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Welcome to Hawkthorne!
— Cornelius Hawthorne

Pierce is is summoned to a reading of his father, Cornelius Hawthorne's will. In the letter he is asked to bring seven of his closest friends and invites the study group to accompany him. The meeting is held at a warehouse and when the group arrives they are greeted by Gilbert Lawson. He introduces himself as Cornelius Hawthorne's assistant for the past thirty years and now the executor of his estate. Abed notices the multi player gaming interface booths and Gilbert explains the reason for everyone's attendance. He explains that over thirty years ago, Cornelius began development of a special video game. They are here to play the game together and battle it out over Pierce's inheritance. Gilbert invites them all to pick a booth so they can begin "Journey to the Center of Hawkthorne".

3x20-Multi-player gaming interface Pierce Britta Gilbert Annie Shirley Troy Abed Jeff
The study group meets the executor.
The group enters a stylized fourth generation video game world. They are informed by the in-game voice recording of Cornelius that, as punishment for questioning the economic viability of moist towelettes, Pierce and his friends must compete to reach the castle at the end of the game to win the inheritance. The group rejects the idea of playing to steal Pierce's inheritance; Gilbert, taking on the role of the seventh player, reveals that he intends to do so himself. With complete knowledge of the game, he easily kills the group's characters, sending them back to the start of the game. After re-spawning, the group arrives at a town where Abed seemingly falls in love with an NPC named Hilda.

Study Group arrives in video game
The Study Group arrives in the video game world.
While exploring the town, Britta mixes random ingredients in a cauldron into what she assumes is a strength potion while Jeff believes it to be poison. Pierce and Troy enter a tavern and quickly lose all their clothes in a game of poker. Meanwhile, Annie and Shirley accidentally kill the town's blacksmith and wife (Hilda's parents) and steal everything from the shop before burning it down to cover their tracks. Having levelled up significantly, Gilbert reappears and begins easily overpowering the group. After killing Britta, however, Gilbert drinks the potion she made and dies, which turned out to be poison as Jeff had correctly assumed. Starting back at the beginning again, Gilbert becomes frustrated and decides to use cheat codes to turn his character invincible.

Gilbert attack the group
Gilbert attack the group.
The group continues playing while Abed stays back in town to help Hilda rebuild her life. After beating most of the game, the group finds the 'white crystal' needed to enter the castle on the last level. They are again confronted by Gilbert, who despite only having been playing for a short time, is invincible to their attacks and possesses numerous items. He easily kills the study group and takes the crystal for himself. Jeff and Pierce realize he is cheating and angrily confront him. In a shocking revelation, Gilbert reveals that he is the illegitimate offspring of Cornelius and the "hot cousin" of Pierce's childhood nanny. He further claims that he has a greater right to the fortune, having been more of a son to Cornelius than Pierce. The group starts from the beginning and return to the town where they left Abed. To their surprise, he has erected an enormous castle and has an endless amount of resources to build whatever they desire.

3x20-Black Cave
The group makes it to the Black Cave.
Gilbert arrives at the final stage of the game, where he is greeted by Cornelius as an NPC. Cornelius demands that Gilbert sign a legal agreement that forbids him from acknowledging their genealogical relationship. Gilbert refuses, prompting Cornelius to turn hostile and attack him. The study group arrives heavily armed with new equipment and defeats Cornelius at the cost of their lives, leaving Gilbert free to claim the throne of Castle Hawkthorne. However, he rejects it, saying that he does not deserve the prize. In real life, the study group decides to forfeit. Pierce has concluded that Gilbert was more of a son to Cornelius than he ever was and has more right to the inheritance. Gilbert thanks them and beats the game, winning the inheritance. He offers to treat the study group to margaritas as a form of thanks and is shown to be bonding with Pierce. As the group leaves, Abed stays behind to download Hilda out of the game onto a flash drive before leaving.

3x20-Gilbert Pierce hug
It's good to have a brother.

End tag[]

Troy and Abed find an abandoned baby on the study room table and immediately begin planning how they will raise it together. Abed offers to take on a job, and Troy begins to cry at the thought of having to stay home while Abed climbs the corporate ladder. The baby's mother then climbs out from under the table, where she was retrieving a dropped toy, and takes the baby out with her. As the mother is leaving, the baby babbles Abed's "cool, cool, cool" catchphrase.

Recurring themes[]


  • Previously:
  • History lesson: We learn much about Pierce's and Cornelius' past.
  • First appearance: Gilbert Lawson makes his debut in this episode as Pierce's illegitimate half-brother. He later returns in the Season Four episode "Paranormal Parentage".
  • School song: When Abed saves Hilda onto a flash drive, the song "Greendale is Where I Belong" plays.
  • Winger speech: Jeff rallies the troops with a speech only for them all to be destroyed by a pack of hippies soon afterwards.
  • Discontinuity: The episode end tag features Troy and Abed still students at Greendale despite within the timeline of the show them having been expelled. The end tag had replaced a scripted one which actor Chevy Chase refused to film (See Production: End tag controversy below).

