This is a weird thing to say, but: I couldn’t wait until “Geothermal Escapism” was done with the chair fights and orbs and The Warriors tribes and bubbles. Not that I didn’t enjoy all that, but it was a stall, a brilliant one, put in place by Abed to keep Troy from leaving him for as long as possible. It was a game of “you hang up first, no, you hang up first” but with lava, and it gave Tim Saccardo, who wrote the episode, an excuse to do whatever he wanted, so long as the genuine emotion never got lost in the high concept. And it worked beautifully, especially the end.
Abed was miserable before he met Troy. Well, maybe “miserable” isn’t the right word. He was lost, at least, unable to find someone, anyone, who he could relate to. Then Troy come along, and the two become best friends, and, with no due respect to Chang and Shirley, Jeff and Annie, Jeff and Britta (did you hear she lived in New York?), and Jeff and Michelle, the show’s best couple. Abed can’t comprehend a world without Troy in it, so he makes everyone else see what he does: an apocalyptic wasteland where touching the ground means instant death. While the rest of Greendale plays along for the chance to win a $50,000 comic book, Britta, who is no longer the worst, sees the gimmick for what it really is: sadness, anger, confusion, all channeled through the, shall we say, “unique” mind of Abed. Britta eventually gets caught up in the game, too, but she never loses focus: she has to help her friend.
That’s why I was looking forward to the episode of the end, and why I’m so happy they nailed it. The only way Community can get away with gimmick episodes, like paintball then and LAVA WORLD now, is if they have a purpose. Sure, it’s fun to slide on chairs and hit people with plungers, but it needs to happen for a reason, and in “Geothermal Escapism,” that reason was Abed and Troy’s shared vision of the future without the other in it. They knew it had to happen, though, and as Troy went around saying farewell, telling Britta that he loves her and how much respects Jeff’s coolness and Shirley’s badass mom attitude, Troy saves Abed’s hug for last.
Or should I say, “Troy” hugs “Abed”? They’ve cloned themselves (with a bit of carrier pigeon in there, too, so “Troy” can find his way home), because that’s the only way they can process what’s happening. That’s true of the entire episode: it’s using what Abed and Troy have seen in comforting TV shows and movies, including Alien³, to make sense of the terrifying real world. That’s something everyone can relate to. The lava is just an added bonus.
Bon troyage, Butt Soup.