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Community Review: “Virtual Systems Analysis” (Episode 3.16)

Inb4 Jeff & Annie’s romance is just a fantasy

It might be strange to focus a large portion of this review talking about something I don’t feel deeply about. There I’m admitting it, I’m not a shipper. Never have been, never will be. But for all intents and purpose, I was okay with the Jeff & Annie relationship simply out of convenience. It’s what the show presented me, and I accepted. Passionate fans that have their own head canon have their own ideas for who they want each character to hook up with, and as such there has always been somewhat of a divide among fans on this particular relationship. But the show has spent so much time inching at it, pulling back, taking big leaps forward only to stumble back, that you want a conclusion regardless of where you stand on it.

I bring all this up because regardless of your feelings on it, the relationships these friends have with one another is the core of the show – and this especially includes the romantic ones. Interestingly, Harmon has always been pretty open about shying away from fully committing to romantic relationships – and with good reason! Often shows (especially ones that rely on a group dynamic) suffer when a romantic relationship is started between two main characters. These characters and their relationships with the rest of the group can change. This is actually a fear that Abed worries about in tonight’s episode, but it’s a sound worry to have. It’s actually a real worry we can all have in real life. You know the fear of losing your best friend or friends to someone else. But at a certain point, it’s something we have to learn to accept as being a possibility; a risk that is worth allowing if it means your friend finding happiness. This is the lesson Abed learns when he’s faced with the reality that Britta and Troy might actually happen.

“Virtual Systems Analysis” also gave us a good insight into what Annie’s feeling and her subsequent conclusion: she doesn’t love Jeff – she’s in love with the idea of being loved. She’s drawn in by the idea of changing Jeff, because if she can teach a guy like Jeff to love, then she will never be unloved again. It might be harsh to say their romance is coming to an end (I was kidding) – but it’s a sign that Annie’s “love” for Jeff has largely been a teen crush (ya’ll saw that Charlie St. Cloud poster in her room) – and she’s coming to this realization that what she feels isn’t entirely real. I don’t want to jump the gun, but I’ve always got the sense that Jeff’s ego fed off Annie’s school girl crush, and his feelings for her were also never entirely real. Or at least real in the sense that it’s not something he’s willing to commit fully to (but hasn’t this always been a flaw in Jeff’s character?) But this is an assumption I openly admit I’m making here. Of course I think they have genuine feelings for each other (so shippers put down them Pitchforks). But I think unlike Britta and Troy, there isn’t the same kind of romantic feelings towards one another between Jeff and Annie. Or at the very least, there are a lot of other factors that muddy it – a clear disconnect between the two.

I guess we’ll see in the coming weeks (or in a 4th season…eh eh) what they decide to do (or not do) with these romantic relationships (my bet is they either drop it or continue to tease it, as has always been the style of the show). While it’s true “Virtual Systems Analysis” focused heavily on the romantic relationships in the group, it was also a totally kick ass episode of Community that fed off the imagination of Abed and Annie to give us a look into these characters. I’ve always been a big fan of the Abed centered episodes, because outside of the obvious (him being awesome) – there is something so tragic and real about this character. I’ve always felt that while Abed is the oddest one in the group on the surface, he’s also the most likable, because he represents all the things we are afraid to be. He carries the burden of being different. The episode felt like a continuation of “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”. There we saw his family issues leading to very lonely Christmases in his household and in ““Virtual Systems Analysis “ we see that his fear of being abandoned is always nipping at his heels. Abed is a very courageous person on the surface, in that he has no fear of being who he is (something we could all learn from). But deep down he’s also very insecure about being left alone, and losing thos group that means so much to him. Thematically, this was a great pairing: the anxiety Abed has about Troy and Britta dating, is also something fans may feel when it comes to the group and their relationships expanding. I’m not sure where Annie and Jeff go from here, but how Abed felt uneasy about Britta and Troy, is how I feel about any relationship growing beyond just friends within this group. It’s scary. But if it means them finding happiness, maybe it’s a risk the writers should take. A risk we as fans should be willing to take, and accept as a possibility.

As an episode, “Virtual Systems Analysis” was extremely fun to watch. Community always shines when it pushes its imagination and appeals to the child in all of us. That is why episodes about Blanket Forts and going to space in a KFC space shuttle have always been fan favorites. This is why Season 2 was so successful, because it didn’t care how far it drifted from reality, as long as it was the group spending time together. I could go on and on talking about how impeccable the episode was in tying in so many jokes with intricate details from throughout the series. But fans already know all the references, and jokes, and it would serve no purpose to repeat them. What “Virtual Systems Analysis” really taught me is, Community can drift as far away from reality as it wants, because it’s the characters that will always keep us connected to it.

Grade: A

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