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When the biology final exam is unexpectedly postponed, the study group finds themselves with three hours of free time on their hands. While most of the study group go to lunch, Annie convinces Abed to let her spend some time with him in the dreamatorium instead, as a cover for convincing Troy and Britta to go on a date. What starts as an innocent simulation of Inspector Spacetime, however, degenerates into an argument between Annie and Abed, which in turn eventually results in Abed experiencing a minor breakdown when Annie tampers with the Dreamatorium's 'engine'. In order to snap him out of it, Annie must travel through an imaginary hospital populated by Abed's impressions of his friends to find him, which in turn gives her some insight into herself, her friends, and what makes Abed tick.
Tropes appearing in this episode of Community include:
- Action Girl: Not much of one at first, but Annie does take a level in badass near the end to fight the Blorgons.
- Acting for Two/Talking to Himself: Alison Brie and Danny Pudi each get a scene in which they play Abed/Annie while talking to Annie/Abed playing Abed/Annie.
- Actor Allusion: Alison Brie's deliberately terrible Mockney accent alludes to the far more convincing posh accent she uses in The Five-Year Engagement.
- Affectionate Parody / Take That: "Hospital School" is one of these to hospital-based dramas like Greys Anatomy:
Abed-as-'Dr. Jeff': It's a sexy, emotional school, where doctors save lives and make love, often simultaneously.
- Anticlimax: Abed thinks their whole dreamatorium adventure will end in one so Annie comes up with a more exciting "Inspector Spacetime" Final Battle against the Blorgons.
- Arc Number: In Abed's file, he is listed as "Psychiatric Patient 1373." The number 1373 also appears on the ship at the end of Contemporary Impressionists. The origin of the number is that Dan Harmon was born on 1/3/73.
- British Accents: Abed and Annie speak in British accents during their "Inspector Spacetime" simulation with Annie doing a particularly bad Cockney one, starting with a hurricane of Stock British Phrases, for her female constable role.
Bugger the dustpans, Inspector! We're too late!
- Buffy-Speak: Annie's attempts at Inspector Spacetime-esque Techno Babble.
- Call Back:
- Jeff's "3-hour lunch? 3-hour lunch? 3-hour lunch?" to Britta's "Intervention? Intervention? Intervention?" from "Contemporary Impressionists" (most recently).
- Senor Kevin's makes its third appearance this season.
- Abed's ability to run simulations of the group explains his uncannily predictive student films from "Debate 109"
- Buttered noodles appear in the hospital school's vending machines, and Abed makes them for lunch.
- Jeff and Annie's kiss from "Pascal's Triangle Revisited."
- Annie responds to Jeff!Abed's touch as she did to Don Draper!Abed, Han!Abed, and Batman!Abed.
- In The Tag, Troy covers Abed's breakdown by simulating We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties with a hand-drawn sign and humming "Daybreak."
- Cavemen Versus Astronauts Debate: One of the games Troy and Abed play in the Dreamatorium is mentioned to be like this.
- Character Development: For Abed especially. In this episode, he learns to take the feelings of others into consideration and not just his own.
- Circling Birdies: Pierce claims to see eagles after sitting on his balls.
- Complaining About Shows You Don't Like: Abed doesn't want to go to the Mexican restaurant where Troy and Britta have lunch because the manager thinks Die Hard is bad and is very vocal about why:
"And another thing I hate about Die Hard: two FBI agents named Johnson?"
- Control Freak: Both Abed and Annie's tendencies towards 'running simulations' in the lives of their friends -- and then meddling to try and make them come about -- are explored over the course of the episode.
Annie: You don't have a patent on being a Control Freak, Abed.
Abed: Actually, I kind of do.
- Explosive Instrumentation: The Blorgon attacks deals this type of damage.
- Flying Saucer
- Fourth Wall Psych: Done as an in-universe Screen Tap when Annie, caught up in the simulation, runs into the Dreamatorium's actual fourth wall...which is also the "fourth wall" of the screen.
- Fridge Brilliance: Of course Troy knows nothing about wine... he's a Jehovah's Witness.
- Also, when Abed originally began making movies of the group he was objective and got everything totally right. However, the versions of Troy and Britta he shows on their date are over-the-top and Flanderized, and his grasp of Annie's motives are incorrect. This is because he's become too emotionally involved with the study group to truly be an objective observer anymore, showing his character development.
- Genre Savvy: Annie becomes steadily more so after spending more time in the Dreamatorium and learning its rules.
- Here We Go Again: Annie "breaks" Abed again in The Tag when she redecorates Troy and Abed's blanket room.
- Heroic BSOD: Abed, when Annie meddles with the Dreamatorium's 'engine.'
