Ken Tucker
October 13, 2011 AT 12:00 PM EDT

Maybe you don’t watch Community. (Seems likely, since this very funny, smart show is getting creamed by Big Bang Theory this season.) Maybe you don’t watch because you think it’s too in-jokey and ironic. (Which is sometimes a fair complaint; in fact, I thought the past couple of weeks have been a little too obvious with the in-jokes about poor ratings and the obsessive mythology of the show.) But here’s my pitch: Watch tonight, because this episode, titled “Remedial Chaos Theory,” is one of the best episodes of Community to date, and one that gives any newcomer very clear delineations of all the main characters’ personalities.

The premise of the episode is that the study group meets at Abed and Troy’s new apartment for a party. Jeff, Britta, Annie, Shirley, and Pierce gather to play a game of Yahtzee, when the doorbell rings. It’s the pizza-delivery man. Jeff throws one die to determine which person will go downstairs and fetch the pizza order. Abed asks him if he realizes that he’s creating “six different timelines.”

And sure enough, without giving away the jokes, I’ll say that we see six different scenarios of how a scene like this could play out. This being Community, you know that such gameplaying intricacy is a spur to some of the show’s best comedy. What you don’t know is how touching the episode proves to be in its final moments. For anyone who’s been put off by the ruthless pace of the jokes on this show, equating it with a heartlessness that, by contrast, overflows on the wonderful Parks and Recreation, again, I urge you: Watch tonight’s Community.

Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Donald Glover, Alison Brie, Yvette Nicole Brown, and Chevy Chase all give superb performances, and the different-scenarios gimmick works like a plot structure that’s not a gimmick at all, but rather a mechanism for revealing more about the characters.

All this, plus a redemption of the Police’s “Roxanne.” What else can I say to compel you to watch?

Oh, and for me at least, there’s one other bonus: no Ken Jeong. I think Jeong, on TV and in the movies, has stretched out his funky-klutzy-dude persona longer than it’s been funny, and this season, his scenes as the school’s security guard have invariably fallen flat.

But as I say, this half hour tonight is terrific. And stay tuned for Parks and Recreation!

And make sure to read’s official recap of Community.

Twitter: @kentucker

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