When I wrote my review of this episode, I somehow missed the memo that this was the one written by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. In retrospect, I should have spotted that, credit-free rough cut or no, because this felt squirmier by at least 10 percent -- or, roughly, the difference between David Brent and Michael Scott.
In particular, the Prison Mike scene made me cringe in a way no TV comedy has since the dance routine that got David canned in the original series. I spend far too much time analyzing the minute differences between David and Michael, and much of those nuances come from the actors. There's a kind of sweaty malevolence that Gervais can pull off without seeming totally loathsome, but that doesn't fit Steve Carell at all; witness how much more uncomfortable it is when Michael pretends to fire Pam than it was when David tried the same with Dawn. The American writers quickly recognized this, and have fashioned Michael's personal brand of cluelessness into a more childlike inability to read a room. Even when he's agressive, it's in such an obviously harmless way that the Scranton people have all learned to tune him out over the years. Screaming in Phyllis' face is just something I would never expect or want to see Michael doing.
That said, I thought our visiting writers did a bang-up job on other parts of the episode, especially the Jim/Andy/Karen/Pam non-quadrangle. Tie between "Also, do you speak Pig Latin?" and Andy's falsetto, Pig Latin "Rainbow Connection" for funniest bit. (I've sung my daughter to sleep with "Rainbow Connection" for years, and I may never be able to get through it with a straight face again, dammit.)
Whatever hurt Pam is feeling over Jim's unavailability, she still has such affection for him that she can admire the artistry in how he sicc'ed Andy on her, and verrry interesting that Jim went out of his way to make Karen an accomplice in pranking somebody else. Clearly, she knows little or nothing about Jim's previous dealing with Pam, else she would start to wonder why he knows so damn much about her. Jim, a bit of advice: in a situation like this, full disclosure is really the only way to go.
Other highlights and thoughts:
- While I had trouble with the Martin subplot overall, I thought it was a nice touch that the hated Toby -- master of conflict resolution -- was the one who was able to calm Michael down and set everyone free without bloodshed.
- I want to know exactly how Martin explained insider trading that convinced Kevin that this is what he does.
- In the British series, the arrival of the merged staff eventually led to David's firing. Here, Michael's nearly halfway towards scaring off all the newbies. What terrible humiliation do you think awaits nursing mom Hannah? (And what office has a Bring Your Infant To Work All Day Day?)
- I quoted it in the review, but once again: "Why did the convict have to be a black guy? It is such a stereotype. I just wish Josh had made a more progressive choice, like a white guy who went to prison for polluting a black guy's lake." Also, would it be fair to say that most non-Christians would trust Apollo Creed more than Jesus? I'd certainly trust Apollo to find me a really good bargain on where to eat lunch (most likely at Burger King).
What did everybody else think?