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The Office recap: Managing Expectations

Michael chafes under the rule of a new boss and decides to find out how much leeway his 15 years with the company buys him

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The Office Lecture 2
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The Office

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Steve Carell versus Idris Elba. Michael Scott versus ”Prince/Sir” Charles Minor. In March Madness parlance, this is the equivalent of Morehead State versus top-seeded Louisville. There’s a new sheriff in Pennsylvania’s largest anthracite coal mining community, and overmatched Michael is apoplectic that his freewheeling reign might be coming to an end.

Though he’s the second alumnus of HBO’s The Wire to make an extended guest appearance onThe Office, Elba is clearly no Amy Ryan. Ryan’s Holly adored Michael’s corny antics, but Charles is all business. The imposing British actor, better known as Stringer Bell, glowered at everyone — most notably Jim — and had the entire branch either aghast or aflutter. Michael desperately wanted him gone, ”ASAP as possible,” while Kelly and Angela had more amorous intentions for the ”black George Clooney.”

Somehow, Michael didn’t see this coming. He had totally ”grooved” on Charles when they first met at Corporate, and he was confident that any management differences could be soothed by a welcome buffet of C-shaped bagels. So, the Phyllis-less Party Planning Committee moved ahead with strategy for Michael’s 15th anniversary party, complete with Mr. Peanut and a ”classy” chocolate-covered ice sculpture. Too-clever Jim dressed for the occasion, mocking one of Dwight’s critical workplace memos, in a tuxedo. Wrong day, Halpert.

Michael’s always enjoyed a long leash at Dunder Mifflin. He’s earned it, I suppose. Though the explanation remains a mystery, hasn’t the Scranton branch recently thrived under a lack of accountability? As Michael later told David Wallace, ”Jan would mostly come by when she was super-horny, and Ryan would come by to visit his parents and do laundry.” But Michael’s bagels didn’t exactly perform their magic. Charles was not impressed. Not by Michael’s introduction, not by the backroom plotting of the PPC (Thanks, Phyllis.), and certainly not by Double-O-Halpert.

Watching Jim flail for approval last night was one of the episode’s most awkward delights. As he had lectured Dwight in the PPC meeting — before he was soaked with the stench of his own desperation — ”You’re trying too hard, and that’s just not classy.” In a series built upon discomfort, was there any scene more humiliating than Pam mercifully dragging Jim away from Charles after he struggled to explain his formal get-up. His second attempt at ingratiation was nearly as brutal, as Charles sternly forced him to acknowledge that his position as Michael’s No. 2 carried zero responsibility. Jim then risked whatever dignity he had left, fishing for a playful farewell from Charles on his way out the door. As we were reminded last week when Michael’s golden tickets cost him commission, Jim’s situation has changed. He’s engaged and he has a mortgage. He needs this soul-sucking job, and without Michael, who adores him — Poof, there goes his career.

The only employees more overt in their attempts to charm the new boss were Kelly and Angela. Kelly, naturally, was already discussing her future interracial children, whereas Angela was a little more devious. I kept expecting Dwight or the Nard Dog to react jealously or bitterly at Angela’s flirtations, but I suppose their silence officially punctuated the end of those two failed romances.

NEXT: Michael’s sacrifices