SPOILER ALERT: Before you read this post, mix some lemon juice and cayenne, swallow a tapeworm and watch last night’s The Office.
God, I missed this show, and here’s why. Any reasonably competent professionals could make you swoon over something like Jim proposing to Pam (and excellent job of throwing us off with the red herring of Mad Men’s Harry bonding with Pam at design school; I was as surprised as she was). The Office is the show that can make you as much, or more, emotionally invested in Michael Scott’s hapless courtship of Holly.
Much credit goes to Amy Ryan, who totally owns the HR rep’s earnest-nerd character (“wika-wika-wika-wika-woo!”). But there’s also Steve Carell, who showed Michael valiantly trying to overcome his Michael Scott-ness—desperately needy and yet holding the neediness back with the willpower of a champion dieter. And then, like some minor tragic hero, falling to his innate flaw while thinking he was overcoming it, by ripping up Holly’s Counting Crows [perfect!] tickets when he should have taken her to the show.
All this even though “Weight Loss” was not necessarily the ha-ha funniest of Offices (those not always necessarily being the best). But the diet contest—offering a reason to bring in the entire staff and carry the storyline through the summer—was, shall we say, big enough to carry the supersized hourlong episode.
Moreover, the episode showed off how much ongoing story is now built into this show after four seasons (two of them less than full-length). Michael, Jan and the baby; Ryan’s downfall (and his history with Kelly); the Angela-Andy-Dwight triangle (“I have a fiance I very much like!”); Michael’s need, even now, to impress Ryan; and so on. It’s almost surprising they don’t begin the episodes with a “Previously on The Office” segment.
And several of the show’s threads and storylines came together in the masterly “Michael Klump” scene, in which Michael donned the sumo suit (“I’m so glad I bought instead of rented”) and tried to deal with his HR problem, again, by bringing his staff to catharsis. This, like the ticket-ripping scene, gets to an essential fact about Michael: his belief that any problem is best solved not by calming things down but—the way he’s seen it in the movies—by bringing it to crisis, in the most extreme way possible. (Insert bank-bailout reference here.)
And the thing is: it kind of works. Kind of. We’re used to seeing this sort of thing end up in a disaster for Michael, and it sort of does here, but on the other hand, after standing Kelly on a chair and inviting the entire staff to compliment her beauty (Creed: “Hell of an ass!”), she actually wants to hear more. (Compare this to the “Diversity Day” episode, in which she slapped him for his Indian impression.) Michael is borderline nuts, has questionable priorities and is driven by the need to see himself as a boss/artist (“Michael Klump is a celebration of fat people!”), but he is, in his own way, functional.
The Office, in other words, haas a big ole butt, and it showed it off to advantage last night. Now the hail of bullets:
* Lots of great Pam moments, even as she was separated from Scranton. Especially loved seeing her imprisoned on the laptop, as Michael carried her video-chat image around Dunder-Mifflin. He can even embarrass her by teleconference!
* “I accidentally switched my alarm to Zapf Chancery!” Typography jokes! They never miss!
* Note to Pam: Pratt ain’t the 212, yo! It’s the 718!
* I’m enjoying the transition of Andy from complete jerk to somewhat jerky, yet sweetly deluded fiance. (“A 1000 year old church in the continental United States?”) The riff on his college a cappella group—Here Comes Treble—was priceless.
* The denouement of Kevin-as-mentally-challenged was excruciatingly perfect—and made Holly even more lovable—but I worry that, for an HR professional, she experiences an awful lot of faux pas.
* I minimized the Jim-Pam engagement in my post, because I think there’s so much else to the show that gets short-shrift in comparison, but it was beautifully set-up, framed and acted. I was verklempt.
* “We were fighting the power and eating whatever we wanted.” That’s the dream, Stanley. That’s the dream.