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The Office recap: PDA Problems

Toby issues a memo about Jim and Pam’s public displays of affection; meanwhile, Ryan tries to shake things up with a new website and personal digital assistants

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Ron Tom

The Office

TV Show
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Fact: We need an episode where Michael Scott takes an IQ test.

Because here’s the thing. The answer to ”How dumb can one man be without setting fire to his own head?” isn’t so obvious. While the Michael Scott of season 1 seemed to possess an average intelligence hampered by chronic neediness, the same character (Jan-traumatized perhaps?) was functioning at idiot level by season 4’s premiere. But throughout this hour-long episode, I thought Michael seemed a bit more focused than usual, even competent at moments. And then he drove into a lake.

The episode, ”Dunder Mifflin Infinity,” depicted an age-old battle: Tradition vs. Progress. (Creed, thanks to scary hair dye, straddled both — declaring himself 29 and blurting ”dude” and ”later, skater.”) Sparking the drama was Ryan Howard, who dropped in from New York to wow staffers with his plan for modernizing the company. (Blackberries and a new website! Sweet!…if this was 1999.) Michael was seriously jonesing for that new Blackberry but soon realized all he could do with it was tap out a randomly percussive duet with Ryan, who typed on his gadget at top speed. Only after Creed told Michael that modernizing was a threat to anyone over 40, and Jan explained ”ageism,” did Michael take action. Down with youth and technology!

Ryan insisted Dunder Mifflin was going to be ”younger, faster, and more efficent,” but Michael insisted on keeping his feet, and those of his underlings, firmly cemented in the past. In yet another half-baked presentation in the conference room, he introduced company cofounder Robert Dunder as a guest speaker, purportedly to share his wisdom; the befuddled 87-year-old was soon booted out for the cardinal sin of being boring. And to woo back clients who’d left for chain suppliers, Michael, pleading for ”teammanship,” unveiled a time-tested strategy: gourmet gift baskets (”the essence of class and fanciness”). No, Andy Bernard, the giant baskets wouldn’t be full of money (”cash baskets!”), and Ryan was not about to call the website Dundermifflinfinity.

Warning: If you visit the official DunderMifflinInfinity.com site (advertised during a commercial break), you may, like me, have no idea how to answer when asked to pick the one Office character you like most. I finally just voted for Toby.

Speaking of Fun Run Flenderson, I was relieved when he ended the contrived Pam-Jim secrecy: After spotting Pam kiss Jim in the break room, Toby issued a ”No P.D.A.” memo, which several culprits thought might have been aimed at them, causing Toby to out PB&J in order to clarify his petty reminder. Clearly drowning in his own stew of envy and hope, Toby then denied there was any need for Pam and Jim to document their relationship with official HR paperwork (à la Jan and Michael’s ”love contract” last year). Will Toby keep longing for Pam, or is he preparing to maybe start developing thoughts about taking an interest in Kelly Kapoor? As if the Kelly-Ryan relationship couldn’t be any more toxic, it degenerated further with her manipulative pregnancy fib and his attempt to have her job outsourced to India. Ryan keeps trying to escape Kelly — hitting on Pam by asking her to design the company’s new logo was just gross — but apparently, he’ll have to try harder.

NEXT: Jim and Pam in public