20 April, 2012

Review - COMMUNITY 3.16: 'Virtual Systems Analysis'

When a final exam is postponed, Annie talks Abed into letting her spend some time in the dreamatorium, where an innocent simulation turns into...

Abed and Annie go into the dreamatorium where Annie pushes Abed too far and fractures his fragile little mind. From that point, until the final few minutes, we deal with Abed's ability to emote his friends, and Annie's willingness to get to know her friend better, even as she struggles to get through his emotional defenses.

Let me just warn you all that I am going to write something of a traditional "critic's review" here and not my typical recap with some critique. Why? Because I think this episode needs that.

Alright, so I love this show a ton and think it is one of the most unique shows in the history of television. But there were moments in this episode where I couldn't wait for it to end. I was bothered by the overuse of the in-and-out-of-character back and forth effect. I would rather have seen it less and more of the episode from Annie's perspective of watching Abed perform his imagination.

Though, perhaps the show runners didn't want to go down that route since the reality perspective had already been used in 'Advanced Dungeons & Dragons'. COMMUNITY has been known to repeat itself, such as with the paintball episodes, but they always do something different with it and so I accept that the effect in this one is partially there to set it apart.

Much like the episode 'Critical Film Studies' I wasn't fully able to enjoy it until it was over. And much like that episode, this one centered around Abed adopting a personality, or in this case a series of personalities. Both took a bit of reflection to truly appreciate the tone and exploration of Abed's psyche and his fear of eventually losing his friends as they move on without him.

Also focused on in this episode, Annie's control issues as well as her empathy; Britta and Troy's potential love affair; the Dean's half-man-half-woman wannabe Angelina Jolie "duality of man" character; the study group's cramming (they are given one more day to study for an exam but punt it in favor of putting off their cramming for one more day); and douchie people who don't love DIE HARD. And I'm sure there was more in this episode but I'm already exhausted!

Annie: You're mad at me for playing matchmaker for Troy and Britta. You think you're gonna lose Troy.
Abed: I'm not petty, Annie. I'm mad at you because you tampered with the fabric of the group. How do you know Troy and Britta pairing up wouldn't destroy everything? I run the scenarios. I examine this stuff from every conceivable angle.
Annie: Oh and you can do that but I can't? You don't have a patent on being a control freak.

Abed: I'm able to simulate any of the study group and even a half-accurate Chang in over seven thousand unique situations.
Annie: Abed, it's cardboard tubes and a funnel.
Abed: You see it that way because it's calibrated to a specific level of brain function.
Annie: Right. I'm stupid.
Abed: Not stupid. Just less able to see what I see.

When Annie gives dreamatorium Doctor Troy a shot of truth serum to find Abed, he confesses too much.
Doctor Troy: I saw Abed's name in the hospital school files. I love butt stuff. I hate spiders. I stole a pen from the bank. I cried during 'About A Boy' (beat) the soundtrack. I don't wash my hands before a surgery. I can see why women find Clive Owen attractive to the point where I might just as well be attracted to him. I use comparisons to Hitler to win arguments on the Internet at the drop of a hat. I know nothing about wine! I'm more turned on by women in pajamas than lingerie. I just want to know they feel comfortable. (breaking down) I didn't get 'Inception'! (crying) I didn't get 'Inception'!

Abed: I've run the simulations, Annie. I don't get married. I don't invent a billion dollar website that helps people have sex. I don't make it into Sundance, Slamdance, or dance pants. Troy invents dance pants in 2019. Don't tell him. He needs to stumble onto it.

If I had to rate this episode, and I almost don't want to, I'd give it:

90 out of 100

I am happy to love a show that is willing to do really strange episodes like this even when I'm not particularly entertained by them. I may have felt strong dislike for what I was watching at first, but made the wise decision to watch it again after I had absorbed the message of the episode and that enhanced the overall experience.


  1. Solid review!

    I wound up watching the episode another three times last night, and the more I watched it, the more I liked it. It'll be interesting to see the ratings.

    Next week, Law and Order!

    1. 1.3... second lowest of the night for NBC. It only beat AWAKE.

