Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Office, "Lecture Circuit, Part Two": She'll be back

Spoilers for tonight's "The Office" coming up just as soon as I come up with a theme for this post...

I was having a debate with a friend last week over whether a two-part "Office" should be considered as something different from an hour-long "Office" (my friend's take), or if it's just a matter of semantics (mine). Having seen the conclusion of "Lecture Circuit" -- which suffered the same pitfalls that have afflicted the latter half of many "Office" hour-longs -- I feel confident about the rightness of my argument.

What happened with so many of the hour-longs (especially during that run at the start of last season) is that there would be an idea that was solid enough to carry a standard episode, maybe something slightly longer, and then after that would come the padding. There were some nice moments here in part two, like Pam lamely trying to do Michael's schtick (complete with Gump impression), but other than Steve Carell's wonderful performance in the moment where Michael finds out Holly still has feelings for him(*), all of it felt like material I would have been fine seeing as deleted cenes.

(*) Dare I call it the greatest "Office" moment of its kind since Pam had this reaction to Jim asking her out? In fairness, very few "Office" scenes ask their actors to show as many emotions in so short a period of time as Carell did here, and as Jenna Fischer did a couple of years ago. But still... wow.

Even the Dwight/Jim Party Planning Committee story, so brilliant last week, ran out of steam quickly here, and the subplot about Angela's new cat was so superfluous (and, aside from Oscar's reaction to the hairball, not funny) that it could have been cut entirely.

But if you try to consider "Lecture Circuit" as a single entity, the first half was so wonderful, and assorted moments tonight (again, watching Pam try to be Michael was kind of brilliant) good enough that I'd consider it a success on the whole. I'd just rather have seen it all at once, rather than get the majority of the greatness one week, and the leftovers the next.

And they had damn well better find a way to get Amy Ryan back after all this set-up.

What did everybody else think?

46 comments:

Anonymous said...

Am I crazy or did anyone else get the feeling Pam was lying to Michael? I thought for sure the file was going to be some innocent, work related stuff to someone who happened to have the same name and the look on Pam's face in the car at the end convinced me I was right but there was no reveal.

Jim said...

Funny, I had the same reaction as Anonabove to Pam. I wondered if the letter was just something work related.

I did laugh at this episode, but it did feel like all the stories from last week, as you say, simply ran out of steam.

Dwight and Jim's ideal birthdays (beer, blood pudding, cupcakes, horsehunting) was funny. Angela's cat should've been a webisode, though I did love Meredith's lines, and Creed's.

Jordan said...

I figured it was a dear John letter, but Pam just couldn't do that to Michael. But I agree that she wasn't telling him the truth.

Adam said...

Want to know why I think Pam was lying? Toby was seen at Kelley's party -- hence, no actual "HR retreat"?

Alan Sepinwall said...

But the Nashua receptionist is the one who mentioned the HR retreat, not Pam. I think Toby's presence at Kelly's party was just a continuity flub.

Brian J said...

I actually liked this episode. There were some similarities to an hour-long show, which led to similar jokes from last week, but there was enough that was different--and to me, funny--to justify it. There's nothing particular memorable about Angela's bizarre obsession with cats being on a web cam, but just how far it went to reveal her dependency on them was pretty amusing, because we all have these strange habits that look crazy to everyone but us. And everything else was amusing enough.

The only problems I had were that this was the second time Michael didn't exactly fulfill his purpose for going on this tour. Last week, he was pointless, but this time, he was unprofessional by way of being emotionally unstable. Wouldn't David Wallace or someone else in a position of power at corporate get word of this, or is it that since this took place over the course of less than two days, it hasn't gotten back to him yet? Also, when are we going to see Michael reveal why he excels at what he does, even if he's not explicit? If it comes at the end, fine, but if it doesn't come at all, that's terrible.

By the way, I didn't consider the idea that Pam was lying to Michael. Maybe she was, but if so, why? Was it her method of forcing him to make a big move?

Adam said...

And Alan, I'm guessing it was "I don't want to see him; tell him I'm at a retreat for a few days so he doesn't linger. And be sure to mention my boyfriend."

I assume you can make a phone call that answers this?

Number Five said...

They should have said HR conference, not HR retreat. The latter does imply all the Dunder Mifflin HR reps going somewhere, but the former would mean it's just something Holly went to, not Toby or any other Dunder Mifflin HR person.

