The first “Community” episode after the loss of Troy Barnes (Donald Glover) isn’t the best one. In fact, “Analysis of Cork-Based Networking” may be the weakest entry yet into an otherwise stellar Season 5. A procession of notable guest stars and another Greendale dance aren’t enough to bring this episode up to the high bar set by the rest of the season.

Why is that? The answer may be “Chaos Theory.”

Here’s the thing: When Pierce Hawthorne left the study group and Greendale, there wasn’t much effect. He was missing, sure, but the rest of the “Community” misfits moved on and did just fine. So why is Troy’s departure so important?

For an answer, we need only look back to Season 3’s incredible “Remedial Chaos Theory.” That bizarre episode features seven different stories set in seven different timelines. During a dinner party at Troy and Abed’s new apartment, one of the study group has to go get the pizza from the front door. The other six are left behind to explore a new group dynamic.

When Pierce is the one to leave and get the pizza, the results are nothing but positive — almost too positive. It’s a bit awkward, but everyone is happy at the end of the short story.

It’s pretty much the opposite in the timeline in which Troy leaves. This one is, in fact, the infamous Darkest Timeline. Despair, fire, death and eventual loss of voice and limb result when Troy leaves the group for even a few minutes.

Is it any wonder then that Troy leaving “Community” altogether would result in a somewhat awkward and flat-seeming episode? Fans just have to hope that the show recovers quickly and does not spiral into the evil of the Darkest Timeline.

Posted by:Laurel Brown