Last week’s episode certainly brought the funny. It was fast and intense. The punch lines were plentiful (”oaky afterbirth,” ”snip snap, snip snap”), easy to decode (”popping your beets into my mouth”), and in-your-face (Jan and Michael screamed half of them). Last night’s show took another approach. Don’t get me wrong. It was a blinder — but a totally different animal, so to speak. The pace dribbled and the jokes were hushed (when Michael addressed Oscar as ”Oscar Mayer Weiner lover,” he practically whispered it). And instead of the single-note focus on a dinner party, we got dual plots — Kevin and Andy’s plan to win back the parking lot, Michael’s attempt at life after Jan — which brought us back to Dunder Mifflin. In short, we kicked it old school.
So what went down?
1. The staff temporarily lost their parking spaces. Construction workers renovating a neighboring business were stealing the Dunder Mifflin spots, forcing everyone but Michael to use a satellite lot half a mile down the street. It’s a 20-minute walk for some, a 30-minute hike for others (Kevin), and dangerous for all. As Pam jokes, they got to see more of their ”lovely street” — like the junkyard dog attacking the bones of a rotisserie chicken. And Andy lost the penny from his penny loafers. Kevin is opposed to all the sweating. So when the guys’ pleas for help are ignored by selfish old Michael — ”Wish I could but I can’t. Well can, but won’t. Should but maybe shorn’t…What part of shorn’t don’t you understand, Kevin?” — they take matters into their own hands.
2. Kev and Andy call a powwow of the Five Families. AKA, the five companies of Scranton Business Park. The bosses — Michael Scott of Dunder Mifflin, Bob Vance of Vance Refrigeration, Paul Faust of Disaster Kits, Ltd. (”they call him ‘Cool Guy Paul”’), W.B. Jones (a ”Grade-A Bad Ass”) of the company responsible for the offending construction, W.B. Jones Heating and Air, and Bill Cress of Cress Tool and Die (”Bill Cress is super-old and really mean.”) — rarely meet. I don’t think my boyfriend laughed harder than when these guys were introduced through Kev’s voiceover and some mock stock footage (Bob Vance smoking a stogie was awesome). Anyway, one order from ”Cool Guy Paul” and ”Bad Ass” Jones gets them the parking spaces back. Andy then delivered my favorite quote of the episode: ”I did this for the little guy. For Joe Six-Pack. The guy who wakes up every morning in his $400-a-month apartment. Wonders how he’s gonna pay his mortgage that month. Wonders how he’s gonna fill his car up with oil. Wonders how I’m gonna pay my kid’s orphanage bills. That guy shouldn’t have to wonder where he’s going to park.” Talk about subtle humor. We also got to see him moonwalk in celebration. Okay, that wasn’t so subtle. I just have one question: Who else noticed the state-of-the art conference room they gathered in? With the oak furniture and the HDTV? When did that come into play?
NEXT: Michael’s back ”out there.”
3. Kevin announced that his fiancée, Stacy, dumped him. Not that we didn’t see this coming (didn’t he say in past episodes that their relationship was ”complicated?”). Since she was the fourth woman he proposed to (even if she was his second favorite), you know it hurt. And it was a bitter breakup. Who didn’t feel for Kev when he tearfully confessed that, ”After Stacy left, things did not go well for a while and it was hard to see… It’s just nice to win one”? On the other hand, who else noticed the weird CGI versions of Stanley and Creed in the window behind Kevin during his various confessionals? Stanley just stroked his chin repetitively without any other movement while Creed didn’t budge. Is this a regular thing? It looked unbelievably fake and very creepy.
