The Office: Money
The problem with writing reviews within a few hours of watching an episode of a show is that very often doing so leads to hyperbole. You need to generate an opinion so quickly that minor points of contention can easily turn into "catastrophic flaws", while solidly good episodes become "masterpieces that will no doubt usher in a new golden age of television." It is incumbent upon a reviewer, then, to keep his excitement in check and guard against the urge to over-state things.
All that being said, tonight's episode was The. Best. Episode. Ever. More after the jump...
My original post-jump mini-essay was going to be a reminder to the people who read my reviews that they all can't be glowing. A lot of comments get posted each week of this variety: "If you don't like it, stop watching it" or "A bad episode of The Office is better than 99% of the rest of television" or "The world would be so much better if you got that monkey disease from Outbreak and someone else took over this review".
My job, I was originally going to say, is not to be a fanboy of The Office (even though I am one). My job is to watch each episode and write a review. Sometimes, the review might be slightly negative. This is not because I think The Office is terrible and should be canceled and not because I'm a stuck-up chardonnay-sipping TV elitist, but because the show has set such a high bar for itself that it sometimes fails to deliver what we've come to expect from it.
So I was originally going to write a disclaimer saying that while it would be easy for me to come here every week and write a thousand words about how this is the best show on television followed by fifteen bullet-pointed highlights from the episode, I feel that it's far more rewarding to attempt an objective breakdown of each episode, hopefully bringing up salient points for discussion. Even a negative review should be taken not as a definitive declaration of whether the show is "bad" or "good" (after all, who the hell am I?), but rather, it should function as just a jumping off point for an intelligent conversation about our favorite show.
That's what I was originally going to write. Then the stupid show went and gave us maybe the best episode since Casino Night and I'm pretty much just going to write a glowing review followed by a bunch of bullet points of what made the episode so great. So, uh, let's get to it...
I'm not a financial expert, but I think that it's probably an economic truism that if you're going to have a hot, blond, non-working, fake-breasted girlfriend laying around your condo, you're going to need a lot of money to keep that lifestyle going (by the way, if you're reading this and you're a member of a hot, blond, non-working, fake-breasted anti-defamation league, I'd like to take this opportunity to both apologize and to ask you to please send pictures of yourself to my email address). Michael, we learn tonight, is starting to buckle under the burden of supporting not only himself but also Jan and her boobs. He's struggling so much that he actually has to take a second job.
On a personal level, I completely sympathized with Michael. It wasn't that long ago that I was juggling both my teaching job and my burgeoning career as a stand-up comic. Watching Michael trudge off to his night job as a telemarketer, then trudge back in the next morning looking like a zombie, I couldn't help but flash back to those days (seriously, I think I drank five times my own body weight in Red Bull during the 05-06 school year. On a related note, I have no stomach lining left). If any of you have moonlighting stories, please share them in the comments -- did you sympathize with Michael also?
At the telemarketing company, we see Michael for the first time as an employee and not a boss. How great was it watching him discuss the "useless meetings" that his boss kept calling (with, by the way, not one spark of recognition that his own meetings might be just as useless)? While I was a bit disappointed that we didn't get to see Michael the expert salesman, it was gratifying to see him as a popular employee at the telemarketing company. From time to time it's nice to be reminded that Michael isn't just a cartoon who says racially inappropriate things, but a man who, if you didn't know him that well, can be quite charming.
Dwight, meanwhile, still reeling from his break-up with Angela, has done a bit of moonlighting of his own, opening up "The Beets Motel" on the family farm. Upon hearing this news, Pam and Jim do the only logical thing and book a night at the motel, opting to stay in the "Irrigation"-themed room. (Other choices: "America" and "Sleep". I'll be honest, I was interested in seeing what "Sleep" looked like. Pillows hanging every where? A crudely painted portrait of Nail Gaiman's take on Morpheus? What?)
The stay at the farm was exactly the Texas Chainsaw Massacre type house of horrors that you'd expect the Schrute farm to be: table making, beet farming, and, everyone's favorite slightly crazy, completely creepy Schrute: Mose. I think if you're going to spend a day doing something horrible (like stay at "The Beets Motel"), Pam and Jim might be the ideal couple to do it with. They experience hellish situations with such good humor as to actually make them seem enjoyable (it doesn't hurt, either, to look at Pam in spaghetti-straps!)
