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The Office recap: Paper Chase

As Michael, Pam and Ryan use the power of pancakes to get their company off the ground, Jim continues his downward spiral from office golden boy to resident screw-up

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The Office

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We meet again, Officers! After a week off, we got two whole new episodes of The Office, and while both had strong moments — and some interesting character play — I didn’t get quite the same buzz from this week’s installments as I did from the previous episode. Low points aside, this was the best showcase Jenna Fischer has had in years, and she more than delivered on the many sides of Ms. Pam Beesley. This is going to be one megarecap for both episodes, so BYO ”it’s so big”/ ”that’s what she said” jokes and let’s get this party started.

”Dunder Mifflin, this is Kevin.” Ye gods. The Kevin-as-receptionist plan is in full effect, thanks to Charles’ edict from last week, but predictably, he’s having a bit of trouble figuring out the phone system. (In Kevin’s defense…phone systems can be a lot trickier than people think. Sorry to those whose calls I, over the years at various gigs, disconnected. I mean ”transferred.”) Anyway, the opening scene here is one of the few times this episode we got to see everyone together — typically, the group interactions are my favorite parts of The Office, which might be why ”Dream Team” isn’t on my top-ten list. Kevin frantically tries to transfer a call to Andy ”Narddog” Bernard, which becomes something of a team effort; their elation is still in full force when Andy tearfully tells the camera, ”My maid died.” Buuwhat? I’m hoping there’s a metric ton of deleted scenes from this episode because that was a strange throwaway line. I fully expected a call back to this, or at least a little additional info at some point during the episode, particularly because Andy seemed really dressed up in that scene. Maybe it’s my crush on Ed Helms talking (and…it is), but Andy looked so fancypantsy I sort of thought that was going somewhere.

It’s Pam’s first day at Michael Scott Paper Company, and lo, she is excited. Excited enough to put a positive spin on working from Michael’s condo of desperation and agonizing lonliness. ”Apple computers started in a garage, and we’re starting in a condo…so we already have a leg up on Apple!” (That marks the first of many mentions and appearances of Apple products on these eps.)

Her enthusiasm is met with a hooker joke from a bathrobe-clad boss — ah, the more things change, the more they stay inappropriate. Dressed-down Michael always reminds me of ”The Injury,” (a Mindy Kaling classic) and we see a bit of how Pam and Michael’s relationship has and hasn’t changed since then. She’s substantially more assertive; he’s perhaps marginally less domineering, and they have a much easier, more natural banter. As offensive as Michael can be (see: hooker joke), there’s a tender sweetness in his voice when he asks Pam what shape she wants her french toast to be.

And we’re back at Dunder Mifflin, where Charles has rallied the troops for a dull morning meeting. ”Where will you be staying while you’re in Scranton?” Kelly coos. ”Charles, where were you born?” asks Angela. I wish the episode had more of their hilarious sexual rivalry. But the meeting progresses — with a pit stop so Charles can give Stanley the stink eye for doing a crossword puzzle instead of paying attention. (And a crossword puzzle out of a book, not even the one from the day’s paper. I don’t know why that’s worse, but it is.) And then Jim makes the first of many Charles-oriented mistakes this episode: He starts needling Dwight to stop panting. ”This is how I breathe,” Dwight mutters, and as they start bickering, Charles jumps in — and scolds young Halpert.

NEXT: Kissing up, to the boss and Nana