Friday, May 18, 2007

The Office: Girls' day out (aka Paint it black)

Spoilers for "The Office" finale coming up just as soon as I get squatter's rights to www.creedthoughts.gov...

How amazing is Jenna Fischer? I'm serious. How amazing is she? That final talking head -- my favorite form of talking head, one where actual office action interrupts the interview -- was a little acting clinic, with Pam genuinely convincing herself it was okay that she and Jim had missed their window, only to be overwhelmed by Jim's entrance and the realization that he was holding the window open for her. Just a beautiful moment, and one the entire season had been building towards.

The Pam/Jim/Karen triangle reminds me in a lot of ways of the Luke/Lorelai/Christopher situation this last year on "Gilmore Girls." You have the couple who the audience is rooting for, kept apart by wishy-washy behavior on someone's part (Luke there, Pam here), then the rejected person (Lorelai/Jim) spends the better part of the season involved with someone who's a good match on paper (Chris has more history with Lorelai and the same sense of humor, Karen is willing to put herself out there for Jim in a way Pam wasn't), only to realize towards the end that love doesn't happen on paper, and in the finale we finally get the pairing we want. The difference is, "Gilmore Girls" ended just as Luke and Lorelai got back together, while "The Office" has a lot of time to explore what life will be like when Jim and Pam actually try dating.

And I think we needed this year of having them mostly apart, even if at times the fun was as lacking for us as it was for Pam. Pam needed a season to find, as both Michael and Oscar's roommate realized she needed, some courage. Early in the year, she was still casting about for a new accomplice (an audition Ryan failed, largely because he didn't know it was happening), but by the finale she had become strong enough to do the coal-walk, declare her feelings to Jim in front of everyone, and have herself a whole lot of fun with Dwight as boss. She couldn't have shouted down the conference room a year ago, and she would have felt the fun was empty without Jim or someone else to share it with, where now she seemed okay just sharing with her pal the camera guy.

Jim, meanwhile, needed some time to heal from Pam's rejection, and by keeping distant from both her and his old office-wide hijinks (the betting episode aside), it made the moment where he found Pam's note and the old yogurt lid (a callback to the medals from "Office Olympics," possibly their finest moment of office cruise-directoring) that much sweeter. Jim had spent the last year focused on his career, but when he saw the note and yogurt lid and David asked him what he liked most about Scranton, the only thing he could think to say was, "the friendships." Another lovely little moment, and well-played by Krasinski. (We didn't see the entire interview, but I have to assume he answered David's long-haul question by admitting he wasn't ready to leave Scranton yet.)

I don't think the end of Unresolved Sexual Tension is the kiss of death for a show -- especially not a show where the UST isn't even the main story element. If anything, I think too many shows have died trying to postpone the inevitable for too long ("Moonlighting," "Ed"), while the king of the genre ("Cheers") put its couple together quickly, then spent the next four years exploring different break-ups and reconciliations. I'm not saying "The Office" should go that route -- Jim and Pam are far more compatible than Sam and Diane, where the comedy came from how wrong for each other they were -- but at the very least it could be like "NewsRadio," which put Dave and Lisa together in episode 2, had fun with their relationship at times and treated it as a simple fact of life at others. Certainly, Michael, Kelly, Dwight and Kevin all have ways of making an office romance uncomfortable (and funny) for Jim and Pam, so even if their own relationship is smooth, there will still be some laughs and tension to be wrung from how other people now treat them.

While Jim and Pam were making up the emotional core of the episode, Michael, Jan and Jan's new girls were bringing the funny. My reaction to Michael's reaction to the bigger girls was the opposite of emotionally magnificent. It was completely shallow, and I don't care, because I laughed so damn much through the entire sequence where Jan was in the office, and again when Jan had her meltdown at corporate and again when they were in the car together and she was talking about wearing stretch pants and waiting at the door for Michael to come home. Melora Hardin and the writers have done wonders with a role that was fairly limited at first as the disapproving straight woman to Michael, and I hope we don't lose Jan next year. (Roy, on the other hand, seems gone, and with Rashida Jones doing that Farrelly Bros. sitcom for Fox, I imagine she's out, too, even though she didn't get the corporate job as predicted. More on that down below.)

