Digital Estate Planning
|"Digital Estate Planning"|
Intertitle featuring the video game "Journey to the Center of Hawkthorne"
|Episode no.||Season 3|
|Directed by||Adam Davidson|
|Written by||Matt Warburton|
|Original air date||May 17, 2012|
"Digital Estate Planning" is the 20th episode of the third season of the U.S. television series Community. It originally aired on May 17, 2012 on NBC. The episode featured retro video game styled graphics and a synthesizer driven soundtrack reminiscent of 8 bit consoles such as the Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Master System, with references to multiple classic games on those and later consoles.
Pierce Hawthorne (Chevy Chase) invites the study group, as well as actor LeVar Burton, to a warehouse, when Pierce himself is invited with instructions to bring along his seven closest friends. Those in the study group are the only to show up.
Upon arrival, the study group is greeted by Gilbert Lawson (Giancarlo Esposito), Pierce's deceased father Cornelius Hawthorne's (voiced by Larry Cedar) assistant of thirty years and estate executor. He informs them of Cornelius's last will and testament, whose dying wish was for Pierce and seven friends to play a video game that was developed over the course of thirty years, in response to a request made by Pierce in 1979 to invest in video games.
The group enters a stylized 8-bit video game world, where they are informed by the in-game voice recording of Cornelius that, as punishment for questioning the economic viability of moist towelettes, the first player to reach the castle at the end of the game will win Pierce's inheritance. The group rejects the idea of playing to steal Pierce's inheritance, while Gilbert, taking on the role of the eighth player, reveals that he intends to do so. With complete knowledge of the game he easily kills the group's characters, sending them back to the start.
After restarting, the group arrives at a town where Abed seemingly falls in love with an NPC named Hilda. While exploring the town, Britta mixes random ingredients in a cauldron into what she assumes is a strength potion, while Jeff assumes it to be poison. Meanwhile, Annie and Shirley accidentally kill the town's blacksmith and his wife (Hilda's parents), steal everything in the shop, and burn it down to cover their tracks. Gilbert appears, having leveled up, and begins easily killing the group again. However, after killing Britta, Gilbert drinks the potion she made and dies, which turned out to be poison as Jeff had assumed. Starting back from the beginning again, Gilbert becomes frustrated and decides to use cheat codes, turning his character invincible.
The group continues playing, while Abed stays back in town to help Hilda rebuild her life. After beating most of the game, the group finds the "white crystal" needed to enter the castle on the last level. They are again confronted by Gilbert, who, now invincible, deflects their attacks and kills them, taking the crystal for himself. Jeff and Pierce realize he is cheating and angrily confront him outside of the game, where Gilbert reveals that he is the product of Cornelius's affair with Pierce's childhood nanny's "hot cousin", and claims that he has a greater right to the fortune than Pierce, having been more of a son to Cornelius than Pierce. The group starts from the beginning and return to the town where they left Abed and discover that he has built an enormous castle and has an endless amount of resources to build whatever they desire.
Gilbert arrives at the final stage of the game, where he is greeted by another recording from Cornelius. He "congratulates" Gilbert on his victory and says that in order to claim the inheritance, Gilbert must agree to sign "Yes" to a document disavowing any family ties to the Hawthorne bloodlines and keeping Cornelius' racist secret. Gilbert sadly ponders this and clicks "No", prompting Cornelius to start an all-out war of destruction against him.
The study group arrives heavily armed with new equipment and defeats Cornelius, at the cost of their lives. Gilbert is left to claim the inheritance but rejects it, believing he does not deserve the prize. The study group decides to forfeit, Pierce having decided that Gilbert put up with worse treatment from Cornelius than he did (Gilbert recounts a particularly awful example of Cornelius' racism and thoughtlessness) and that makes more of a son and worthy of taking the inheritance. Gilbert thanks them and beats the game, winning the inheritance. He offers to treat the study group to margaritas as a thanks, and is shown to be bonding with Pierce. As the group leaves, Abed sneaks back to copy Hilda from the game onto a flash drive before leaving.
According to Dan Harmon, "Digital Estate Planning" was the last Season 3 episode to be filmed, and led to a falling out between him and Chevy Chase. The episode's "tag" (run during the credits) was written to feature Abed showing Pierce the flash drive copy of the game, modified to have the virtual version of Pierce playing ball with a giant head of Cornelius, with Cornelius congratulating him every time. Pierce would have then turned to hug Abed as a way of saying thanks. Harmon considered it "one of the most important moments of the season". Chase did not feel like shooting that scene and left for the day likely because he was tired. Harmon noted that this was a common experience with Chase and they simply would have shot Chase's scenes in the following days. In this case, as it was the final day of shooting, the sets were subsequently torn down and they could not film it later, leading to Harmon's disappointment in losing the scene. This subsequently led to arguments between the two during the season's wrap party.
The video game sequences were animated by Titmouse, which had previously animated segments for the show.
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The episode features references to multiple classic games such as Mega Man, Super Mario Bros. 3 and Sonic the Hedgehog. Also, a reference to Missingno from Pokémon Red and Blue can be seen in Hilda's list. Missingno appears again when Gilbert is fighting the study group and when he is battling the boss head.
The game's title Hawkthorne is a play on words of another video game called Blackthorne, which follows a similar plotline of a deceased father letting two sons fight over an inheritance.
Near the end of the episode, Pierce rides a nuclear bomb in the same fashion as Major Kong seen in "Dr. Strangelove".
In its original broadcast on May 17, 2012, the episode was watched by an estimated 2.97 million people, with a 1.3/5 share in the 18-49 demographic.
IGN gave the episode a rating of 8 out of 10, calling it "a visual good time".
- O'Neil, Sean (2012-08-22). "Dan Harmon reveals exactly what happened that time Chevy Chase walked off the Community set". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2012-08-23.
- O'Neil, Sean (2012-04-02). "Community's Chevy Chase and Dan Harmon are supposedly fighting, and Chase threatened to leave the show". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2012-08-23.
- Bibel, Sara (May 18, 2012). "Thursday Final Ratings: 'American Idol', 'Grey's Anatomy', '30 Rock' Adjusted Up; 'Touch', 'Scandal' Adjusted Down". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved May 18, 2012.