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September 23, 2014

The Office: Fun Run (season premiere)

by Jay Black, posted Sep 28th 2007 8:32AM
Ah, there they are, my imaginary friends!(S04E01) We had a lot of discussion last year about The Office's precarious balance of sitcom-type humor and soap-opera drama. There were times when the Pam/Jim/Karen/Roy love quadrangle threatened to overwhelm the show. Other times, Michael's increasingly cartoonish boss went so far off the reservation as to completely shake our suspension of disbelief.

If anything, tonight's episode proved while the sitcom elements are certainly important, it's the soap opera that gives us our unique connection to these characters. I don't know about you guys, but seeing Michael and Jan and Angela and Dwight and, most especially, Pam and Jim back on the small screen felt like slipping out for some coffee with my old friends.

Yes, I'm completely aware that this feeling might be the beginning stages of paranoid schizophrenia, but I don't care because The Office is back! On to the review...

Just a quick note up front: tonight marks the beginning of these reviews no longer being just reviews, but "reviewcaps." What is the difference? Well, instead of just giving my thoughts about a show I'm assuming you've already seen, I'm also including a fairly detailed rundown of the events of the episode. So, even if you miss an episode, you can keep track of all the doings by reading this reviewcap.

In all honesty, I'm a bit worried about this editorial change. My reviews last year often stretched to 1500 to 2000 words (and not everyone was 100% happy at my willingness to spill so much electronic ink). With the added responsibility of detailing the doings of the plot, it's entirely possible that my reviews will take up all the hard drive space at AOL. I apologize in advance if this reviewcap runs too long for your liking. I'll be figuring this out as the weeks go on and promise to find the right length sooner rather than later.

(One last thing before we begin -- I watched tonight's episode via my SlingBox and the wonderful internet connection at Western Michigan University. I performed there tonight and the kids went out of their way to help me get set up so I could get my review finished on time. They rock, and so does SlingBox!)

We open the season with Michael addressing the camera. The decision to allow Jan to move in with him is already paying off from a comedic perspective; despite Michael's self-delusional optimism, it's quite obvious that Jan is seriously depressed (well, they don't come out and say that, but I've seen people sleeping at 9 AM across a bed like that, and believe me, it's never for a good reason; it's always either a hangover or a crushing depression).

Cut to Michael driving his car into work and talking about what a good year he's expecting, what with Jim back and his "protegè" Ryan moving on to corporate. This, of course, leads to the funniest cold open we've had in a while (and also one that perfectly gets us into the right mindset for the season): Michael slamming his car into Meredith.

After the credits, we come to the question of the Pam/Jim cliffhanger from last year. First things first: ladies, our long national nightmare is over! Jim's hair is back to its shaggalicious self. The corporate cut that he had at the end last season (and also, I think, the cut that legitimately broke my wife's heart) is long gone. You can go back to sighing dreamily every time Jim appears on the screen.

And even though I promised myself I wouldn't spend an entire season talking about how in love with Pam I am... wow she looks good to start the show.

Jim has broken up with Karen and despite her being a strong woman who cares about her career more than her relationship with Jim... she quits. I'm sorry to see Karen go and hope that there's at least one or two guest spots from her this season.

Jim and Pam are obviously hiding a relationship from the office. We're told this first by the sly smiles on Jim and Pam's faces as they tell the camera that even though they went out a few times, their romance fizzled. We're then told flat out by Kevin. Kevin about them not dating: "Are you keeeeeeeding me?"

Michael comes into the office and tell everyone about Meredith being hit by the car. For those of you who are high school teachers and are looking for an excuse to show a video in class, you can show this episode of The Office as a way to explain the dangers of the passive voice. "Meredith was hit by a car." Michael, as always, tries to deny any negative involvement on his part.

Of course, Dwight has Michael's back. "It's only Meredith." Is there any show that balances such warm characters with such cavalier misanthropy?

Pam is going to lead a group of the workers to go visit Meredith at the hospital. Kevin tries to get Pam to admit to her relationship with Jim ("I bet you're going to ask Jim next!") We find out that Angela doesn't want to go because Sprinkles, her cat, is sick and someone has to eat lunch with her. None of the other cats can do it because "there's bad blood... there's cliques." No offense to the cat people in our reading audience, but it makes perfect sense that Angela would be a cat person, doesn't it?

Michael then has to tell Ryan, his new boss, that he hit Meredith on company property with company property. We get to see Ryan for the first time, and boys and girls his turn to the dark side is absolutely complete. I keep expecting him to announce that he's no longer to be called Ryan, but to refer to him as "Darth Caedus." He's even got bad-guy-stubble and a dark suit. He says that people are calling him a "wunderkind" but that he doesn't quite understand why they would be doing that. This cements, for me, the hate for Ryan that's been growing since last season: believe me, whenever someone brings up a compliment that other people tell them and say "I don't understand it", it's because they are unbelievably arrogant and horrible.

