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April 19, 2014

The Office: Did I Stutter? - VIDEO

by Jason Hughes, posted May 1st 2008 11:07PM
Steve Carell as Michael Scott - (S04E12) Jay Black couldn't be with us today because he was called away suddenly. Something about not leaving the table until he'd finished all his vegetables but he didn't like asparagus and yet that didn't matter he can sit there all night if he has to or until the asparagus evolves arms and legs and jumps off his plate and leaves on its own. So he figured since my name is the closest to his, maybe we could get away with this last minute pinch hit.

I got an episode that won't necessarily go down in the annals of time as an Office classic, but does bring us back to the core of the show: the office. The episode takes place entirely in one day, entirely in the office, and virtually every cast member gets pulled into one storyline or the other. For me, this is when The Office is at its best, when its presenting us barely controlled chaos. Offices are constantly bustling with activity productive or otherwise. Tonight's episode captured just that, and very well.

The episode opened up in typical Michael Scott fashion, with him running in needing ideas for the most important moment in a man's life; the opportunity to write something in wet cement. What do you do? Do you write your name? A picture? Maybe a witty line? Not if you're Michael Scott. When Jim threw out the idea of one-upping the celebrity handprints in cement by putting his face in the concrete, Michael jumped all over that. As someone with an impressive schnozz of my own, I kept thinking that he was basically adorning the company parking lot with a pothole, or something else for Meredith to trip over when she's coming in to work drunk (or leaving).

The main story tonight dealt with Michael and Stanley. Michael called an emergency meeting in the conference room, because those always go so well. I'm going to go out on a limb and give Michael credit for actually putting together a valid business meeting: brainstorming ideas to invigorate sales and get things exciting again. When Michael keeps trying to push Stanley to contribute, after all he was wanting to think urban and who better than Stanley for that, right?. But he refuses repetitively until he finally shouts, "Did I stutter?" We all know how Michael handles confrontation, and thus endeth the meeting.

I guess I never realized how far Stanley's dick-ness could go. He'd always been a bit of an ass, but more in the fun jackass way ("Oh, that Stanley!"). Tonight he didn't come across as that fun guy anymore. Toby dropped by Michael's office to try and encourage him to address the insubordination issue with Stanley. But by then, of course, Michael had concocted his own version of that reality wherein he and Stanley were just two buds joshing around.

Michael finally came up with his solution on how to deal with Stanley. He would "fake fire" him. Toby suggested he outright fire him, but that was dismissed. How could Stanley like him if he fired him? Come on, Toby. But a "fake firing." Michael can totally make that work. Just like all his other brilliant schemes work. And this one worked just as well.

After the public "firing," Stanley countered by threatening to sue the company and reveal every stupid thing Michael's ever done. Then when Michael revealed that it was faked so Stanley would understand how he felt in the meeting earlier, Stanley just unloaded on him until, finally, Michael reached his own limit and cleared the room of everyone but him and Stanley. Michael's going to finally let him have it, right? Well ...

After the room is empty, Michael cracks and tearfully asks Stanley why he's so mean to him, Stanley lays it out for him cold and clinical. Stanley has no respect for him and no sympathy or heart. Michael accepts that Stanley doesn't respect him but tells him that regardless, Stanley just can't talk to him the way he does. Michael is his boss and he can't allow it. Stanley accepts that. This is painfully realistic. I've had just this kind of an encounter with a boss, albeit with minor differences on the grievances and details. Believe it or not, you can scream and yell at a manager and not automatically get fired so long as you are being honest and at some point are reasonable to their side and expectations.

Michael massaged his ego and hurt feelings in his confessional by comparing the lack of respect to Rodney Dangerfield, doing a painfully long and awkwardly terrible impression of him. Bonus points for him slipping into Jeff Foxworthy, Jerry Seinfeld and other comedians by the end. I love how complex and real the character of Michael Scott has become. He's so pathetic and awkward and yet you pull for him to get a clue and find happiness. Then he does something stupid and you think he's an idiot again.

I'll give them credit for cleverly hiding Angela's pregnancy thus far with positioning her behind tables and desks and having her hold her handbag high in wider shots. It helps that she's only 3'2" tall so in any shot with other people her belly's going to be below the shot anyway. Tonight, she was at the table in the break room doing one of those HILARIOUS MadLibs. "It's a man eating cat food," she giggled at the end. Oh the inanity! For the most part, though, I guess they're struggling with what to do with her character due to these restrictions. She's been relegated to bit parts and just being Andy's girlfriend. In fact, other than Dwight occasionally wishing them well with daggers in his eyes, the whole thing is a non-issue.

