you seem like the most popular person in town

Seven friends gather for a housewarming party. Pizza arrives. A die is rolled that create six different timelines.

This is Community‘s “Remedial Chaos Theory” episode.

Having written about some alternate reality movies lately and also playing a lot of tabletop games lately—in some of which the roll of a die or the the drawing of a certain card decides your identity.

First timeline, Annie goes. Pierce makes a remark about having sex with Eartha Kitt. Britta smokes marijuana in the bathroom, Jeff hits his head on the fan.

Second timeline, Shirley goes, Britta goes to the bathroom again. Pierce makes a remark about having sex with Eartha Kitt. Jeff hits his head on the fan. Shirley’s pies get burned because she went downstairs for the pizza.

Third timeline, Pierce goes, after making a remark about Eartha Kitt. Britta goes to the bathroom, but Troy joins her after getting upset when Jeff and Annie make fun of his apartment. Jeff hits his head on the fan and Annie checks his wound.

Fourth timeline, Britta goes. Pierce remarks about Eartha Kitt. Jeff hits his head. Annie checks his wound. They nearly kiss in the bathroom. Britta brings the delivery guy back with her, saying “I know this is going to sound crazy: we’re in love and we’re getting married.”

Fifth timeline, Troy goes, Pierce remarks, Britta smokes, Jeff hits his head, Annie trips and breaks the coffee table, which knocks her purse down and the gun inside goes off, shooting Pierce in the leg. Britta drops her joint and sets Jeff’s spilled drink on fire. Troy screams because he missed everything.

Sixth timeline, Abed goes, Pierce remarks, Britta smokes, Jeff hits his head. Britta comes back out before the pizza arrives and eats Shirley’s pies—they had all agreed not to eat them so she wouldn’t make baking into her thing. Jeff and Annie kiss in the kitchen, but Annie has “a weird deja vu” and it gets awkward. Troy and Pierce fight, Britta and Shirley fight, and other than Abed, everyone is in a bad mood.

Final “prime” timeline, Abed figures out Jeff’s die idea meant he could never go, and they vote for him to go. Jeff hits his head and goes. Every other timeline, Jeff stopped Britta from singing along with “Roxanne” and now she sings and everyone starts dancing and having a good time.

Final scene returns to the fifth “darkest” timeline, in which Pierce has died from his gunshot wound, Jeff lost his arm, Troy lost his larynx, and Shirley’s drinking... and Abed makes them all felt goatees to be their evil selves.

The butterfly effect in action.

Phil Connors doesn’t have the time for the butterfly effect, unfortunately. As Gilbey (2004) describes, in Rubin’s first revision (which I have never read), Phil “devises some short cuts to help maximize his limited hours. He places a rock in the road so that the lorry carrying the fish to the restaurant—the fish [changed to a steak in later revisions] Buster will later choke on—will not make its delivery… And he puts chewing gum on the pavement to delay the old woman one her way to the road” where a truck will hit her (p. 76). Relying on some Rube Golbergian setups like this could have demonstrated a lot of cleverness on Phil’s part—like Xena figuring out the ideal throw for her chakram in Xena: The Warrior Princess’ time loop episode, “Been There, Done That.”

We don’t know all the details of what Phil Connors does on that last day of the time loop. But, I assume that, if he had done some cleverly complex setups to save people later when he’s off in a new location saving someone else, we would have seen it.

And, for the record, no, I don’t actually believe Phil Connors, you know, existed, and did things and the camera only caught some of them. I think I’m actually more sane in regards to Groundhog Day than when I began this blog, so no, I don’t think Phil Connors is a real guy.

I know he’s just Bill Murray in a Phil Connors suit because the real Phil Connors is busy at the West Pole, fashioning toys for all of the time looping boys and girls of the world.

See, and now I have to sit on Bill Murray’s lap and ask for gifts if I ever get to meet him, just to prove I’m not insane.

And, that last statement makes absolutely no sense.

Anyway, my point—we get to see that somehow, inexplicably, Phil Connors has not only improved himself but has done so in such a way that in a matter of hours he wins over many people around town and is celebrated for it, at Gobbler’s Knob, at the Groundhog Festival Banquet. But, we don’t get any particularly clever example of Phil saving the day. He just runs from “errand” to “errand” and we only see a few of those. The rock thing, the gum thing—these are details that would have added to late-loop Phil Connors. I wish they had remained.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to find the real Phil Connors and demand he give me a time loop… which also makes no sense, because this whole “Today’s reason to repeat a day forever” thing implies I’m already in a time loop. Maybe I will just ask for some sanity.


  1. Have you ever wondered how Phil's apparent moral reformation squares with him having so much money? I mean, where does he get it? For emergency piano lessons and Wrestlemania tickets and so forth.

    1. i actually don't assume that phil's pays $1000 to the piano teacher more than, say once. i figure he tries a lower figure the next time, then lower, then lower, until he's maybe only paying $100 or he figures out her schedule so he just isn't showing up when that other student is there

      as for phil and money, i've discussed in my blog before daughton's (1996) notion that "Phil's situation, trapped in the time loop, parallels that of the economically disengranchised, the Other" (p. 146). I like this idea not because phil is necessarily become "poor" by being in the loop but money has, in a way, become meaningless. he will always have money, and if he runs out he can steal more

      now, by the time of the piano lessons, phil SHOULD be beyond stealing, but he's not beyond spending all he has (anymore than rita apparently is later) to have what he wants when he wants it


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