Community Season 5, Episode 5 “Geothermal Escapism”
Written by Tim Saccardo
Directed by Joe Russo
Airs Thursday nights at 8pm ET on NBC
There’s been two distinct motifs in the first four episodes of Community‘s fifth season that come together for a brief moment in “Geothermal Escapism”, when Britta and Troy are trying to revive Abed, whose fallen into the fake lava (long story short: the school’s playing Lava Floor in honor of Troy and Abed’s friendship) that he sees as being real. Britta suggests to Troy – understanding that engaging Abed’s alternate realities are more useful than rejecting them, shown best way back in season two’s “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” – that they create a perfect clone of him, Dr. Who-ing him (or Inspector Spacetime-ing him, if you prefer) for the next journey of his life. Like “Repilot”, the moment is all about redefinition, about moving forward in life – but with the impending departure of Troy Barnes (and by definition, Donald Glover) weighing over the episode’s events, it gives them a whole new emotional meaning.
Unsurprisingly, the final episode about Troy Barnes is really about Abed – save for rare examples like season one’s “Football, Feminism, and You” or season three’s “The First Chang Dynasty”, this was often the case with Troy-involved stories (like in “Mixology Certification”, for example). And as expected, it takes an elaborate alternate reality for Abed finally to come to terms with Troy leaving for his trip around the world – but it’s just as symbolically important as it is emotionally and mentally for Abed. Season five of Community‘s spent a lot of time dealing with death, be it the very real passing of Pierce Hawthorne, or the pretend deaths of Starburns, Abed – or even the fourth season of Community, the mutated beast put out to pasture when Sony and NBC brought Dan Harmon back into the fold.
As it often does, death causes us to look in the mirror, to consider the way we look at ourselves and our lives (as Pierce and company did back in “Introduction to Statistics”) – and often brings about change, as we’ve seen since the opening moment of the season. The death of Jeff’s lawyer career shook him to seek a new direction in life, just as the death of Pierce pushes Troy to find the man within himself: and so, with Abed’s death, comes the birth of a new Abed, one who doesn’t have the same emotional ‘range’ as the original Abed, but nevertheless retains his memories and personality traits. He’s the same, but he isn’t: without Troy around, it’s clear Abed is going to be struggling again to figure out his place in the world (reverting him back to early season one status, before Harmon and company realized what they’d stumbled upon with the two characters).
Some might find it a little disappointing that Troy’s final half-hour is so Abed-centric, but it almost has to be: with Troy Barnes leaving Greendale, the show’s concerns obviously lie with those who remain, front and center the one character who isn’t able to handle hearing the words “last day” come out of his best friend’s mouth (causing him to Terminator 2 himself). But like the ol’ T-800, Abed won’t stay molted in lava forever, and rises as a new version of himself, one who is able (at least externally) to handle the departure of his best friend on a journey to find himself (a journey I fully expect Abed to struggle with for the rest of the season, in his own personal and professional life). Friendships like theirs never end, but they definitely change: and by focusing the episode on the character that feels left behind at Greendale, “Geothermal Escapism” is a much more emotionally affecting episode, had it focused on Troy’s feelings on departing or the entire group spending the episode in a depressed funk to see Troy go.
Outside of the beautifully-drawn parallels to last week’s “Cooperative Polygraphy” (not to mention the whole fifth season), “Geothermal Escapism” is a just a fun little parody on the popular kid’s game (which in modern times, has become a component of New Girl‘s infamous True American), chock full of callbacks to previous seasons and other genre parodies. But when it’s time to get serious, “Escapism” does so with grace, and subtlety, sending off its single funniest character with a few healthy reminders of what a different person he was when he arrived. Like Pierce, Troy reminds everyone what makes them so great (though Troy’s compliments are definitely prehumous) before he embarks on the next step of his journey, one which will hopefully bring him around the world and back to Greendale one day. As a farewell, “Geothermal Escapism” is sweet, funny, and celebratory – and as a contemplative half-hour of television, it is an illuminating reflection of our everyday lives, a look at how important it is to say goodbye and let go. After all, we can’t grow until we’ve come at peace with who we were – and now that Community has come to terms with what it once was (having to say farewell to two cast regulars in a period of two weeks), I look forward to the next eight episodes exploring what this world and these people could become.
– honestly, Troy and Annie’s farewell hit me the hardest. Such a sweet moment between those two.
– “NATHAN FILLIOOOOONNNN!!!!”
– Troy arguing with his translator (and getting confused by it) is a perfect joke for the character’s final episode. Just hilarious.
– “My name was Vicki… please tell my story!” Garrett: “These are the only pants I have, I don’t want to get them dirty!”
– Jeff and Britta’s fight over the knock-knock joke is why I love those two together so much. “Who’s there, bitch! Floor!”
– this is the first Joe Russo-directed episode of Community since season three’s “Documentary Filmmaking: Redux”.
– Clone Troy has much less trouble talking to LeVar Burton, which I’m sure will come in handy over the next year.
– Buzz Hickey’s son is getting “gay married…. you would not believe how much the flowers cost.”