4. Michael failed to order a new chair. Let’s start at the beginning with this one. Apparently he’s been trying to pick out a new office chair for three weeks. He promised Pam his old one (which, from her description, uses air pressure to change heights). She, in turn, promises hers to Creed, who then uttered another great line: ”When Pam gets Michael’s old chair, I get Pam’s old chair. Then I’ll have two chairs. Only one to go.” Too bad it was his one real line of dialogue (though I loved it when he screamed ”Yo!” and ”Dat!” on the phone with Pammy). Why can’t Mike decide on a seat? He’s fallen in love with the female model on page 85 of the supply catalog: ”She dresses like a professional, and yet you know there is a side of her that could just curl up on a couch.” The upshot of all this?
5. Michael’s ready to date again. So I guess he’s permanently left Jan since the dinner party (Where is he living now? With Dwight, I assume?). And it’s a little depressing: ”What’s it like being single?” he asks the camera crew. ”I like it. I like starting each day with a sense of possibility. And I’m optimistic, because every day I get a little more desperate and desperate situations yield the quickest results.” But the old joke that Michael — who is not exactly a fanny magnet himself — has pretty high standards kept it good and light. As he tells the staff, ”So FYI for those of you who are thinking of fixing me up with any of your friends: Use the woman on page 85 as a template. That will be all.”
NEXT: Jim gets down on one knee and asks Pam a question.
6. Dwight comes to the rescue. Sort of. Once again, Michael demands something of his staff that any other boss would get reamed for: Set him up with someone by the end of the hour (by writing her name down on one of his ”love cards”) or you’re toast. Stanley didn’t know anyone he hated enough to write her name on the card. Jim puts down Pam’s mom. Kevin offers up Wendy, ”a hot juicy redhead,” and gives Michael the number to the eponymous fast-food chain. Dwight, on the other hand, nearly comes through with the chair model: ”I will find her and I will bring her to you. And as God is my witness, she shall bear your fruit.” The problem? She’s dead — killed when her car crashed into an airplane hangar. In Dwight’s words, ”As dead as every dead animal who has ever died.”
7. So Pam sets Michael up on a blind date — with her landlord. As Julia Roberts says in Pretty Woman, ”Big mistake…Huge.” Their disastrous meeting at The Coffee Gallery reminded me a little of David Brent’s second date in the British Office‘s Christmas special, especially the face Michael makes when he sees the lovely lady. Sure, she’s got a face like a wet weekend, but Michael is terribly cruel. Now, as Jim pointed out, Pam’s going to have to find new housing. With him (which kills all speculation that they already live together). But Pam balks, claiming she won’t move in with someone until they’re engaged. Then Jim tells her that’s coming! ”When it happens it’s going to kick your ass, Beesly, so stay sharp.” And he admits to us that he bought a ring the week after they started dating (a little weird, but okay…). I was so thrown by this I didn’t even realize it was a wind-up when, later on, he bent down as if he was going to propose and said, ”Hey Pam, will you wait for me a second while I tie my shoe?” Argh!
8. Last but not least, Michael and Dwight visit the chair model’s grave — for ”closure.” I’d like to see Michael’s need to say goodbye to chair model Deborah Shoshlefski (whom he never even met) as his dysfunctional way of excising any of his lingering feelings for and regrets over Jan. But who cares? All I know is that after Michael whined, ”You know I used to think that I had this perfect person out there waiting for me. But now I know that that’s just silly because she’s dead. What do you do?” Dwight responded with the best advice of the season: ”You wait until next year’s chair catalog comes out and you find someone who’s still alive.” Amen, brother.
Tune in next week, when Michael and Dwight surprise Ryan with a night of clubbing in New York and the Scranton Branch pulls an uprising when they have to work on a Saturday for another of Ryan’s Dunder Mifflin Infinity projects. And for all of you out there who also professed a love of Ricky Gervais — those of you who slammed the Brit Office, well, I won’t tell you where you can go — if you haven’t already, you should check the fairly recent TV doc, Ricky Gervais: New Hero of Comedy. Steve Merchant, Chris Rock, Karl Pilkington, Billy Connelly, Russell Brand, Richard Curtis. They’re all there!