A disagreement over Meredith's sketchy dealings points out Michael's and Holly's fundamentally different world views, while Jim leads Dwight by the nose again

By Whitney Pastorek
October 11, 2008 at 04:07 AM EDT
Justin Lubin
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Good evening, my little binder clips, and welcome to my first attempt at an Office TV Watch! I’d like to thank the noble Aubry D’Arminio for filling in for me on the premiere, and ask for everyone’s forbearance as I take the specific skill set I’ve cultivated over four years of crabbily recapping reality shows (Apprentice,Hell’s Kitchen) and awkwardly recapping serialized dramas (LostTerminator) and apply it to this, a half-hour sitcom. One hopes, as one naturally would, that the public-response chips will fall on the side of happy harmony — but much like Michael Scott himself, I often have no ability to predict the effects of my actions, though they become abundantly clear after I’ve already acted upon them. Consequently, the secret to success in my life continues to be in maintaining low expectations. Into the paper-pushing breach!

So, Jim and Pam are engaged. Did you hear? Actually, it’s possible you didn’t: Jim (a.k.a. “the tall guy”) didn’t tell anyone, at least not at Dunder Mifflin. You know Pam told everyone in her world — I’m sure she at least changed her Facebook status — and so she’s steamed at the folks in the office (who I guess it was the tall guy’s responsibility to inform) for not calling to congratulate her. (Left hanging from the season premiere: how her new art-school BFF, Mad Men moonlighter Rich Sommer took the news, given that he was obviously set up as a potential wedge between her and Jim during her sojourn in New York City. Maybe he had to hurry back to the ’60s, and missed the whole announcement?) To make up for his lapse in information dispersal, Jim decided to tell the office right then and there, with Pam on speakerphone. (Note to this show’s creative team: I will not be happy if we spend much more of this season with Jenna Fischer on Skype/speakerphone. Sorry. I get what you’re trying to do, but I’ve got plenty of long-distance relationships in my real life; I don’t need to spend my vicarious life pining after fake strangers.) The reaction Jim got to the announcement was about as good as could be expected: Oscar could have sworn they already were engaged (“That was Roy,” corrected Angela); Kevin wondered if this meant he needed to buy a new engagement gift (or was it okay to just use the one he got for Pam and Roy?); Dwight helpfully reminded Jim that Pam is not a virgin (speaking of sex…oh, we’ll get to that later); and Andy worried that Tuna was trying to steal his engagement thunder. But the most touching response, both literally and figuratively, came from Michael, who tackled Jim to the ground. It’s times like these I’m thankful that I outweigh the majority of my editors. And spend a lot of time working from home.

NEXT: Meeting of the minds

Today was Ethics Day in the office, and it was Holly’s time to shine. Oh, how I adore this Amy Ryan person! Even though her character no longer thinks Kevin is retarded (greatest B story in sitcom history?), she can totally keep up, and tonight’s conference room follies proved it. Michael helped her with her presentation (despite the fact that they’re not dating, which was very big of him), and his biggest contribution was clearly the opening “Let’s Get Physical/Ethical” dance number, complete with choreography and aerobics class headbands. (I knew what was coming, lyrics-wise, from the moment the boombox turned on, but I enjoyed the heck out of it anyway.) Holly struggled to deal with the inevitable chaos resulting from putting all the Office crazy in a tiny room together: Ryan admitted he has regrets about his double-billing scandal (except for the part where he got to bag some chick who looked just like a Survivor cast member). Stanley frowned over his word searches, especially when Holly asked for examples of over-the-line time wasting: “This meeting,” he grumbled. (“Can’t set ’em up like that,” Michael helpfully advised her.) Michael topped them all by admitting that when he discovered YouTube, he didn’t work for five days and instead just watched Cookie Monster sing “Chocolate Rain” over and over again. (I wonder if that experience was “cathark-tic,” too.) Somewhere in here, Amy Ryan got to try out her first Jim Halpert-esque take of exhausted desperation to the camera, and I’d say she nailed it.

