Remedial Chaos Theory
|"Remedial Chaos Theory"|
|Episode no.||Season 3
|Directed by||Jeff Melman|
|Written by||Chris McKenna|
|Original air date||October 13, 2011|
"Remedial Chaos Theory" is the third (aired as fourth) episode of the third season of the U.S. television series Community. It originally aired on October 13, 2011 on NBC. The episode features a housewarming party for Troy and Abed panning out in seven alternate timelines. Each timeline explored the effect of the absence/presence of a character on other characters in similar situations.
The episode was written by Chris McKenna and directed by Jeff Melman. It received highly positive reviews, with many critics lauding its unconventional structure and noting a significant improvement from the first three episodes of the season, and some even calling it one of the greatest sitcom episodes of all-time. McKenna was nominated for an Emmy award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for this episode.
Troy (Donald Glover) and Abed (Danny Pudi) invite the study group to their housewarming party. When everyone arrives, they begin playing Yahtzee. The pizza delivery man (played by Robert Tarpinian) arrives, and someone has to go downstairs to collect the pizza. Everyone agrees to Jeff's (Joel McHale) plan to roll a die to determine who has to get the pizza.
The episode then splits into different timelines—as noted by Abed throughout—with each alternate timeline playing out the every possible outcome of the die roll. Every timeline features running gags which end differently depending on which characters are present or absent.
- Britta (Gillian Jacobs) plays "Roxanne" on the iPod stereo system; she begins to sing it but is cut off by Jeff.
- Pierce (Chevy Chase) attempts to introduce his story about having sex with Eartha Kitt in an airplane bathroom into the conversation.
- Britta excuses herself after being slammed down by Jeff in order to visit the bathroom to smoke marijuana covertly.
- Annie (Alison Brie) has a gun in her bag.
- Pierce gives Troy a housewarming gift, a Norwegian troll (wrapped in a box) which frightened Troy when he lived in Pierce's mansion.
- Jeff gets up from the table to get a drink, only to get hit on the head by the ceiling fan. Annie tends to him, while Pierce laughs at him.
- Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) is baking pies, in order to curry favour with the group, despite their disapproval of her manipulative tactics of using baking to gain love.
- The boulder in the Indiana Jones diorama rolls down, but is stopped by Abed.
- Abed says he wonders what happens in all the other timelines, but Jeff says there are no other timelines.
In the first timeline, Jeff rolls a 2 and Annie goes to get the pizza. Troy is too distracted by finding a gun in Annie's bag to open Pierce's present. Abed confronts Britta about the smell of marijuana in the bathroom, which offends her.
In the second timeline, Jeff rolls a 4 and Shirley has to go. She reminds the group not to let her pies burn before leaving. Troy opens Pierce's present and freaks out. When Shirley returns, she finds that nobody bothered to take out the pies from the oven; the pies come out burnt. She berates the group and leaves.
In the third timeline, the die lands on 3 and Pierce has to go. Jeff belittles Troy, which causes him to leave the table and join Britta in the bathroom. She consoles Troy by mocking Jeff's guarded personality. Annie demonstrates her first aid skills when tending to Jeff. When Pierce returns with the pizza, everyone is happy.
In the fourth timeline, Jeff rolls a 6 and Britta has to go. Annie tends to Jeff in the bathroom since Britta isn't using it. Jeff expresses his concern for Annie; just as they are about to kiss, they are interrupted by Troy screaming. Pierce is terrorizing him with the troll, and reveals that he is upset that Troy has moved out from his mansion. Britta returns with the pizza guy (played by Robert Tarpinian) and announces they are engaged.
In the fifth timeline, Jeff rolls a 1 and Troy has to go. He leaves in a hurry, so as not to miss anything interesting, and slams the door, which causes the diorama boulder to slip and roll onto the floor. Annie trips on it and falls on the coffee table. Her bag lands on the floor, which causes the gun inside to fire, hitting Pierce in the thigh. Britta's joint ignites the spilled liquor. Troy returns to a scene of chaos, with the troll staring directly at him from amidst the flames.
In the sixth timeline, Jeff rolls a 5, meaning Abed has to go. Britta inadvertently reveals that she smoked marijuana, much to Shirley's dismay. Troy has a few kind words for Pierce, which causes Pierce to attempt to rescind the gift. In the ensuing struggle, the troll is flung out of the box. Jeff and Annie kiss at the kitchen counter, but Jeff gets turned off when Annie mentions being reminded of her dad. Abed returns to an awkward situation.
In the final, prime timeline, Abed stops the die from rolling, and urges the group to stay united regardless of whatever happens to them. The group then realize that Jeff manipulated the die roll such that he would never be selected. In the end, Jeff has to get the pizza. After he leaves, the group sings and dances to "Roxanne"; Pierce decides not to give Troy his gift and throws away the troll. Abed invites Annie to move in with him and Troy.
