Friday, February 23, 2007

The Office: That's what she said. Oh, my God.

Spoilers for "The Office" just as soon as I collapse in on myself like a dying star...

Ho'od win: Joss Whedon or J.J. Abrams? Last week, Whedon stepped in to helm one of the best episodes of the season. This week, Abrams was behind the camera for one I didn't like that much.

I don't know that I can lay too much of the blame at J.J.'s feet, though, as most of my problems came in the script stage. I realize that tolerance levels for Michael's idiocy is a taste thing, that there are people who loved "Phyllis' Wedding" while I had to watch it from behind my couch, that some found Prison Mike to be hilarious when I cringed, etc. It's rarely a question of Michael being out of character (because I believe he would do all these things), so much as it is my discomfort overwhelming any impulse to laugh.

I love the idea of Jan, going through a self-destructive streak and getting bad advice from her shrink, trying to have a relationship with this oblivious man-child, but outside of her brilliant Talking Head (including the Upside/Downside list and "That's what she said") and the revelation that Dwight was in the backseat for the entire fight (which had me laughing so hard I began to cough), I felt like this one missed the mark. Too much of Michael being an idiot, not enough of Jan trying to use her executive smarts to make him behave.

The staff going out for drinks was better, though how do you spend an entire subplot at a bar without a single Meredith joke? (There better be a good deleted scene.) I enjoyed watching Pam ("Don't call me Pammy") asserting herself as mildly as possible and loved Oscar's reaction to Creed's celebrity among underage drinkers. Roy going berserk about the Jim news could have been uncomfortably dark, but the presence of "Carry On Wayward Son" on the jukebox and Roy's brother getting a little too into trashing the bar made it work as both comedy and tragedy. Roy spends half a season telling us he took Pam for granted and is a changed man, and then the second they're together again, he goes back to treating her like garbage again.

So now Pam is free of Roy, and Jim could not possibly be less into Karen, evidence by his non-reaction to the sort of prank that he would have loved coming from Ms. Beesly. What now?

What did everybody else think?

38 comments:

Kristin said...

Well, I *loved* this episode. I thought Jan's whole rationalization for being with Michael was a good insight into her character. Obviously, she wants the white picket fence, too, and if Michael is the only man she's found who wants the same, maybe she should stick with him.

Dwight testing the house for problems got a few laughs out of me.

But, the absolute best part was Roy going bonkers in the bar and then saying he would 'kill' Jim. I was so glad to see something erratic coming from Roy. I was getting tired of his 'changed man' routine that was so obviously fake.

Hoping Pam's idea to be more honest about her feelings last into next week...

Anonymous said...

The 1st deleted scene takes the road less traveled to make a Meredith alcohol joke, which I quite appreicated.

The cold open didn't impress me as much as it usually does, and I give the episode medium marks overall.

I could at least somewhat justify Michael at Phyllis' wedding by saying no one would want to make a scene. They'd think he can't keep doing this... Until Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration saved the day.

But here, Jan really should have been better about handling him. Also missing for me were what I'd call the "quiet absurdity" often expressed in talking heads or otherwise. Perhaps "30 Rock" has spoiled me...

Note for other episodes: The first deleted scene for an episode has been very consistently appearing in NBC's popup video player after the West Coast airing.

Dale said...

Stepping up to the podium, tapping microphone

“Pam is a conniving b*tch for telling Roy the way she did.
Thank you”

Make no mistake. This newfound honesty policy is just a ploy for the reality show. She knew Roy would freak the same way she knew Toby would spend the evening trying to win the duck.

Anna Laperle said...

I think there are 2 reasons why I'm still watching The Office. One, is that I'm honestly too lazy to bother changing the channel before my beloved 30 Rock comes on. And two, I'm all about Dwight. That brief shot of him on the roof and him rising up from the back seat, earnestly imploring Michael and Jan to work things out, got the biggest laughs out of me.

I knew that Toby would spend all night and all his money to get that duck only to be spurned. Poor Toby. And how great is Creed? Fabricating fake IDs with a kit he stole from the police. Nice.

Abbie said...

Whoa, Dale, I could not disagree with you more on either of your points about Pam.

And I thought the episode was great! I really liked where they're taking Jan's character. I like that she has this self-destructive side and that she would be willing to put up with Michael in order to see if she can get the white picket fence dream, since that's why she left her husband.

