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Office Watch: Paper Tiger

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Quick spoilers for last night’s Office coming up:

The thing about a serialized sitcom like The Office is that you watch it at the same time for how well the episode is doing and how well the series is doing. “The Sting” gave me very little to complain about on the first count; it was probably the straight-out funniest outing The Office has had this season. On the second count, it left me wanting something.

The good stuff, and there was a lot of it, first. The set-up with Meredith impersonating a CEO (see above) killed from start to finish: her meeting Danny’s business flirting with real flirting, her growing agitation with Michael’s phone calls, the way she effortlessly jujitsued Oscar and Ryan’s attempts to retake control of the sting and Michael’s frenzied aborting of the mission.

But the episode was also funny because of how it not only used a lot of the broad cast but showed an understanding of characters without taking them overboard. Michael may have had a harebrained “stinger” scheme, but he also showed his competence in strategically seducing Danny away from the competition—even if it upset his staff (loved “Stay the same” in unison) and he forgot about Packer in the field. Even Dwight stayed on the right side of crazy here, while John Krasinski beautifully modulated Jim’s insecurity about Pam’s old date.

As for the guest-casting, Danny Cordray actually fit well with the cable roles (Justified, Deadwood) we know Tim Olyphant from: he has the same swagger, charm and just a hint of volatility (as when, agitated, he loses his cool and threatens to deck Michael). And I loved how both the men and women in the office were awed and smitten by him. (Come on! Am I made of stone!)

As to my complaint: this individual episode, like “Andy’s Play,” makes me hopeful for the writing in season 7. But where is all of this going? Sure, The Office can be a good show even without larger arc, but the producers have said this season has two goals: writing off Michael and setting up his replacement. So far, though, the episodes have seemed more like one-offs, and while the plan may simply be to use the second half of the season to move the plot forward, I don’t see the point to that.

Fine, fine episode, The Office. Now do more.

Short hail of bullets (and feel free to fire your own):

* Of course Broccoli Rob recorded a song about milk. In Vermont. With Trey Anastasio.

* “…and that’s why I took you to the Penis Museum, where tickets are $1000!”

* Nice small moment: Michael’s getting angry at the Door Close button.

* “Esteban, el flooro!”

* “She is one of the plain, hearty women of Scranton that make this city great!”

* “I find you absolutely ribbeting!” And I you.