I actually thought it was very funny and I side with Alan's friend. Unlike the hourlongs, which had to have a single plot but also had to be splittable for syndication, these could be divided more naturally. Last week was about Pam and Karen, this week was Michael and Holly, with the business trip as a backdrop.

The Dwight/Jim party planning wasn't quite as funny this time, but I liked how it showed how little it took to make Kelly happy, which was both touching (the office bonds a little) and sad (that's all it takes to make someone happy?). I also loved the surprise reveal of Phyllis in the kitchen and the way she repeated Kelly's line about having a theme.

Just enough time on the Angela subplot, which was disturbing and funny. They've probably gone to the well too many times on Oscar talking about how horrified he is about something, though.

I too question Pam's judgment on telling Michael about what Holly said. Whether she was telling the truth or lying, it's wrong either way. I was also hoping she'd do a great presentation after Michael left, but it made sense the way we saw it.

Anonymous said...

Holly is coming back.. I read it on EW or Eonline with Kristen.. but she is def coming back, i dont know how long though

Anthony Foglia said...

Alan Sepinwall said...

But the Nashua receptionist is the one who mentioned the HR retreat, not Pam. I think Toby's presence at Kelly's party was just a continuity flub.

True, but also I believe we only saw one day in Scranton, when Michael and Pam's stuff had to be at least two. There's not enough time in a work day to give a presentation in Utica, drive to Nashua, and then give another.

Guy said...

Also, when are we going to see Michael reveal why he excels at what he does, even if he's not explicit? If it comes at the end, fine, but if it doesn't come at all, that's terrible.

I don't think this has been a great big secret. They've shown multiple times that Michael relates to other middle managers and is quite able to convince them to buy from him. He's a great salesman, maybe not a great manager.

Alf said...

I wondered if Pam was lying but am not sure.

It was so nice to see Angela smiling. For that reason alone, I enjoyed the cat plot.

BigTed said...

I thought it was strange that eccentric Holly, who was so attracted to the even more eccentric Michael, would end up dating some normal-seeming salesdude. Either there's more to it, this is just a convenient way of leaving her open to getting back with Michael sometime in the future.

dez said...

I found the Dwight/Jim stuff pretty amusing. And I also wonder if Pam was lying to Michael in order to make him feel better. I hope not, though, because you just know Michael will act on the info Pam gave him.

Mike F said...

All in all, a weak offering from the almost-always brilliant show, though I did actually enjoy the silliness of the Angela/cat story.

Michael's speeches to the branches lacked any intellectual integrity at all and clearly crossed the border into making him into a total buffoon. Michael's always at his worst when he's completely unrelatable as a human being.

I thought the birthday storyline was equally as ridiculous. It had just about every character stretching the limits of their character's credibility.

The only really well-written character in these two shows was Pam. She got to show off her Michael-empathy, which is always heart-warming...and she got to step into his shoes and give his insane speech. I thought there was a lot of payoff there, though again the speech was son over the top that I could really only believe she'd tell the next 1-2 jokes and then apologize and walk out.

Stylist Mick said...

But the Nashua receptionist is the one who mentioned the HR retreat, not Pam. I think Toby's presence at Kelly's party was just a continuity flub.

Or like Michael has suggested many times over, Toby is not only disliked by him but everyone in the company.

Maggie said...

Or like Michael has suggested many times over, Toby is not only disliked by him but everyone in the company.
Except that Toby was invited to Ryan's retreat, if you recall, and came back looking happier than we'd seen, so the assumption is he didn't have a miserable time with people who hate him.

I was very surprised that this episode continued the birthday party storyline - as Alan says, it seemed to be a different day in Pam/Michael world, so having it be the same day in Scranton seemed off. (Or like "Lost.") And the jokes around Jim and Dwight's party planning skills had been used up in the first 1/2 hour. It would have been funny if they decided to have a contest to see who could throw Kelly the best party, with quick flashes of what each came up with (Creed!) Because it really felt like Dwight had been blowing up those miserable balloons for days.

It also seemed out of character to me that once Pam told Michael that Holly still liked him, he was okay and ready to move on. Really? I would think this would compel him to run to wherever she is and do something insanely inappropriate to win her back. But if Amy Ryan is returning, maybe that's coming.

Commish Rawls said...