Dwight's one-day reign of terror was also marvelously silly, particularly the Scrute-Bucks vs. Stanley-Nickels confrontation. I just love the way Rainn Wilson says "Schrute," making an odd name sound completely ridiculous; adding "bucks" to the end of it, repeatedly, was practically Dada. I've been saying "Schrute-Bucks" all day, and will likely continue until I beat it into the ground just like "I'm gonna chase that feeling," "Is that something you might be interested in?" and all my other borrowed catchphrases.

I'm sure you all will have lots to talk about this episode and this season, so I'll move on to the bullet points:
  • Ryan getting the corporate job was a weird surprise, and it did lead to his perfectly cold dumping of Kelly, but it doesn't make sense even within a universe in which Michael Scott would be considered for said job. Ryan's been a full-time employee for less than a year, still doesn't have a sale, and if he managed to complete his MBA, it was only in the last few months since Michael lectured at his school, and from a non-prestigious local school, at that. I just can't see a guy with that resume getting Jan's old job.
  • Jim picking apart Dwight's Motel Hell fantasy was brilliant. $84,000, eh? What do you suppose Dwight makes now?
  • "Goodbye, Kelly Kapoor." Maybe Angela and Ryan should be dating.
  • I feel like I know far too much about Meredith and Creed's respective love lives now. (But I can't complain too much about an episode with so many Meredith moments after my season-long quest to get her more material.)
  • Funnier Pam talking head: the cliche one where she became Popeye, or the one where she became concerned the documentary people would think she was gay?
  • Was I the only one who felt the Jim and Karen in New York footage felt off? It's not like the documentary crew hasn't followed people to other cities (they did some New York stuff with Michael in "Valentine's Day"), or showed people in their personal lives (Jim's party, Pam's art show), but this just didn't feel right. Maybe this time Greg Daniels wound up hiring a local film crew who didn't nail the house visual style, I don't know.
So what did everyody else think? You happy with how it turned out in the end?

46 comments:

Alan Sepinwall said...

Comments were for some reason disabled. That's obviously fixed now.

Anonymous said...

http://blog.nbc.com/creedthoughts

Do you think they will really give Ryan Jan's old job? I got the feeling that they would end up screwing Ryan over by making him an intern at corporate or something... but if they do give him the job, I think it fits in line with how this company does everything... very, very poorly

Anonymous said...

I liked the episode, but it wasn't one of my favorites. Mostly it just seemed very serious and I didn't find myself laughing a ton. Also, so much happened that I felt like every time I stopped to ponder something I ended up missing something else.

Alan Sepinwall said...

For some reason, capitalization matters, so try http://blog.nbc.com/CreedThoughts/.

Robin said...

I never thought they'd top last season's finale, and then they did.

My big question is, did Jim just drive straight from NY to Scranton without telling Karen? Was Karen still hanging out in NY expecting a phone call from him? While I've always been rooting for Pam, that just seems way too cold.

Excellent episode. I wish my office would start handing out Schrute bucks.

Benaiah said...

Quote of the episode:

"It's an abomination to nature. I like them au natural. Swing low sweet chariots."

litwit said...

You put it perfectly, Alan. Pam/Jim as a couple can work because in a sense they've always been a couple -- the dynamic of their friendship is what made them so appealing from the start and has always flowed nicely into the rest of the show. Ditto the new Crazy!Boobs!Jan -- it gives Melora Hardin a whole new role to play, and I for one am thrilled at the prospect of exactly how many ways she's going to find to drive poor Michael insane now that she's both jobless and shacking up. Thankfully he deserves every one of them -- of course he would jump right back into a dysfunctional relationship based on boobs alone. And now his greatest fantasy can become his greatest nightmare. It's brilliant.

Matt said...

What's interesting is that for all the vaunted "Jim and Pam find their guts" theme, Karen, not Jim, was the only one willing to say to corporate that Michael would be a disaster if he were promoted.

And Creed was awesome, along with Ryan's simple "You and I? We're done."

Also, I admire that they actually shot in NYC, though they needed some NYC geography lessons.

Louis said...

