The Office recap: Conspiracy Theory
Dwight and Jim can't accept their poor customer survey reports and go looking for the truth, while Jim realizes he's got another threat to his happiness out there
Good evening, my little binder clips, and welcome back to your ongoing Office recap wonderland, where tonight’s episode came rushing in with more than enough energy to fill the void of quality left by last week’s naptime. This was vintage Office scriptwriting — lots of intricate, canny wordplay and intra-character dynamic layered thick as syrup on a Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘N Fruity special at IHOP. So much to love (and rewatch!): the genius “microgement” sales-call three-way with Michael, Jim (a.k.a. “William M. Buttlicker,”) and Dwight; Pam and Jim in Bluetooth conversations that spilled over into the outside world; the slow build of Kelly’s coffee-mug-foreshadowed betrayal. Everything clicked tonight, and I ended the half-hour deeply satisfied.
Aside from missing Amy Ryan, that is, whose tragic departure was made all the more intense when I thought for a brief second that Michael and Holly really had gotten engaged, and she’d be forced to reappear at some point. Sadly, Michael was just lying to save face, though, oh my gosh, did it make his staff happy while it lasted. “Nothing can hurt you now!” Dwight crowed after socking his boss in the sternum. “You’re a man in love!” (Oh, Dwight. You of all people should know better. Hopefully, when Darryl digs into his pocket to cover Michael’s therapy co-pay, he can save a little change for you to at least buy some self-help paperbacks.) Despite the potential for a double wedding, Kelly’s purchase of a (white) bridesmaid’s dress, and a heartbreaking glimpse of Michael’s mommy issues (“I’m getting married.” “No you’re not.” “Whenever I’m getting married, you don’t believe me”), Michael’s subterfuge ended before the opening credits, leaving plenty of time for this evening’s main course: the annual customer service reviews.
Long story short, it’s Kelly’s dusky, exotic job each year to compile satisfaction surveys on each staff member, which Michael then uses to determine their Christmas bonuses. (“Kelly’s list” is not at all to be compared to Schindler’s List, insert inappropriate Hanukkah bonus joke here.) Jim especially needs that bonus at the moment, and not just because Pam has dropped mad coin on the world’s smallest Bluetooth earpieces so they can secretly stay on the phone all day. He’s also trying to buy his parents’ house, presumably so he and Pam can move in. (“If history tells us anything,” Jim topically pointed out, “it’s you can’t go wrong buying a house you can’t afford.”) In a shocking turn of events, however, the most normal dude at Dunder Mifflin got poopy scores, deemed “smug” (possibly “smudge”) and “arrogant” in his file. It was a negative review matched only by the “abrasive and distasteful” assessment of Dwight, which the man in the spicy brown mustard shirt initially assumed was a joke — but no one was laughing. Given that the one thing we know about Dwight (besides his fondness for law enforcement) is that he’s a weirdly excellent salesman, I had to join him in assuming there was some sort of sabotage afoot.
Andy, on the other hand, was feeling no such job performance pain. He’d gotten excellent scores, a fact he cheerfully relayed to Jim in the break room as Pam, listening in, quietly admitted to missing the guy. One must admit that there’s something occasionally charming about his enthusiasm for life, especially as it involves wedding planning. Today’s mission, for example, was finding the perfect structure in which to hold he and Angela’s improbably impending nuptials. Andy had his heart set on the “Shangri-La,” a simple and tasteful two-story tent complete with bridal suite, best known for its use at Giuliani’s first and third weddings. Now, while I think we can all agree that Judith Nathan is a lucky woman on a number of different levels, Angela wasn’t quite as thrilled as Judy must have been when it came to this idea. “I don’t want to be married in a tent like a hobo,” she told Andy. “Hobos live in trains,” he correctly responded. Seeing such deep desire (and knowledge of hobos) in her fiancé’s eyes, Angela played the only card she had left: Declaring that the tent was fine, so long as the wedding site was a hand-plowed field, with a barn so old you can look through its roof to see the stars, located nearby. And thus will Angela and Andy’s wedding now be hosted courtesy of Schrute Farms’ “Excalibur” package, Dwight Schrute presiding. Oh man, binder clips: The intense, commanding way he looked at Angela while offering his, um, “services” during that last tag before the end of the show? Dwight’s a total nutjob, but that was hot.
