Pssst. Officers. I have to let you in on a strange secret about tonight’s episode. Ready? It was actually really good. Even though episodes this fractured tend to flail, “Seminar” had a lot going for it — like, oh, the surprise Ricky Gervais cameo. Is jlp a word?
The episode opened with an unexplained cameo from David Brent himself, and he and Michael hit it off like gangbusters, doing their respective “characters.” “Comedy is a place where the mind goes to tickle itself. That’s what she said,” David said, and then Michael pulled him in for an embrace as only soulmates can. I don’t want Gervais to be a regular on the American Office, and I don’t think more of Michael and David would be good for the show really, but: This little scene was just pure, perfect joy.
The night’s main storyline was about Andy trying to boost his weak sales numbers with a pitch meeting disguised as a business seminar. When his initial lineup of Jim, Dwight, and Phyllis all bailed, the Nard Dog went to his bench and wound up begging Kevin, Ryan (who said yes and then flaked), and Creed to step in. Ultimately, it was Kelly who gave the only legit guidance, courtesy of a professor who has the hots for her. Again: Kelly should be branch manager when Michael leaves, no?
Elsewhere, Pam and Oscar helped Erin play Scrabble against Gabe, which she was aggressively terrible at. (It’s how the lovebirds decided what movies to watch, of course. When Gabe wins, they watch horror. When Erin wins, well… Erin never wins.) Oscar, because he’s such a smartypants, was great at the game, but even he went, yes, apoplectic when Erin bungled what would have been the winning word. I love the dynamic between Erin and Oscar, but the one weak point of this subplot was Pam’s involvement: What was at stake for Pam in the game? She and Erin aren’t exactly BFF, and she didn’t seem to be in the competitive spirit, à la Oscar. Oh, well. Maybe I’m just in a bad moo-ed.
Speaking of bad mooeds, I really don’t want to see Gabe turned into a jerk. Erin obviously doesn’t like scary movies, but he makes her watch them. He thinks she’s having a Slumdog Millionaire moment when she briefly kicks ass in Scrabble. And he doesn’t like Wall-E. What is he, made of stone? I want to be able to root for Gabe in some capacity, but watching him be such a douchelord in this episode made me feel really sad for Erin, and even sadder for poor Andy.
Michael and Holly had their very own subplot this week: Michael was practicing his Greek (well, “Greek”) character Mykonos to be a “plant” at Andy’s seminar, and he enlisted a reluctant Holly to help flesh out his backstory. My beef from last week remains: Just get to it already, Office. Together or apart! This limbo is just no fun.
Finally, in the episode’s strangest and least fun story line, Jim bailed on Andy’s ceremony at the very last second because he wanted to avoid a childhood acquaintance who was there. Jim didn’t want to interact with him because back in the third grade, the gaff-prone Halpert had insulted his classmate, and there was still some bad blood between them. Really? That’s the justification for Jim bailing? In the establishing shots about Andy’s seminar, the poster features Jim’s photo, and identifies him by name. Are we supposed to think this guy came there just to stir stuff up? That seems like a bit much, but if he just didn’t notice, then would he really have recognized him after all? #overthinkingthings!
NEXT: The best Creed-ism ever?
++ Andy doing high knees with Jim as a warm-up for the seminar
++ “You promised us whales; these are worms!” I love a good, strange Dwight metaphor
++ Erin liking the beginning of horror movies, “when they have a perfect family.” Oh, honey.
++ Kevin seeing himself as “the movie version of Jim — if Jim never met Pam.” Also, Kevin seeing himself as a”charm type.”
++ Kelly being someone’s “delicious surprise.” Leave Ryan for good, Kelly, and go get that professor!
++ “I like the musical Grease, or as we call it, home.”
++ Amy Ryan’s incredibly perfect “I don’t know” should earn her an Emmy nomination for best guest star… right? She’s a ridiculously good actress, and in this one microscopic moment summed up the paralyzing romantic fear that characterizes most of our lives. “I don’t know,” says Holly. Neither do the rest of us, sister. (Except about you and Michael. Go for that, please.)
++ “Two eyes, two ears, a chin, a mouth. Ten fingers, two nipples, a butt, two kneecaps, a penis. I’ve just described to you the Loch Ness monster.” One of the all-time best Creed lines ever.
++ “I played ape.”
++ The childhood photo of John Krasinski pretty much melted my heart. Parenthood uses real childhood photos of its cast members to terrific effect in its opening credits, and I always love seeing kid pictures show up on shows.
My qualms about Gabe’s decency as a boyfriend and the rationale behind Jim’s story line aside, “The Seminar” was a terrific outing that showed every character being happy, even just for a moment. It’s hard not to love an episode like that, right?