Excellent episode. Jan's meltdown and firing were really a fine mix of funny and melancholy. In lesser hands, the whole thing would have been either over-the-top wackiness or Very Special Episode earnestness.

Loved the look on Ryan's face when he got off the phone.

marcus said...

I enjoyed the episode, especially Stanley's delivery of the Stanley Nickels line.

I just read that Jenna Fischer hurt herself falling down stairs in NY. Here is the story:

http://tv.msn.com/tv/article.aspx?news=262595>1=7703

Anonymous said...

I loved this episode. Such a great season finale. The Jim/Karen in NYC scenes were pitch perfect of two people trying to make a relationship work when it's just not going to do so.

As far as Ryan getting the job, we know the other four people he interviewed with. One is Michael, who is a total disaster and doesn't have the education that Ryan does. The other is Jim, who backed out of the job. That leaves Karen, and we don't know much about her background other than she's in sales, looks the part and her interview was crashed by Jan's meltdown.

In addition, a MBA goes a long way in some corporations -- see the "glad to have another MBA on board" line from the boss character. Dunder Mifflin is also a struggling company so they probably don't have too many MBA candidates applying for the gig, and to have one in-house is particularly rare.

I'm not sure where Ryan's MBA is from, but the University of Scranton is a pretty competitive university that, at least when I was in high school, required around a 1300 SAT score for acceptance. Ryan also showed that his academic work in the b-school episode was based a decent amount on his employment at Dunder Mifflin (other students were asking pointed questions to Michael about the business plan.) That would give him a leg up over Karen or Jim who, while better sales people, don't have the "big picture" part of the job figured out.

Anonymous said...

How do we know that no one else said Michael would have sucked? We didn't see them asking anyone else that. And I figure Jim told Karen it was over in NYC, and then she didn't want to drive back to Scranton with him. She said she was meeting friends for lunch so she had people to hang out with.

I loved the "Motivational Tool" Schrute-bucks. And I thought the Jim/Pam ending was perfect...not an overblown proposal or declaration of love.

Kristin said...

I think next season would be hilarious with Ryan as Michael's boss. You think Michael hates Toby? Just wait...Ha, ha, ha!

I imagine that Jim called Karen and broke it off or something. Or maybe he *did* just drive off and leave her. Karen didn't seem to care too much about leaving him behind for her friends, although he came early to New York and waited for *her* during *her* interview.

Loved the last few minutes with Jim asking Pam out to dinner. So cute. And I can't wait for them to be in the crazy office with all the weird stuff going on around them and them being a normal, dating couple that works. Plus, the fun they could have with their growing intimacy.

There's a lot to work with there.

Jan's new girls were fantastic! Oh, my God. So funny. And she is just completely disfunctional. I love how they kept that from us. She seemed so put together all this time, and now we are beginning to find out she is a nut. Love it!

Louis said...

I figured Jim didn't make his decision about Karen until he was in the interview and pulled out Pam's note. So when Karen left to meet her friends, she didn't know she and Jim were through.

stevie said...

My theory on Ryan getting hired (after a "Huh?" reaction last night) is that he lied on his resume -- Ryan's been shown to be kind of a jerk, and it would not surprise me if he said he already had his MBA, doctored his own sales sheet (or turned in, say, Dwight's as his own) and played off his previous experience as something else. The CFO seems out of touch enough that Ryan could probably get away with it.

Ted F. said...

There's no reason corporate would require sales experience for Jan's job. And a dysfunctional corporation like D-M would really put a lot of weight on the MBA credential, especially if he had a good interview. I thought that was great the way they showed that gun several episodes ago and let it play in the final scene of the season.

Ted F. said...

One inconsistency: how did Michael keep every single customer? I thought they had problems in the Crisis Management episode. I guess we'll call that one non-canon.

Anonymous said...

Anyone else catch the line in Michael's interview when the CFO apologized for making him fill out the questionnaire by saying the jerk in HR (Kedall?) required it and that he would be the only person Michael probably wouldn't get along with in the office. Hilarious.

Kate said...

I had a thought when Meredith had another talking head piece--I thought that maybe Sepinwall has way more power than I gave him credit for, given his Meredith-campaign . . .

