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Community: Remedial Halloween Theory

I'd hate to be the episode that followed "Remedial Chaos Theory," the most recent episode of Community and possibly the series' best. Its use of multiple timelines to represent how the group functions without each character gave incredible insight into the role each one plays within the dynamic of the group. It gave each character his/her own chance to shine, and it was some of the best TV of the year.

Sound familiar? Last night's "Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps" attempted something very similar, but the results were way more remedial than those of "Remedial Chaos Theory." (To be fair, "Chaos" was supposed to be the season's third episode instead of its fourth, but it was moved because creator Dan Harmon thought it needed more time.) The members of the study group each took turns telling spooky stories, a Halloween TV trope used to death by comedies, and to be honest it was a little painful to see a show as smart as Community go down that path and not add anything new to the tried-and-true device. It's kind of like when you realize Halloween is only a few days away and you're not motivated to put in the effort to make a kickass costume, so you dig through your closet and go as Captain Graduate or the Jacket Bandit. I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed, as your passive-aggressive father might say.

Anyway, everything was set in motion by Britta, who had asked everyone to take personality tests a few days before the events of the episode began. The results said that one member of the group was potentially a psychopathic murderer, and Britta was intent on sniffing that person out by having everyone tell scary stories. Because that works, I guess. Especially as a way to get everyone to tell stories for the purpose of the episode.

So everyone took their turns telling character-specific scary tales: Britta's was scatter-brained, incorporated "or something" a lot, and rushed. Abed's was cinematic and way too detail-oriented, but he did manage to kill a particularly annoying horror cliché by bringing a fully charged cell phone to the story. Annie's started off romantic, had killer cleavage, and ended with an in-depth description of gore, as Annie tends to go all or nothing. Troy's was just plain silly and involved Pierce having a butt on his chest and hands where his feet should be, and vice versa—classic Troy. Pierce's yarn featured a decidedly more playboy Pierce (with hair!), lingerie-clad ladies, and Troy and Abed as racially stereotyped home invaders. Shirley's pictured the rest of the group members as druggies and drunks and saw the Rapture carrying the rest of the world away. And to ease the paranoia of the group, Jeff told a happy story because he couldn't care less about the results of Britta's test.

It's an idea that should've worked on Community, but the stories never quite reached the high bar the show has set for itself. The episode wasn't as funny as most Community episodes, and its "stunt" premise didn't quite resonate (the "stunt" itself should never be the benchmark by which we judge Community; the application of the "stunt" is what matters). There was also a bit of regression with which the characters were used. This season has gone through great pains to increase Shirley and Pierce's roles and to give everyone in the group equal amounts of screen time, but Shirley and Pierce were back-burnered this week. Heck, Shirley barely even appeared in her own story.

But the thermometer we use to gauge a comedy ultimately has to be laughter, and for most of the episode, my knees remained unslapped, my gut unbusted, and my ribs untickled. Oh, and I didn't laugh much either. For me, Season 2's zombies were nice but Community's first Halloween episode remains my favorite. Abed as Batman? Heck yeah.

Study Notes:
– I probably should mention Annie's cleavage again so I can throw in a gratuitous screencap. Hey! Alison Brie even Tweeted about it! She's just as much of a perv about her boobs as everyone else is!

– There was one joke I liked, and it seemed like a self-referential observation about this episode not really working for the writers either. Toward the end, Britta tried to prevent the group from leaving by explaining that the results of the psych tests revealed one of them to be a homicidal maniac. A few beats passed, and then Annie said, "That's stupid."

– Cute nod to Abed being the only sane person, but we all knew that already, didn't we? And we knew that was coming, right?

– Pretty weak showing of costumes. Nothing that beat Abed's Alien, Abed's Batman, or Britta's T-Rex.

– What's your favorite Halloween episode of Community? Season 1's "Introduction to Statistics," which featured Batman Abed, Skeleton Annie, and Pierce the ecstasy'd Beastmaster? Or Season 2's zombie-o-rama, "Epidemiology"? Or last night's seven spooky stories?


