Michael's reluctance to take credit/blame for his big idea puts him at odds with Dwight, while Kevin tries to make a move on a girl

By Whitney Pastorek
March 13, 2009 at 09:08 PM EDT
Justin Lubin/NBC
S5 E17
  • TV Show

Why hello there, my little binder clips! God, it feels like it’s been ages since we’ve met here at the Office TV Watch. I’d like to thank the handsome and noble Jeff Labrecque for filling in for me while I was on vacation last week, and I’d like to thank whoever fills in for me next week while I’m at SXSW. But I am here now, and you are here, and that’s all we need to have a party, or so I once heard Prince say. Anyway.The Office! It was kind of cute tonight, and kind of flat in places, and kind of sad, as we watched what happens when a bunch of lonely men have way too much time on their hands.

Michael had this idea, you see, to slip five Willy Wonka-style Golden Tickets into boxes of paper, entitling whoever found them to ten percent off their total order. Whimsy! Excitement! Fantasy! Disaster if the person who finds the ticket happens to be Blue Cross, your biggest client! And total catastrophe if that client finds all five of them at once because you are the regional manager of a paper company and you don’t understand what a ”pallet” is! It really doesn’t matter if you have taken the time to dress up in a bow tie and top hat and somersault around the office interrupting phone calls and rhapsodizing about extraordinary jelly beans. You are still going to wind up costing your branch an everlasting gobstopper of money, dude.

So there we found our story: Blue Cross got their giant order half off in the middle of a recession. Jim was out fifty percent of his sales, which would have been fine except he has a mortgage to pay. (”It’s not my fault you bought a house to impress Pam,” countered Michael. ”That’s why carnations exist.”) David Wallace up at corporate was understandably steamed. Pam tried her best to stall the inevitable confrontation using a list of emergency locations for Michael when he doesn’t want to take David’s call — ”trapped in an oil painting” was indeed the best of the bunch, although ”Obama fashion show” was pretty damn good, too — but corporate couldn’t be fended off forever. Someone in the Scranton branch was going down. So Michael Scott, the man who loves his employees above almost everything else in the world despite occasionally trying to convince them he serves as a net (or a Toilet Buddy, if you will) for all their ”crappy subconscious ideas,” had to man up and decide who was going to take the blame for his failed idea. And he picked Dwight.

Dwight? His right hand man? His faithful servant? How can you ask Dwight to fall on his sword? Luckily, since Dwight knows from literally falling on swords, this would prove no easy feat: The simple Jedi mind trick of ”oh my god, you had this great idea” didn’t work, nor did pulling out a fake diary and reading the entry from the day on which Dwight supposedly came up with the Willy Wonka plan, since Dwight keeps an actual diary — to keep secrets from his computer, so brilliant — and noted the very day that Michael dreamed up the plan himself. And besides, Dwight said, he doesn’t even get Wonka. ”I wasn’t given candy as a child,” he said, in one of the better-written lines of the night, ”so a movie that fetishized it that much would have made no sense to me. Plus we weren’t allowed to see movies.” (PS: Whatever you do, don’t bring up the book.)

NEXT: Honesty is its own reward…right?

All that remained was for Michael to appeal to Dwight’s sense of honor and machismo. Off they went for a bro-stroll (broll?), during which the regional manager made his case: Dwight doesn’t need Dunder Mifflin, he said, not the way that Michael needs Dunder Mifflin. Dwight has his farm. Dwight is manly. Dunder Mifflin is Michael’s whole life, save for one sort of incredibly tragic plan to open a store called ”Shoe-La-La,” which would sell men’s shoes for the special occasions in a man’s life. All the special occasions Michael Scott can think of: getting married, having a baby, and lounging around the house. Did I mention this plan was really tragic?

When the two returned from their walk, nothing was decided. Dwight was understandably enticed by the potential for plowing his acres and being shirtless all day, but given the oddly empowered look in his eye, these simple pleasures weren’t going to be enough. Give Michael credit for trying, though. ”Freedom. Can’t put a price on it,” he said. ”Try me,” said Dwight. Out in the main office, Jim made a very nice gesture towards his frenemy, telling Dwight not to take the fall, but Dwight immediately wrote him up for insubordination. And then, just as Michael’s wide-eyed terror that perhaps Dwight was not the unconditionally loyal subject he’d imagined him to be had reached nuclear levels, David Wallace made a surprise visit. The moment had arrived. What was Dwight going to choose???

