Michael's loyalties are divided when he has to testify against the company in Jan's wrongful dismissal suit; plus, Pam and Kelly fight over their boyfriends' ping-pong skills

By Christine Fenno
Updated November 17, 2007 at 03:52 AM EST
Ron Tom

Don’t you hate when a pesky piece of unexpected evidence — a diary, say — messes up a perfectly good deposition? Let me rephrase that: sends a relationship careening down a dark tunnel of dysfunction where the only rule is ”knife each other in the heart with the help of lawyers”? That’s the worst.

Actually, the worst is saying goodbye (for now) to new Office episodes. I fully support the writers fighting the studio execs’ unfair contract. But after a mini-thriller of an episode that delved into Jan and Michael’s relationship as never before, we’re cut off? Indefinitely? In the name of Mose and his goggles, please negotiate a decent contract soon.

”The Deposition” was a simmering slow cooker of corporate intrigue, flavored by Michael Scott’s ridiculousness, with spicy smack talk on the side. (Raise a ping-pong paddle if you too have been reading a lot of Thanksgiving recipes lately.) Post-It Pam stole the low-key opening scenes, which were cute but random. Cut to Jan, who’d made headway in her $4 million wrongful-termination suit against Dunder Mifflin, and Michael (talk about torn between two lovers), prepping to testify on her behalf. The case was flimsy and seemed to hinge on timing (she was fired after augmenting ”the twins”). En route to New York, Jan — driving the PT Cruiser, invincible in her power suit and aviator sunglasses — reviewed the talking points while Michael memorized them using some kind of pidgeon mnemonics: ”My friend Pat took a turn” (pattern). ”My friend Diz Ray got new specs” (disrespect). Michael was a queasy bundle of nerves, but his blather was hilarious — that’s right, my friend Hilary told us….His secret weapon? Throwing in ers and ahs so it wouldn’t sound memorized. Great plan, Michael. Absofruitly.

At corporate, Ryan privately asked Michael not to hurt the company in his testimony. Michael soon got rattled when he spotted his HR rep moments before the deposition’s start. (”Are you renewing your divorce vows before my deposition?”) I get a kick out of everything about milquetoast Toby. I know people who question the root of Michael’s hatred — what did Toby ever do to him? — but I love not knowing. I love thinking there might be no good reason. Maybe Michael is deeply offended by the very existence of such a dull man and terrified that the dullness is contagious. The magic of The Office is that a handful of actors with a borrowed premise evolved into an ensemble of comic virtuosos who give each character dimensions that enhance the (terrific to begin with) scripts. Even if this pair’s history goes forever unrevealed, I can fully appreciate Michael’s mortification while approaching Toby during the lunch break and his disgust, less than 30 seconds later, while sliding Toby’s entire cafeteria tray off the table. And by appreciate, I mean burst out laughing.

Before we get to Michael’s testimony, it’s table-tennis time in the warehouse. I have so much fun watching the Office workers not work. (Occasionally I worry about the health of the company, and then I remember it’s not real.) We learned in the ping-pong B story that Kelly and Darryl are still an item, that Pam is a MacGyver with bubble wrap when her pride is on the line, and that Dwight can school anyone in ping-pong, even while texting. We also learned — thanks to Kelly’s all-attitude, no-logic explanation — the difference between trash talk and smack talk. (Look out, Pam: ”Were Jim’s parents first cousins that were also bad at ping-pong?” Zing!) I also liked seeing Pam stand up to Kelly (never mind that neither had any ping-pong skills) and their boyfriends’ nonchalant reactions.

NEXT: That’s what he said.

In deposition-land, Michael dimly weathered the swearing-in but misunderstood what ”the plaintiff” was. (”I have seen The Firm.”) When he answered the question ”You were directly under her the entire time?” with (what else?) ”That’s what she said,” the confusion derailed both sides in a well-played nod to Abbott and Costello’s classic ”Who’s on first?” bit. (Michael said, ”Come again? That’s what she said?” like a dizzy boy stuck on a merry-go-round.) The monotone court reporter was a perfect touch.

Michael was inadvertently honest while trying to pinpoint when his relationship with Jan began (in fact, a straightforward answer was impossible) and when he called for ”line,” Jan’s case was doomed. Wouldn’t you die inside if your personal journal became evidence in a lawsuit, even if you didn’t sign your entries ”XOXO”? The decision to make 10 (don’t skip Toby — 11!) copies of Michael’s diary was excruciating comedy, topped only by seeing everyone studying his or her own copy in the cafeteria. That’s where Jan admitted to Michael that she stole his diary, but since he’d e-mailed a topless photo of her to everyone at the company, they agreed they were even and exchanged ”I love you”s. That is some cuckoo kind of love, people.

After lunch, the torture of Michael Scott continued with a diary passage about Ryan: ”Just as hot as Jan, but in a different way.” Suddenly, Michael came through for Jan, admitting to the court (and himself) that she never considered him her boyfriend during the time in question. The DM counsel went in for the kill by asking Michael why he’d nobly defend the woman who gave him a scathing performance review a month after their romance was supposedly official. Reading Jan’s assessment (”unmanageable…poor branch manager”) devastated Michael. When he pointed out to Jan that he’d turned down the big corporate job for her, she asked for a David Wallace deposition to be read. The head honcho was on record reluctantly admitting that Michael (”He’s a nice guy — what do you want me to say?”) wasn’t seriously considered for the job. The lack of malice was probably what caused Michael to go with his gut and flush Jan’s whole case down the toilet by (contrary to Jan’s talking points) disagreeing that DM treated employees with disrespect. I hope we see more David Wallace — he came off as 100 percent decent to the core. Michael, for once, made sense when he said, ”You expect to get screwed by your company, but you never expect to get screwed by your girlfriend.”

What did you think? Were you surprised Michael drove home with Jan after the deposition, instead of dumping her? Does Michael want Ryan, or just want to be Ryan? And will Kelly and Darryl last?