, quick-paced and witty, and clearly demonstrates every character’s personality in a way that furthers their growth while also highlighting what can be incredibly toxic about them. The study group goes on lockdown because Annie’s purple pen goes missing. The study group ends up having to forgo a puppy parade (!!!) to look for it, and everything about the episode — every minor and major reveal — is so funny and real. Season two, especially this early on, was tricky: the group had just gotten back together after the reveal in “Anthropology 101” that Jeff had slept with Britta and kissed Annie at the transfer dance. “Cooperative Calligraphy” isn’t the last of its kind: an episode where the study group is at each other’s throats over secrets they’ve kept from each other. But it’s one of the earliest and best examples of the kind of simple episode that Community could still do well.

In a series that could do episodes about paintball wars, stop-motion animation, and references to any and every movie, it was extra impressive that the show could be compelling when the group never left the study room. From the moment we see the monkey take the pen to the story that Troy tells at the end of the episode, there are no lulls, no dull moments, no breaks in “Cooperative Calligraphy.”

It is A+ storytelling.

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4. “A Fistful of Paintballs” by Andrew Guest & “For a Few More” by Hilary Winston

My favorite paintball episode isn’t “Modern Warfare”: it’s the two-episode saga of season two. “A Fistful of Paintballs” has so much that I absolutely adore. It’s got Annie front-and-center in the story, wielding her paintball gun like the champion she is. Stylistically, it’s a fantastic Western homage. I love the incorporation of everyone’s playing cards into their character introductions. I absolutely LOVE the Pierce vs. Annie-of-it-all. Annie is the one who’s constantly standing up for Pierce and he’s the one who attacks people like a wounded dog so they don’t kick him out first. Pierce is the villain in season two, no doubt, but the finale gives a different shade of villainy to him. When Annie confronts him about the fact that they voted to kick him out and it’s lucky it had to be unanimous because she was the holdout, Chevy and Alison do an incredible job of conveying different sides to their characters: Pierce softens and Annie hardens. She refuses to see Pierce as someone to defend, and he tells her (not for the last time) that she’s his favorite and he doesn’t want to fight with her.

(It’s my own personal headcanon that Pierce helped Annie find the apartment she moves into in season two.)

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The school erupts into this epic paintball showdown in “For a Few More” against City College when the homage shifts from Western to Star Wars — foreshadowing Donald Glover’s future. Once again, the moments of levity (“POP WHAT?!”) are matched only by the style, tone, and character development. While Andrew Guest and the writers set up Annie and Pierce’s arcs in “A Fistful of Paintballs,” Hilary Winston and the writers double down on their character traits, as well as expand Troy and Jeff’s leadership styles in “For a Few More.” I want to also note that though Pierce technically is the person to save the day, Shirley and Britta were the last women standing and that’s pretty awesome.

The ending of “For a Few More” is what I really love though. Again, apart from the moment part of the ceiling falls down, there’s no joke that ends the season. Pierce leaves the study group, and even though Jeff predicts his return... he doesn’t come back. And the group stares, bewildered and saddened, when he doesn’t. This double-hitter of a paintball finale honestly stands up against a lot of the rest of the episodes. It’s why they remain favorites.

Latest Football Feminism And You GIFs | Gfycat

3. “Football, Feminism & You” by Hilary Winston

Yes, you’re right: Hilary Winston’s “Football, Feminism & You” nabs the metaphorical bronze medal for my top Community episodes of all time. I talked extensively about this with Six Seasons and a Podcast and on my own podcast, but let’s reiterate: this episode has some of the best, tightest, and funniest storytelling of the show. There’s no need for an homage or a high-concept episode when you already have hilarious and compelling characters who can drive ANY story you want forward with ease.

This episode was the first to ever make me laugh out loud while watching, and it remains a favorite for that reason and so many more. “Football, Feminism & You” wove together some really great stories: Troy is recruited to the football team and, for his own selfish reasons, Jeff is enlisted by Dean Pelton to help. Meanwhile, Annie tries everything in her power not to get Troy back into football because he’s finally noticed her. She’s selfish too in the episode, but in a more palatable way than Jeff. Elsewhere, Britta learns the intricacies of female friendships when she refuses to go to the bathroom with Shirley. And Pierce helps Dean Pelton come up with a school mascot. And that’s what you missed on Community!