- Heterosexual Life Partners: Abed and Troy, really driven home in this episode. For the sake of context: the last time one of Abed's emotional nosedives pulled the show into genre-bending surrealism, the event was triggered by his mother's abandonment. This time, it's Troy spending time with someone else, which puts a pretty intense spin on exactly how dependent Abed is on Troy for even a relatively stable emotional life. Doubles as both Fridge Logic and Tear Jerker.
- Insistent Terminology: Abed insists on calling things in his Inspector Spacetime simulation by their correct names when Annie bungles them.
- I Think You Broke Him: Annie says "I broke Abed!" after the above BSOD.
- Literal Genie:
Annie: Take me where I want to go.
- The Matchmaker: Annie sets up Troy and Britta on a lunch date. Abed thinks she did this to clear her way to Jeff. Annie says she did it because she thinks that they would be cute together and that Jeff is just a bonus.
- Meta Guy: Abed's role as this is lampshaded in this episode.
- Mind Screw:
- According to this, not even the writers understood the plot until they started editing. Lampshaded: Abed-as-Pierce pops up in the Dreamatorium at one point specifically to point out that he has no idea what's going on.
- In universe, the reason Abed-as-Troy (and presumably the real Troy) doesn't get Inception:
Abed-as-Troy: [Weeping] So many layers!
- My God, What Have I Done?: Even the Dean thinks he went too far with his half-man half-woman split down the middle "Duali-Dean of Man" costume:
Dean: I have to go to the bank today! What am I supposed to tell people in line, "I had good news and bad news?!" Come on, Craig. Get your life together.
- It actually went well.
- Not-So-Badass Longcoat: Inspector Spacetime!Abed.
- Not So Different: One of the realizations Annie and Abed have over the episode is that they both spend too much effort trying to force things to go the way they feel they should go rather than just going with the flow.
- One Head Taller: Jeff and Annie's "2-foot height disparity".
- Oscar Bait: "Hospital School" brings us tragic heart-wrenching Alzheimer's patient and Emmy contender Pierce Hawthorne:
Shirley: Mr. Hawthorne, you're out of your bed again.
Pierce: Because I think I'm on a train.
- Out-of-Genre Experience: Community finally did a medical drama episode.
- The Peeping Tom: Leonard, when Jeff and Annie kissed
- Put on a Bus: Professor Kane has the flu.
- The Rainman: "I am Abed Nadir, and I don't know a lot of things everyone else knows," while an analog clock (confirmed in "Basic Lupine Urology"), a restaurant check, shoes with untied laces, and a pile of papers (possibly tax forms) float around.
- Ray Gun
- Reality Subtext: The Final Exam being postponed could be a reference to Community's season finale being postponed, due to being on hiatus.
- Recursive Reality: The final third of the episode gets into this, until the point where we have Alison Brie playing Abed playing Annie and playing Annie playing Abed, at which point she turns into Danny Pudi playing Annie playing Abed. Or something. It's kind of complicated.
- Ripped from the Headlines
- Screen Tap: Subverted. See Fourth Wall Psych above.
- Ship Sinking: Annie, who was once infatuated with Troy, is now officially trying to pair him with Britta.
- Also, Annie rather critically appraises her ongoing flirtation with Jeff.
- Ship Tease: To some extent, Annie/Abed.
- Also, Abed/Troy, in one of the few episodes they spend apart. Troy takes time out of his date to call the apartment and make sure that Abed's okay, while Abed imagines Troy wanting to ditch his date and come home. Ultimately, they both seem to benefit from spending a few hours with other people.
- Shipper on Deck: Annie, for Troy/Britta.
- Stuffed Into a Locker: Annie eventually finds Abed in a metaphorical enlarged version of the locker he used to get shoved into in high school.
- Streaming Stars: Shows up in the Inspector Spacetime title sequence.
- Take That: To Carson Daly.
- Truth Serums: Annie injects Troy!Abed, who reveals the desired information about Abed and then continues to blurt out embarrassing confessions. To sum up:
- He likes butt stuff, hates spiders, and stole a pen from the bank.
- He cried at About a Boy ... the soundtrack.
- He doesn't wash his hands before surgery.
- He is as-good-as-attracted to Clive Owen.
- He uses Godwin's Law at any opportunity in internet debates.
- He knows nothing about wine.
- He's more turned on by women wearing pajamas than lingerie (he likes knowing they feel comfortable).
- And what finally makes him break down in tears? He doesn't get Inception.
- Wholesome Crossdresser: The Dean. Well, he's half of one, anyway.
- You Are Not Alone: Annie says this to Abed at the end of the episode.