COMMUNITY 5.05 ‘Geothermal Escapism’
Episode: “Geothermal Escapism”
Writer: Tim Saccardo
Director: Joe Russo
Previously on “Community”:
Troy Barnes (Donald Glover) has left the building.
In some ways, “Geothermal Escapism” feels like it could function as the final episode of “Community.” Troy’s farewell episode had such a sense of uplifting finality that I would have been okay with it if this was the end of our time at Greendale. Although that wouldn’t have served at least half of the cast. The focus here was squarely on Abed (Danny Pudi), Troy and Britta (Gillian Jacobs).
On Troy’s final day at Greendale, Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) foolishly allows Abed to declare a campus wide game of “The Floor Is Lava” with his most valuable comic book as a prize for the winner. Greendale being Greendale, everyone buys into the game in the hopes of pocketing that $50,000 comic for themselves.
Everyone except Britta. She sees Abed’s game for what it is: a delaying tactic to keep Troy by his side for as long as possible. Of course, no one wants to hear this and Britta’s skills at psychology have always been dubious at best. I loved Jeff’s (Joel McHale) line about Britta getting a kickback from “Big Buzzkill” and the way that the other members of the study group group smiled as they used the Dean’s announcement to ignore the words coming out of Britta’s mouth.
Fresh off of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, director Joe Russo checks back into “Community” and delivers one of the most visually striking episodes in a long time. “Geothermal Escapism” was also the best super high concept episode since the paintball two parter at the end of season 2. Screenwriter Tim Saccardo deserves high praise for bringing the heart and the comedy in equal measure. This episode wouldn’t have worked if it was wasn’t hilarious.
Chang (Ken Jeong) was one of the comedic highlights as the leader of the Locker Boys, a mash-up of the Warriors and the Lost Boys. Professor Ian Duncan (John Oliver) had a fun cameo as he attempted to take Britta out of the game (because his self-published novels won’t publish themselves!) and even Professor Buzz Hickey (Jonathan Banks) got in on the act with his motorized desk of doom.
Buzz is still largely unknown to the audience and to the study group. In theory, Buzz is the new Pierce, but can you imagine Pierce going through all of this just to help pay for his son’s gay wedding? And would Pierce pull back from eliminating Britta to offer her sympathy and a chance for revenge? I’d say that Buzz has a heart, but he coldly dismisses Britta and Troy’s pleas about Abed’s mental state in his quest to win. If Buzz is going to stick around this show as one of the regulars, he’ll have to come around on Abed.
Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) didn’t get a lot to do in this episode, but the scenes set at Shirley Island were very amusing. For the most part, Shirley stayed in her Lava World character and she even changed her speaking patterns to fit the game. Meanwhile, Jeff and Annie (Alison Brie) were once again an action duo in this Post-Apocalyptic Greendale.
When Britta returns as one of Buzz’s minions, it led to a great verbal and plunger fight between Britta and Jeff in which Britta actually managed to win for once! Yes, Britta was on a roll even when she had to jump off of the bubble that Troy and Abed were using to escape Shirley island.
It’s only when Troy and Abed are alone that Abed confides in his friend that the lava is real to him. Abed has had this kind of mental breakdown before, most notably in “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas.” Except this time, Abed knows that he’s being selfish and he sacrifices himself as a way to let go of Troy. Even then, it falls on Britta and Troy to “clone” Abed into a person who can handle the departure of his best friend. It’s the same coping device that Abed uses on Troy when he admits that he’s scared to leave.
Troy’s goodbye scene was just about as perfectly crafted as TV gets. Every member of the group gets a special moment with Troy. It’s beautiful and gut wrenching. This episode isn’t just about Troy leaving and Abed trying to cope with it. It’s also a love letter to anyone that’s had to say farewell to a friend. Except reality rarely gives anyone this kind of closure, or a sendoff with LeVar Burton as a companion on a boat called the Childish Tycoon.
Burton’s return was a great callback to his previous appearance and the mark of some personal growth for Troy. “Clone” Troy is no longer intimidated by his idol. And how fitting was tag scene in which Troy peppered Burton with “Star Trek: The Next Generation” questions that he just happened to have in the form of a list? Troy may be leaving, but he’s still Troy.
With “Cooperative Polygraphy” and “Geothermal Escapism,” “Community” has knocked out two amazing episodes in a row. Again, it comes down to the perfect mix of heart and comedy. This is why we love “Community.” This is why it’s special.
I don’t know what the future holds for this show or its characters, but I won’t be ready to let go of “Community” any time soon.
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