by Josh Johnson
For a show that started its third season with a less than stellar ratings situation, “Community” has aired a bunch of episodes that aren’t exactly accessible to new fans. However, the cast and crew clearly have enough faith in the show to keep doing what they want to do, which resulted in another excellent episode, “Virtual Systems Analysis.”
“Virtual Systems Analysis” begins with the Dean dressed as the “DualDean” of Man (“I think I went too far with this one” he confesses), telling the group their biology final has been moved back a day since their professor (Michael K. Williams) is sick. Because they are college students, the group decides they can now eat lunch instead of study since “last minute got moved to tomorrow.
Annie suggests that Abed takes this time to teach her how to use the Dreamatorium so that Troy and Britta can go to lunch together. Abed reluctantly agrees, but once inside the Dreamatorium, he doesn’t treat Annie with much respect. He refers to the “Inspector Spacetime” ship they are on in the simulation as the “much crappier” version from “the worst season ever.” Somehow, Abed is immune to Annie’s awesomely terrible British accent.
Abed decides he doesn’t want to play “Inspector Spacetime,” and then shows Annie how Troy and Britta having lunch tampers with the fabric of the group (“I don’t usually support lunch because its unfair to breakfast” says Abed’s impression of Britta). Annie notes that there is no science to Abed’s simulations, so he shows her the Dreamtorium’s engine. On top of the engine (which is made up of duct tape and toilet paper rolls) is a tissue box that reads “Abed.” Annie decides that Abed needs to think about the needs and feelings of others, so she replaces the “Abed” tissue box with one that reads “Other People.”
This temporarily “breaks” Abed, but he soon turns into a projection of Jeff in a “Grey’s Anatomy”- like simulation. Jeff is a stuck-up doctor who only wants to sleep with Annie, the healthcare administrator. Annie, however, just wants to find the real Abed and talk to him. Eventually, she finds him locked up in a locker, which Abed had created as a form of virtual self-punishment. Annie points out that his simulations are nothing more than his own anxieties. She tells him that makes him just like everyone else in the group, and therefore, he will always fit in. Abed, comforted by his talk with Annie, completes his Inspector Spacetime simulation using “an illusive new technique known as empathy.”
“Virtual Systems Analysis” could be seen as a reference to “Inception.” By switching the tissue boxes, Annie incepts Abed into forming a sense of empathy within him by planting the idea that other people feelings are sometimes more important than his. Because she is the one that discovers Abed’s psychological issues and helps him work through it in a dream(atorium), Annie could be Ellen Page’s character. I started to think this episode was an “Inception” parody after Troy mentioned he didn’t understand the movie. Then the idea took over like a virus. Uh oh. Did the writers insert that line to make me think the episode was an “Inception” parody? Holy crap, I’ve been incepted.
Like the pillow fighting in “Pillows and Blankets,” the Dreamatorium sequences were fun, but the real enjoyment in “Virtual Systems Analysis” came from the emotional breakthrough Abed made. Abed had been acting pretty mean for the last couple weeks, so for the breakthrough to occur this episode fits perfectly within this season’s narrative. “Virtual Systems Analysis” is another great installment in “Community’s” fantastic third season.
Josh Johnson is music editor. Email him at email@example.com.