by Thom Yee
5×05: “Geothermal Escapism”
When I think about it, I’ve never particularly liked Troy.
But give me a second.
I can explain…
Let me explain…
Occasionally, but only occasionally, I’ll run across a fellow Community fan in real life. It’s a rare occurrence to be sure, but it almost always represents one of those odd moments of kinship, one where we both have an instantly heightened sense of respect toward each other. But that can only happen if, during the usually brief chat about the show, neither of us allows the conversation to devolve to asking, “who’s your favourite character?” Some people will say Annie or Jeff, a certain type of person really likes Chang, and just about nobody likes Shirley (and not just because she intimidates us all sexually, but probably mostly because her character type is least represented in Community’s audience demographics). Abed is usually everybody’s favourite, though, and with him Troy naturally follows. If anyone, I might like Britta the best, but only because I admire her for the grace with which she (usually) handles everyone taking a giant crap on her. But to me, Community’s never been a show about individual character favourites; it’s very much an ensemble, one that works, thrives, and depends on the contributions of everyone involved.
So no, I never really liked Troy, but that’s only because I never preferred anyone, I always just liked the group of the Greendale Six (née Seven). But as our cast is being picked off like flies and we’re now down to the Greendale Five… it’s hard not to feel an enormous sadness.
“Geothermal Escapism” is the ultimate culmination of the first two seasons’ paintball episodes. It’s an episode that doesn’t exist and might not actually make sense without having experienced its forebears, “Modern Warfare”, “A Fistful of Paintballs”, and “For a Few Paintballs More”. Unlike those episodes, “Geothermal Escapism” jumps straight into the “everyone’s after the prize, thus the school instantly devolves into a sci-fi-esque survival scenario” motif that Community established so firmly during the show’s glory days. This time around, it barely matters what the motivation is as the show jumps straight into “Community: Lava World” (the hot lava, nobody-can-touch-the-floor game from our childhoods). In transitioning to Lava World, we find Greendale almost immediately convert so totally into its new reality that it rivals the second-season paintball two-parter, only now contained to a single episode. It’s a level of hyper-compression that benefits from and, ultimately, relies on the lessons learned in all the previous paintballs, and for newcomers to the series, it’s probably yet another “I didn’t really get it” episodes of the series.
Unlike the paintball episodes, however, there’s a hint of sadness throughout as “Geothermal Escapism” gives way to its inevitable conclusion and serves its purpose as the series’ send-off to Troy. I felt it the first time he and Abed show up to save Britta (here standing in for the initially disoriented Jeff from “Modern Warfare”), I felt it when he and Abed discussed how the game was going, and I felt it as I saw he and Abed sprawled across the remains of the human-sized bubble they used to escape the attack on Shirley’s Island.
As you may have gathered, this was very much a “Troy and Abed…” show, and though it didn’t ultimately extend the Lava World fantasy as far as the paintball episodes, it sort of concludes the idea of such fantasies as we finally see Troy and Abed grow up just a little as they’re forced to grow apart. And as we watched Troy take off on his voyage around the world, captain’s hat firmly placed on head, Levar Burton/travelling companion in tow, the great ship “Childish Tycoon” meta acknowledging the real reason Troy’s leaving, the sadness gives way to catharsis. We may be losing another piece of the cast, but in doing so, we find new meaning and greater understanding of a character who usually doesn’t have a lot more to him than thinking that popping an inflatable boat will make it go faster and whose greatest question for Batman if he ever met him in real life was “Am I good looking?” “Geothermal Escapism” is that rarest event of all, an episode that makes me glad to be me and happy with the decisions I’ve made, for being one of the few people left to understand the pay off of these latter-day, post-gas-leak-year episodes. So far Community season five has been just as funny as it’s ever been (and far moreso than last year), but it’s also given us more reason to care about these characters than ever before.
Community “Geothermal Escapism” final score: 9.5
Items of Note:
-Jeff to Britta: Do you get kickbacks from Big Buzzkill?
-There’s just something that feels so right about Abed sitting cross-legged up on the bureau table in the Dean’s office. So cozy and comfortable, at once juvenile and also not caring about social convention.
-Troy to Britta: I’ll always remember you as kind of slowing us down and complaining a lot.
-I’m glad that the show’s still treating Troy and Britta being together for most of last season as canon.
-It’s convenient that, for the third episode in a row, we’re given a scenario where Jeff can just hang around with the old study group. The show has still barely even attempted to mine the potential of Jeff’s necessary separation from the group.
*Big Ups to anyone who caught the “I can explain… Let me explain…” reference.