"It also seemed out of character to me that once Pam told Michael that Holly still liked him, he was okay and ready to move on. Really? I would think this would compel him to run to wherever she is and do something insanely inappropriate to win her back. But if Amy Ryan is returning, maybe that's coming."

you expect all of this to happen in one episode? geez, its no wonder the writers can't seem to win.

also, the cat struck a chord with me because puppy cam was huge for a while at our office, some company even came in pitching a sales thing about they could set one up for you. it was just taken to the next logical creepy step here.

Also, the tv or pillow thing on the cake was awesome, "next time you get the cake and I'll scream at the birthday girl" was great too.

pam's forest gump line, thought it was a good second half ep.

these are for you mcnulty.

Mark Madel said...

30 Rock completely trumped The Office this week - Jack's version of The Lord's Prayer spoken into his cellphone was one of the funniest scenes I've seen on television in a long time.

Bryan said...

I would think this would compel him to run to wherever she is and do something insanely inappropriate to win her back.

But Michael grew some in this episode, he's not the same person. After he cut off her sleeve (creepy hilarious) and after he stole her files he had somewhat of an epiphany that it may not have been appropriate - that's why he told Pam. (and lying or not - I think she is - I thought Pam handled it beautifully)

I agree with Alan, not such a gret episode- I actually think this would've worked much better as an hour long. With a week to digest last weeks it almost felt like a rerun.

lungfish said...

I agree... an uneven episode when viewed as a whole with last week's. One thing I liked, is when Pam looked into the camera and said, "What, I'm not in love with her?", guiltily after suggesting that she read the letter instead. I like when it's acknowledged that they're being filmed on a documentary every so often.

K J Gillenwater said...

If it is true that Holly will be back for more eps (please please please!), then what would've made this episode was showing Holly appear at the office in Scranton while Michael was in Nashua.

I.E. she lied about any HR conference (as would've been evidenced by Toby's presence in Scranton) in order to see Michael b/c perhaps new boyfriend is making her reassess.

But obviously that is NOT what happened. I just will pretend it in my own head...that would've been AWESOME.

jayn said...

I don't know, I loved it. I loved Kelly's excitement at the nap/tv theme. I loved Dwight and Jim at each other's throats (the screaming at the birthday girl quote is classic). I loved seeing Angela's cat-dominated den. I loved Pam's giving the speech - from the Gump quote right up through the inappropriate mnemonics and sad chainsaw sounds. Win-win-win.

I don't think Pam was lying - she could get caught too easily, when Michael inevitably mentions the letter to Holly.

olucy said...

I'm not a fan of the hour-longs, either, so I enjoyed this two eps more than any of those; still, they weren't the strongest eps. Based on some of the hilarious things they've done with team meetings in Scranton, I expected Michael's presentation to be funnier.

It didn't occur to me, either, that Pam might be lying. If she chose to lie, I don't think she'd do it by raising Michael's hopes like that. You just *know* he's going to act on it. Pam definitely has a devilish streak, but I don't think she'd play Michael like that.

Everything with Kelly (only one e) was great. Her reaction to her birthday planning was good stuff (and Mindy wrote this ep). But I agree with another poster that seeing some party hijinx get out of control might have been funnier.

Both of these were so-so eps.

christy said...

If a retreat were closer to Scranton than Nashua, it's possible Holly would have to leave many hours earlier than Toby.

Pam was wearing the same clothes as she was last week. Google maps says 4.5 hours from Utica to Nashua (I know we had this same confusion when Michael drove Holly to Nashua). The presentation in Nashua was at 2:00. So they would have had to leave Utica at like 9:30, after giving the presentation. Plus they were in the car on the way to Rochester when they decided to go to Nashua, and Rochester's in the opposite direction. So that seems like pretty messy timing. Would have been much more believable with an easy switch to a 3:00 presentation or later.

I don't think Pam was lying to Michael, because that would ultimately be fairly cruel (both to Michael and Holly). And also I don't think Pam would have a problem giving Michael the bad news if the letter indicated. She's been pretty blunt with him in the past and even that would provide closure, if it were true.

I liked everything Alan liked. But my favorite line was actually from the Jim and Dwight storyline: "I'm too excited to sleep!"

Dan said...

Shouldn't David Wallace have a problem with Holly dating a salesman?

It seemed like everyone new about her new relationship in her office, i would have assumed she have been a little more secretive this time around since her relationship with Michael got her relocated once it was outed.

Alan Sepinwall said...

David's problem was with Holly dating the branch manager, when it's part of her job -- particularly with this branch manager -- to keep him in check.

Bryan said...