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

Comments (43)
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I have to agree, this episode was very weak. It had *potential* but each of the "spooky stories" were just entirely lame. The only one I liked was Abed's, as we got to see Abed and Britta act the same and fight slasher movie cliches.
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Intro to Statistics was alright, Abed as Batman was great as was Pierce's suicidal furniture fort. But I still like the Zombie episode the most, the bit with the cat and Troy saying "OK, you bit me" are among my favorite scenes period.
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I agree with the reviewer. This episode didn't do too much for me and it especially hurt coming after an episode that followed a similar formula yet told the story in an incredibly interesting way. And I have to say episodes 2 and 3 of this series have been some of my favorite - while I like big 'theme' episodes and they're great when they're done right - i much more prefer more... 'realistic' episodes, like 2 and 3, that feel more like the majority of season 1.
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I liked the episode; it wasn't one of their best, but it definitely wasn't the worst.

Secondly, Abed was dressed as the Inspector from 'Inspector Spacetime' and Troy was his Associate. That, to me, is still a pretty awesome costume.
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Overall I was disappointed with the episode. While I still liked the episode overall I didn't love it like the past two Halloween episodes. This was one of those where most of the comedy was very subtle and not in your face. I had to watch the show twice to pick up on a lot of the stuff. I thought it was funny when the lights went out and when they came back on everyone had some type of make shift weapon (Abed - Chair, Shirley - Broken Bottle, Troy - Pencils as Wolverine Hands) but for some reason Britta had a switch blade?? I take that as a sign of whom the most homicidal is. However it being a pre-party was a total let down. I still want to see the actual party they went to even if we only got to see what real costumes they wore. Remember that the costumes Troy and Abed were wearing were not their *actual* Halloween costumes as when Britta tells them they didn't have to dress up they replied "We aren't dressed up, trust us when we're dressed up for Halloween you'll know it" as if to say you think these lame costumes are something we would wear for Halloween??
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Are you people high? This was a great episode. Certainly better than episode 2 of this season. And better than much of season 1's earlier half. You have to watch the episode a few times to pick up on the details, which makes the broad strokes all that much funnier.



Like Remedial Chaos Theory, you learn a bit more about these characters and how they view each other. I think Annie's story probably reveals the most about how she sees her relationship with Jeff, and Shirley's story seems to betray some kind of compassion by omission with Pierce not being in it. Plus, c'mon! Troy's story with the whole Top Gun Fighter co-pilots story was both subtle and broad at the same time.



Seriously, naysayers, watch the episode again. The details reveal quite a bit.



Plus, this episode is highly quotable: "Bitch Dog"? "A Cool Ranch Lunatic", "You just Britta'd this party", and so on.



Oh, and frankly, I think Troy and Abed's costumes were brilliant, especially if you remember their newest favourest show ever.
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I completely agree! I thought the whole thing was cleverly written, and laughed a lot. I think we are beginning to expect too much out of Community.
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Don't you just love ghost stories strife with metaphorically personal parallels.
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Abeds story was awesome, the rest was regular , BUT STILL! the very best comedy on TV right now

