The Office: Night Out - VIDEO
Now, while I might cheat on my taxes or steal from the elderly, I would never sell out my integrity when it comes to television blogging. If an episode is bad, I promise you I'll write a negative review. Unfortunately for my integrity, however, it doesn't seem like the producers of The Office plan on airing a bad episode any time soon...
As we open tonight, Ryan has come down to the Scranton branch with some bad news: the staff is going to have to come in on a Saturday to enter their phone sales into the Dunder-Mifflin Infinity website. They should have been doing that all along, but they couldn't because, uh, the website wasn't working. In fact, the more Ryan talks about the website, the more it becomes obvious that Dunder-Mifflin Infinity is working out about as well as flooz.com.
The planned improvements on the site -- Dunder-Mifflin Infinity 2.0, release date TBD -- were hilarious. Why does a paper company website need "social networking"? Because, you know, that's what today's paper-buying youth expect from a paper manufacturer. I find the easy mockery of business buzzwords more tedious than anything (see the current IBM ads for more on this) but The Office strikes just the right balance. The ridiculous shoe-horning of social networking on a site that has no place for it was used as a throwaway tonight, but it was spot on satire of the phenomenon.
Michael's search for a girl (well, more specifically sex with a girl) isn't going any better than it was last week and he asks Ryan for a little help getting him laid. Ryan refuses, but can't help bragging about the kind of girls you see on the club scene in New York. As someone who went clubbing in New York (once) when he was single, I can attest to what Ryan is talking about: the girls at some of those places were so hot that they didn't just ignore me, I believe they were incapable of registering my presence on the planet. These are women that exist on their own plane of reality.
The temptation proves too great for Michael and he decides that he's going to join Ryan at the club (without telling Ryan, of course). He takes Dwight with him, leaving Jim in charge of the office.
The Office, of late, has taken a bit of criticism for wandering outside its comfort zone. While a lot of you enjoyed the deposition and dinner party episodes, an equal number of you said you didn't like when the show left the office (after all, the show isn't called The Awkward Dinner Party). I'm of the belief that The Office is less about the office itself than what it represents: a group of people that you're forced to associate with for no other reason than you were all stupid enough to work at the same horrible place. These false friendships extend to include awkward dinner parties and weird nights on the town.
Well, tonight's episode, Solomon like, splits the episode in two: keeping both camps equally happy, while still managing to challenge our expectations of the characters. Seriously, we entered a Bizarro world tonight, with Dwight becoming Vince Vaughn, Jim becoming Michael, and Ryan becoming Bronson Pinchot from True Romance.
Let's start with Jim. Jim figures that if everyone stays a few hours late, they can finish their website work and avoid having to come in on Saturday. On the surface, this sounds like a great idea and, indeed, as the office finishes up its work around 9 PM, it seems to have worked out fine. Until, that is, they find themselves locked in the parking lot.
Jim had forgotten to call the security guard and let them know they would be leaving late, so everyone immediately turns on him. Stanley: "If I'm not in my bathtub with a glass of red wine in one hour, you're dead." They call the security guard at home and are forced to wait for him in the lobby of the Scranton Business Park.
This is the second time we've seen Jim take the lead on something, only to have it backfire on him in a very Michael Scott kind of way. I wonder if this is a theme the writers are trying to put forward: that we're all just as incompetent as the bosses we hate, it's just that the boss's incompetence comes under scrutiny. It makes sense that Jim would be the type of slacker who'd forget to call the security guard (or tip him at Christmas time), but it also makes sense that no one cares about it until he's in a position where those negative character traits affect them.
We always think we can do a better job than the people above us, but maybe we're all just as flawed as they are. What's your opinion on this? Is it subtle commentary on the average American's way of thinking or is it just funny to watch Jim squirm from time to time?
