Community "Geothermal Escapism" Review: The Psychology of Letting Go, Revisited

By Tim Surette

Jan 24, 2014

Community S05E05: "Geothermal Escapism"

For about 13 minutes there, I was pretty worried about "Geothermal Escapism," the Community episode that will forever be known as the episode where we said goodbye to Troy and learned that self-publishing books don't publish themselves. Sorry to be taking bribes from Big Buzzkill, but a silly Waterworld/Mad Max parody was not how I wanted to see Butt Soup off. However, this is Community, and as is generally the case with the show's spirit, Abed, indulging childish fantasy was the show's way of facing a difficult reality and confronting the truth. "Geothermal Escapism" squeezed our hearts 'til they burst, milked our eyeballs for their sweet treasure trove of tears, and eased our worried souls until we were ready to let go. The episode as a whole wasn't perfect, but Troy's send-off was, and that was the whole point.

We all knew that Troy's departure would be hardest on Abed, and "Geothermal Escapism" made sure we saw Troy's exit through Abed's eyes (it also ensured that we knew that's what was happening, by having Abed say it repeatedly). Abed's schoolwide game of Hot Lava was ridiculously fun, but it was also ridiculous and it elevated the proceedings to a point where the return to "real life" would hit that much harder. We were passengers on Abed's ride, and when he said, "It's not a game for me, Troy, I'm seeing real lava because you're leaving, it's embarrassing. I don't want to be crazy but I am crazy, so I made a game that made you and everyone else see what I see." Hello, sobering dose of the unavoidable truth! Hello, lump in my throat! And when Abed said, "I don't think the lava's here because you're leaving, I think it's here because I won't let go," it was a 100-mph crash into the wall of reality. That's when the lump in my throat turned into a full-sized boulder. That was the sad part of saying goodbye.

But in circumstances like this, when a goodbye is beneficial to the person who's leaving, goodbyes are also a joyous occasion, and it's up to their friends to suppoert those who are affected the hardest. This is when "Geothermal Escapism" took off like a rocket, and those salty drippings of sadness turned to sweet expressions of happiness. 

How about Britta!?!?!? We may need to redefine the verb "Britta," because Britta totally Harmon-ed it this week. Arguably the MVP of the episode, she saved the day with PSYCHOLOGY, of all things, pulling Abed out of fake death by seeing things from his point of view and acting in a way he could relate to. I expected what we saw from both Troy and Abed, but it was the Britta arc that really surprised me. From the very get-go, she begged the group to consider the gravitas of the situation rather than shelve it in favor of goofball distractions, yet she had to engage in their playtime in order to make Abed realize that he could understand Troy's decision to leave, and that he the strength to let go. I love the character movement in Community, and the way Britta and Abed started so far apart and ended up in the same space was fantastic emotional comedy writing.

And for his part, Troy sold his exit really, really well. He never wavered. This was the choice he made, and even though he admitted he was scared of what lay ahead (uhhh, it's a sailing trip around the world, he should be scared, because sharks and Somali pirates), I don't think we've ever seen him look so genuinely confident or strong. 

The Oz-ian goodbyes (as in "Wizard of," not "rapey HBO prison drama") were as perfect as they could've been, with the real emotions of a tight-knit group of actors accentuating and bleeding through their scripted words, and the reality of Donald Glover's personal journey to fully realize himself completely respected and celebrated by everyone involved in making Community. I'm going to miss both Troy and Donald Glover so much that it hurts, but knowing that both are headed to a better place feels even better. Bon Troyage, Mr. Barnes. Try not to let Levar Burton drink Pierce's sperm.


– Great, now every time I hear "Come Sail Away" I have to think about Community AND Freaks and Geeks? Too. Much. Emotion.

– I didn't say much about the first 13 Waterworldian minutes of the episode, because the way I see it, it was all designed to make the impact of Troy's departure that much stronger. And it worked really, really well in that aspect, even though there were times I didn't even fully enjoy it.

– The return of Mr. Reading Rainbow was perfect. What a great companion for Troy's journey into manhood. 

– Starburns: "Fifty thousand bucks! That's fifty thousand lottery tickets!" Wow. Instant classic right there! 

– Nathan Fillion, you better watch your back. You will be Chang'd. (Fillion is guest starring on Community later this season.)

– With Troy and Pierce gone, that's one whole side of the study table that's empty. What's going to fill that void, both literally and metaphorically? There are lots of questions marks down the line.

What did you think of Troy's goodbye, and the episode as a whole?

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  • HristoslavDim Apr 20, 2014

  • HristoslavDim Apr 20, 2014

    I Loved the little references to Alien 3's lava falling and Alien: Resurrection's ... umm resurrection

  • tnetennba Feb 02, 2014

    I didn't check this review page until now. I suppose it's pointless to comment now, since most people won't see the comment, but I have to say that I can't believe you guys liked this. I thought it was a really bad episode. I was optimistic when they announced the lava game (remembering some paintball greatness), but everything that happened in the game was boring.

  • ForeverUnknown Jul 03, 2014

    well clearly you cared more about the episode instead of the sendoff, which was a mistake. try re-watching and instead focusing on trobed. just a thought. (because to quote Tim " The episode as a whole wasn't perfect, but Troy's send-off was, and that was the whole point." and i dont think i could word it any better.)

  • yotaruvegeta Feb 01, 2014

    I liked that they called the boat the "Childish Tycoon". No doubt a reference to Glover's musical alter-ego.

  • Justmejas Jan 31, 2014

    I love the idea that it was Troy who started the whole Game of Lava thing. From the Webisode Study Break Generation Gap.

  • ILoveTVandDDsBB Jan 28, 2014

    A hilarious and sad episode at the same time. A twist I didn't see coming was that Magnitude is actually British haha. Farewell Troy you will be missed!! hope you'll be back in one form or another

  • CharmedOneP391 Jan 27, 2014

    Britta: I Get it, I lived in New York.
    Shirley: I didn't skip my son's birthday for second place!
    Troy/Abed: Troy and Abed In a bubble!
    Dean: did you say fifteen or fifty thousand? Oh who am I kidding?

  • JT_Kirk Jan 26, 2014

    "Big Buzzkill" cracked me up in the episode, and I could feel them building to the heart of the story so the Waterworld-esque gimmick didn't bother me.

    I did feel like this episode forgot to deal with the fact that Abed was already a broken yet whole individual when we met him, and has since become a codependent mess, but they at least threw the latter a bit of lip service at the last moments.

    Honestly, what I liked about this was that it wasn't a tearjerker, it wasn't overly manipulative, it downplayed that without keeping it out of focus when the story needed it (the point of the story was to keep it out of focus intentionally for a while, so it made sense to be that for a bit).

    Filling the void for Pierce could be Professor Hickey, he was a bit over the top here (again, this was intended) and has so far worked pretty well and stayed consistent.

    Filling the void for Troy though, I really don't think that will be possible, and Chang sure as hell isn't going to be the one to do it.

  • zampognaro Jan 26, 2014

    First time I've teared up during a sitcom other than from laughter. Damn you Harmon!! 10 minutes of solid tears ... Perfect send off for Troy. Gonna miss the best tv friendship of all time.

  • Georgie81 Jan 26, 2014

    I liked it. It felt a little rushed and could easily have been a two parter but they did a damn good job.
    Now that Troy is gone im hoping we get more Abed and Jeff interactions like in Season 1, and maybe some scenes of Chang teaching.

    Fav Line: "Unbelievable! When this game is over....Im gonna shove you back!"

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