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The Office recap: Half Witness

Michael’s loyalties are divided when he has to testify against the company in Jan’s wrongful dismissal suit; plus, Pam and Kelly fight over their boyfriends’ ping-pong skills

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Ron Tom

The Office

TV Show
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Don’t you hate when a pesky piece of unexpected evidence — a diary, say — messes up a perfectly good deposition? Let me rephrase that: sends a relationship careening down a dark tunnel of dysfunction where the only rule is ”knife each other in the heart with the help of lawyers”? That’s the worst.

Actually, the worst is saying goodbye (for now) to new Office episodes. I fully support the writers fighting the studio execs’ unfair contract. But after a mini-thriller of an episode that delved into Jan and Michael’s relationship as never before, we’re cut off? Indefinitely? In the name of Mose and his goggles, please negotiate a decent contract soon.

”The Deposition” was a simmering slow cooker of corporate intrigue, flavored by Michael Scott’s ridiculousness, with spicy smack talk on the side. (Raise a ping-pong paddle if you too have been reading a lot of Thanksgiving recipes lately.) Post-It Pam stole the low-key opening scenes, which were cute but random. Cut to Jan, who’d made headway in her $4 million wrongful-termination suit against Dunder Mifflin, and Michael (talk about torn between two lovers), prepping to testify on her behalf. The case was flimsy and seemed to hinge on timing (she was fired after augmenting ”the twins”). En route to New York, Jan — driving the PT Cruiser, invincible in her power suit and aviator sunglasses — reviewed the talking points while Michael memorized them using some kind of pidgeon mnemonics: ”My friend Pat took a turn” (pattern). ”My friend Diz Ray got new specs” (disrespect). Michael was a queasy bundle of nerves, but his blather was hilarious — that’s right, my friend Hilary told us….His secret weapon? Throwing in ers and ahs so it wouldn’t sound memorized. Great plan, Michael. Absofruitly.

At corporate, Ryan privately asked Michael not to hurt the company in his testimony. Michael soon got rattled when he spotted his HR rep moments before the deposition’s start. (”Are you renewing your divorce vows before my deposition?”) I get a kick out of everything about milquetoast Toby. I know people who question the root of Michael’s hatred — what did Toby ever do to him? — but I love not knowing. I love thinking there might be no good reason. Maybe Michael is deeply offended by the very existence of such a dull man and terrified that the dullness is contagious. The magic of The Office is that a handful of actors with a borrowed premise evolved into an ensemble of comic virtuosos who give each character dimensions that enhance the (terrific to begin with) scripts. Even if this pair’s history goes forever unrevealed, I can fully appreciate Michael’s mortification while approaching Toby during the lunch break and his disgust, less than 30 seconds later, while sliding Toby’s entire cafeteria tray off the table. And by appreciate, I mean burst out laughing.

Before we get to Michael’s testimony, it’s table-tennis time in the warehouse. I have so much fun watching the Office workers not work. (Occasionally I worry about the health of the company, and then I remember it’s not real.) We learned in the ping-pong B story that Kelly and Darryl are still an item, that Pam is a MacGyver with bubble wrap when her pride is on the line, and that Dwight can school anyone in ping-pong, even while texting. We also learned — thanks to Kelly’s all-attitude, no-logic explanation — the difference between trash talk and smack talk. (Look out, Pam: ”Were Jim’s parents first cousins that were also bad at ping-pong?” Zing!) I also liked seeing Pam stand up to Kelly (never mind that neither had any ping-pong skills) and their boyfriends’ nonchalant reactions.

NEXT: That’s what he said.