I enjoyed this episode a great deal, and Pam was just wonderful.

I had one nitpicky thing about Ryan as well. I always like to think about the show as choices by the camera crew and editors (such as showing Pam and Jim without sound at one point, and then with the sound later), and I couldn't figure out how Ryan got up to corporate and back without the documentary crew picking up on it. I mean, I know they don't follow everyone all the time, but it just seemed a little odd--especially since they did the other three interviews on the same day, and were even up at corporate the day before with Michael (hee). Even a shot of Ryan sneaking out the door in a suit or something seemed more in line with how they generally reveal things.

Anyway, great season finale.

Alexandra said...

The Ryan thing seems really out of left field, given his age and lack of experience, but maybe, as one poster suggested, he doctored his resume.

When all of the descriptions for this episode wrote about "Jan having a big announcement/big news," I was so afraid that she was going to show up and announce a pregnancy. I'm very glad that they didn't go that route.

Do we have a new awesome writing team of Paul and Mike Schur?

Jenna Fischer in the last talking head was pure brilliance-All of those emotions at once!

scott said...

Is the Ryan-gets-the-job scene online somewhere? No TiVo love on that one.

Luna said...

I enjoyed the episode, but the more I think about it, the more I'm actually sad that they took Jan from neurotic but competent to completely batshit insane. It completely fits the tone of the show and it's funny, it just hurts, because I liked her the way she used to be.

Homertojeebus said...

Loved the caption under Dwight's picture on the Schrute Bucks: "Motivational Tool."
I'm totally gonna use that around the office.

Anonymous said...

Many corporations have the pyramid on top of a pyramid structure where recent college graduates are hired straight into management and shuttled around the company to get experience with the hopes that they will work their way to the very top within the next 25 years.

The bottom pyramid has the people that actually know the business and do the work directly. The fun part is where the pyramids connect, where you have people who have worked their way up for 15-20 years suddenly answering to kids who don't know the nuts and bolts, but do get the big picture.

Ryan just jumped into the top pyramid.

--bad dad

Homertojeebus said...

OK, I thought Jan's meltdown was jumping the Fonz, but it was funny, so I forgive.
I agree Ryan must have lied on his resume. The comedic possibilities are great if they play this right. I see Michael obliviously continuing to treat Ryan as his protege to Ryan's slow-burning frustration.
I hope they keep Karen at least on the bench. Actually, maybe NBC could go the CSI route and spin off "The Office:NY". It would have to be better than at least 9 of the shows they're going to end up cancelling.
If not that, then "Bob Vance Chronicles."

Trip said...

Yes, I agree with anonymous. The scene where David Wallace expresses contempt for the New York HR person during Jim's interview was brilliant.

tomok97 said...

I don't think Ryan getting the job is that far out of the question. While he hasn't made a sale (if you believe Michael) that probably makes him more likely to make the jump. In my experience, many mediocre or substandard sales people end up in management. It gets you off of the commission tract. If you're really good at sales, management is a pay cut. Plus, Ryan is young and, therefore, cheap. Jan had been with the company for many years and was probably making a pretty good paycheck. We know Michael doesn't make much more than warehouse crew. So this company will apparently hire and/or promote less than qualified people if the price is right.

Donna said...

I think Ryan getting the job is incredibly dead on, especially for what we have seen of D-M's corporate decision making. The qualities that make someone a good salesperson are completly different than the qualities that make for a good manager (Exhibit 1- Michael Scott). I say this as a 30 year old MBA who manages people with much greater and more relevant experience than my own.

All Blog Spots said...

nice blog

Homertojeebus said...

I get all of the arguments in favor of Ryan getting the job, but I just never got the feeling he was an MBA candidate, maybe I missed that memo.

the2scoops said...

That last scene with Pam and Jim made my heart swell two sizes too big.

That look Pam had is the same one I see whenever someone tells me their getting married or having a baby: pure radiance. Jenna nailed it. I loved how Pam didn't even think twice or hesitate to answer Jim.

I wonder what Angela would think about Dwight making Pam his secret assistant to the regional manager?

Anonymous said...

The last couple of minutes (Jenna's brilliant emotional talkinghead, and Ryan's surprise), may have given me the most pure joy I have ever had watching TV.