Michael isn't there because he's clubbing with Ryan and one of Ryan's friends (who Dwight thinks is a hobbit, a funny if ridiculous running gag). Ryan's immediate reaction to Michael and Dwight -- excitement, instead of anger -- was the first tipoff that something was wrong. I thought it was just the alcohol at first, but it soon became apparent that Ryan was snorting more coke than Al Pacino at the end of Scarface.
As that's being revealed, it also becomes apparent that Dwight's Tackleberry-esque take-charge attitude coupled with his near-psychotic paranoia happens to be the perfect aphrodisiac for the women he meets clubbing. By the end of the night, he's making out with a beautiful blond college student that he has absolutely no interest in. Dwight is so money.
The fun ends, however, when Pablo Escobar -- I mean Ryan -- gets into a fight (with girls! who kick his ass!) The hobbit runs off, telling Dwight and Michael not to take Ryan to a hospital. We wind up back in Ryan's apartment, with the very tired and haggard looking Ryan obviously asking Michael for some help. "I think my friend has a drug problem" Ryan says in that way people on television always ask when it couldn't be more obvious that he was talking about himself if he was wearing a t-shirt that was blinking Hey, it's me, I have the drug problem.
Dwight and Michael don't pick up on it though and for a brief, brief moment, Michael makes a real connection with Ryan. He says that if it were his friend, he would tell him everything was going to be okay and that he was there for him. For just a millisecond it felt like maybe Ryan was going to open up to him... until Michael goes on to say that he would also wire his friend up, like in HBO's The Wire. A dejected Ryan collapses into sleep then, and we're left to wonder what the fall-out of all this is going to be.
I suppose you could argue that Ryan turning into Jared Leto from Requiem for a Dream might be a little dark for what is a supposed to be a 9 PM escape-from-reality. I can't really argue with you on that point: if you turn to The Office to laugh at the end of a hard day's work and not to ponder some of life's darker corners, you have a valid reason for not liking tonight's episode.
For me, though, after sitting through the ridiculous turns of the first part of this season (including the most ridiculous turn... into a lake), the three episodes we've had since The Office returned have been exactly right. I'll tell you this: when Michael drove into the lake or kidnapped the pizza guy, I cringed a hell of a lot more than I did these last three weeks. And not the good cringe, either.
Michael summed up my feelings about tonight's episode perfectly: Best. Night. Ever.
-- Meredith getting Jan-Bradyed by the football! Hilarious. Is she The Office's Kenny?
-- It looked like Toby was actually going to run to Costa Rica that night. It just goes to show you, when a good looking guy (Jim) has a crush on you, it's sweet. When Toby has a crush on you? Creeeeeeeeeeeeeepy.
-- Does anyone else remember The Peanut Butter Solution?
-- Something about being the boss forces you into odd racial situations. Jim trying to avoid referring to Hank as "the black guy" who worked security was great. Also, his guess that the cleaning people would speak Spanish came off as racist even though he was right about it. Has any show in the last twenty years dealt with race as honestly as this one?
-- "The old ball and chain has been more chain than ball lately." "I'm right here." How great is Andy? And, how do you think Angela is going to respond to seeing Dwight lip-locked with a college student?
-- I'm sorry, I need to say it: did you see the ads for the all Star Wars edition of Deal or No Deal? 26 models in Princess Leia gold bikinis. It's like NBC read my secret wishes diary. What does it say about me that I had no interest in watching the president on the show, but there's a good chance that I might have the Star Wars edition of it downloaded directly into my brain, Johnny Mnemonic style?
-- I would love to see a sketch of Michael's Back to the Future tattoo.
-- "I'm not going to call her." Dwight is so money.
|Yes! Just make me laugh!||105 (11.0%)|
|I'm okay with it, but it's starting to grate a little.||136 (14.2%)|
|Dark, light, whatever. I put myself in the producers's capable hands!||617 (64.5%)|
|It's not dark ENOUGH! I'm a Sith Lord, baby!||99 (10.3%)|