The Office: Business Ethics
Part of me worried about the ethics of opening with what amounts to be a commercial for Slingbox (and also for my fabulous Las Vegas comedy show at the Tropicana: tickets still available for the weekend!) Then I realized that by doing so, I actually provided a pretty good segue into the theme of tonight's episode. So let's get to it...
In light of Ryan's felonious corporate shenanigans last year, the folks at Dunder-Mifflin are forced to go through an ethics seminar with the hope, I suppose, of preventing future YouTube-able arrests on company property. It's nice to see that Dunder-Mifflin reacts with the same speed and decisiveness as real-world corporations: Ryan's violations were several months ago and he's been subsequently rehired to work for the company. Having that seminar now is like saying "Oh, hey, maybe we should shut the barn door, huh?" after the ethical horse has already left the barn, the barn has burned down, and a group of shady developers have built a mini-mall where the barn used to be.
This is Holly's first ever meeting and she's determined to just get through the big white boring corporate binder. Michael, of course, is worried that she's "losing the audience." After getting used to his meetings, he figures the crew expects a mix of Robin Williams and M. Night Shyamalan (which, judging by their last few movies, is just about right). He edges in and declares "immunity" where everyone can share their ethical violations without fear of reprisal.
Among the things we learn:
Michael has viewed Cookie Monster singing "Chocolate Rain" on YouTube over a thousand times. (On an unrelated side-note, it was recently brought to my attention that Cookie Monster also eats vegetables now as a way to teach kids about good dieting techniques. Is this true? And, if so, did George Lucas and Steven Spielberg have anything to do with it?)
Kelly downloads pirated music onto her work computer.
And... Meredith has been exchanging sex with a paper supplier for the last six years in exchange for discounted rates and steak coupons.
(I guess the big question about what was wrong with Meredith's face two weeks ago might have been STD related).
Michael wants to sweep the whole thing under the rug -- the office is a family, you see -- but Holly feels compelled to report it to corporate. Apparently, there's no really good spin you can put on prostitution, so reporting it means Meredith is all but sure to be fired.
This leads to our first real tension between Michael and Holly. Amy Ryan steals the show here with some superb acting -- I mean, I didn't think anyone could outdo Steve Carell when it came to being a wide-eyed innocent brushing up against real-world pain, but wowsa, Amy Ryan nailed it. If you have the episode on TiVo, go back and check out the range of emotions Holly manages to express when Michael is ignoring her. It's a virtuoso piece of work that still manages to be funny.
In a twist, it turns out that corporate wants to look the other way. Holly didn't seem to understand that the ethics seminar wasn't really about ethics so much as it was about getting signatures giving lip service to ethics. Besides, Meredith's whoring saves the company some money, which is important in today's tough economic conditions.
I just have to say this: I find it completely unbelievable that a corporation would act like that! I've criticized The Office in the past for stretching the truth, but my God, this is ridiculous! In no way would a company ever act out of greed like that! It's just...
I'm sorry, of course that last paragraph was just a joke. I thought corporate's reaction was dead on. The only way it could have been more realistic is if they all got to take a $440,000 spa vacation at the St. Regis resort.
We end on a sweet note, with Michael corralling the unwilling employees into the conference room so that Holly can give them the ethics seminar they were supposed to get.
In honor of the NLCS game that I'm being forced to miss in order to write this review, let's rate tonight's episode a stand-up triple. We're off to a great start this year and it bodes well for the future that we can still have a very strong episode without any Jim/Pam drama.
-- Unfortunately I don't have as much space as I'd like to devote to the B story this week. Jim's timing Dwight whenever he stopped working (even to yawn) led to one of my longest sustained laughing streaks at any single Office gag: Jim discussing Battlestar Galactica with Andy and screwing up all the details to annoy Dwight. "Pretty much a shot for shot remake of the original Battlestar." Just hilarious.
-- The cold open was great too, with the office responding predictably to the news that Jim and Pam are engaged. "Weren't you already engaged?" "No, that was Roy." "Do I have to buy you a gift?" "You know she's not a virgin."
-- No scenes with Pam at Pratt. I bring this up only so that I can take this opportunity to apologize for missing in my last review that Pam's new friend at college (and, we all hope to Jeebus not, potential love-triangle point) is none other than Rich Sommer from Mad Men. I think approximately nine million people pointed this out to me in the comments. If I told you the reason why I didn't recognize him -- ahemidontwatchmadmenahem -- it might lead to more criticism, so let's just move on.
-- So, now we know exactly how long it takes for Dwight and Angela to, um, finish. All I have to say is good for you Dwight. Good. For. You.
-- Unrelated to tonight's episode, but worth checking out is this Esquire article telling us "Ten Things You Didn't Know about Women" by Mindy Kaling. If you don't have a crush on Kelly already, this article will put you over the top.
As always, Miffheads, correct all my moral failings in the comments!