The Office: Business School
There's a lot of stuff to get to, so let's ask the really big question right up front...
Why didn't Jim make an appearance at the art show? Why wasn't he questioned about it in the interviews? Why didn't Pam make mention of it (though the look of hurt on her face as she was unpinning her pictures told us more than a confessional ever could)?
I was watching this episode with a big group of kids from Shawnee State University (shout out) and we all were yelling that Jim should have been there. Was it revenge? Was it Karen? Was it Roy? What stopped him from going? I've got a theory, at least, as to why they never addressed it that I'll get to in one second. You tell me your theories about why he didn't show in the comments.
I think it says something about the quality of this show that an entire group of people could be shouting at the screen when a character doesn't do what we expect him to do. I mean, I don't think the same thing would happen if Jim Belusihi's character did something "out there" on According to Jim (though for the life of me, I can't think what would be "out there" for his character... say something funny, perhaps?). I know a few of you complain that this show is getting a bit too soap-opera-ish, but I think this episode showed that there's a certain power in letting a story line run over the course of a season (or two).
A lot of people thought Michael was too over-the-top in the last episode (and after reading your comments on it, I can see why you would think that), but he was back in fighting trim tonight. I loved seeing him grab the frisbee and enter into the lecture hall with his own theme music. The thing that had me laughing the most, though, was when he took the textbook and ripped out all the pages. It was especially nice sitting there with a group of students who know all too well how much a textbook costs.
What I love about Michael is the running theme that he's learned everything he knows about being a "maverick" boss by watching movies and TV. Of course he was aping Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society by tearing the pages out of the textbook. He understands the what without really understanding the why. Not only does it work within the context of the show, it makes for a wonderful satire of those types of movies. (I hate any movie about a know-it-all non conformist who tries to change the world. We all know in real life most of those people wind up being closer to Michael Scott than Mr. Keating).
It was nice to see Ryan get his comeuppance this episode as well. For a while now, I've thought he's been too much of a grouch. He's got a job despite the fact that he's never made a sale and he's got an attractive and supportive girlfriend despite the fact that he never does one thing to encourage her. From where I'm sitting, he's got it pretty good. His getting schooled by Michael was nice to see.
The bat. So many good things here. "I want to come out now." "I'm a hero." "I'm outta here." Jim pretending to be a vampire (with Karen's help!) All good stuff. What other show gives its supporting players so much to work with? Hilarious, all of it.
(I told you this would be fawning. I can't help it.)
If you didn't know, this episode was directed by Joss Whedon of Buffy the Vampire and Firefly fame. I think that the bat subplot was a nod to his former show. (UPDATE: Jenna Fischer's blog says that it's just a coincidence. A little too coincidental if you ask me, he said in his best Dwight voice). If there was a nod to Firefly I didn't see it. Any help there commentators?
Going in, I wondered what Joss Whedon (or any of the famous directors that have been or will be taking a turn behind the lens at The Office) can bring to the show. After all, despite its brilliance, it's a bit formulaic simply because of the confines of episodic television. We know who the characters are, essentially, and we know the basic outline of every episode. So what does a superstar have to offer that a "regular" director doesn't?
This is what I noticed tonight: there was a layer of subtlety to tonight's episode that we don't normally see. Roy's excitement over being the only one from the office there (and bringing his brother) was all we needed to understand what the Roy Renaissance was all about. Jim not showing up (but not talking about it) left us to wonder where the Pam/Jim romance is headed. And finally, Michael as the calvary, happy to see a picture of the office (painted on... wait for it... paper!) not because of its inherent value as a painting (he wouldn't be able to grasp that anyway) but because seeing the thing he loved the most captured in paint right after his slap-in-the-face from Ryan actually moved him. I'm not saying that The Office isn't subtle in its usual form, just that Mr. Whedon brought out "the little things" better than any episode in recent memory.
And for that, Mr. Whedon, I applaud you. Am I actually applauding by myself in a hotel room in Ohio? Maybe!
All right, off with you. Go on and tell me what a fanboy I am...