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October 10, 2015

The Office (BBC): Episode 4

by Annie Wu, posted Jun 20th 2006 10:45PM
The Office
(S01E04) Not counting the Christmas specials, this episode is my hands-down favorite. There are so many glorious (and musical) moments that perfectly capture the spirit of The Office, I find hard to believe it's all contained in less than half an hour. This is why I always choose to show Episode 4 when I am attempting to drag another ignorant innocent into a state rabid fandom. It'd be wrong for me to paraphrase the really good moments because every single word is important for the joke. So, I'm going to be doing a lot of quoting. Consider this fair warning.

In this episode, Lee and Dawn had a bitter argument that left Dawn in tears. As Tim and some others tried to calm Dawn down over being dumped ("No one dumped anyone... It was just an argument"), David and a guest speaker, Rowan, set up for a staff-training seminar. After the team was assembled and Rowan tried starting his lecture, David kept talking over him, annoyingly throwing in side comments after every other phrase. Rowan decided to pop in a video instead.

I loved the sheer cheesiness of the video. The fact that it was hosted by Peter Purves (from the children's program Blue Peter) made it even better. David talked through the video because various happenings in the video sparked random trivia in his head. The whole conversation about using stamps as legal tender was great. Anyway, after the video, Rowan decided to initiate a little role-play to emphasize the importance of good customer service. He called David up to play a customer to his hotel manager character.

David: I'd like to make a complaint, please.
Rowan: I don't care.
David: I am staying at your hotel --
Rowan: I don't care, it's not my shift.
David: Well, you're an ambassador for the hotel --
Rowan: Don't care.
David: I think you'll care once I tell you what the complaint is --
Rowan: Don't care.
[silence, stunned look from Rowan]
David: [to the employees] Get. Their. Attention.

Clearly, that didn't work out. So, David offered to switch roles so he could be Basil Fawlty a hotel manager.

Rowan: Hello, I wish to make a complaint.
David: Not interested!
Rowan: My room is an absolute disgrace --
David: Don't care!
Rowan: The bathroom doesn't appear to have been cleaned --
David: Wait, wait. What room are you in?
Rowan: Uh, 362.
David: There is no 362. [to the employees] Sometimes the complaints will be false. Okay?... Good.

Normally, dialogue like that would have been solidified as the best lines of the episode, but Gervais and Merchant out-did themselves when Rowan conducted a trust exercise in which everyone was to say their ultimate fantasy out loud (owning a private island, being able to live forever, etc.)...

[Gareth enters]
Rowan: Gareth, quick trust exercise: ultimate fantasy?
Gareth: Hmm?
David: We're just doing "the ultimate fantasy". We're all doing it.
Gareth: [without hesitation] Two lesbians, probably. Sisters. I'm just watching.
Rowan: ... Okay. Um... Tim? Do you have one?
Tim: I never thought I'd say this, but can I hear more from Gareth, please?

Ah, and it only got better. After someone mentioned that part of their ultimate fantasy would be to start a band, David very loudly announced that he had already "been there, done that". He even showed off some mad skill on his guitar ("He went home to get it," Tim said to the camera, hints of exhaustion in his tone). After a few brief samples, David did a brilliant number called "Free Love Freeway".

Pretty girl on the hood of a Cadillac, yeah.
She's broken down on Freeway 9.
I take a look and her engine's started,
I leave her purring as I roll on by... Bye-bye!
Free love on the free love freeway,
The love is free and the freeway's long.
I got some hot love on the hot love highway,
I ain't going home 'cause my baby's gone.

She's deeead!

She's not dead.

Long time later, I see a cowboy crying.
I said, "Hey buddy, what can I do?"
He says, "I lived a good life, had about a thousand women."
I said, "Well, why the tears?", he says, "'Cause none of them was yooou."
Tim: What? You?
David: No. He's looking at a photograph.
Tim: Right. Of you.
David: No. Of his girlfriend. The video would have shown --
Tim: Sorry, yeah. Sounds a bit gay at the moment.
David: It's not gay. [promptly starts playing again, background vocals provided by Gareth and Tim]

Free love on the free love freeway,
The love is free and the freeway's long.
I got some hot love on the hot love highway,
I ain't going home 'cause my baby's gone.

Free love on the free love freeway,
The love is free and the freeway's long.
I got some hot love on the hot love highway,
I ain't going home 'cause my baby's gone.

[scattered applause]

[clearly pissed off] Right, that's Lunch.

However, the music didn't end there. In an attempt to comfort Dawn, David played a song just for her. The tune was originally about the death of Princess Diana, but Gareth said the car crash bit symbolized Dawn and Lee's relationship. Soon after, they had to return to the seminar, where everyone was broken into pairs to work the classic "a farmer has a chicken, a fox, and a bag of grain and he needs to transport them over a river..." problem. To Tim's dismay, he was paired with Gareth, who nitpicked the whole time.

Gareth: [looking at the picture] How big is this chicken that it's the same size as a bag of grain?
Tim: I dunno. Big chicken.
Gareth: How big?
Tim: Big. It's a super-chicken.
Gareth: What's the farmer doing with a fox? A fox is a farmer's worst enemy. He should just drown the fox in the river.
Tim: Gareth. It's just a puzzle. You know it's just a puzzle.
Gareth: Yeah. Well. It's stupid. Doesn't mean anything. What are we learning from this?
Tim: It's not about learning. It's just a problem to be solved.
Gareth: Put the grain on a wall.
Tim: There's not a wall.
Gareth: There's always wall.
Tim: Not here, there isn't.
Gareth: What? There's nothing? There's just a farm and a river? Get his wife to help.
Tim: He hasn't got a wife.
Gareth: All farmers have wives.
Tim: Not this one. He's gay.
Gareth: Well. Then... he shouldn't be allowed near animals, should he?

As all that was going on, Dawn and Lee quietly hugged and made up outside. Soon after Dawn returned to the group, David's irritating behavior threw Tim over the edge. He bitched out David and Gareth and stormed out, prompting Rowan to do the same. Unaware of Dawn and Lee patching things up earlier, Tim quickly re-entered to quickly ask Dawn out for a drink, only to be turned down. in front of everyone. Ouch. An awkward silence hung over the group as Tim walked out again. David nudged Gareth and whispered, "Go and get the guitar."

The credits were accompanied by a great cover of the show's theme song, "Handbags and Gladrags", by David.


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This actually WAS the first episode I ever saw of The Office. Needless to say, I was hooked. Sheer brilliance from beginning to end, really.

June 21 2006 at 12:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I love Gervais rocking out on the guitar. I have Freelove as a ringtone on my cell phone.

June 21 2006 at 12:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Some complaints will be false. Oh man, my friends and I used that phrase to disarm eachother countless times when we were first introduced to The Office. I'm going to have to start using it more, it'd be the perfect response for stupid people in the comments.

June 21 2006 at 10:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"I think there's been a rape up there!" = classic.

June 21 2006 at 8:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The thing I love about shows like The Office and Curb Your Enthusiasm is the imperfection of conversation. Everything doesn't make sense, sentences are full of perfect grammar or worded as well as if they'd had a chance to pick each and every word they said, people point out inconsistencies, people are wrong. I think that's why I don't like the US version as much, it's funny but it doesn't feel as real, as natural to me. Of course the UK version was no doubt written and re-written to get that natural quality but it just works perfectly.

June 21 2006 at 6:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


"She's not dead" gets me every.single.time.lol

June 21 2006 at 4:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

great recap, truly one of tv's finest moments. i've seen the episode a couple of times and still managed to laugh out loud whilst reading the recap. awesome!

June 21 2006 at 1:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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