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Weird, I thought it was great. Second best of the season so far imho.
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I disagree with many posters on here, this episode was just okay. It didn't make me laugh out loud even once. And no I did not have really high expectations, I just didn't find it real funny. I really only liked the last part, which showed us that Abed was the only sane one. This will not be an episode I will watch again anytime soon.
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The BIG difference I find between The Big Bang Theory & Community is that with TBBT I watch every episode & enjoy it a lot; whereas I keep watching Community episodes over & over!
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I totally agree TBBT is kinda funny, but Community is amazing I watch every episode several times and laugh out loud every time.
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Fun, but not great episode. Do these people ever study?
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Tim, you're letting the most awesome episodes wrinkle your brain. This one was really funny! I especially liked that Abed and Troy were dressed like Inspector Spacetime and the Constable. Not that those were their Halloween costumes. They just happened to be dressed like that. When they dress up we'll know it.
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I have to admit, I'm a little disappointed. Although, you have a point, any episode that followed Remedial Chaos Theory may have ended up being more of a disappointment than it should have been.
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Hmm... I actually liked it a lot, but it obviously wasn't as good as Remedial Chaos Theory. I'd say that Abed and Annie totally stole the show with this one.
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Sure, the writers didn't put in much work on this one (Halloween-theme...really?). But a 'decent' episode of 'Community' is still miles funnier than nearly every other comedy on the air right now.
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I laughed good and hard at this episode. Remedial Chaos Theory is still one of the best pieces of comedy I've seen. But when it comes down to it the two previous Halloween episodes were better. I love it in season 2's when Troy charges in with his Aliens machine costume and just gets swarmed while realising that wasn't his best idea. Best part is when he's been bitten and he says something like "Grats, you're a zombie and you've bitten me". OK the quate doesn't go like that but it just cracks me up.

The thing with this show is that it's got so many excellent episodes that people complain when an episode is simply a 4.5/5 and not a full 5. There has only been two episodes I didn't like.. The Christmas episodes. First one had way to much moral and religious crap. I couldn't even watch the entire second one. It was just to much. Christmas episodes are the worst thing on American TV, they more often than not reek of morality, core family, sticking together, orange filtering on the lens and overly decorated trees. Maybe you need to be an American to appreciate 'em?

Oh and no I don't like Christmas, so sue me.
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I thought this was a hilarious episode. Not as clever or creative as many of their other episodes, but I laughed a lot during these 20 minutes. I've previously stated that Community sometimes seems to focus too much on creativity and not enough on actual humor, but this episode brought back the humor for me. Arguably my second favorite episode of the season. It'd probably have been better if it didn't come right after Remedial Chaos Theory, but oh well. Also, Pierce's story was a whole lot of awesome.



"You ruined a Britta party -- that's like letting poop spoil."
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I thought this episode was really funny. While not half as good as Remedial Chaos Theory, it was funnier in my opinion. It was just a lot of stupid stuff that made me laugh, like the butt-boobs and the very last line of the episode still makes me laugh. "Troy and Abed sewed togeeeether!"
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Couldn't read the article after this part, "and Britta was intent on sniffing that person out by having everyone tell scary stories. Because that works, I guess." That wasn't what Britta did. She went into it telling a half-hearted "spooky" story about a killer and was intent on gaining the group's reactions because she believed the one with the least investment in human life would be the psychopath. But it was turned around on her when Abed said he didn't care about the characters and then told his own story. Each character then said they had a better story. It was a funny episode for a one shot Halloween but was probably the worst of the 3 we've seen. And the funniest joke of the night was Troy's quick quip about going to the Dean's party because he hears they are having some good Army surplus meat there.
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It's a bad trend here at TV.com for the reviewers to get facts wrong in their reviews and complaining about it. It's been happening more and more lately.
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Of course, this would pale in comparison to the previous episode, but I think you were a little harsh towards it. It definitely wasn't my favorite Halloween episode (Epidemiology - Jeff's "still cool as a zombie." "What is up with that cat?! Is someone throwing it?"), but it was enjoyable and funny enough. Pierce's feet-for-hands was stupid, but I couldn't help but laugh.
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There seems to be a disproportionately high bar when it comes to rating Community. Was this one of their best episodes? No. But I laughed plenty of times. Also, any episode that contains gratuitous Alison Brie cleavage, cannot be disappointing. Tim, I hate to say it, but you Britta'd this review (sorry. I couldn't help it).
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Enjoy the show while you. Ratings are sinking. Last night tied its 18-49 demo for lowest. Overall, it barely gets 3.5 million - not including other viewing considerations.
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You came on here just to taunt people? Away with you Troll! The only troll allowed on Community reviews is Tim Surrete.
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I like the show, but don't love it. This season has been disappointing in some way - almost as though it's being phoned in or the actors hearts are not in it as much - I don't know. I was simply stating a fact and the ratings may reflect my feelings with others.
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i actually liked the episode and laughed on multiple occasions what is wrong with this reviewer?
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It was okay. But someone should address the fact that ryand Rec doesn't seem to be trying anymore.
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Epidemiology was one of my series favourite.

