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Community: Virtual Systems Analysis

“I didn’t get Inception!”

After this episode finished, my first thought was “How I am going to review that?” Dan Harmon may have spoken too soon when he described 'Documentary Filmmaking: Redux' as the series' “least accessible, least marketable episode”. An entire episode of Abed and Annie in the Dreamatorium is about as high concept as Community can get. This had the potential to be the best thing the series has ever done or it could've ended up being its Ishtar. I don't think it was either.

I'm still not really sure how I feel about this episode. I've watched it twice now and both times I came away from it feeling conflicted. On one hand, I admire it. There's no doubt that this was a bold and cleverly constructed episode. Basically, this was Community doing Inception. Instead of dreams within dreams, we had fantasies within fantasies. Annie was Ellen Page, a newcomer who acted as our guide into the wild and crazy world of Dreamatorium, while Abed was everyone else (even Michael Caine, and he wasn't even in the movie that much).

It was great showcase for Allison Brie and Danny Pudi. They both excelled themselves in this one. This show has never been afraid to get inside its characters' heads and explore the relationships between with the various members of the group. Annie journeyed through the multiple levels of Abed's psyche in search of the real Abed. Her odyssey lead her, not to some James Bond-style hospital fortress high up in the mountains (NBC obviously wouldn't fork out for a location shoot, the thrifty gits), but to a high school locker, where Abed kept all his fears and insecurities locked away. In the end, Abed and Annie came out of the Dreamatorium having learned much about themselves and each other, and were a lot closer than they were when they went in.

But despite the clever script and the strong acting, I just can't seem to like this episode. Both times I watched it I didn't enjoy it and I enjoyed writing about it even less. Usually I have a lot of fun writing my Community reviews, but this one just gave me a massive headache. For me, watching 'Virtual Systems Analysis' was a lot like watching Citizen Kane. I can see why a lot of people would regarded as a masterpiece, but it just doesn't connect with me personally. I think the reason for that was because I just didn't find it that all that funny. The only time I really laughed was when Abed as Troy was dosed with truth serum. Gold acting star there for Donald Glover.

Notes and Quotes

-- We have another contender for the best Dean Pelton costumes of season three.

-- Think because I'm a Next Gen fan, I found Annie running into the wall more amusing than it actually was.

-- Alison Brie's cockney was pure Dick Van Dyke. And yet utterly adorable.

-- This had the series' all time lowest ratings.

Annie: “Your simulations are nothing more than anxieties. You’re afraid you don’t fit in, you’re afraid you’ll be alone. Great news! You share that with all of us, so you’ll never be alone, and you’ll always fit in.”

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... 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.”

Pierce: “I use a mnemonic device. Kevin, please come over for gay sex.”

Waiter: “Another thing I hate about Die Hard: two FBI agents named Johnson?”

Jeff: “It’s a sexy, emotional school where doctors save lives and make love, often simultaneously. Our stories? Ripped from the headlines. Our passions? Unbridled. Our cafeteria? Meh...”

Annie: “Oh my god, I broke Abed.”

Abed (as Britta): “I don't usually support lunch because it's unfair to breakfast.”

I have no idea how to rate this one. What did you guys think?
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.


  1. Mark,

    I share your feelings. Hard to rate this one indeed. Nonetheless, very imaginative ep.

    The Inception joke made me LOL

  2. So far, neither me nor my brother quite know how we feel about it, and the other review I read was uncertain as well! It's a weird, weird episode.. perhaps not in a good way.

    I think maybe my main problem is this season's treatment of Abed - it's getting too extreme. Troy and Abed being normal has probably been my favourite Abed stuff since the break.

  3. I liked this episode. Not the funniest, but it sure pushed some plotlines and delved into our characters' minds. I was surprised they had a serious note even for the Dean.

    I laughed out loud more than once, though, so that means I win this time. In your face, Mark!

  4. This episode was too community for community. They literally outcommunity-ed themselves.

  5. So they Britta'd their Communityness?

  6. Might be early days yet but I'd like to nominate Greg for Comment of the Week

  7. I’m glad I’m not the only one who struggled with this episode. I did like the insight into Annie’s and Abed’s psyches (Abed in the locker made my heart ache), but overall I think I missed the point.

    Great review, Mark. I can imagine it difficult it was to write.


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