I wasn't sure if we were going to see Ryan tonight, after the heaviness of his appearance last week, but he showed up and suckered Jim into getting a formal warning. See, Ryan was in the conference room with Toby and called Jim in just to ask about the Eagles. Then it's, "Oh hey, while I have you I need to give you a formal warning about your job performance." Classic bait and switch. That Ryan, he's so good at what he does, isn't he! Actually, the sad thing is that he's every business cliche and Dilbert strip wrapped under George Michael beard fuzz and yet he actually buys into his own hype.

Honestly, with the heaviness of the storyline established for him last week, and the fact that B.J. Novak is still listed as one of the main stars of the show, I think his decline and fall is going to be a major side story threading through the next year or so. This is just petty vengeance against Jim for going over Ryan's head in criticizing his website. Never bruise the ego of middle management because they can and often will try and destroy you. It's scary how The Office can nail the cold-hearted bastard side of corporate America so well and yet still be funny. And Ryan's a douchebag. Just to put that out there.

Jim couldn't bring himself to tell Pam about the meeting, though she knew he was lying to her. The two are more alike than Jim would ever like to admit. He too wants to be liked by everyone and doesn't take criticism well. I think that's one of the points the show is trying to show us about people, both likable and somewhat unlikable. We're all struggling with the same demons in our own ways.

While I liked the side story with Andy and Dwight, it felt unfinished to me. The very idea of those two haggling over a car deal is priceless. So when Dwight decides he wants to buy Andy's Xterra, the negotiating begins in earnest with Dwight offering to buy it for next to nothing due to the string of non-existent problems he finds. But those anger management classes must have really did a number on Andy because he all of his fire was gone and Dwight manhandled him through the entire process until finally he caved. I can totally see Dwight using the same tactics at a real dealership, or even at a nice little old lady's garage sale. "You'll sell me this lamp for twenty-five cents! Or would you rather watch some poor innocent child electrocute themselves in front of their parents on Christmas morning. Is that what you want?"

After the deal, Dwight immediately "flipped" the Xterra, washing it, raising the price and posting it for sale right where Andy had posted it, as well as sticking it up on eBay. Isn't that against eBay policy? What would happen if someone would want to buy it direct via the flyer? Oh no, Dwight would get a warning at eBay. Or maybe the flyer was just a plot device so Andy would be aware of the sale. Sloppy writers, tsk tsk tsk. And then they just left it there. I guess it could end there, but it feels a little unsatisfying to me.

In the end, we came full circle as we wound up in another meeting. Only this time Stanley was totally fake and overly enthusiastic in his support of another terrible Michael Scott idea. Phyllis, however, declared the idea stupid and so Michael had to clear the room of everyone but him and Phyllis. I'm glad they cut it before he started crying again.

Other Stuff:
  • Michael turning to Pam to translate Kelly's pop culture celebrity ramblings. The girl speaks Perez Hilton. Funnier even that Pam knew what Kelly was trying to convey.
  • Picture it: Michael rambling on about "Energize," Pam wearing those hideous glasses, Everybody crammed into one tiny room looking bored. I mean what possible better time would there be to drop a proposal ("You know what would energize me? If you Pamela Morgan Beesly ... [would] get me a cup of coffee."). As far as I'm concerned they can string this almost-proposal schtick for awhile because for some reason it's always funny.
  • Jim upstaging Andy's idea for putting zing and pep in their outgoing voicemail message by using the word "more" before zing and pep but otherwise repeating it word for word... and Michael loving it!
  • "Stanley is a beautiful, powerful, sassy black man." -- Michael Scott
  • In the gang world, what do you do when one of your homeboys disses you? According to Daryll: "Fluffy fingers." Fluffy fingers is a tickle-fest that leads to laughing, hugging, forgetting the whole thing and going to church and getting ice cream together.
  • Dwight's organizational chart was so awesomely complex as to who had authority over who in what situations. Bonus points for the menstrual cycles being on there, as well as the "Emergency Disaster Mode" for the chart giving Dwight full authority over everyone.
  • I loved how Pam finally took off her glasses after Kevin shared with her his librarian fantasy, and then tried to get her to play act it a little bit.
  • Creed's confessions are always awesome. After Pam took off her glasses, he compared her to blind jazz pianists. "I'd like to put the piano in front of Pam, without her glasses, and see what happens. I'd also like to see her topless." So random and so classic!
  • Kevin pointing out to Michael that if he hadn't told anyone he was pretend firing Stanley, then they wouldn't have had to act like it was real because they would have all thought it was real. And of course, Michael didn't get that at all.
I loved how there were so many different threads running throughout the night. I don't think this will go down as one of the best Office episodes we've seen, but it continues a string of entertaining and strong episodes. In his own way, Michael did stand up to Stanley and demand a certain level of respect. That's growth, right?

