The Office: Chairmodel - VIDEO
For everything that happened this week -- a return to form for those of you who were upset that the previous two episodes strayed from the confines of Dunder-Mifflin -- I believe it's that question (and Pam's reaction to it) that will set up the conflict over the remaining episodes of the season. I'm about as good at reading female facial signals as Rain Man, but even I could tell that Pam's face during the "proposal" wasn't exactly filled with the kind of joy you'd expect it would be. Maybe the producers are just giving us a red herring and Pam's reaction tonight will be the equivalent of Lost's four-toed statue (interesting for a blip, then forgotten about) or maybe things are not all that well in JAM-land.
But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's talk about the rest of the episode first...
After last week's "most uncomfortable dinner party in the history of the universe," Michael and Jan are officially broken up. This, of course, is calamity for Michael, whose biological clock is ticking louder than Marissa Tomei's in My Cousin Vinnie. He wants kids while he's "still young enough to play catch with them" -- just the idea of Michael Scott playing catch with a young child makes me want to call Scranton Child Services -- and as such he needs a lady.
This is going through his head at the same time he needs to pick out a new chair for himself. Pam is desperate for him to make his choice as she'll inherit his old chair (her description of why she wants it -- the "whoosh" sound it makes when you lower it -- will soon be a part of my new book, 6000 Reasons Why Jenna Fischer is the Cutest Woman on Earth: A fascinating look at one man's battle with Los Angeles county restraining orders).
Michael has become obsessed with the model in the chair catalog, though, and instead of making his choice, he is inspired by her to declare to the office that he wants to be set up on a date. This is met with the usual enthusiasm (Stanley can't think of a single person he hates enough to set up with Michael) as well as results in the usual actionable HR violations from Michael. My favorite? Trying to get Phyllis to admit her potential set-up was fat: "I'm just asking if she would capsize a rowboat." I hereby nominate "capsizing a rowboat" to become 2008's new euphemism for packing on a few extra pounds.
I've been a vocal critic of the Michael Scott episodes this season because whenever we have a Michael-centric plot, it seems to give the writers license to bend all the laws of reasonable behavior. As a fan of the show, I often fear that one day we'll be talking about how The Office was great until that one fifth season episode where Michael decided to knife fight a monkey because Jim dared him to. B.J. Novak, however, found the right balance tonight, grounding Michael's increasingly obvious sociopathy in a believable reality. This was exactly what we'd expect from Michael following a break-up.
While Michael deals with his broken heart, Kevin and Andy are left to figure out the parking crisis gripping the rest of the office. See, W.B. Jones are renovating their offices and the construction vehicles are taking up many of the usual spaces at the Scranton Business Park. This is forcing people to park in a satellite lot, which means, of course, that they have to walk.
I loved this B-Story! What more could you want? You had Bob Vance (of Vance Refrigeration). You had Andy and Kevin working together (a team with more comic potential than Turtle and Johnny Drama, if you ask me). You had a sweet Godfather reference. And you had it ending with Andy breakdancing by himself in the parking lot. You can't call yourself an Office fan if you didn't enjoy all of that.
The eye for detail we saw in this sequence could single-handedly serve as a counter-point to anyone who says that all people in Hollywood are out of touch with mainstream America. It was so dead-on in capturing the kind of small business owners who populate an office park, so perfect a satire of the kind of trivial problems that office workers blow-up into world-threatening catastrophes, that you have to think that at least some of the writers spent some time at a real office. Either that or they "majored in life experience" at Harvard, like the writers on Itchy and Scratchy. Regardless, it was pitch-perfect.
Dwight promises Michael to track down the chair model for him ('I swear, she will bear your fruit"), only to find out that she died in a car accident. Michael is so heartbroken that Pam is finally moved to set him up with a real prospect: her landlady. A quick coffee-date is made, and Michael is off to meet her.
