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Recap / Community S 3 E 16 Virtual Systems Analysis

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Blorgons? In this sector?! Well, this mission has gone pear-shaped indeed!

When the biology final exam is unexpectedly postponed, the study group finds themselves with three hours of free time on their hands. While most of the study group go to lunch, Annie convinces Abed to let her spend some time with him in the dreamatorium instead, as a cover for convincing Troy and Britta to go on a date. What starts as an innocent simulation of Inspector Spacetime, however, degenerates into an argument between Annie and Abed, which in turn eventually results in Abed experiencing a minor breakdown when Annie tampers with the Dreamatorium's 'engine'. In order to snap him out of it, Annie must travel through an imaginary hospital populated by Abed's impressions of his friends to find him, which in turn gives her some insight into herself, her friends, and what makes Abed tick.


Tropes appearing in this episode of Community include:

  • Action Girl: Not much of one at first, but Annie does take a level in badass near the end to fight the Blorgons.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • Alison Brie's deliberately terrible Mockney accent alludes to the far more convincing posh accent she uses in The Five-Year Engagement.
    • Chevy Chase really does have an Emmy award.
  • Anti-Climax: Abed thinks their whole dreamatorium adventure will end in one so Annie comes up with a more exciting "Inspector Spacetime" Final Battle against the Blorgons.
  • Arc Number: In Abed's file, he is listed as "Psychiatric Patient 1373." The number 1373 also appears on the ship at the end of Contemporary Impressionists. The origin of the number is that Dan Harmon was born on 1/3/73.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Annie manipulates the Dreamatorium to add empathy. She gets what she wants: Abed has a breakdown and instead summons her other friends to simulate the kiss she wanted from Jeff. Annie refuses, and talks with Abed-Annie that just because she wants to kiss Jeff doesn't' mean it's a good idea.
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  • Both Sides Have a Point: And both sides must learn how to compromise. Abed is right to tell Annie that meddling never ends well in their group, given what happened when he tried manipulating Britta and Jeff's romance, and that she doesn't know everything. Annie also tells Abed that he can't micromanage relationships around what he wants. In the end, Annie gives an indirect apology for breaking the Dreamatorium boundaries, and Abed tries to consider others' feelings.
  • Brick Joke: Like Britta and Abed, the waiter in Abed's simulation seems unrealistically exaggerated and over-the-top in his hatred of Die Hard. Then, when we actually encounter him, the waiter is ranting about Die Hard in the exact same fashion; apparently, it was the only part of Abed's simulation that actually was realistic.
  • Buffy Speak: Annie's attempts at Inspector Spacetime-esque technobabble.
  • Call-Back:
  • Cavemen Versus Astronauts Debate: One of the games Troy and Abed play in the Dreamatorium is mentioned to be like this.
    • Specifically, it's Dinosaurs versus Riverboat Gamblers. It's how Abed got the construction approved.
  • Character Development: For Abed especially. In this episode, he learns to take the feelings of others into consideration and not just his own. Annie gets some as well, recognising her own Control Freak tendencies and self-obsession in trying to get people to follow the courses she has plotted out for them, along with some self-introspection about how her thing for Jeff might not be based on the healthiest of foundations.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Annie uses the Quantum Spanner to free Abed from his manacles in the Dreamatorium after it was introduced earlier.
  • Circling Birdies: Pierce claims to have seen eagles after sitting on his balls.
  • Complaining About Shows You Don't Like: Abed doesn't want to go to the Mexican restaurant where Troy and Britta have lunch because the manager thinks Die Hard is bad and is very vocal about why:
    "And another thing I hate about Die Hard: two FBI agents named Johnson?"
  • Comical Overreacting: Abed doesn't take it very well when Annie messes with the dreamatorium's engine. He has the same reaction when she redecorates his and Troy's blanket room.
  • Control Freak: Both Abed and Annie's tendencies towards 'running simulations' in the lives of themselves and their friends — and then meddling to try and make them come about — are explored over the course of the episode.
    Annie: You don't have a patent on being a Control Freak, Abed.
    Abed: Actually, I kind of do.
  • Explosive Instrumentation: The Blorgon attacks deals this type of damage.