Ah, The Office. How you let your children walk right up to the edge of complete destruction without ever walking all the way off. Wallace delivered the news that Blue Cross was so thrilled with the Golden Ticket promotion they’d decided to make Dunder Mifflin their exclusive provider of office supplies. Dwight is a hero if he takes the credit! Does he? Yes! With a little help from Jim and Pam — no doubt still furious at Michael for costing Jim half his sales, though this was not as fleshed out as it might have been — the notion of Dwight as the idea man was sold. And that single gesture of betrayal by Mr. Schrute, binder clips, was huge. (All together now: That’s what she said!)

We spun to the end: David Wallace tried to have a conference call with Dwight and corporate marketing to talk ideas, Michael came busting in to confess the truth about everything, the two Scranton men got in a fight over who has the best ideas (loved Pam dutifully taking notes throughout this scene), there was a nice moment of honesty when Michael said ”I want the credit without any of the blame,” Wallace got overwhelmed and fled, and we ended with Michael stating that all anyone would remember about this whole mess is that he had a good idea. There are no consequences, there are no rewards, everyone is back to zero. Isn’t that always the way on this show?

NEXT: It’s guy love

But were the consequences the point tonight? I say no. I’d like to make the more significant assertion that, after their respective failed romances with Holly and Angela, Michael and Dwight may be coming to the awkward realization that the most successful relationship in either of their lives is with one another, and that may be causing a little tension. Hence the slap-fight stare-down after the knock-knock joke, and the sadness in Michael’s eyes as he pondered the notion that the only person in the office willing to take a bullet for him was Dwight, and that he’d have to exploit that loyalty in order to survive — and in so doing, lose his demented soulmate. Dwight’s joyous trash-kicking as the two men went on their walk was adorably heartbreaking, as was his wounded insistence that even though this specific idea wasn’t his, he did have ideas, and he obviously needs Michael to approve of them. It’s Dwight who remembers Shoe-La-La, and Dwight who comes running into Michael’s office like an eager puppy the minute he calls, and Dwight who keeps a diary faithfully documenting Michael’s every idea, and Dwight who writes up Jim for contradicting Michael, even when it’s in Dwight’s best interest for him to do so. These two need each other more and more with every passing day, because they’re kind of all they’ve got. Was I the only one who, just for a second, wondered if there was something deeper behind their episode-ending full-body scuffle for Dwight’s diary? Am I crazy? I mean, Michael occasionally wears women’s pants, he gets his jeans dry cleaned, he wants to open a shoe store, he enjoys the occasional fur coat…Okay, I’m crazy.

Let’s talk real quick about tonight’s B-story, in which two other lonely men faced their own conflict. Kevin, a ”textbook overthinker,” was trying to figure out if he should make a move on Lynn, the demure mixer attendee from ”Blood Drive” last week. Andy, whose heart is now a blackened carbon brick with a barbecue sauce of shame and rage (mmm, barbecue), was staunchly against the idea. Also, I think he’s been watching The Pick-Up Artist, since most of his advice to Kevin involved being as standoffish and mean to Lynn as possible. ”You can’t let a girl feel good about herself,” he said. ”It will backfire on you.” (Perhaps he thinks he gave Angela the necessary self-esteem to sleep with her ex-boyfriend during their engagement?) Andy’s example of a backhanded compliment for you gentlemen to try on your next social outing: ”I like your dress. But I’d like it more if you had prettier hair.” Throughout this, Pam and Jim were suitably appalled, and tried to help as best they could, but if I were Kevin and I’d been at Dunder Mifflin for the last five years, I wouldn’t take romantic advice from any of those crazy people. Thankfully, he didn’t. ”I’m just going to say to you everything that I’m thinking,” he told Lynn upon running into her in the parking lot. ”I think you have the best smile. I’d like to take you out to dinner and a movie.” ”Okay,” said Lynn shyly. ”Niiiice,” said Kevin, and then followed that with ”Boobs.” Lynn, god bless her, smiled her tiny smile. I think these two kids have a shot!

What did you think, binder clips? Was Michael’s knock-knock-who’s-there-Buddah stick of butter wrapped or unwrapped during its journey to the office that morning? How many of you are going to answer the next knock-knock (or ding-dong) joke you’re subjected to with ”I’m in the shower”? How many of you will tell the next co-worker who inappropriately barges into your workspace to ”start over”? What does Creed know about carnations that we don’t? Has anyone ever pronounced it ”pro-fil-i-gate” by accident besides me? What’s the better idea: the Horse Boat (a canoe built around your horse) or the Toilet Sponge (I’d prefer not to go into specifics)? And no, seriously: I know they’re not going to hook up, but where is the codependence of the Michael/Dwight relationship headed?

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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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