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October 14, 2011 at 04:28 AM EDT

Inspector Spacetime would be proud.

That’s because Community’s “Remedial Chaos Theory” was about the smartest, most entertaining use of an alternate timeline concept since we first glimpsed Evil Spock’s goatee in Star Trek’s “Mirror Mirror” episode, the ur-text for all subsequent parallel universe storytelling. But “Remedial Chaos Theory” wasn’t sci-fi. Actually, it called to mind Groundhog Day in the prismatic way it employed its high-concept gimmick to shed new light on its characters.

I have a feeling season 3 of Community is going to be about growing up. Jeff already had his post-Model UN heart-to-heart with Annie about how he’s going to stop patting her head and start treating her like a woman—which he certainly did tonight, at least in one of the timelines. And now, Troy and Abed have declared their independence (Troy from Pierce, Abed from his Dad) while also declaring their co-dependence. At last we saw their new apartment (#303, like the episode’s production number), outfitted with their Linens & Things registry wishlist, mahogany bunkbeds, a Kickpuncher poster, and a scale-model recreation of the “Rolling Boulder Scene” from Raiders of the Lost Ark, complete with actual rolling boulder. And if all that didn’t spell “adult,” surely their respective ascots and synchronized TV-jingle catchphrase “Troy and Abed’s New Apaaaartment!” did.  Even better, Troy welcomed Pierce with “Bienvenido de la Casa Chez Trobed.”  ‘Bout time they got their own nickname, even if it sounds like some unholy combination of St. Tropez and Club Med.

Trobed also brushed up on their party etiquette: adopt a plastic, Fox News-worthy smile, “avoid touchy topics like The Negro Problem,” order a pizza rather than letting your study group friend make a pie with ketchup and cream cheese, and lure your cynical thirtysomething hipster with an invite to a new “Single Malt Platinum Boobs and Billiards Club.”

All was well. The space-time continuum remained linear and whole.

But then, Trobed brought out a game known not only for its crude repackaging of Puerto Rican Chess but also its deep roots in quantum mechanics: Yahtzee. When Jeff decided to use one of its die to determine who among the six (ha ha, no, not seven!) would answer the summons of the pizza delivery guy, the fabric of reality shredded like paper, and six separate timelines branched off. Each timeline would be altered depending on who would leave the room, and, more importantly, whom the study group could then gossip about behind his or her back. Let us now consider each plane of this seven-sided multiverse.

Timeline 1: The Prime Timeline

This is the reality Abed labeled “The Prime Timeline.” Clearly, he saw J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek and is among those ubergeeks who would call Zachary Quinto’s Spock “Spock” and Leonard Nimoy’s Spock “Spock Prime.” I’m a huge Trekker…but never. This has to be the prime timeline because the die chose Annie to get the pizza, and we all know the default position of the universe is to unload its burdens upon her. This reality also set up many elements (or variations thereof) that would appear in subsequent timelines: Pierce’s non sequitur account of a lavatory tryst with Eartha Kitt; Britta’s shrill rendition of “Roxanne”; Shirley obsessively baking while wearing a chef’s apron that’s the definition of stay-at-home-mom tacky-chic—“He is Risen” printed over a Crucifix made of two perpendicular loaves of French bread; Britta pretending to smoke a cigarette in the bathroom while really getting high, then doing a Lindsay Bluth-style chicken dance to a ganja-fueled chant of “Pizza! Pizza! Go in tummy. Me so hungee! Me so hungee!”; and a revealing encounter with the pizza delivery man that exposes each of the characters’ degree of humanity. Loved Jeff’s response, “So you’re saying he’s… a pizza guy?” after Annie said, “That pizza guy was so creepy!” Also, Timeline Prime featured one critical piece of exposition. Annie’s living in a sketchy neighborhood, so she’s taken to carrying a hogleg in her purse.

NEXT: Feel the terror of the Norwegian troll!

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Joel McHale and Alison Brie star in this comedy about a college study group—which has received second life on Yahoo.
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