Now, a lot of you said that last week's episode turned the uncomfortable-comedy screws so tight that you were almost unable to enjoy it. While I agree that last week had its share of painful-to-watch moments, I contend that Michael's reaction to seeing who Pam had set him up with -- a stunningly plain woman -- outdoes the entirety of the dinner party when it comes to discomfort. Seriously, I had to pause the TiVo and wait for the the scene to play out a little bit, just so I could fast-forward through it.
I felt so bad I even felt bad for the woman playing the landlady. Could you imagine that ad in the back of Variety? "NBC is looking for an actress for their popular late night comedy, The Office. Needs to be attractive enough that female friends upon hearing that you're single will make that sound women make (you know kind of like 'awwwwww', but trying to hold the pity back) and then say, 'you're too pretty to be single!' BUT, also needs to be UNattractive enough that when the men with whom you have blind dates actually SEE you, they are visibly disappointed." I mean, who reads that and is excited that it describes them? So, so uncomfortable.
It's the disastrous date that leads to the situation I talked about at the beginning of this review: Pam and Jim and marriage. Jim quips that after the date, Pam is going to need a new place to live and he, of course, offers his place. She tells him that she doesn't want to live with anyone until she's engaged (which is either quaintly old-fashioned or another a painful reminder of the breakdown in young-people's morals, depending on your point of view), which leads to some awkward marriage talk.
I say "awkward" not because of the content of the conversation: that was actually pretty sweet. My wife hasn't seen this episode yet, but I imagine that when she watches Jim smile and say that his proposal is going to "Kick your ass, Beasley," her crush on John Krasinski will grow so powerful that it will actually gain sentience and apply for U.S. citizenship.
No, it was awkward for little reasons: Pam's fading smile at the end of the conversation, her look of consternation during the "fake proposal," the fact that Jim bought the ring "a week after they started dating," which is right up there with "I think the stripper really likes me" on the list of "Top 10 Things your Friend Tells You that Makes You Think He's about to Get Hurt." It's entirely possible that I'm reading too much into this -- I've certainly done that before -- but did anyone else get the sense that a happy wedding without any drama is not in the cards for Pam and Jim?
We end the episode at the cemetery, with Michael and Dwight paying their final respects to the chair model by way of a ridiculously chomped-up version of "American Pie." It was wonderful, but watching it got me mad at NBC. See, if you TiVo The Office normally (without padding in a few extra minutes at the end of the episode's recording time), you would have missed the very funny "American Pie" sequence. I understand that programming a network in this day and age is increasingly complicated, but is pissing off the people who TiVo your episodes really the right way to go? The running time of each episode is 22 minutes; there's no reason why it can't fit in the neat little half-hour block that my TiVo says it's going to fit in. C'mon NBC, do the right thing here.
-- We really need more Creed! I am desperate to know what he means to do with two chairs and why a third one seems integral to his plans. Consider the gauntlet thrown: Creed needs his own spin-off!
-- How great was Toby's face when Michael declared to the office that he "needed to get laid"?
-- The Five Families of Scranton Business Park: There's Michael Scott, Bob Vance (Vance Refrigeration), Paul Faust (they call him "Cool Guy Paul"), W. B. Jones (Grade A badass), and Bill Cress (super old and really mean). If that's not a crew to rival the Corleones, the Tattaglias, the Barzinis, the Cuneos, and the Straccis, then I don't know what is.
-- It was nice to see Kevin win one. Really, it was.
-- A banner day for Michael's unwitting gay-bashing: "My little Oscar-Meyer Weiner... Lover" and referring to Oscar's homosexuality as a "condition."
-- This is our third Michael-centric plot in a row. Coincidence? Or do you think the producers might be doing anything they can to keep Steve Carell from jumping ship at the end of his contact?
Tonight's episode was solid, if a peg or two lower than the brilliance of the two episodes that preceded it. What's your take on it? As always, tell me how wrong I am in the comments!
|Oh, she obviously wants it!||316 (27.6%)|
|She doesn't KNOW she wants it yet, but she wants it.||354 (31.0%)|
|I don't think she even knows what she wants.||347 (30.4%)|
|She doesn't want it.||36 (3.1%)|
|Are you stupid? She wants ME!||90 (7.9%)|