Recap

'Community' Recap: Simulated Empathy 101

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Apr 19, 2012 | 11:29pm EDT

ALT It's tough to begin this weekly recap of Community, because tonight's episode was so imaginative, and so rewarding to the audience that has fallen in love with these characters, that I don't know where to begin. It's also tough because it was just so f---ing weird. I mean, what just happened?

At NBC's Summer Press Day this Wednesday, Jim Rash said that "The third [season] has been about all of these characters testing who they are, and what they've chosen to do with their lives." Well, "Virtual Systems Analysis" found two of our main characters testing (simulating?) who they were, and how their actions could impact the loved ones around them. Pierce mainly sat on his balls, but whatever.

The set-up was this: Since the study group's biology test had been suddenly canceled, (As announced by Dean Pelton, who was wearing a busted up Victor/Victoria-meets-Two Face ensemble that will only be mentioned this one time, because I want to sleep tonight) the gang had 3 hours to spend by themselves. Shirley ran off to a fast food chain across town, Pierce watched some movies, and Jeff went God knows where -- probably to nap in his car.

But the major players here were Troy, Abed, Annie, and Britta. That game-changing text that Britta received from Troy last week was obviously not forgotten: The two were shyly flirting at the study table, and matchmaker Annie used the 3-hour recess as an excuse to force them into a Senor Kevin's lunch date. This did not please Abed -- he wanted to play with Troy in the Dreamatorium, and the manager at Senor Kevin's said Die Hard was bad.

To raise Abed's spirits and satiate his need for some Dreamatorium time, Annie subbed for Troy in a reenactment of Professor Spacetime. But Annie was no match for Troy's Constable Reggie -- she didn't know the difference between Blogon and Blorgon, and she couldn't buy into Abed's story that the Dreamatorium's Engine enabled him to envision every possible scenario for their study group. "I'm able to to simulate any of the study group, and even a half-accurate Chang, in over 7,000 unique situations," he said.

Abed was simulating a disastrous date for Troy and Britta -- in his mind, Troy spent the whole date missing Abed, and the manager still hated Die Hard. "I'm afraid your food won't be ready for another half hour," he said. "I'm too busy misunderstanding the whole point of Die Hard."

This didn't sit too well with Annie, who was confidant in her matchmaking abilities and offended when Abed said her brain wasn't able to function at a high enough level to understand the Dreamatorium. She stormed out of the room, and ended up on the phone with Troy -- giving some validity to Abed's earlier claim. Troy said that he worried about Abed when he wasn't home, and that the Dreamatorium could take a dangerous toll. "He's just extra-sensitive in the Dreamatorium," Troy explained. "It takes a lot out of him to run that thing."

Annie instantly ignored Troy's advice, making a drastic change to Abed's control room that would put "Other People" needs above Abed's own thoughts. His brain quickly malfunctioned, and this is where things started to get super weird. (Please keep in mind that the following events take place in the Dreamatorium. They make little to no sense, and they are awesome.)

When Abed awoke, he was no longer himself -- he was playing the role of Jeff (Obviously not a Kardashian), who was trying to seduce Annie in a Dreamatorium-created Doctor's Lounge at Greendale Hospital School -- where the Jeffs are hot and the vending machines only sell buttered noodles. (Exposition: It's a sexy emotional school where doctors save lives and make love, often simultaneously.) Jeff wanted Annie to have sex with him: True, he was a surgeon and she was a hotshot upstart administrator, but not even their two-foot height disparity would suppress his unbridled passion. (Aside: This scenario gave even more validity to Abed's omnipotence claim, as this is totally something that Annie herself would dream up. You know Annie watches Grey's Anatomy.)

Annie and "Jeff" then ended up in the bio lab with "Troy" and "Britta," who were currently in the middle of Abed's disturbing version of a make-out session. Abed's Troy and Britta wouldn't help Annie locate the actual Abed, but Troy admitted to seeing his file once Annie injected him with a truth serum. (See what I mean about this episode being really f---ing weird? No, Mom -- I'm not taking drugs. This is the actual recap.)

In addition to the existence of the file, the truth serum made Dreamatorium Troy admit to the following: "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 Own 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 the hat. I know nothing about wine. I'm more turned on by women in pajamas than lingerie -- I just want them to feel comfortable." Interesting! But the final secret secreted from the serum was positively devastating: "I didn't get Inception!" Troy cried. "I didn't get Inception… " (There were so many layers!)

Over in the Dreamatorium version of the study room, "Shirley" made it clear that Abed did not exist -- the hospital sequence was simulated according to Annie's needs, and nobody needed Abed. But Annie knew that Abed's file existed, so she promised "Jeff" some sex in exchange for the information it held. Jeff quickly located the file, which revealed that Abed was a psychiatric patient. "Enough games," said an exasperated Annie. "Just take me where I want to go."

And so "Jeff" took Annie where she really wanted to go: To the exact place where Jeff had kissed her at the end of season one. But she wasn't in the mood to play games with Abed's simulated, Annie-idealized version of Jeff. She needed to locate Abed. Jeff finally read Abed's full file, which revealed Abed's diagnosis: "Control freak with no empathy," he said. "People bend over backwards to cater to him. Signed, healthcare administrator, Annie Edison." (These were various insults that Annie had thrown Abed's way earlier in the episode.)

The next scene found Annie and the still-broken Abed back in the Dreamatorium -- he asked where Annie wished to go next. She wanted to be alone -- the scenario with Jeff had obviously hurt her -- so Abed simulated a room where Annie stood alone with "Annie." Annie asked Annie why she was blowing their perfect moment with Jeff, but Annie strongly replied that it wasn't perfect -- it wasn't even real. "We're just in love with the idea of being loved," she said. "If we can teach a guy like Jeff to do it, we'll never be unloved. So we keep running the same scenario over and over, hoping for a different result." (Aside: Between this and the "let's stop hating ourselves" speech from Jeff last week, Community is really doling up the sensible love advise.)

Annie's use of the word "scenario" triggered something in "Annie" -- the presumed prime Annie was starting to sound like Abed. Once presumed prime Annie said, "cool, cool cool" and mentioned Cougar Town, it became clear that "Annie" was the actual Annie, while Annie was actually Abed. Got that?

So Annie finally located Abed, who had mentally retreated to his middle school locker. He was feeling sorry for himself, finally realizing that his Dreamatorium concoctions were simply a product of his own imagination. Annie disagreed -- she thought that Abed's simulations were brilliant science fiction, much like 2001: A Space Odyssey. "Did we have a Space Odyssey?" she said. "No. We got snowboarding in the Olympics and we over-validated Carson Daly." (Aside: NBC's Community dissing the host of NBC's cash cow The Voice? You bad, Community.)

Annie's words seemed to reinvigorate Abed -- the two played a legendary game of Inspector Spacetime, then enjoyed a bowl of hot buttered noodles. Abed, as it seemed, had finally discovered empathy -- while Annie had, in turn, discovered Abed.

Oh, and for the record, Troy and Britta's date went well.

What did you think of tonight's Community? Does anyone else think that this episode was meant to coincide with 4/20?

Follow Shaunna on Twitter @HWShaunna

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