My 20 All-Time Favorite Community Episodes
To commemorate its arrival on Netflix, and with really nothing else better to do during this quarantine period, I decided to rewatch my favorite show, Community, and list down what I think are the 20 best episodes and give a few notes about each.
(This is the SPOILER WARNING but knowing some of the details to these episodes won’t really hinder the viewing experience.)
How I’m going to list the episodes:
I decided to take note of my favorite episodes per season and not try to rank all episodes of the show together because I think it’s more fair that way. So every season has at least 3 episodes but Seasons 2 and 3 will each get 4 episodes because I think they were the best seasons of the show (with Season 5 being a close runner-up).
It’s difficult to narrow down these lists and not be able to include some other great episodes so here are some honorable mentions.
2x01 Anthropology 101 — The immediate fallout of what happened on the Season 1 finale with the whole awkward Jeff-Britta-Annie situation and Abed forcing a new story on the group made for an unforgettable dumpster fire.
2x09 Conspiracy Theories & Interior Design — Just the fact that everyone was trying to conspire with one another to create this convoluted story made for a satisfying and funny ending.
2x19 Critical Film Studies — Jeff’s birthday surprise for Abed gets delayed after Jeff and Abed meet for dinner and Abed acts weird and by weird I mean he was acting normal…until the waiter slips up. This was another clever movie homage that put a spotlight on the Jeff-Abed friendship.
2x23 A Fistful of Paintballs & 2x24 For a Few Paintballs More — The two-parter season finale of season 2 is a great paintball homage to Western cinema (for 2x23) and to Star Wars (for 2x24).
3x07 Studies in Modern Movement — This is mainly about the study group helping Annie move in to Troy & Abed’s apartment but what stole the show was the Jeff/Dean karaoke montage which will forever be a top 10 moment on the show with an additional scene where Jeff tries to beat the Dean up in the Karaoke room.
3x08 Documentary Filmmaking: Redux — The Dean’s descent to madness while trying to shoot a new TV ad for Greendale is probably one of Jim Rash’s best performances on the show and the wholesome ending ties this episode nicely.
4x04 Alternative History of the German Invasion — The study group being forced to fight for the study room they feel entitled to because of a “German invasion” and everyone else in the school demanding justice to finally use the room was a funny wake up call for the study group and an effective way of showing that they aren’t just the only people in the school.
4x12 Heroic Origins — Abed trying to figure out the study group’s origins leads to some interesting flashbacks that ends with a pretty cool revelation about how connected the study group is even before meeting.
5x09 VCR Maintenance & Educational Publishing — This episode is worth mentioning mainly on here because the Dean’s freestyle rap apology might be the best moment on the show ever. Regardless, this was also a pretty good episode that featured Brie Larson playing a VCR game and a different and more ruthless side of Shirley.
6x11 Modern Espionage — Ah yes, another paintball episode and the very last one at that. The show was able to keep things interesting by making the whole paintball game a secret and there was also a great reference to the Captain America: Winter Soldier elevator scene that was directed by frequent Community directors Joe & Anthony Russo.
The Top 20
Pilot (Season 1, Episode 1)
The episode that started it all. The first interactions of the study group were pretty rocky and funny because of the way Jeff orchestrated everyone to argue with each other and Abed’s “Breakfast Club” reenactment was great amidst all the chaos. This is also the debut of the classic “Winger Speech” that we, Community fans, know and love.
Contemporary American Poultry (Season 1, Episode 21)
This episode is a homage to mafia and mobster movies which they did really well. The contrast between the seriousness of typical mafia movies and the initial mundane nature of chicken fingers was brilliant. As the study group gains more and more power with the control of the chicken fingers, the struggle for it makes for an interesting conclusion between Jeff and Abed.
Modern Warfare (Season 1, Episode 23)
The first paintball episode really is one of the best when it comes to embracing the absurdity that is Greendale. It is an action-packed episode that does not forget to address the typical tropes of action movies. This episode is so awesome, it’s hard to put into words how cool it is, you’ll get it once you watch it. Also, Señor Chang’s involvement leads to one of the coolest scenes and shots of Season 1.
