On ''The Office,'' everyone's assigned to damage control after a naughty watermark appears on the company's paper; plus, Jim and Dwight impersonate each other

By Abby West
Updated April 29, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
John Krasinski, The Office

”The Office”: Another Dunder blunder

Forgive me. No, I’m not just adopting the theme of last night’s episode. I recently did the unthinkable and questioned how the writers of this show would be able to keep coming up with actual office situations that make the most of the huge, talented cast. Well, ”Product Recall” answered my question. When 500 boxes of paper were sent out with a watermark showing ”a beloved cartoon duck performing an unspeakable act upon a certain cartoon mouse,” everyone in the office had to pitch in to do damage control.

While the staff manned the phones, trying to smooth things over with irate customers (Stanley: ”I am upset. Don’t I sound upset?”), or made in-person apologies, their fearless leader, Michael, decided to try to control the story by going public. If he had his way, the headlines would read:

Scranton-Area Paper Company
Dunder Mifflin Apologizes
To Valued Client:
Some Companies Still Know
How Business Is Done

Which brings me to my only real gripe with the episode. How could such a public-relations nightmare not lead to a visit or a phone call from Jan? Why would anyone in his or her right mind leave Michael alone to handle this sort of thing? He had to fight with himself just to stay on task. (”That’s what she said. No time!”)

So Michael, left to his own devices, went ahead and invited the press (okay, The Scranton Times) to watch him apologize to a customer. Dwight was the perfect man for the job of getting the office press-ready. From ordering Pam to run a comb through her hair to moving a tall plant in front of Phyllis, he grasped the importance of window dressing. (”Always put the money beets on top.”) Heck, he even knew to only give the reporter level 3 clearance (out of 20).

When the customer didn’t play along, refusing to accept the apology — or the novelty check for 25 reams or six months’ worth of free paper, whichever came first — Michael was stymied. He completely lost his cool when she demanded that as ”head of the company,” he should resign. (”This is insane,” he sputtered. ”You can get out of here.”) Is it just me, or was the prim Mrs. Allen’s behavior an oblique reference to the recent rash of resignations and firings in the face of public outrage?

You have to give it to Michael, though. Could you have come up with as good an immediate comeback to someone threatening to call the Better Business Bureau on you? ”I’m calling the Ungrateful Beeyotch Hotline.” Awesome.

And I don’t know why she was so upset. As Dwight pointed out, the sex depicted on the watermark did appear to be consensual. (”Whoever drew this got it exactly right.” Having grown up on a farm, Dwight should know.) Even though none of this will matter once Michael’s crazed video manifesto hits YouTube, it really was his best apology video ever.

Meanwhile, Angela had serious agita when she and the other accountants were drafted into customer-service duty and had to train under Kelly (who seemed to be enjoying the mayhem: ”This day is bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s!”). Angela just could not bring herself to say, ”I’m sorry,” resorting instead to ”The official position of Dunder Mifflin is apologetic. So I don’t know what you want from me.”

Thankfully, this week the annoying Andy (”Beer me that disc”) was at least entertaining (and on key) as he and Jim went to a high school to apologize to a principal who had printed up prom invitations on the bad, bad paper. Jim’s reaction to Andy’s felonious dating of a part-time frozen-yogurt server and high school student was priceless. (Even if they didn’t do anything illegal other than knock over mailboxes with her friends.) Andy’s jealousy and subsequent meltdown in the principal’s office had just the right touch of crazy for our resident rageaholic. But wasn’t it just like Jim to try to make Andy feel better — even if that meant an a cappella version of ”The Lion Sleeps Tonight”?

The role playing that bookended the episode was perfect. Jim’s $11 ensemble may have given him the Dwight look, but it was the irritatingly superior attitude that really sold the whole performance. His masterful use of Dwight’s own bear, bobblehead, and Battlestar Galactica obsessions to push him over the edge was a joy to watch. (”What is going on?…Identity theft is not a joke, Jim. Millions of families suffer every year.”) And Dwight’s messy-haired, messenger-bagged, loping impression of Jim was spot on. It was even better when he tried to hide his disappointment at Pam and Karen’s favorable reactions to his new look.

Loved the explosion of accents in the episode. Kelly’s Bridget Jones British was hysterical (”I like ice cream. I need a boyfriend”), and Kevin gave Russell Crowe a run for his money with that Australian accent (”Alligators. Dingo babies”).

Creed Creep-O-Meter: 10+ Where, oh where, do we even start? He totally hung poor Debbie Brown out to dry, even though he did have a really good reason. (”The only difference between me and a homeless man is this job. I will do whatever it takes to keep it.”) Never mind that he caused the whole scandal by shirking his weekly quality-assurance duties. (”The one year I blow it off, this happens.”) But it was just like him to blame Dwight for Debbie’s firing, then raise money for Debbie (”I hear she’s got some children”), only to swipe it when no one was looking.

And, yes, the Creed Creep-O-Meter for the ”Safety Training” episode definitely should have been a 10 for his peeing behind the bushes. What can I say? It was a really late night, and I’m falling on my sword, people. My official position is apologetic. I don’t know what you want from me.

So how did this episode rate for you? Do you think Jan will reference this fiasco in a later episode, or will it end up like the e-mailed Jamaica beach photo that we never heard her take Michael to task on?

Episode Recaps

Michael Scott, The Office (Steve Carell)

The Office

The mockumentary-style sitcom chronicles a group of typical office employees working 9-5 at the Scranton branch of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company.

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