(By the way, a lot of people say that my reviewcaps are "what keeps them going on Fridays." Isn't that weird? I don't get that at all. I mean, it's nice and everything, but really!)

Michael's big solution to the car-damaged morale of the office it to "plant a tree." Pam ignores him and continues to plan the trip to the hospital. Michael wants to drive and, of course, no one wants to go with him, seeing as he just ran over an employee.

The first commercial break then happens and I dip my fingers in water. The water steams.

The entire office goes to Meredith's hospital bed and we get to see some returning favorites for the first time. We have our first Creed moment of the season and it's a great one. Meredith mentions that she's on a lot of pain killers, and Creed materializes from the crowd and starts running through a Limbaugh-like list of prescription pain medications. When Meredith doesn't know which one's she's on, Creed dismisses her disgustedly.

Michael asks Meredith for forgiveness and she refuses. For me this was a cringe moment. I mentioned it in my reviews last year, but whenever someone puts themselves on the line and asks for forgiveness and the other person refuses, it makes me want to crawl into a corner and die like Sprinkles the Cat (who we find out is dead right after the hospital scene).

Upon hearing about the death of Sprinkles the Cat (Dwight on the death of the cat: "It's in a better place. And when I say better place, I mean the freezer. Because of the odor."), Michael collapses in what looks to me like real tears. If there's a reason why we love Michael despite his cartoonish incompetence, it's probably this capacity to actually care about the same stupid things that his employees care about. I'm not sure if I'd manage tears for the death of my brother's cat, let alone a haughty ice-queen in my employ.

Anyway, the death of the cat convinces Michael that the office is cursed.

To help figure a way to end the curse, Michael convenes one of the sure to be thousands of highly inappropriate meetings that we'll be seeing this season. He asks everybody what their religion is (despite the protestations of Tobey) and we get some hilarious moments. Phyllis: "I'm a Lutheran and Bob is a Unitarian, so it keeps things spicy." Angela: "That's why we're cursed!"

I don't know why, but of all the unrealistic things about The Office, it's these moments of religious and racial insensitivity on Michael's part that I find the most annoying. I guess this is because while I can buy that Michael would be able to run someone over in the parking lot and get away with it, in modern America, he's simply not going to get away with showing even a hint of racial, sexual, or religious discrimination. You'd be more likely to keep your job setting fire to your desk than you would saying some of the things Michael says. I know it's only a TV show, but it still drives me nuts.

Dwight is dispatched to the hospital during the meeting and wonders whether it'd be a good idea to "pull the plug." Meanwhile, Michael is becoming ever more despondent about the curse and how God has abandoned him in general. We find out that Kelly shares his despondency ("If there was a God, Ryan and I would be married.") I have to wonder after the big bad bomb that was Evan Almighty whether anybody used this scene to make some fun of Steve Carell. "Michael, the mistake wasn't believing in a God, the mistake was allowing someone to talk you into making a $175 million sequel to a movie about God."

Kevin is on a sting operation to discover if Pam and Jim are together. He says that they'd be good together, "like PB&J... Pam Beasely and Jim, what a waste!") We see Pam's car pull over and while Pam tells the audience emphatically that she's not dating anyone, we get to the worst kept secret twist ever as Jim jumps in the car with her and they share a kiss.

We've been waiting for this kiss for 3 years and we get it in a long shot? With no build up? I'm not sure if I agree with that decision. I guess it works within the context of the story, but really... we've been waiting for so long, you'd think they'd make the moment a bit more special. What do you guys think?

Michael takes solace in the fact that hitting Meredith with his car revealed that she might have rabies. He decides to use this opportunity to host a fun-run "race for the cure" (for a disease that has been "largely eradicated in America, but not many people know that.")

Kevin doesn't want to run for the cure (of a disease that has been largely eradicated in America), and Michael assumes that it's because he doesn't want people to see his "big fat legs in shorts."

We then get a great Andy moment as he gears up for the fun-run. He's "terrified of nipple chaffing." I don't know why that made me laugh so much, but wow. I'm in the all-night restaurant here at Western Michigan University and when I heard that I started laughing like a crazy person. That's not a good way to make the students comfortable with your presence.

Angela asks Pam for some relationship advice. She suspects that maybe Dwight was responsible for Sprinkle's death. She asks if Roy ever killed one of Pam's cats. Pam responds that "she's more of a dog person."

Really, could she be any more perfect? Seriously? She couldn't be, right?

For the first time in recent memory, we're reminded that the people of Dunder-Mifflin are being filmed for a documentary (a seemingly endless documentary when you consider this is a paper company. I mean, geez, even Ken Burns has limits and he's tackling World War II!) Pam and Jim's relationship comes out when the long shot we saw before is shown to them by the documentarians. Pam admits that they're dating and we get what might be the sweetest moment of the episode so far. Pam and Jim smiling despite themselves as they talk about "how great things are going."