Epidemiology (Season 2, Episode 6)
Personally, this is my favorite Halloween episode. When a lot of the students in the school’s Halloween party start to exhibit “zombie-like” symptoms, it was up to Troy and Abed to step up from being the nerds to the heroes of the story. The “zombie” set-up was pretty funny and the way they tackled all the zombie movie tropes was great as well.
Cooperative Calligraphy (Season 2, Episode 8)
What starts out as an innocent question of Annie wondering where her pen is turns into a full on investigation within the study group. With this tension, Abed kept on insisting that this was going to be a bottle episode which he hates. This bottle episode (even acknowledged by Jeff) had probably the best dialogue and character interactions of the season with the whole episode taking place inside the study room. Going through everybody’s personal belongings leads to the hilarious finger-pointing throughout the whole thing when it seems like no one took the pen. Even with the study group being in shambles throughout the whole thing, it has the perfect resolution that only seven dysfunctional but close people can understand.
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (Season 2, Episode 14)
In an act of surprising selflessness, Jeff coordinates with the study group to organize a Dungeons & Dragons game with a schoolmate who struggles with depression so that they can boost his self-esteem. It was amazing how the writers and the actors were able to simulate a campaign through a TV episode. There were also a lot of great character moments as they went from being initially reluctant to really play the game to being so invested and emotional about all of it.
Paradigms of Human Memory (Season 2, Episode 21)
Normally, when typical comedies do an episode that primarily does flashbacks to scenes, they would just rehash clips from previous episodes to make it easier for them. Luckily, Community isn’t your typical comedy. The brilliance of this episode really just hinges on the fact that all the clips and flashbacks are completely new and out of context as they reminisce about their adventures the audience never got to see with each short clip having their own unique hysterical moment.
Remedial Chaos Theory (Season 3, Episode 4)
This episode is up there when people talk about best possible sitcom episodes ever. “Remedial Chaos Theory” was the show’s only Emmy-nominated effort and it showed the brilliance of this show and its understanding of its characters. This was basically seven different episodes (that showed seven different timelines) in one. It was a brilliant character study of all seven people in the study group and cleverly showed how different the dynamics of the group change when one of them isn’t around. The writers really turned a simple chore of going out to get pizza into one of the most interesting episodes on TV.
Regional Holiday Music (Season 3, Episode 10)
This is my my favorite Christmas episode because it is also the Glee parody episode and they nailed everything about it. They addressed every trope from the forced musical mashups to asking whatever Regionals are to even the overly nice Glee club instructor. With the episode starting with the study group reliving their hatred of the club, things get a lot more interesting as Abed tries to recruit them to perform at the Christmas pageant. The study group’s gradual descent into “Glee” madness that leads to them bursting into songs (which are well-done and hilarious) will never get old.
Pillows and Blankets (Season 3, Episode 14)
Community takes a clever look at the War (Pillow Fight) between Troy’s Blanketsburg and Abed’s Pillowtown through a homage on war documentaries. The silliness of a pillow fight that affects everyone in the school is a perfect contrast to the overly serious tone of documentaries which even includes its own narrator for this episode. From the hilarious out of context stills from the war to the participants recounting the events, this episode embraces all the typical tropes and turns them into wholesome comedy with an ending that highlights how much Jeff cares about Troy and Abed.
Basic Lupine Urology (Season 3, Episode 17)
This homage to Law & Order was another masterclass in using tried and tested crime tropes and applying them to the uninteresting and mundane events in Greendale. From their detective outfits to having a good cap/bad cop duo and of course a trial scene that became overly dramatic, they checked all the boxes and proved that even dramatic tropes are a little bit funnier with that Community charm.
Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations (Season 4, Episode 5)
Unlike the others on this list, the reason this episode stood out was because of the drama that surrounded it. Jeff finally meets his estranged father with Britta’s “help” and at first, there seemed to be some respect building from their initial conversations. However, when William Winger wanted to take some credit for how well he thought Jeff had turned out, Jeff went on to expose himself as honestly as possible to his father. Jeff then confesses how he is far from being well-adjusted by sharing some heartbreaking anecdotes and crediting his father’s absence for why he is the person that he is now. That scene may be the best dramatic scene of the show.
Herstory of Dance (Season 4, Episode 8)
Britta’s challenge to organize her own Sophie B. Hawkins dance to rival the Dean’s Sadie Hawkins dance was a fun jab at how the school has a lot of dances for a community college. Abed’s attempt at the “two dates at once” trope meets an unexpected turn when Rachel (played by Brie Larson) helps him with his hijinks but eventually becomes the girl he connected with the most. The episode end on a real wholesome note with an unexpected act of kindness by someone you would least expect.
Intro to Felt Surrogacy (Season 4, Episode 9)
This was the puppet episode that was also a musical. I loved how wholesome the episode felt because of the puppets and it was a great way for the study group to open up and share what happened to them in their adventure that took a turn for the worse. Oh, and all the songs in the episode were pretty good too.
Cooperative Polygraphy (Season 5, Episode 4)
Another brilliant bottle episode driven by smart writing and dialogue. In an episode where the main cast where pretty much in just one place, this was one of the most tense and emotional episodes of the season. With the passing of one of their closest schoolmates, tensions rise as they all take lie detector tests where they forcefully admit to some truths they were hiding. Amidst the initial tension of the episode, it does end in a classic and wholesome way as they talk everything out.
Geothermal Escapism (Season 5, Episode 5)
Community sends Donald Glover off in an epic school-wide game of Hot Lava and it really highlights the study group’s struggles (mainly Abed) of letting Troy go by heavily committing to the game. As much as this was a great final showcase of Troy and Abed being the masters of committing to high concepts like this, there was also a nice spotlight on Britta as the straight man during the whole situation. While everyone else was suspending their sense of reality to make the game as epic as possible, Britta does a great job trying to talk sense to everyone, especially to Abed, that it’s okay to be sad and it’s okay to let go.
App Development & Condiments (Season 5, Episode 8)
Who would have thought that a simple app that rated students and teachers would eventually turn a school into a dystopian society within days? Well, Community did and they did it pretty well. The “rating things is a flawed system” trope has been around for a while (even Black Mirror had an episode on it 2 years after this episode was aired) so it’s not a completely unique take by the show but the way they wrote it made for an awesome and bizarre predicament for everyone in the school. Having the status quo flipped on its head made for an interesting look at how our favorite characters adjusted to the change.
Advanced Safety Feature (Season 6, Episode 7)
Britta’s old flame (formerly known as Subway) returns, now with a new identity and now marketing a different brand, Honda. This episode was an obvious advertisement for Honda, but the thing is, the writing of the show is so smart that it didn’t bother me one bit. The product placement was so blatant and out there that it was hilarious at times. The show was not shy in telling the audience who sponsored this episode but they wrote it in a way where the absurdity was acknowledged and even addressed by the characters.
Basic RV Repair & Palmistry (Season 6, Episode 10)
This is one of the more unique Community episodes as most of the episode has the study group on the road and in Elroy’s RV (there were some study room scenes that Abed keeps trying to flashback to). I loved how this is a pretty Abed-centric episode with him initially annoying the study group with too many fourth wall breaks but eventually providing the solution to the group’s unfortunate predicament by having his own “Winger Speech” moment. His speech about holding on and letting go was the cherry on top of a great episode.
Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television (Season 6, Episode 13)
Of course, the series finale had to be included on this list. For a show that has embraced its meta nature and tried every sitcom trope and even a lot of tropes outside its genre, how could they make an ending that would satisfy most of its fans? Obviously, by making the characters come up with their own pitches for a Season 7 and this format worked to perfection. Each pitch that was brought up projected each character’s inner thoughts and feelings and it became a nice exploration on where each character was at at the end of this season. It was a perfect meta finale for the perfect meta show.