On ''The Office,'' 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

By Christine Fenno
Updated October 07, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
Credit: Ron Tom

”The Office”: Jim and Pam get outed

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

Back to Halpert and Beesly in love (so adorably in love it could get saccharine if the writers and actors aren’t careful). What’s with people thinking Pam’s a tramp? That theme was worn out: Angela called Pam ”the office mattress,” and Phyllis asked her not to ”base who gets new clients on who you’re sleeping with that week.” You’d think Kevin’s lechery or Andy’s machismo would offend educated career women more than Pam being pretty and single, or whatever her crime is! My only other question right now about the happy couple is whether Jim is holding back in subtle ways. Will he turn out to be a commitment-phobe, or am I imagining that subtext? This week, their story line started seeming anticlimactic, probably because of the sluggish pace with which we’re being fed details. We’re hungry for more! Frasier kept kicking after Daphne and Niles finally got together, so I’m pulling for the Office writers to make this work.

While Ryan (”If they knew how much I was paying for my haircut now, they wouldn’t be giving me a noogie”) should have owned this episode, it was stolen by Dwight and Angela. And Garbage, the feral barn cat! I was moved (okay, I moved myself off my couch laughing) when Dwight presented Garbage as a replacement for Sprinkles. Angela wasn’t having it. And she rebuffed his offer to cook dinner (a meal I assume is her all-white, all-bland fave: ”cauliflower with noodles, baked potato on the side”) so they could dine at a restaurant, where she dumped him. Stricken, Dwight later told Michael, ”Everything falls apart?.You die?.No one remembers you.” (Michael: ”That is a very good point, Dwight.”) Well, I refuse to believe this made-for-each-other pair is through.

After Michael followed the directions of his rental’s GPS gadget right into a lake, the episode began to feel too long. Michael (rescued from the shallows by Dwight) resolved to reclaim the gift basket they’d just given to a former client, and a madcap tantrum scene — including Dwight and Michael childishly sliding, dripping wet, all over the lawyers’ leather foyer sofas — ensued. Michael’s conclusion about the march of high-tech progress? ”Computers are about trying to murder you in a lake.” IQ test, driving test, someone please help this awesomely silly man.

What did you think? Was Ryan exaggerating tales of his glamorous New York City life? Will we ever see Karen again? Will Jan and Ryan have more passive-aggressive encounters? And was anyone else alarmed that Dwight’s grandpa Manheim may be a Nazi war criminal hiding in Argentina?

Episode Recaps

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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