I thought Roy's last line of the episode ("I'm going to kill Jim Halpert!") was the worst part of the episode- I hated that they cut to a close-up and I thought it set up next week's episode just a little too well. But I thought the way Pam handled the conversation with Roy was well integrated into the plot about how she was standing up for herself.

Wendy said...

I don't think Jim would have enjoyed being pranked by Pam. I think that Pam would never prank Jim. And Jim would never prank Pam. I think that's the difference, and why Jim reacted the way he did.

Zodin2008 said...

"30 Rock" has definitely gotten more and more brilliant and hit a major high note last night with the whole Jenna bit, especially Jenna on "Hardball" with Chris Matthews when she made the Obama/Osama mistake. I was rolling.

Still, as wonderful a show as it is (and it's passing "scrubs" for me as my 2nd favorite NBC Thursday comedy), "The office" is still the supreme funny show by which all others should be measured.

Yes, "The Office" has its weaker moments or the occasional joke that falls flat, plus, sometimes Michael and Dwight are too much of charicatures, however, they are supposed to be ridiculous and Carrell and Rainn Wilson remain in character, beautifully.

The one thing on "The Office" I am having a hard time buying (because I always buy Michael acting insane or childish at times) is the fact that Jan continues to go out with Michael and lust for him at the strangest moments.

I guess what makes it so hard for me to buy is that Melora Hardin (who plays Jan) is way too gorgeous to be that desperate or lonely. Or insecure.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Wendy, Jim and Pam have pranked each other in the past, to varying degrees. To use two examples: Pam exploiting the hell out of Jim being silenced by the rules of Jinx, and Jim siccing Andy on her with bad information ("Also, do you speak Pig Latin?").

Alan Sepinwall said...

Zodin, I buy Jan falling for Michael when you factor in age. The whole "women over 40 have a better chance of being killed by a terrorist than getting married" urban legend and all that. Jan's still wicked hot, but the men available are more along the lines of Michael or Toby.

the2scoops said...

I was wondering if Roy had ever found out about "Casino Night", and now I have the answer. There's been minimal Roy/Jim interaction this season, and now we're about to have a whole lot of interaction.

I'm waiting for a reveal of just who is Jan's shrink and what's with the bad advice. Would you cast a goofy parallel to Steve Carell (Mr. Colbert perhaps or Paul Rudd?) or do you go with a female equivalent to Michael?

Robin said...

Alan-

Although Pam pranked Jim in the past, it was not in a way that could be looked at as mean. The jinx prank was light-hearted and fun. The prank that Karen played last night could be seen as simply trying to make him jealous and very manipulative on her part.

I like Karen, but I didn't think last night's prank was a good idea, and I don't think she accomplished what she wanted.

Louis said...

Colbert as Jan's therapist would be a great stroke, but would the show stray that far from the workplace?

I think Dale makes an interesting point about Pam, although I'm not sure I agree that she's deliberately being a bitch. I do think, though, that in real life this so-called "need for honesty" about past indiscretions is less about strengthening a relationship than it is about the confessor getting some guilt off her chest. Really, how is Pam's telling Roy about the kiss supposed to improve things between them?

the2scoops said...

Pam being honest with Roy feels like something she read in a book or magazine article and thought "Well if Glamour says its a good idea, it must be!"

Anonymous said...

I thought Pam's confession to Roy was brought on at least in part by his smug "You can't keep anything from me!" earlier in the evening--I also thought it was well done, with Pam trying to get an honest fresh start while knowing that Roy doesn't know her nearly as well as he thinks he does, and letting herself be bothered by that instead of just ignoring it.

litwit said...

I agree with Kristin -- Jan's with Michael because, while he's a self-deluded ass, he's also a sweet man who will never lie to her and will never, ever hurt her. It's not something he's capable of. When you're a divorced woman in your 40s with a powerful job who also wants the husband and the kids, that's a weighty thing. And Melora Hardin sold that realization brilliantly in the car scene.

fcharles. said...

Alan is spot on with his Karen analysis. We've seen how excited Jim gets when Pam pranks him and he obviously was just annoyed by Karen's antics. She's going to be gone soon, Pam's 'initiative' phase will lead her to tell Jim how she really feels, or at the very least another will they/won't they story arc. This is a good step though, any charisma that Karen had in Stanford (Call of Duty) is completely gone and I, for one, am having trouble watching her pathetic attempts to keep Jim interested.