I think this one would've been great if it wasn't for Remedial Chaos being so similar so close. Don't get me wrong, I love seeing the meta stuff, I mean, Abed is my favourite character. IMO what's great in Community is its great mixture of different formats and genre spoofs but now we've had the same delicious cake for two episodes in a row. The cake's still great, but please mom, save it for like february now will you? Plus i like the story, the action, that's another thing that makes Community huge and fun and unique and not just another sitcom with clever jokes and ustd. In Community things actually HAPPEN. Even when it's a bottle episode. I love it.
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'Britta was intent on sniffing that person out by having everyone tell scary stories.' -- I believe she said she would tell the stories and gauge responses on them. Then her story sucked and Abed took over, then things spiraled from there. Gauging someones responses to stories through questioning can work for what she is doing she just Britta'd it.



Personally I thought the episode was hilarious it just followed on one of the series' best episodes. There was a lot of humour and deconstruction of the usual cliches. I really think you try to hard with these reviews Tim.
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"Epidemiology" well done and such. It was worthwhile though. Still better than most show's Halloween episodes.
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I have to disagree. This episdoe was very very good, very funny, crazy (like we love - Community-style crazy), perfect Halloween episode. Well done!
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I thought it was decent, Halloween is a complete non-event unless you are a child, the things people do in real life are much more scary than ghost stories. The only problem was that it was a similar style of episode to the previous one, a bit of time between the two would have been better. And btw watch Remedial Chaos Theory again it loses something the second time.....
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I thought it was better than season 2's episode, because this one actually had me laughing plenty of times.

Even though 'Epidemiology' was more stylized, they focused way too much on the story, and not enough on the jokes.



Sure season 1's halloween episode is a classic, but they were still growing as a group then, which is a huge benefit in terms of character development, plot devices and storylines.



All in all, Annie's boobs (lower case b) + plenty of laughs + continuity in making Jeff this seasons' bad guy = Above average Community episode.
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While I'm one of the few people that have enjoyed season 3, this was one of the more forgettable episodes. Always expect Community to do something awesome for halloween but this fell way short.
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Big_Pecks, it was the one in the middle, and it was Abed. Says in the article too. I totally called that.
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I liked it. It wasn't great or anything but i still laughed. People are just with too high expectations for community, and in some episodes they're met (or even surpassed) but some episodes are just normal, and that's still good.

My favorite halloween episode was season 1's. Batman Abed!!
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Totally agree. People need to curb their expectations. It's impossible that every Halloween or Christmas is going to hold up to the previous ones. I'd day that is more the problem than this being a bad ep (which it wasn't, it had tons of laughs), people expected far too much and couldn't enjoy just a normal episode. Seems to be a recurring thing on here with the show, unless it's amazing people feel the need to point to how it wasn't (especially Tim, the sourpuss).
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best Halloween episodes were season 2, season 1, then season 3.. this was one of the worst episode of the series that i can think of. didn't really bring in anything to the overall story, just seemed like they said to each other "oh crap we forgot a Halloween episode" and threw some stuff together.. and Britta in blood was kind of creepy
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I liked it. Remedial Chaos Theory was amazing, but this episode held up well.



Did anyone catch what was said about the tests at the end? Did Britta say the last one on the right or the one in the middle was the sane person? (It would have been Pierce or Abed.)
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it was the one in the middle (Abed's) that was the sane one. It was put in the middle with "and" before the name to make the point of who's the sane one. Jeff randomly filled out his test so who knows if it really would of said he's insane but his actions in the season so far make him look crazy.
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