Which storyline has you most intrigued?
Andy vs. Dwight (over Angela and otherwise)138 (16.1%)
What's going on with Ryan?296 (34.6%)
The Jim and Pam relationship337 (39.4%)
Michael's personal life (Jan, where are you?)62 (7.3%)
Other (you tell me)22 (2.6%)

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Lars

Did anyone else pause during the org chart and admire the details?

Oscar have two male symbols next to his name, where all the women have a female symbol. The moon shown next to each womans name presumable relates to their menstrual cycles - It's crossed over for Phyllis and Meredith - they must be postmenopause. According to the symbols I guess Pam have her period during the first week after a full moon in case you were interested :-)

The resolution on my copy isn't good enough to see the symbol next to Toby - could be a Star of David maybe? Stanley and Darryl both have what looks to be a dark skinned man as their symbol, but again I can't quite make out the details.

Oh and the guy crossed out is a Devon White - he was fired in "Halloween".

Nice piece of work all in all :-)

May 13 2008 at 7:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kevjohn

This episode was hard to watch. Mainly because of Pam in the librarian glasses, which added a whole new wrinkle to my infatuation with her. Yeah, Creed, I'd like to see her topless too!

May 05 2008 at 4:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jim

I have no recollection of the ending with Phyllis -- I guess I will have to catch the rerun.

I loved Michael's degenerating stand-up bit at the end, and I can't believe no one mentioned his "That's what she said" with his face in the concrete!

May 05 2008 at 8:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
viewdrix

I didn't think the Dwight/Andy plot was really unfinished, and took it that the flyer was solely to piss Andy off, especially since it seemed to replicate Andy's flyer except for the new price and Dwight's name, just so Dwight could driven the point home.

What did feel weird was Jim and Pam leaving as Michael cleared the office of everyone but him and Stanley. For some reason, Pam being unable to find her glasses and Jim leading her out took just slightly too long and just didn't seem to have a real punchline to the moment. I figured they were setting up a gag or another proposal for later, but nothing came.

May 04 2008 at 5:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MERVE-THE-PERVE

Ryan threatening Jim was BS. Everyone in that office is a slacker. In that org chart there was somebody in the lower right corner that had a big X over their name. I couldn't make out the name but I'm guessing it was Ryan from when he used to be there since it was way at the bottom. The menstrual cycles was a nice touch.

May 02 2008 at 10:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rich

Not really a very funny episode, but I think pretty observant in what really goes on in an office, especially one in close quarters. I actually thought the behavior was more realistic than usual, even at the expense of laughs.

One thing I've never seen anyone mention. It's interesting to me that Jim and Pam always protect Michael. The rest don't seem like they'd lift a hand to help him, but these two always try to keep him from digging himself in deeper.

May 02 2008 at 9:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jayr2345

This was just an OK episode. I was really dissapointed in the show not really picking up on the whole Toby running away part. I was waiting for Toby to come in the office, and then give some bogus reason for not being in Costa Rica in a confessional. I think tonight's show really mirrored what some offices are really like.

May 02 2008 at 9:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Liz

This episode was just ok. As someone else mentioned, Dwight and Stanley both seemed extreme this week, but at the same time I can kinda understand it.. when you have worked somewhere so long eventually you feel like exploding. Maybe that will play out in the next few episodes (like the season finale, which has a very revealing title...not gonna give it away though). I also felt like the Dwight/Andy thing never got resolved. I would have liked to see more of that. I want to see more Dwight/Angela/Andy drama! Fav part: Pam translating for Kelly.

May 02 2008 at 2:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ben Belden

Honestly, what I found most ridiculous and which absolutely no one has pointed out yet was Michael's whole fake firing. It seemed to me the whole point of firing Stanley, whether real or not, was so that Michael could assert his power as boss and regain the respect of everyone after Stanley was insubordinate. By tellling everyone in the office what was going on, not only did he remove that aspect of it, he came across as even weaker when he said it because he sounded almost scared of what might happen. I was impressed by the ending however, because I was expecting Michael to lose it and do something irrational, and instead he calmly told Stanley the truth and did actually regain his position.

May 02 2008 at 2:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dan

Stanley's reaction was not surprising to me...remember, he's gotten mad before, and scary too. Jim is scared of him from the olympics day, and he's yelled at people before, so it definitely was not out of character. Dwight's negotiation was great, especially how Michael didn't fall for it. I paused to look at that chart and it was great, "Original Assistant Regional Manager" was awesome. The only thing I didn't like in the episode was when Michael did his WAY TOO LONG Rodney Dangerfield impression, it was uncomfortable and unfunny, like watching a really bad stand-up comic. I almost fast forwarded it.

May 02 2008 at 2:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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