God bless Jenna Fischer (and I hope she heals soon from her horrible fall), and the writers.

That said, am I the only one to find the CreedThoughts blog to be completely unfunny?

Tom G said...

People, please. This is Dunder-Mifflin we are talking about, Creed might be a viable candidate.

I admire the writers/producers/cast for taking a chance and bringing Jim and Pam together, because it would be easy to continue on the path they were on.

Tom G said...

One other thing... The thoughts of Michael working for Ryan gets so many wheels turning.

I can see Ryan trying to employ a ton of MBA-speak, ivory tower type stuff and Michael getting frustrated, almost the way he does with Toby. Or, they could go another route as someone said and have Michael continue to treat Ryan as a temp. This will be fun.

Anonymous said...

The plot lines for Ryan getting the job are endless, but has anyone else considered how they might start off next year's episode by showing some sort of flasback as to something that happened that cause Ryan NOT to get the job...from David (the Corporate boss) being fired for discrimination against Jan and the new person going in another direction, to catching on that Ryan hasn't made any sales, etc.? Imagine putting him back in Scranton and having to deal with Michael (going for the job behind his back), Kelly, etc. They sure could have a lot of fun with that.
And the expression on Pam's face when Jim asks her out and the tears she is trying to hold back is almost the best acting I have seen on TV this year, save Edie Falco and her expressions of grief on the Sopranos! A perfect way to get "JAM" together without making it too stupid. One thing though...I kept hearing that Kevin was supposed to play some sort of role in pointing Jim in a direction as to who to choose...he looked like he was headed that way, but then nothing. Any comments?

Matt said...

I just went over to NBC and they have a 2 1/2 minute highlight video from last night that has all of Pam's final talking head on it. It's still great just watching that little part if you want to see it again.

http://www.nbc.com/The_Office/video/#mea=105321

SJ said...

One of my favorite moments was Michael's scared expressions during the ride back home to Scranton. Pitch-perfect acting from Steve Carrell...a welcome change after the "over-the-topness" of Michael.

The last moment was pure bliss...Jenna Fischer is just so cute!

Anonymous said...

Love the Pam/Jim stuff at the end. Karen's gone, since that actress has a show on Fox next fall. I kinda agree that I am glad Jan will, most liely, be around but it is kinda to see her break down and become a whackjob. I liked the headstrong Jan more then I already don't like whackjob Jan.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible that the two phone conversations in the tag (David offering the job to someone with an MBA; Ryan saying "Yes, I'm very excited") were completely unrelated and just pieced together to fool us?

Anonymous said...

I liked the headstrong Jan more then I already don't like whackjob Jan.

Yeah, but her motivation for wanting to be with Michael was straining credibility. Now it's more understandable.

Adam said...

I assume the Ryan thing is real, and that it makes sense: from his MBA work, he probably has a much more global sense of what the company needs than Jim or Karen did. He shows corporate his final paper, and he gets hired on that basis.

Craig said...

I think people tend to overthink TV show plot twists. From the writers' perspective (30+ episodes next season), there is much more comic mileage to get out of Ryan being Michael's boss than some "gotcha" oh-never-mind-he-isn't moment.

dez said...

I wonder what will happen with Jan and Michael's relationship once she's off those painkillers and back to her "normal" self? :-D

Anonymous said...

The New York scenes felt off because the continuity was horrible. In one scene Jim wears a Spamalot shirt, then in the next scene it is gone. And the sheer amount of boundless energy these people still have after doing all this stuff after working for a day and driving to New York! The whole sequence felt as real as these music montages in Hollywood romantic comedies which end with the hero handing his love interest a key to the Met where they dine on the main stage.

Anonymous said...

d'oh. . .I was rooting for Karen. .

Larry McGillicuddy said...

In response to something someone said earlier about the documentary crew not knowing that Ryan left, I'd argue that they probably did know and maybe even filmed his interview as well, but then chose not to include that in their footage.

Remember, they're trying to construct this footage into a narrative format and make it entertaining for the viewers, so leaving out a key plot point so you can spring a twist on the audience is a pretty clever tactic.