Troy Barnes floor-strides into the sunset, in one of Community’s most heartfelt concept episodes. “Geothermal Escapism” may be a game of “The Floor Is Lava” taken to its hilarious, dystopian apex, but it’s also a fitting farewell to one of the show’s strongest characters.
- Director: Joe Russo
- Writer: Tim Saccardo
- Cast: Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, Alison Bree, Ken Jeong, Jim Rash, Jonathan Banks, Donald Glover
Episode Title: “Geothermal Escapism”
Troy’s goodbye party begins harmlessly enough, but Abed has other plans. He proposes a school-wide game of Hot Lava and sweetens the deal with a mint-condition issue of the comic Space Clones, valued at $50,000, for the winner. Although Britta suspects this may be a ploy to avoid dealing with Troy leaving, Greendale immediately descends into dystopian anarchy. Chairs, couches, and other means to keep off the floor are suddenly commodities worth fake-killing for. Britta links up with Jeff and Annie just before they’re ambushed by Chang’s gang of Locker Boys. It looks like they’re headed for linoleum but Troy and Abed arrive to back them up. Meanwhile, Professor Hickey’s rigged some sort of desk/tractor-like vehicle propelled by fire extinguishers. He demolishes Chang’s crew and the study group flees, leaving Britta stranded. Instead of bowling her over, Hickey invites her aboard.
Troy and Abed reach Shirley Island, an oasis in the cafeteria built on tabletops. Abed says that “according to legend” this is where they can find an orb of great power. Before they can get its location out of Shirley, Hickey and Britta’s army of chair-walkers assault the play-fortress. Jeff and Annie take them out on rolling chairs, but Annie trips and Jeff gets knocked over in a duel with Britta. The orb is a giant bubble Troy and Abed roll around in, but Hickey punctures it and they fall down into the basement. Abed confesses that the game was an elaborate way to get everyone else to experience what he’s feeling. To him, the floor is lava because Troy’s leaving. He thinks that the only way to allow Troy to go is for him to sacrifice himself. Although Britta and Troy urge him not to, Abed drops. Fortunately, Britta is able to un-Britta the situation. She and Troy, inspired by the comic, create a clone of Abed who is able to handle his best friend leaving. Troy, too, confesses he’s been afraid to go, and intentionally falls into ‘the lava’ in order to create a clone of himself who can actually bear to leave. The study group says goodbye to Troy, who finds out that the person accompanying on his trip is his hero Lavar Burton. The more mature Clone Troy can handle this, but he has a lot of questions about Star Trek.
- Psych-y Senses: Somehow, Gillian Jacobs makes Britta the episode’s anchor to a real, emotional context for the mayhem. The episode’s stakes really rest with her, and she manages to bridge both roles. Britta’s sincerity is a gift. Her skewed psych skills paid off in spades with Troy and Abed, both of whom she’s tried to help before. We also loved seeing her paired with Hickey. Their rapport was great. The two of them need to failed-fistbump-into-a-high-five more often.
- In The Bubble: One last “Troy and Abed in a bubble!” joke and it was sweet indeed. All the choreography of the big fight for Shirley Island paid off for that alone. Britta and Jeff’s knock-knock duel of inarticulate absurdity was the gravy. The heart of the episode is certainly in the work Danny Pudi and Donald Glover, when they finally come to grips with the pain of Troy leaving. But there’s an impressive balance between the two extremes throughout the episode, as well as the knowledge that Chang’s same-sex celebrity crush is Nathan Fillion.
- Bon Troyage: Let’s talk about Troy’s actual goodbye, because even though it flirts with mawkishness it was executed flawlessly. The show addresses Britta and Troy’s relationship in a way that neither belittles that plotline nor takes it too seriously. Troy’s definitely better at sex than Jeff. Annie gets to be adorable and Shirley is acknowledged as the group’s badass. Troy and Jeff’s relationship caps in a place of mutual admiration. Now, this script is full of fabulous lines; but the moment Clone Abed informs Clone Troy he has a piece of homing pigeon, so that he’ll come back, it’s the perfect, poignant place to leave these two. There’s really nothing left but to set sail (from landlocked Colorado).
- Earn Your M&Ms: Joe Russo did an amazing job shooting a Greendale convulsed in the Lava Game’s chaos. The red lighting, flares, and accents looked fantastic and did a lot of heavy lifting. Russo made the action setpieces – Hickey’s doom-mobile, the Locker Boys, and the chair-walker assault – feel properly epic in scope. However, there were places where we lost sight of spatial logic. Shirley Island is this amorphous semi-circle we didn’t realize was built of tabletops at first.
- Captain Barnes: The one true complaint we have about the episode is, until the end, it isn’t really about Troy. The first act truly belongs to Britta and the second to Abed. Pudi’s looks of despair as he admits his inability to cope with Troy’s loss are exquisite. Glover does take back some of his own, and it’s a busy episode with a lot of ground to inchworm over. Maybe we’re just pining for a more time with Troy, but the episode felt lighter on him for his last hoorah.
How Community moves on without Donald Glover is still an open question. But the optimism and good will of those final farewells was genuinely touching. The show’s concept episodes are best when they externalize (and dilate into ridiculousness) a member of the group’s emotions. Both the lava angst and the clone-as-personal-growth conceits were wildly successful at that. By the time you realize it’s Aimee Mann singing a cover of “Come Sail Away?” Done. We’re done. Fortunately, “Geothermal Escapism” puts us at peace with Troy being done and embracing a better version of himself.
Community airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on NBC.
What’s your favorite Troy moment? Let us know in the comments.