after troy and abed

Season 5, Episode 5: "Geothermal Escapism"

Community’s concept episodes work best when an emotional conflict forces them into existence. This is why “Basic Human Anatomy” was one of the best episodes of season four: the body-swapping plot was not Community being cute and referential. The plot made sense because it mushroomed out of an emotional conflict. “Geothermal Escapism” similarly falls into place as we (and Abed) deal with Troy’s departure.

Abed’s Set Up

They can only do so many “Whoops! The school has somehow turned against each other in a massive but silly game!” episodes. At some point, that just wouldn’t happen anymore. The reason “Geothermal Escapism” works, even in light of a suspiciously paintball-esque setting, is because it didn’t just happen. Abed manufactured it.

Abed knew all the buttons to push to make the game work. He knew that the Dean would honor his request (because the Dean loves the study group). He knew that his study group would play the game for fun, eager to do anything but study or teach. And he knew that those who weren’t going to play (like Britta) needed incentive, so he threw in a huge prize at the last minute and without permission. The game happened not by accident but because Abed wanted it to happen. I’m not sure there’s any other way Community could slide another Paintball-esque episode past us without getting complaints of a tired premise. This was perfect.

Britta Literally Won

Yes, “Geothermal Escapism” was Troy’s goodbye episode, meaning it was also heavily about Abed. But Britta played a huge and magnificent part in tonight’s episode.

Britta was still a buzzkill – which is fine, that’s who she’s always been – but in this episode, we see that she’s actually right from the beginning. Even when Jeff jabs at her for not having a psych degree, the viewer knows that she’s right and that her being right actually matters in this episode because the stakes are high.

Besides Troy, Britta’s the only one who actually cares about Abed’s mental health enough to focus on him instead of the game, and she relentlessly chase him down to make sure that he manages his emotions. She ultimately needs Troy’s help in understanding how to help Abed, but in the end, Britta is fundamental in Abed’s return to reality. When Troy tells Britta that Abed’s really seeing the lava, there is genuine concern on her face – she knows how real all of this is when another person might not. It isn’t a joke; Abed is struggling. And she fought like hell to get to him, to help her friend. Britta has always been one of Abed’s biggest supporters ever since invited him to the study group. She saw Abed, she wanted to be his friend, and in “Geothermal Escapism,” she showed what an amazing friend she can be.

And along the way Britta got the lead chair-walkers into battle. How amazing was that? After Abed and Troy ditch her (with Abed doing most of the ditching, again re-affirming how brimming with empathy she was this episode – she pursues a friend who abandoned her) she is re-born as Hickey’s sidekick. Her hair and outfit and battle cry were all amazing. Her back-and-forth with Jeff was hilarious, and then she beat Jeff too. This was truly Britta at her very best.

Abed Tells Stories In Order To Live

Abed’s managing his emotions through a sci-fi story of being “cloned” was a really lovely resolution to the episode. In some way, it seems like Abed’s still playing a game and hasn’t actually dealt with Troy’s depature. But with his rebirth, he’s merely writing his own story in a way that makes sense to him.

Everybody colors their life in some way. Nobody deals with the bare reality: we all exist as narratives we tell ourselves. “Everything happens for a reason.” “I got laid off because I needed to find my true calling.” “My girlfriend dumped me because I needed time to find myself.” We all insert meaning where there probably isn’t any as a way to move forward.

Abed would never do something so mundane. For Abed, the easiest way to move on is to pretend he’s a new and improved person straight out of a sci-fi movie. His narrative has nothing to do with changing in some gentle, soul-searching way. He needs to see it in movie-form. He needs his growth to be truly understood as a story, as something that could only happen in a story. With this understanding, Abed can move on and morph into a new person. (Literally. Sort of.)