Creed is the man, as always; but I felt Toby got an unwarranted dis - what happened to the hot girl from the gym?

Alan Sepinwall said...

What's most interesting to me about the Toby/Pam dynamic is that, in a deleted scene a few weeks back, Pam becomes uncomfortably aware of how deep Toby's crush is and makes efforts to keep her distance. Greg has said he considers the deleted scenes as valid as anything that airs (more on that in Sunday's story), yet Pam again seemed oblivious to why Toby spent so much time winning that stuffed animal for her, and even seemed disappointed that they couldn't hang out.

Anonymous said...

Pam's newfound honesty/bravery thing was partly a reaction to Roy's "I can read you like a book" comment; but it was also probably a reaction to the conversation she overheard between Oscar and his boyfriend last week at her art show:

(paraphrasing here)
Boyfriend - "art takes honesty and bravery"

Oscar -- "well, pam isn't really known for those qualities"

The whole time Michael is being just appallingly inappropriate, Jan's squirminess seemed to be heading for one resolution (Jan lectures Michael) and instead went for a completely different resolution (Jan tries to have sex with Michael at a work party! at the CFO's house! a million times more inappropriate than anything Michael has ever done in his entire life).

I thought the point of having Jan basically assault Michael immediately after showing Michael in all his bizarro glory was to show that his cluelessness and social ineptness actually turns her on, instead of repelling her. It goes a long way towards showing why they're together at all. I don't think it's just about the picket fences or settling; it's just Jan's quirk that she digs this guy who is just a strange-o partly because he is completely nutters.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Jan's seeing Dr. Leo Spaceman...

Anonymous said...

I agree with litwit -- I buy Jan having "a thing" for Michael because he's so open. He doesn't play any relationship games like the ones that Roy and Pam and you and I play. What you see is what you get. And even though Jan's intellect is bugged by Michael's social cluelessness, the rest of her is totally in love with it.

SJ said...

Not enough Stanley this week. His reactions are the best!

mattvolpi said...

I thought both episodes were pretty funny (although without Dwight's antics last night might have been too much Michael). However, I have an issue with bringing in guest directors for a show that's supposed to be a documentary... doesn't that defeat the purpose?

Zodin2008 said...

I also agree with Alan's earlier assessment that the show missed out on a great opportunity for another Meredith alchy breakdown at the Bar. A shame. But the Creed moment was priceless.

The Toby thing...I thought the scene at the end of that where Pam says, "don't you have a daughter you can give that too?" was VERY telling...clearly, Pam recognized Toby's crush again and repelled him. I felt sorry for Toby.

You also see a sharp contrast over Pam in this episode: Toby, completely soft spoken and mild mannered pining for Pam from afar, in his own quiet, sad way, vs. Roy the big ox who destroyed a bar with hus buffoon brother after Pam revealed the kiss. Roy was a dolt...the fact is, he practically admitted earlier that he had strayed (and probably not his first time) and he's never cared what she was into anyway.

Back to the Jan thing...I know I am in a minority but I don't buy it. Sorry.

Don't get me wrong, I love Melora Hardin (as seen also in the great "Quantum Leap" triology episodes and occasionally as Monk's late wife, Trudy) but even despite the fact that she maybe in her early 40's, she stunningly beautiful...and maybe looks shouldn't be a factor but I have a hard time buying a single Melora Hardin in real life (if she was single, I don't know) ever having trouble meeting plenty of guys, even nice ones. I just can't buy her 'settling' for Michael Scott.

Zodin2008 said...

One last thing...Jan's shrink casting.

How about British comedian/actor, Stephen Frye?

He's been great as FBI Agent selly Booth's shrink on "Bones"; why not let the character cross networks and have Frye get into Jan's psyche. It's probably even more twisted then Booth's!

Abbie said...

I would totally stop watching The Office if they tried to make an episode with Jan's therapist. There's no way they could do that within the limits of their documentary, as louis said above, and it would seem like way too much of a stretch.

Jaynee said...

mattvolpi - it's possible that the guest directors have a blast doing "The Office" because they HAVEN'T done this kind of format before (fake documentary). It's not often your characters look directly at the camera or speak to someone off-camera. So for these guest directors they probably find it fun. I know I would.

Steve said...

It's hard for me to believe that, in real life, Jan's accomplishment and beauty wouldn't preclude her from doing crazy stuff and having a less-than-flattering view of herself.

But at least she hasn't gone into silly caricature by, like, shaving her head or attacking a car with an umbrella.

It's funny how many people I've seen ripping Karen for her prank, and so few ripping Jim for not having much of a sense of humor about it. I don't think he cares for it much when it's turned back on him.

He's been kind of a mope this season. That's on him, not on Karen.

dave said...

Does anyone know which episode the deleted scene where Pam catches on to Toby's feelings and then reels away from him is from? I'm having a hard time tracking it down.

Many thanks,
Dave

Anonymous said...

Stephen Colbert should be Gould, Jan's bastard of an ex-husband, who ends up confronting Michael in what would inevitably be a hilarious scene. Spread the word; this MUST happen!

Zodin2008 said...

Colbert as the ex husband of Jan...BRILLIANT.

As I am actually sitting and watching "Little Miss Sunshine" right nopw, Greg Kinnear would also be great casting for Mr. Gould!

fcharles. said...

Obviously Colbert would be brilliant in any character he played on The Office. Unfortunately he's not in the habit of appearing out of The Colbert Report character right now, at all. On the other hand, I know how much he loves any and all attention thrown his way and I'm sure it would be hard to turn down a cameo on a friend's, and incredible in its own right, sitcom.

A thought, didn't Alan say Ed Helms got made a regular? If so, he's been MIA since his glorious "It's pretty freaking un-funny!" breakdown. What's the deal?

bill said...

fcharles--he's been in anger management since then. Revealed online in a deleted scene. Should be back soon.

LV said...

I guess I'm really missing out by not watching any of these deleted scenes.

My favorite line of the night was when Jan was attacking Michael and pulling him into the bathroom and right before it cuts to commercial, you hear Michael ask "I thought you liked your privacy in here?" Priceless.

Anonymous said...

What did Roy say about the jet ski? I heard "I can't. My brother, he just unloaded the jet skis and kind of took a bath, so we're gonna go get hammered."

What did I hear wrong?

anon said...

I don't read into the prank as much as others; I just don't think Jim is having much fun in his relationship with Karen. That's pretty much been the case since he confessed to her about Pam.

And I think they've justified the Jan/Michael relationship as reasonably as possible, namely by suggesting that Jan is severely damaged psychologically. This episode made even clearer that Michael's inappropriate behavior turns her on, as does/did the secret nature of their relationship. I do think the show walks a fine line between having Jan-as-Jan be crazy vs. Jan-as-an-example-of-a-female-executive
be crazy. It'd be less of a concern if she wasn't the only female executive we'd seen on the show.

And sure, Roy was over-the-top scary this episode, and a bit too on point in the button, but let's not forget that Dwight was the one who menaced a child.

Anon

bebe said...

I object strongly to the idea that Jan wouldn't go for Michael simply because she's beautiful enough to do better. That's totally absurd.

Good looking and severely screwed up people get together all the time. Both Hardin and Carrell are good looking people. Both Jan and Michael are seriously screwed up, though that manifests itself in different ways. And both have somehow managed to "pass" so far, at least in that they've kept their jobs. The only big difference I see is that Jan is just starting to hit rock bottom, while Michael has been in pretty rough shape for a while.

People as socially screwed up as Michael date people as beautiful as Jan all the time. Look around. It's just that there's always something wrong with the second person, too, even though it might not be immediately apparent.

tomok97 said...

I think Jan likes Michael because they are the same. We all know that Michael doesn't have that voice inside his head that tells him when to shut-up. Jan has a voice inside her that does nothing BUT tell her to shut-up. As we've seen, she's just a full of inappropriate impulses as Michael is (if not more so). She's just spent her whole life repressing them.

Pete said...

Funny, I took Jan's bathroom stunt with Michael not as evidence of her being turned on, but as a lesson she was trying to teach Michael about being inappropriate. He didn't understand that all the things he was doing were inappropriate, and she figured the only way to make him realize that was to do something that she knew he would consider inappropriate.