  • Expy:
    • Quantum Spanner for Sonic Screwdriver.
    • The Blorgons are obviously based on the Dalek.
  • Flashback Effects: Scenes playing out in the dreamatorium are distinguishable by a Soft Glow effect.
  • Flying Saucer: The HMS Spacetime 12.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • At the beginning in the Dreamtorium, Annie protests that she doesn't know a lot about Inspector Spacetime and suggests that she and Abed play something that she's more familiar with, like "hospital administration." This sets up "Hospital School", the Grey's Anatomy-like medical soap which Annie has to traverse in order to find Abed, where her character is an administrator.
    • In season 1, Chang is known as Senor Chang because of his position as Spanish teacher. In this episode, there is a restaurant called Senor Kevin's. Guess what name Chang uses in season 4 when he's stricken with "Changnesia"
  • Fourth Wall Psych: Done as an in-universe Screen Tap when Annie, caught up in the simulation, runs into the Dreamatorium's actual fourth wall... which is also the "fourth wall" of the screen.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: On the study room whiteboard:
    • Help, I'm being bound in a book factory.
    • If the opposite of pro is con, what's the opposite of progress?
  • Godwin's Law: Abed's impression of Troy says he "use[s] comparisons to Hitler to win arguments on the internet".
  • Good News, Bad News: The Dean breaking the news about Biology class being canceled because of the teacher's sickness.
  • Hair Flip: The Dean after telling the group their Biology teacher has 'flu.
  • Held Gaze: Annie and Abed!Jeff during the recreation of the Pascal's night, though it doesn't lead to a kiss, unlike the last time with Jeff and Annie in reality. Clearly Abed is aware of their penchant for Held Gazes with each other though....
  • Here We Go Again!: Annie "breaks" Abed again in The Tag when she redecorates Troy and Abed's blanket room.
  • Heroic BSoD: Abed, when Annie meddles with the Dreamatorium's 'engine'.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Abed and Troy, really driven home in this episode. For the sake of context: the last time one of Abed's emotional nosedives pulled the show into genre-bending surrealism, the event was triggered by his mother's abandonment. This time, it's Troy spending time with someone else, which puts a pretty intense spin on exactly how dependent Abed is on Troy for even a relatively stable emotional life. Doubles as both Fridge Logic and Tear Jerker.
    • The ending does offer some hope, however; Abed learns he needs to stop forcing things to try and fit how he think they should work and go with the flow more, and contrary to what he believes will happen Troy genuinely enjoys his lunch date with Britta. Ultimately, after some teething issues, they both seem to benefit from moving out of their ever-so-slightly codependent relationship and spending more time with other members of the group away from each other.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Annie is trying to teach Abed empathy, but when he displays empathy towards Carson Daly, she scoffs dismissively.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Annie really seems to believe that the "real Jeff" would show concern for Abed.
  • I Want My Jet Pack:
    Annie: Look at 2001. Did we have a space odyssey? No! We got snowboarding in the Olympics and we over-validated Carson Daly.
  • In Love with Love : Annie admits that she is only in love with the idea of loving Jeff.
  • Insistent Terminology: Abed insists on calling things in his Inspector Spacetime simulation by their correct names when Annie bungles them.
    • Subverted by Abed near the end.
      Annie: Isn't that what a quantum spanner is for?!
      Abed: Technically no. But that's fine.
  • I Think You Broke Him: Annie says "I broke Abed!" after the above BSOD.
  • Jerkass Ball: Abed and Annie grab it when Annie fixes up a lunch date between Troy and Britta. They then end up in the Dreamatorium, with Abed ending the simulation of Inspector Spacetime because Annie doesn't know enough about continuity. Abed admits he's mad that Annie meddled, and Annie retorts that Abed can't just control Troy or predict the date will go badly. Cue the rest of the episode.
  • Literal Genie:
    Annie: Take me where I want to go.
  • The Matchmaker: Annie sets up Troy and Britta on a lunch date. Abed thinks she did this to clear her way to Jeff. Annie says she did it because she thinks that they would be cute together and that Jeff is just a bonus.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Invoked by Abed, when they switch to Jeff and Annie's scene outside their first year transfer dance.
    Annie: Abed wasn't there. So whose memory is this?