But then came the doozy: After Michael offered everyone “immunity” for confessing their biggest ethical dilemmas, Meredith (who I feel has been woefully underutilized of late) stood up and said that she’s been sleeping with Bruce Myers, the Scranton rep for Hammermill, in exchange for discounts on supplies, and also Outback Steakhouse gift certificates. She classified the relationship as, basically, “an exchange of steak.” (Though apparently not much steak — she also later noted that poor Bruce doesn’t have much “fruit” in his “Looms.”) Holly was appalled, but Michael tried to downplay the whole thing, a dynamic that continued even after they pulled Meredith in for a meeting. “Am I in trouble here or somethin’?” she asked, clearly unaware that a normal person (i.e., Holly) would find her actions at best a bit self-destructive and at worst grounds for dismissal. “I’m not quitting,” Meredith grunted at the latter suggestion. And so all Holly could do was fume a bit, and write up her report for corporate.

The thing about the way they’re writing this Holly character is that, as with every other marginally sane person in The Office, they have to grasp at straws for a reason to keep her around. Because if we’re to believe that she is as normal/smart as she initially appeared, she’d be out the door faster than you can say “Mike-raculous.” (If that is in fact what she said; I rewound four times, and that’s the best I could come up with.) But see, she’s got a crush on Michael, and that’s the ticket (not a Counting Crows ticket, but still a ticket) to her staying at Dunder Mifflin. I worry that they’re going to have a hard time maintaining the balance here — how many times can he throw away her lunch (and half the items on her desk) and drag her to a pirate-themed “business-romantic” seafood restaurant to discuss spiky chastity belts, then redeem his borderline-psychotic actions by getting her to join him in a Terminator impression before she just gets sick of it all? For the time being, she seems more confused by her own feelings than anything else, a little dazed and glossy behind the eyes, like there’s a really bright, ambitious gal trying to claw out from inside that vest and do something real with her life, but that bright gal has been temporarily anesthetized by some weird physiological response to Michael’s endorphins. And so when they have a fight about office vs. home — she dared voice the opinion that the Scranton branch is not in fact a family, when coworkers-as-family is basically the defining tenet of Michael’s entire sad existence — she finds herself conflicted. She knows she’s right, from a practical point of view, but then Michael stops speaking to her and starts bogarting the copier, and it breaks her little former hall-monitor heart.

NEXT: Dwight’s time management

So I was glad to see that this story line ended in a conference call with Kendall from HR in New York. (“What’s the only thing worse than one HR rep?” Michael asked Ryan, who, as receptionist, put through the call. “Two HR reps?” Ryan responded. “You get me,” Michael sighed. Brilliant.) Kendall, it seems, didn’t see what the big deal was with Meredith getting a sex discount for supplies (budgetary crisis being what it is), and basically reamed out poor Holly for not just doing her job and collecting signatures after reading the ethics binder. Kendall, with this brief phone call, gave us all the logic we need to explain how all the misfits and Solitaire-playing crackpots of the Scranton branch manage to stay employed — and, if you think about it, also provided a perfect explanation for our current sticky situation here in real-life America: There’s no oversight. Everyone is just trying to cover their own ass. And people who try to go above and beyond doing the barest of minimums in the workplace are more often than not smacked down for making everyone else have to do more work, too. “How do you tell somebody that you care about deeply, ‘I told you so’?” Michael asked, seeing Holly’s dejected response to the reaming. Then he made a valiant gesture by helping her herd everyone back into the conference room so she could have the boring, basic meeting she tried to have earlier. And Holly — darling, doomed, glazed-donut Holly — could only beam at Michael with admiration…despite the fact that his nonsense got her into the jam in the first place. Sigh.

Oh. And meanwhile, after Dwight announced he’d never wasted any time at work, Jim found a way to mute him using only a stopwatch — to time all of his yawns and asides — and eventually had Dwight peeing in a soda bottle at his desk to avoid taking a break. But. While Dwight may not have bit when Jim blatantly baited him with a hilariously inaccurate explanation of Battlestar Galactica (which you can see below) that incorporated Klingons, Wookiees, and Dumbledore, there is one force that is greater than even the patented Schrute self-righteousness: the Schrute need to have approximately 17 minutes (give or take 2 minutes and 48 seconds of travel/undressing time) of sex with Angela in the warehouse. Ah, romance. It’s not dead, my darlings. It just hides in pirate-themed seafood restaurants, paper-company warehouses, and rainy gas stations off I-80. Stop looking for it in the moon and stars.

Your thoughts? How many of you seriously considered heading straight to the closest Outback Steakhouse after that final breakroom scene? (Keep the ribs coming!) And really, why didn’t Meredith just accept cash?

Episode Recaps

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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seasons
  • 9
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  • 03/24/05-05/16/13
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