In general, Dwight was en fuego tonight, even going so far as to pick Jim up in his Trans Am for a covert conspiracy conversation in the parking lot. As Pam got an earful of the J. Geils Band, the two men pondered what dark force could possibly be trying to undermine them. NASA? The Mob? Again, what a wonderfully written scene, most notably the bit about money laundering (“Is there some evidence?”) as it mingled with the simultaneous in-ear conversation Jim and Pam were having about shoes. That terrific writing momentum continued as Jim and Dwight went back into the office, the latter freaking out that his call with a client was being eavesdropped on by Kelly, then storming off to confront his new adversary. He accused her of being too stupid to mastermind the sabotage on her own, and demanded she disclose her cohorts, but Kelly kept her calm, telling Dwight to get out of her nook (THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID!), and not giving Jim an inch, either, when he tried to charm her by asking about Darryl. This was when Pam — again, via Bluetooth, the best device they’ve found so far to make her part of the action (and not a moment too soon if you ask me) — realized something was totally up. After all, she said, when have you ever known Kelly not to go on for 15 minutes about her love life, whether you want her to or not?
NEXT: The jig is up
So Jim finally started sniffing out the conspiracy, checking in with Ryan to see if he’d heard any reason why Kelly might be mad at him…and that was when he saw it: the coffee mug. Ryan, drinking out of a coffee mug with his face on it. Not unlike the coffee mug with Andy’s face on it that Ivy League boy had been so upset to see Jim using earlier. Where did Ryan get the mug, Jim asked. At Kelly’sAmerica’s Got Talent finale party, Ryan answered. Which Jim didn’t go to, because he visited Pam instead…oh man. A quick scan around the office: Everybody had mugs…except Jim…and Dwight. That’s it! Kelly is mad and taking it out via her only source of power, the customer service surveys! Dwight was right! He is also loud! And now he wants to “get her,” and send her to prison! Thankfully, Michael intervened, like all good bosses do, and the three men confronted Kelly about her actions. She tried to lie her way out of it by claiming she was raped, which led to a gutsy bit that would have been even more inappropriate than my non-joke about Hanukkah bonuses if it hadn’t been handled so dryly and without any special emphasis by Steve Carell. (“You cannot say ‘I was raped’ and expect all your problems to go away, Kelly. Not again. Don’t keep doing that.”) Then Michael asked Dwight and Jim to leave so he could commiserate with his perpetual preteen about how frustrating it is when you throw a party and no one comes, all that leftover guac, etc., etc., and soon they’d dissolved into laughter. Jeez, maybe Kelly should have kept that white dress after all. (Kidding! Holly, you’re the only gal for him!)
After that, nothing was left but our weekly moment of “Why Jim and Pam Are Doomed in Case You Didn’t Already Know,” this one brought to us courtesy of Pam’s art school friend the Mad Man, who showed up at corporate to kidnap her for a Chuck Close exhibit and then, with Jim right there listening in, took a big leap and confessed that he didn’t want Pam to go back to Scranton because there was a good chance she’d wake up in 50 years and wonder what could have been. The Mad Man clearly was not just talking about Pam’s art career, but I personally feel that if they’re going to pursue this route any further — using said art as any part of the wedge driving doubt between her and Jim — we’re gonna need to see what the chick can really do. Soon. Not to mention get some notion of what kind of artist she wants to be. It feels like they’re building to a moment where Jim lets her go to follow her dream; I just wish I had a better idea of what that dream meant. Ceramics? Computer design? Photorealism? What?
What did you think, binder clips? Did you believe even for a second that Michael might really be engaged? Would you attend a Kelly party? Do you have “Centerfold” stuck in your head? Who’s secretly rooting for the Mad Man? And does anyone know a good tentist?