    Jeff!Abed: Maybe its yours. Maybe the dreamatorium really works. Or maybe Leonard was watching from the bushes and told Abed.
    Leonard: (in the bushes) I don't have cable!
  • Meta Guy: Abed's role as this is lampshaded in this episode.
  • Mind Screw:
    • Not even the writers understood the plot until they started editing. Lampshaded: Abed-as-Pierce pops up in the Dreamatorium at one point specifically to point out that he has no idea what's going on.
    • In universe, the reason Abed-as-Troy (and presumably the real Troy) doesn't get Inception:
      Abed-as-Troy: [Weeping] So many layers!
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Annie has this reaction when she pushes Abed into a breakdown. She resolves to snap him out of it, including stopping a hologram of Jeff kissing her and getting herself in trouble by acting like Abed to find him.
    • Even the Dean thinks he went too far with his half-man half-woman split down the middle "Duali-Dean of Man" costume:
      Dean: I have to go to the bank today! What am I supposed to tell people in line, "I had good news and bad news?!" Come on, Craig. Get your life together.
    • It actually went well.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Annie ends up breaking Abed by messing with the Dreamatorium machine. She then has to use the Dreamatorium to fix him.
  • Not Hyperbole: When Abed says he refuses to go to the restaurant because the manager hates Die Hard, it at first seems like he's treating the movie as Serious Business. But then his friends discover that the manager constantly and annoyingly rants about how much he hates it.
  • Not-So-Badass Longcoat: Inspector Spacetime!Abed.
  • One Head Taller: Abed-as-Jeff points out Jeff and Annie's "2-foot height disparity".
    Jeff!Abed: But damn the rules, damn the system, damn our two-foot height disparity.
  • Oscar Bait: "Hospital School" brings us tragic heart-wrenching Alzheimer's patient and Emmy contender Pierce Hawthorne:
    Shirley: Mr. Hawthorne, you're out of your bed again.
    Pierce: Because I think I'm on a train.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: Community finally did a medical drama episode.
  • The Peeping Tom: Leonard, when Jeff and Annie kissed. To his defense, he didn't have cable.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Annie's dress becomes this within the Dreamatorium. In the real world, it's actually an unflattering yellow frock with a scarf as a makeshift shawl.
  • Ray Gun: Annie and Abed use them against the Blorgons.
  • Recursive Reality: The final third of the episode gets into this, until the point where we have Alison Brie playing Abed playing Annie and playing Annie playing Abed, at which point she turns into Danny Pudi playing Annie playing Abed. Or something. It's kind of complicated.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Said verbatim by Abed-as-Jeff when describing Hospital School.
  • Ship Sinking: Annie, who was once infatuated with Troy, is now officially trying to pair him with Britta.
    • Subverted with Annie and Jeff, Annie confesses that she really doesn't love Jeff, she just loves the idea of loving him. Even so, the ship is still present in future episodes.
  • Ship Tease: In various ways the episode teases Annie/Abed:
    • After Shirley (who is a figment of Abed's imagination) proclaims that Abed doesn't exist and no-one needs him, Annie responds with a fervent "I need him!"
    • It's perhaps telling that the first thing Abed does in "Hospital School" is assume the role of Jeff and begin to flirt with Annie. With the torpedoing of the Annie/Troy ship and Annie seeing her relationship with Jeff in a new light it also teases Annie/Abed due to those two ships becoming less plausible. "Hospital School" is also revealed to be building up to Abed re-staging Jeff and Annie's kiss from "Pascal's Triangle Revisited" — doing so would, of course, require Annie to kiss Abed (while he was pretending to be Jeff).
    • Also, Abed/Troy, in one of the few episodes they spend apart. Troy takes time out of his date to call the apartment and make sure that Abed's okay, while Abed imagines Troy wanting to ditch his date and come home. Ultimately, they both seem to benefit from spending a few hours with other people.
  • Shipper with an Agenda: Annie admits that her shipping for Troy/Britta was not entirely altruistic.
  • Stuffed into a Locker: Annie eventually finds Abed in a metaphorically enlarged version of the locker he used to get shoved into in junior high school.
  • Streaming Stars: Shows up in the Inspector Spacetime title sequence.
  • Take That!: