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<i>Community</i>: Grading the Alternate Timelines

Probably because I grew up devouring every "Choose Your Own Adventure" book in existence, I've always had a deep affection for stories that juggle multiple "What if?" timelines. Sliding Doors? Back to the Future Part II? Run Lola Run? The ending(s) of Wayne's World? Love 'em all. (The only one I can't abide by is The Butterfly Effect. The Kutcher factor torpedoes that one from the get-go.) So really, there was little chance of me not enjoying "Remedial Chaos Theory," Community's take on this peculiar genre. And I thought the episode delivered -- each of the six (seven if you count the primary reality) timelines had its own distinct mood, jokes and set of consequences. (Best of all? None of them featured a surprise appearance by Chang.) But which timeline was the absolute best? Read on.

Timeline #1: The Ordinary One
Highlights: Britta's pizza dance; Abed asking Britta why the bathroom "smells weird" after she uses it; Jeff instantly shutting Britta down when she tries to sing along to "Roxanne."
Funniest Line: "Okay, so this is definitely a gun."
Overall Grade: B. A little mundane, but a good scene-setter for the madness that follows.

Timeline #2: The "Shirley Loses It" One
Highlights: Britta's pizza dance (again); Jeff shutting down Britta when she tries to sing along to "Roxanne" (again); Pierce's housewarming gift for Troy; Shirley finally dropping the "everything's wonderful" act and telling off her pals; the gang exchanging googly eyed glances at each other (bonus points to Abed for the Groucho-esque eyebrow-waggle).
Funniest Line: "You're not allowed to have baking things as an identity!"
Overall Grade: B-. I'm kind of on Jeff's side here -- nobody should be guilt-tripped into eating bad pies.

Timeline #3: The "Troy Grows Up" One
Highlights: Shirley's sigh of disgust at Jeff and Annie's flirtatious glances; Jeff shutting down Britta when she tries to sing along to "Roxanne" (again); Troy and Britta bonding in the bathroom and the knowing looks they exchange as they chow down on pizza.
Funniest Line: "You've got your own place, a future... you've got a bowlful of olives next to the toilet."
Overall Grade: B+. Loved seeing the take-charge side of Troy and this timeline made me an official Troy/Britta shipper.

Timeline #4: The "Jeff Loves Annie" One
Highlights: Jeff and Annie's almost-kiss in the bathroom; Troy and Abed making post-party plans to stay up all night talking in their bunk beds; Britta falls for Toby the pizza delivery guy.
Funniest Line: "You know what's great? Air travel."
Overall Grade: C+. Obviously this timeline is intended to be more serious than the others, but apart from the Jeff/Annie encounter, it fell a little flat.

Timeline #5: The "Life Got Dark" One
Highlights: Jeff shutting down Britta when she tries to sing along to "Roxanne" (again); the wave of destruction set off by a single loose ball rolling away from Abed's Raiders of the Lost Ark scale model set; Troy staring into the evil eyes of his nemesis, the Troll.
Funniest Line: "Jeff, tell us about your father."
Overall Grade: A. From the blood from Pierce's leg squirting in Shirley's face to Troy's anguished "Noooooo!" this was the funniest (if not necessarily the happiest) timeline of the night. The post-credits stinger with Drunk Shirley, One-Armed Jeff, Crazy Annie, Dead Pierce, Blue-Streak Britta and, especially, Evil Abed and Evil Troy was the icing on the alternate reality cake.

Timeline #6: The "Everybody Hates Everybody" One
Highlights: Jeff shutting down Britta when she tries to sing along to "Roxanne" (again); Britta gobbling up one of Shirley's pies while under the influence; Jeff and Annie locking lips; Annie completely killing the romantic mood by saying Jeff reminds her of her dad; Jeff complaining about her excess of bubblegum lipgloss; everyone exchanging angry looks as Abed bites into a slice of pizza.
Funniest Line: "Oh my god, they taste just like regular-sized pies!"
Overall Grade: A-. Unlike the "Jeff Loves Annie" timeline, this one was a more effective blend of comedy and drama, using humor to expose the serious divisions that run beneath the group's happy exterior.

Timeline Prime: The Real One
Highlights: Abed snatching the dice before in mid-air before it hits the table; Abed's earnest speech encourage everyone to accept their various flaws; everyone turning on Jeff; the entire group (sans Jeff) singing and dancing along to "Roxanne."
Funniest Line: "That guy sucks harder than the toilet in an airplane bathroom."
Overall Grade: A+. As awesome as the dark timeline was, the Earth Prime version of Community is the one we've all grown to love over the past three years. Still, I can't be the only one who would love to see Evil Troy and Evil Abed find their way through a wormhole into the show's main reality, preferably in an episode entitled, "Remedial Crisis of Infinite Abeds."

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