One wonders if things will still keep going great when those things are revealed to the rest of the office.

As the planning of the fun-run continues, Pam has to see Michael about a misprint on the advertising sheet ("5K means five kilometers, not five thousand miles"), and she walks in on him changing. We don't get to see it (thanks to some Real-World style pixel-blurring), but Pam gets an eyeful of Michael's own little Dundee Award.

A treat for the ladies in the audience when we get to see Jim's upper torso as he takes his shirt off as a way to mock Michael's use of his office to change. "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realize that this was a place of business and not a French beach." I'm not with my wife right now, but if I were, I'm sure I'd be hearing her making growling noises.

Jan is helping with the fun-run and thinks that Pam was "peeping" on Michael. She tells Pam that Michael is hers and that Pam should keep her "hands off." Jan has obviously slipped into the bowels of insanity; anyone who is willing to fight for Michael is obviously in deep despair.

The fun-run finally happens and the office responds the exact way you'd expect with most of them not caring at all. Pam and Jim have a nice moment when they link hands. Andy, too, has some funny moments as he uses Kevin to "draft".

During the fun-run it comes out that Dwight, indeed, was responsible for Sprinkles' death. Dwight tells Angela that when a farmer sees an animal in despair, a farmer does what "city folk don't have the guts to do." Angela gives Dwight the "don't touch me" routine that does not bode well for the Angela-Dwight relationship.

(Quick side note, there was an ad for Dan in Real Life that followed this segment, starring Steve Carell and... Dane Cook! Let me ask you, is there a new law that every movie released has to have Dane Cook's involvement in some way? Is he 2007's answer to 1988's Michael Caine?)

Tobey wins the fun-run. It's nice to see Tobey get a little joy.

Jim and Pam come upon Michael on the ground, dehydrated and despondent yet again. Pam tries to give him a pep-talk which leads to maybe the funniest line of the night: "You don't know me, Pam, you've just seen my penis." Michael manages to finish the fun-run to show Pam that he is capable of helping to rid the world of rabies. When he finishes he says, "I may have puked my guts out, but I never puked my heart out."

Michael winds up in the hospital with severe dehydration. Meredith forgives him because of how hard Michael tried to raise money for a disease that Meredith didn't have.

We end on a nice capper where Michael shares his lollipop with Meredith. After she takes a lick, Michael doesn't want it back anymore.

My feelings on the episode were this: it was a great half-hour stretched a bit unnecessarily to an hour. The dead-half mark of the episode was Jim and Pam kissing for the first time. That would have been a fine place to finish tonight and I, for one, would not have been disappointed. While I usually enjoy the "supersized" episodes, I thought tonight's suffered a bit from bloat. I know that there have been rumors that NBC is considering making an hour The Office's standard running time, but if the result is an episode like this (good, but stretched a bit too thin to be great), I'd rather keep things at a half-hour.

The irony of my complaining about the length of the show tonight in a blog post that is easily the longest I've ever written for the show is not lost on me. How did you guys feel about the "recap" part of tonight's "reviewcap"? Was it too detailed? Not detailed enough? Is 3000 words much too much to wade through? Let me know in the comments (kindly, if you can).

All right, I'm off to enjoy the sites of Kalamazoo, MI and by that I mean I'm off to bed!

How would you like a move to The Office being an hour permanently?
No! It was perfect at a half an hour!350 (36.9%)
Are you kidding? The more Office the better!599 (63.1%)

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Phish

The episode AND the review are both BLOATED.
nobody wants a recap, they just want a review.
make another site for the poor SOBs in ukraine or somewhere that cant watch the show (or download it).

October 01 2007 at 4:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
b3

BE QUIET! LET THE HOUR SHOW RUN AND MORE PLEASE!! There is NOTHING good on TV this year, NOTHING except the Office and Two and a Half Men. The Office is by far superior! Don't complain and have someone take OFFICE TIME away!

September 30 2007 at 3:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Scott

I liked the episode. Unless they were going to start it a day after the season finale, they had to account for some time passed and reflect that in Pam & Jim's relationship. They found a clever way to do that, involving the unseen documentarians (I wonder if they'll ever explain what they're still doing there after all those years have passed?)

As far as the "reviewcap", I have to echo the others. I don't think the TV Squad powers-that-be understand WHAT their readers WANT from the site. No one wants episode recaps; there's TWOP for that. We come to TV Squad to read what the reviewer thought of the show, and what the commenters thought about it. If I miss one, I won't be coming here to find out what happened. Keep the posts focused on reviewing the show, not summarizing it. I don't care if they're long, but keep in mind that probably 95% of your readers have SEEN the show within the past 24 hours!! Thanks. Funny review, too, Jay--you're one of my favorite TV Squad writers.