    2. When it got a 1.26 on April 5th, the Live + 7 day rating rose to 1.87. + 48%. More people watch. They just don't do it the night it airs.

      As much as fans liked this episode, it definitely wasn't for casual or new viewers.

  2. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuccccccckkkkkkkkkkkkkk!!!!!!!!! 1.3????? I can't contemplate a world without Chuck and Community in it. I'm going to lose my fuckin mind if it gets cancelled. Fuck you nielsen viewers!!!!!

  3. So sad about the ratings! It was a fantastic episode, though.

  4. The ratings are kind of a bummer but I think the conclusion of your article is a pretty good summary of why. This was an episode that was light on laugh-out-loud moments but heavy on the emotional connection of the characters. Unless, you are a devoted Community fan this one was probably meh.

    1. I am interested to see what the data for the episode shows. How many people watched the first few minutes and tuned out (due to confusion).

  5. Hasn't NBC said that Community would most likely be back next season.

    I mean NBC can't cancel all of their current shows so by default Community probably escapes cancelation again.

    All of NBC's scripted shows are low rated so other shows probably bite the dust first.
    I know Awake is gone.

    poor NBC i have no clue as to what it will take for the masses to start watching them again.

    This Community episode rocked so the masses missed out again.

    1. My NBC source has been pretty reliable over the years, and he thinks COMMUNITY will be renewed because Sony will lowball the licensing fee. HOWEVER, he also says to expect lots of cancellations. NBC is looking to make some big changes in the next year. So, COMMUNITY could end up getting the axe, or moving to Fridays, or even Saturdays... it really depends on what Sony offers and how dedicated NBC is to bring in new blood.

    2. Sony's gonna pull a "Til Death" with Community and offer it to NBC for peanuts! They need 17 more episodes to hit that 88 mark after this season. At this point, I'm just hoping for #FourSeasonsAndAGraduation. In fact, I think I'd prefer it. Let the show go out when it's still on top. I could certainly see NBC testing out an hour of their lowest rated comedies either Fridays or Saturdays at 8 just to clear up some space on Thursdays. I still believe they'll program any new comedies on Tuesdays behind a Voice results show to give them the best possible lead in, but we'll see. They didn't have luck with dramas this year, so they're certainly going to use their best lead in for an alternative genre. Matthew Perry's single-cam was picked up today, and it's a no brainer to pick up the Roseanne/John Goodman multi-cam. The question is what they'll end up cutting. Up All Night, Whitney, Best Friends Forever, and Chelsea all seem to be heading towards cancellation. I'm guessing final seasons for Community and 30 Rock.

  6. Thank you for the info Head Geek.

    I've been reading about NBC's pilots that they have in development and a lot of them sound interesting.

    NBC might as well get rid of most of these shows that will never be a bonafide hit and start over.

    Community probably squeaks by like Chuck and Fringe did.

    1. As long as Sony plays ball, COMMUNITY should return for a final 20+ episode season. But we have a little less than a month to worry about it before we know for sure.

  7. They went for broke so that is awesome. Erm...I loved the inception quality where Annie had to keep going down the layers to get to Abed's base psycky. Who knows what reactions fans will have, I mean even Allison and Danny said they were not sure what they were making. It must be so fucking weird being an actor! I mean take the naked jeff pool scene from season 1...edited with colour of money music and all that shit and it is awesome but for Joel McHale and he is probably just standing in front of 200 people thinking man this is fucking awkward! Lol!

  8. I'm a big Jeff/Annie supporter , ( ok I'm a shipper :) . Can someone explain to me what Annie was talking about when she was discussing Jeff as a love interest ? Again as a Jeff & Annie shipper was this ep more of a positive growth on that front or more of a digression ? I liked this episode a lot . Though that part confused me quite a bit :)

    Thanks in advance ,


    1. I think one could look at it both ways. It was negative in that Annie said she wasn't actually in love with Jeff, just in the idea of making him fall for her because that would instill her with confidence.

      But you could also look at it as her saying what she needed someone to believe because she is ashamed of how much she loves a man who she doesn't think is in love with her.

    2. Thank you Head Geek Furious :)

      I guess this show will forever continue to tease that aspect of the show . Sigh .