The thing that I really appreciate about this episode is that Hilary Winston understands the nuances that make each funny: Troy gets his scene on the football field, Jeff’s dripping sarcasm, Annie jumping out of a bush, Britta crying over peeing alone her whole life, and Shirley’s subtle responses to the characters around her. Pierce and Dean Pelton get the chance to get to riff off each other, which is more delightful than I expected it would be. And, as you might have noticed already, the thing I love about this episode is the heart behind it. Britta and Shirley get the chance to bond on an emotional level, Jeff recognizes that he was wrong and apologizes to Annie (and they share their first genuine “Milady?” “Milord.”). And Troy gets the chance to deliver one of the best truths of the series — none of them chose Greendale. But they ended up there because the real world wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Instead of fighting it — like Jeff does in the episode, calling the real world “the outside” — they should all make peace with where they are.

It’s something that will carry Jeff and the rest of the characters on their journeys throughout the series. They’ll all eventually leave Greendale and then return again. But that’s okay. They think of it as failure but as silly as it might sound, Greendale has always welcomed them. No questions asked. No judgements. And the foundation for this lovely little nugget of truth was laid in the very early episodes of season one. “Football, Feminism & You” is stellar. And I’ll always stand by that.

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2. “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design” by Chris McKenna

I didn’t plan for it to happen, but Chris McKenna wins the silver and gold medals for my favorite Community episodes. And boy, is “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design” an epic sight to behold. The only downside of the episode (and this is the only one) is that it doesn’t leave any real room for Pierce, Britta, or Shirley stories. But the little bits we get of them throughout are so great (Britta’s hair flip will forever be my mood), and the tight A/B storytelling remains one of my favorites. I think the concept — a conspiracy is afoot! — and all the double-crossing in the A-story is right up my alley. The episode keeps you guessing until the very end who actually is teaming up together. And, as we discover, Professor Garrity will always have the last laugh.

The cast is astounding though: Joel and Alison have never been better in this episode and one of my favorite underrated moments is when Annie goes off-script. Can we talk about Joel-as-Jeff in that moment for a second? His face is absolutely heartbreaking when he hears about how he really, truly hurt Annie (watch his reaction at: “You buried me like a shameful secret”; Jim Rash’s “woah” is also underappreciated in that moment). And how cathartic it must have been for Annie to lay everything out there while being in a position of power for once? For the way that season two began — atrocious in terms of Annie’s character regression, I SAID WHAT I SAID — season two redeemed her when they began to give her the power and control to make her own choices. Like in this moment: she gets the chance to shoot Jeff. Yes, it was part of a plan. Yes, they needed to sell their deception to the dean. But it was a real moment for Annie, and Jeff praises her for it later on.

Elsewhere though, this episode would be nothing without Troy and Abed. What began as an innocuous sleepover plan quickly, as happens in Greendale, goes sideways when Troy and Abed’s blanket fort gets too mainstream for even them to handle. The best part of this is that the blanket fort creates a backdrop for storytelling. It’s Troy and Abed’s friendship on display but it’s also the exact kind of thing that Greendale would be gung-ho about (as we even see next season in the Pillows & Blankets saga).

The subtle jokes in this episode — it did, indeed, originally air on Latvian Independence Day — and the high-stakes A/B stories really and truly drive it into one of my top spots. “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design” is arguably one of the best. Or at least I think so.

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1. “Remedial Chaos Theory” by Chris McKenna

It should be no surprise that the Community classic, “Remedial Chaos Theory,” is at the top of my list. I doubt anything could even nudge it from this spot. The episode is the highest of high concepts — Jeff does create different timelines, okay? — while also being incredibly character-driven. It’s Community at its finest: humor, insanity, and heart. You know the story by now: Troy and Abed are hosting a housewarming party for their new apartment (even the beginning joke: for those who don’t catch it, 303 was supposed to clearly air after 304 since Pierce makes the Eartha Kitt reference in “Competitive Ecology”) and when it comes time to decide who goes downstairs to get the pizzas, Jeff says they should roll for it. Abed warns him that by doing so, he’s creating six different timelines... and the adventure unfolds.

It’s an episode that then hinges on a “choose your own adventure” concept: what would happen if one person left the room? How much would that really change things? We begin to explore this as one by one, different characters get chosen to leave. When Troy leaves, the entire apartment erupts into chaos. His departure is what spurs the darkest timeline after all. Sometimes when people leave, more subtle things happen: Shirley gets upset that her pies burned. Britta says she and the pizza guy are in love. Jeff and Annie almost kiss (or kiss). Pierce threatens Troy with a troll doll.

The story itself within the timeline creation is really great too: Troy is becoming more of a threat to Jeff as a leader and he doesn’t like it at all. Jeff and Annie talk about how she lives in a terrible neighborhood, and in the real timeline, Abed offers for Annie to move in with them. Pierce tries to mask his loneliness over Troy moving out by being a jerk — a common theme — and Shirley tries to find meaning in being the person who makes food for everyone. (Shirley is an Enneagram 2, I can feel it.)

As Abed says later on, there are consistencies in each of them that ground them as a group. Shirley is giving. Annie is driven. Britta is a wild card. And Jeff... well, Jeff will always go the extra mile not to do work. He devised a system from the beginning to never have to get the pizza. And in the real timeline when the group discovers that fact, they send him downstairs to fetch their food. As soon as he leaves, the group doesn’t dissolve into chaos. In fact, Pierce doesn’t even give Troy the troll. Britta gets to finish singing “Roxanne,” and the entire group joins her in song and dance. Jeff returns to find that everyone is stable which, to me (and the writers can have whatever reasoning they want) is early proof that the group doesn’t need Jeff as much as he needs them. He watches them dance around and have fun without him. It’s a little sad, but ultimately a reminder that while there are things that ground these characters, they also have outgrown the need for Jeff’s constant leadership. As Annie pointedly notes just a few episodes earlier, they’ve evolved.

And though it was rocky at times after this — again, not just in season four — I believe this. The group changed. They evolved. They became better people because of each other. One truth remains: I love Community and I always will.

Honorable Mentions: “Paradigms of the Human Memory,” “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons,” and “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas.”

Sound off in the comments below with some of YOUR favorite episodes of the show!


  1. First of all, great to see you talking about Community again!

    Most of my choices would be pretty similar, though the order would be different - Debate 109 and Emotional Consequences would be higher, RCT lower - but the biggest thing I noticed is there's nothing from S4 there. On which note, can I suggest an honourable mention for Herstory of Dance? Britta finally snaps after years of mockery and pushes back (and is awesome in the process), Pierce gets to be a good guy for the last time and even Jeff is forced to realise that if *Pierce* can call him out then he really was being a Grade-A jerk. Oh, and we get Brie Larson as Rachel:-)

    One other thing - are you following Ken and Joel's "Darkest Timeline" podcast? It's supposed to be about Community, but it's really a couple of old friends shooting the breeze and hooking up with their buddies (the episode where Alison dials in had me crying with laughter - it was clear when she dialled off how much the guys adored her, Ken said she was his prozac and Joel said she's proof God exists - nobody gets to be that awesome by accident...) and making jokes about how they're abjectly failing to talk about the show. Well worth an hour and a half of anybody's time.

    1. Awwww thanks Richard! Glad to see you back here. :) I rewatched "Herstory of Dance" recently and I do have to say, it's such a nice Britta story. One of the absolute bright spots in season four. Also because it features Brie Larson.

      Yes, I am! I actually got the chance to talk to Ken (I have my own podcast called The Community Rewatch Podcast, and I have a friend who runs Six Seasons and a Podcast) for my friend's podcast. He's the absolute best! And Alison's episode had me in stitches. I love how much Joel and Ken riff of each other.

  2. great list. Id also add Conventions of Space and Time because I really enjoy the Jeff and Annie story line in it. And I also really like "Basic Lupine Urology" for the amazing law and order format they do.