Running gags[]

  • Awww!: Annie coos over the look of their 8-bit avatars and then the hippies in the game.
  • Bon apetit: Pierce immediately assumes that Hilda is a lesbian.
  • Gay, he's so gay!: Pierce comments that Jeff "did great in there" as the group leaves "Gay Island".
  • My other half: Troy is jealous of Abed's relationship with Hilda and in the end tag the two plan to raise a baby together.
  • Troy and Abed in the Morning!: Troy and Abed sing "Troy and Abed shooting la-va," as they attack Cornelius.

Pop culture references[]

  • Product placement: Pierce refers to Hilda as a "St. Paulie's Girl" referencing the mascot and name of the imported beer brand. Razer Nostromo keypads are also visible at the computers the group are using.
  • Shout out: Pierce invited actor LeVar Burton but he didn't show up.
  • Use your allusion:
  • Well read:
    • Gilbert read the Bible to Cornelius in the bath. Ewww.
    • The text shown of the "legal document" comprising Cornelius' agreement with Gilbert is actually the opening lines of Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution.

Meta references[]

  • Résumé: Pierce suggests that his father was into meth. Giancarlo Esposito plays crystal meth kingpin Gustavo Fring in Breaking Bad. When Gilbert mentions that 'family can make a person do crazy things,' it is a reference to why Walter White, Breaking Bad's main character, began cooking crystal meth.


This episode has the production code 3x22 and was the last one filmed for Season Three. Computer animation studio "Titmouse" handled the video game sequences for this episode. They had previously done the anime inspired section of the episode "Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism". NBC decided to broadcast the last three episodes of the season on May 17, 2012 with "Digital Estate Planning" airing first at 8:00, "First Chang Dynasty" following at 9:00 and "Introduction to Finality" closing out the night at 9:30.

End tag controversy[]

The original End Tag scripted for this episode had Abed gave Pierce an edited version of the "Journey to the Center of Hawthorne" video game that allowed him to get closure with his dad. This clip was never filmed due to Chevy Chase refusing to film the scene. On March 21, 2012 reported the behind the scenes fallout which generated some bad publicity for Harmon, Chase and the show. Later on August 22, 2012, creator Dan Harmon took part in a Reddit discussion and elaborated on what happened:

He refused to do the "tag" for the Digital Estate Planning episode (the 8 bit video game episode). In the scripted tag, Abed comes to Pierce with the thumb drive he took, and says "Pierce, I've been able to adjust some of the code for your Dad's video game and I've made a version I think you might like better." He puts the thumb drive into a laptop in front of Pierce. We cut to the laptop screen, where we see Pierce's avatar on a front lawn with the giant floating head of Cornelius. Every time Pierce presses the space bar, his avatar throws a baseball to his father's head, which gives him a thousand points and a "great job, son!" Pierce presses the space bar a few times, pauses, then leans over and embraces Abed and we fade to black. When Adam Countee pitched that tag, tears instantly rolled down my cheeks, and in point of fact, my eyes are getting watery describing it to you. It was the most important part of the episode and possibly one of the most important moments of the season. I was very upset to hear that it wasn't shot because someone didn't feel like shooting it, especially since it was literally the last day of shooting, which meant we'd never be able to pick it up. I regret nothing about how upset I got. My job was to care about my show.


Man, why can't my mom be here? She always said my video-game knowledge would come in handy. I never believed her.Troy
Where are your clothes?Abed
Pierce taught me poker. I'm not good at it.Troy
Unbelievable. Jeff bet all our lives on Britta, and won. And I lost my pants to a pair of nines.Troy
Season Three Episodes

1. "Biology 101"
2. "Geography of Global Conflict"
3. "Remedial Chaos Theory"
4. "Competitive Ecology"
5. "Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps"
6. "Advanced Gay"
7. "Studies in Modern Movement"
8. "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux"
9. "Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism"
10. "Regional Holiday Music"
11. "Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts"

12. "Contemporary Impressionists"
13. "Digital Exploration of Interior Design
14. "Pillows and Blankets"
15. "Origins of Vampire Mythology"
16. "Virtual Systems Analysis"
17. "Basic Lupine Urology"
18. "Course Listing Unavailable"
19. "Curriculum Unavailable"
20. "Digital Estate Planning"
21. "The First Chang Dynasty"
22. "Introduction to Finality"

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