In the end tag, it shows the universe where Troy left to get the pizza. Pierce is dead, Annie is in a mental ward due to guilt, Shirley is an alcoholic, Troy injured himself trying to destroy the flaming troll (he tried to eat it) and can only speak with the assistance of an artificial voicebox, Jeff is missing an arm and Britta has a blue streak in her hair. Abed suggests that they must become "the evil study group" and kill their good versions in the prime timeline, take control of the prime timeline and proceeds to hand out black felt goatees, a la Star Trek's "Mirror, Mirror". They all leave, depressed, but Troy stays behind and the two of them decide to team up and don the goatees. Suddenly, the scene changes to the original Abed and Troy watching TV, where Abed mentions that something felt strange for a moment, then decides it was nothing.
"Remedial Chaos Theory" is another "concept" episode, which is popular among fans. Despite the alternate realities, each story was part of a cohesive narrative. The episode's structure depicted how the characters relate to each other in different situations. How the situation changes each time a character leaves suggests the character's role within the group. Some characters always get along easily, some of them do not, and ultimately the group dynamic requires everyone to work.
When Jeff is not around, the group lets loose and has fun. Jeff cannot bring himself to do the same because he enjoys being cool and detached. Annie wishes that everyone would be less worried about her and view her as an adult. Troy prevents chaos; when he is gone, the situation dissolves into madness. He also wishes that Jeff would view him as an adult. Shirley feels left out because she is the only one happily married. She plays a motherly role; quick to anger with everyone as she simultaneously tries to guide and nurture them. However, the other group members often refuse to take responsibility and mock her judgement even though they secretly like her mini-pies. Meanwhile, Pierce is upset that Troy moved out even though he seems so happy. Abed dispels tension: without him, the study group is uncomfortable with each other.
"Remedial Chaos Theory" was written by Chris McKenna, his sixth writing credit of the series. It is the first directing credit of the show for Jeff Melman. A number of jokes from this episode were earlier referenced in "Competitive Ecology", due to a re-ordering of the episodes. The revised order is referenced in the episode's opening joke of Abed and Troy's apartment number being 303 or 304, which was suggested by Gillian Jacobs.
Series creator Dan Harmon had previously said that the writers intended to make an episode along the lines of Rashomon, Run Lola Run and Sliding Doors, with multiple revisitations of the same timeline. Malcolm in the Middle and The X-Files have also done similar episodes.
In its original broadcast on October 13, 2011, the episode was viewed by an estimated 3.82 million people, up 13 percent from the previous week. It had a Nielsen rating of 1.7 in the 18–49 demographic.
Critical reviews 
After an underwhelming reception by some critics and fans for the first three episodes of season 3, "Remedial Chaos Theory" helped Community bounce back with universally positive reviews. Critics praised the episode's structure and the show's return to a high-concept episode.
Todd VanDerWerff of The A.V. Club gave the episode an 'A,' calling it one of the ten best episodes the show will ever make. He added, "I think when Community is at its best, it hits all three of those marks [silly, moving, and revelatory], and that can only mean this is one of its best episodes yet. For those of you who worried the show was done or worried the mostly new writing staff had killed some of its momentum or even worried that it would never do a concept episode again, this one was for you." Kelsea Stahler said the series' concept episodes are the best, including "Remedial Chaos Theory": "Finally, Community came back to what we love about it: experimental, high-concept television laced with absurd comedy."
Cory Barker praised the episode's unique structure and said: "This effort presents all the different sides of Community within just one episode, buttons it off with a ridiculously funny final sequence and still informs a number of character positions that should be integral to the rest of the season." Alan Sepinwall called it a "great episode," and praised it for delving deep into the relationships between each of the characters. He added that it was "the kind that reminds me of all the different things 'Community' can do when it's at its best... it's at times ridiculously funny and at others simple and elegant and touching." TV Fanatic's Leigh Raines gave the episode 4.5/5 stars, saying that it "bounced back in the grandest of ways" following a disappointing episode. IGN's Robert Canning awarded "Remedial Chaos Theory" with a 10 out of 10, saying that the episode "succeeded on every possible level. It told a great story, it satirized a specific aspect of pop culture and it, above all else, was full of laughs."
Awards and nominations 
It won the PAAFTJ Television Award for Best Writing for a Comedy Series.
It won Splitsider's "Best Sitcom Episode of All Time" tournament.
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- "Remedial Chaos Theory" at NBC.com
- "Remedial Chaos Theory" at the Internet Movie Database
- "Remedial Chaos Theory" at TV.com
- "Remedial Chaos Theory" at TV Tropes