September 29 2007 at 11:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
john

We loved your recap!

September 29 2007 at 9:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Cincinnati Mike

Count me as a "no" on recap. Well, done, but why re-invent the wheel? As someone earlier said, TWoP has that covered.

As far as the one-hour eps, I am guessing these first four 1-hr eps are part of NBC's "unprecedented" 30-ep order for this season. Even when it's actually two back to back, they do seem to lag. I thought this week was some genuine laughs serving a nothing premise.

One beef...are they giving Angela (that "uptight Christian chick," in Roy's words) a makeover? Her gauzy black outfit seemed completely out of character. Remember way back, when Jan was trying to mentor the girls..."don't dress for the job you have, but the job you want." Cut to Angela, who says "I guess Jan wants to be a whore."

September 29 2007 at 6:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
A Viewer

Jay, the recap part of this reviewcap was probably too detailed, but it was enjoyable to read anyway.

I think that as a comedy, "The Office" should be half an hour long usually, and it probably would have a lot of filler if each episode idea was stretched over a whole hour. One hour episodes now and then are nice (I for one think that this one was not really bloated) but one hour every week would stretch the material too thin.

It was a very funny episode. The best exchange of the first half is Michael explaining to his shocked employees that "the doctors tried to save her life. They did the best they could. ...And she's going to be okay," leading to Stanley's reply, "What is WRONG with you?" The best line of the second half? Michael saying, "Myth: three Americans die every years of rabies. Fact: FOUR Americans die every year of rabies." Hilarious!

Next week sounds good too -- Ryan returns to the Scranton office, with the intention of bringing "the company into the digital age," according to Wikipedia. Ryan was barely in the "Fun Run" episode, but not that many people missed him much, from what I've read here...

September 29 2007 at 5:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
cathy

It was a great half hour stretched a bit unnecessarily to an hour can describe this review. It was a great 1500 words stretced to 3000. Please dont continue this recap garbage. Way way too long. If all the reviews go to this I wont have time to read them. I love tv squad and would hate to give it up.

September 29 2007 at 1:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mel

Oh, I LOVED last night's episode. It was hilarious and sweet, and Jim and Pam finally getting together just fills me with joy. No, really.

Favorite lines of the night...

*"On company property, with company property. Double Jeopardy. We're okay."
"I don't think you understand the concept of Jeopardy."
"Oh. What is we're okay?"

*"Michael, 5K means 5 kilometers, not 5000 miles."

*"I've been in several cults. Sometimes as a leader, sometimes as a follower. You have more fun as a follower, but make more money as a leader."

*"You pushed Darryl out a window?"
"You shot Dwight?"

There were more, I just can't remember what they are right now. Still, an awesome episode. Can't wait till next week.

September 28 2007 at 5:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jay Black

Hey gang. Sorry I wasn't able to comment sooner -- I was flying from Kalamazoo, MI down to Charleston, SC and none of the airports had free wireless. I love you guys, but not enough to pay $7.99 for a day pass :)

Anyway, I wanted to let you know a few things:

1) Your concerns about the length and detail of the reviewcaps have been heard! I promise you that next week's reviewcap will have much more review and a lot less cap and will not take you longer than five hours to read!

2) As for the commenter that pointed out I spelled a few names wrong -- I apologize. As you can see, I typed approximately seven million words last night and didn't comb through the text as carefully as I should have.

3) And to the commenter that pointed out that this was not Jim and Pam's first kiss... I should have added in the review that it was their first kiss _as a couple_. I've seen the Casino Night episode approximately two thousand times as my wife has it on our TiVo with the "save until I say so" function flagged (probably because she finds that episode more romantic than every single romantic gesture I've ever made towards her -- combined!) I make a distinction between a desperate, longing, mostly-one-sided kiss and the first kiss of a couple. I think that the kiss we saw on Casino Night was not the magical kiss we'd all been waiting for (as so much was _not_ resolved by it).

Even my comments are overly long. Okay, thanks for your input on the reviewcaps and I'll see you all next week!

September 28 2007 at 5:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MEC

I thought last night's episode was great! I do agree that Michael's demand to know everyones' religion was unrealistic -- the same way the scene last season when Phyllis was flashed and he stuck his finger out his pants zipper. BUT, if we didn't have those over the top moments, then people would complain that the show is a rehash of their day at their own office!

Dwight killing the cat was mean, but we've seen where he has the tendency to do really mean stuff.

As for the recap, I like it. Yes, if I watched the show, it's not necessary for me to have it. But, when the show was as funny as last night's episode, I appreciate a second pair of eyes telling me what happened. I'd forgotten many of the funny lines until I read them today.

It takes guts to be a blogger and have the whole world critiquing your every written word.

Uh-oh. Have I just set myself up?

Mary

September 28 2007 at 4:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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