Michael's second job keeps him from doing his day-job at his usual level of competence (which, by the way, is barely chimpanzee level even when he gets a good night's sleep), so Ryan forces him to quit. Desperate for money, he wanders the office looking for loans or betting options, finally wrangling Oscar's help in coming to terms with his financial situation. Michael's financial failings come to light in front of Jan and she gives him a speaker-phone tongue-lashing reminiscent of the days when she was his boss. Michael's response? Run away, of course.
Dwight is fairing little better himself. Andy has made all the right moves with Angela (despite looking at her so creepily that it makes Mose's long stare at Pam seem James Bondian cool by comparison) and she has allowed him to ask her out. Dwight's response? Go to the stairwell and moan like we might imagine Sprinkles the cat moaned before he mercy-killed it.
Both Michael and Dwight's flight lead to the best two moments of the season so far: Jan and Jim coming to comfort each of them, respectively. You might quibble with me on this -- I'm sure there were funnier moments that you could make a case for being called "the best" -- but I am a sucker for real, emotional connections like these. Maybe that makes me less of a man (I'll add it to the list of reasons I'm not very manly that I'm crocheting), but I'm sorry: I just loved it.
I have so many highlights from this episode in my notes that I can't possibly put them all in the bullet points without literally rewriting the episode from beginning to end. I'm going to try to limit myself to just the very best; please add to my list in the comments. This was a classic episode in terms of comedy and heart, filling for the first time all season the entire hour without feeling like they stretched it. I was firmly in the "The Office should stay at a half hour" camp until tonight's episode. If they were all this good, I'd say screw it: Thursday night should be two and a half hours of The Office and also 30 minutes of 30 Rock.
Anyway, the highlights:
-- Whoever, Whomever. I agree with Creed: whomever is a made-up word they use to trick you. I loved that even when they had it figured out that "whomever" is the used when it's the object, they still couldn't figure out whether Ryan's use of the word was correct.
-- Darryl and Kelly. Damn Darryl is smooth. "Go to the part of your brain that isn't crazy." "He just says what he's thinking -- what kind of game is that?" Darryl is becoming a stand-out secondary character -- which is really saying something when you consider how good the other secondary players are.
-- Darryl intimidating Ryan. I told you it'd be great the first time Ryan visited the office after Darryl and Kelly started hooking up. I'm praying that Ryan says something rude to Kelly in a future episode and Darryl is there to hear it. How much do you want to bet that he knocks that scruffy beard right off Ryan's face?
-- One more thing about Kelly: did she look extra cute tonight or was it me?
-- Jim's consolation of Dwight, talking about why he left Scranton and how much it hurt not to have Pam. It's moments like these, which require knowledge of the back story to understand, that make me happy that we've moved beyond the idea of a traditional sitcom (which means, literally, situational comedy; i.e. the comedy arises situationally, independent of what has come before or after it). In a traditional sitcom, Jim would never have made such detailed references to a former episode (so as to not hurt syndication sales). In our post-Friends network world, shows are allowed to reference what has come before and the stories are the richer because of it.
-- Jim talking to Dwight also gave us two other great moments: 1) Jim all but kicking down the office door to kiss Pam (which made my wife's heart flutter so loudly that I heard it even though we're about fifteen states apart) and 2) Dwight's recovery, which was basically him knocking Jim's stack of files over and going back to business-as-usual. Pam and Jim's smile at this mirrored my own.
-- Creed's false identity. Are there Creed t-shirts? There should be.
-- Andy and Angela. It's going to be fun seeing them date. Seriously, I'm more excited about the prospect of this than just about anything else that is going on in my own life here in the real world. Excuse me for a moment as I sit on the toilet and cry.
-- "It wasn't about the money, though, as it turned out, I desperately needed the money."
-- The third bar, representing things that no normal person needs to spend money on. Multiple magic kits?
-- Michael's John Bender fist raise as he left his second job. It was hilarious and it perfectly fit Michael's overly-dramatic, pop-culture drenched mind. This is the Michael Scott I want to see more of... not the kidnapping, lake-driving cartoon character.
All right, kids, that's it for this week! I'm knee deep in an college tour of the midwest and look forward to dangerously reading your comments via my cell phone as I navigate through the cornfields of Iowa...
|Diversity Day||142 (15.6%)|
|The Dundies||124 (13.6%)|
|Casino Night||247 (27.1%)|
|Beach Games||94 (10.3%)|
|The Job||44 (4.8%)|
|Other (List in the Comments)||82 (9.0%)|
Gallery: The Office: Steve Carell