It didn't occur to me, either, that Pam might be lying. If she chose to lie, I don't think she'd do it by raising Michael's hopes like that. You just *know* he's going to act on it. Pam definitely has a devilish streak, but I don't think she'd play Michael like that.

I don't think she'd play with Michael either, she's not cruel, but I do think she was lying. Of course we've not seen Holly but I think her behavior in her last ep showed her feelings for him were dying pretty quickly because of his behavior when he moved her. Pam just saw Michael prostrate on the floor and crawling backwards out of the room because she was dating. What the hell is he going to do in a crowded restaurant if Pam tells him Holly doesn't have any feelings for him.

(By the way - I don't know if or when we will see Holly but I can totally see Michael having a fit with corporate that she's dating a coworker and causing a heart to heart with Holly)

olucy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wordnerd said...

I'm with the group that suspects Pam was lying -- or at least not telling the WHOLE truth -- but I love that they didn't reveal it one way or the other. I thought Oscar's comment regarding cat-licking and its residual psychological issues was fabulous. The rest? Meh.

I'm much more of a fan of the thirty-minute ep than the hour. Hour-long sitcoms? Nope. Almost as bad as SNL skits being made into movies. Because, uh, yeah.

olucy said...

David's problem was with Holly dating the branch manager, when it's part of her job -- particularly with this branch manager -- to keep him in check.

True. But it seems to me that *any* employee should expect to be able to take an issue to HR and be dealt with impartially -- so an HR person dating any employee in their own office is a really bad idea.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Pam was lying for a simple reason: she hasn't ever really lied on this show besides telling fibs to Michael regarding the phone line (letting him have those embarrassing "practice" answers so he can get to normalcy in "Casino Night" and faking electronic beeps to assure him in "Local Ad"). Also, it makes more sense for Holly to not send Michael a letter where she shows she still has feelings for him, because honestly what good would that do once she started dating someone else? That's the one element of this story that doesn't totally track, that we don't know when the letter was written and thus don't know if it's still valid. But I'm operating under the assumption that the letter was directed to our Michael and that Pam told him the truth about it.

Anonymous said...

7,000 dollars for a cat? I can get you a kid for that.

Paul said...

If I can go off-topic for a moment, can anyone please tell me who played Jim (Randy's accidental boyfriend) on "Earl" last night? I can't find his name anywhere and it's driving me nuts.

I know I recognize the guy; but I can't put a name to him.

Thanks for your help.

Anonymous said...

I think people are thinking WAY too much into this, "Pam is lying about the letter" and "Holly is lying about a retreat" to make this whole story too complicated and deceitful. If Amy Ryan is coming back for an episode, isn't this setting up for her and Michael to get back together, realize they still have feelings for each other, just to lead to the awkward moment when Michael accidently lets slip that he stole and read the letter (and cut the sleeve of her sweater), thus creeping out Holly and causing Holly to back off and end things for good?

That seems like the obvious endgame for this situation, Holly is over Michael and Michael gets crushed by his own devices. I'm hoping the writers are a little more creative than this, but not counting on it.

JamesG said...

I'm in the camp of Pam lying to Michael about the letter. If Holly's letter was really about her continued interest in seeing Michael, I don't think she would start it with a formal "Dear Michael" greeting. That seems out of character with her quirkiness. My first instincts were that the letter said something like "I care about you but have moved on."

We've seen Pam lie to Michael in similar situations before. In season 2, I believe in Performance Review, Michael plays a message for Pam that Jan left him. Pam lies to Michael and says it seems like Jan might have feelings for him, when she and we know that's not the case. In that instance it was a bit opportunistic for her, but I wouldn't put it past her to lie to spare Michael's feelings. She knows he won't take the rejection well and probably doesn't want to deal with that for the next few hours in the car.

Anonymous said...

But if Pam were to lie, why would she give Michael false hope? She could easily say something about Holly caring deeply for him, but she can't do the long distance or something. When Michael asks Pam, "So it's not over?" Pam responds, "No." I can see Pam wanting to spare Michael's feelings, but she's smart enough to know how Michael is going to respond to her answer.

Anonymous said...

"Holly is coming back.. I read it on EW or Eonline with Kristen.. but she is def coming back, i dont know how long though"

That's Melora/Jan that was referred to, not Amy/Holly

DolphinFan said...

Paul:

Jim-who-played-Randy's-unawares-boyfriend (not to be confused with Jim-who-is-engaged-to-Pam-and-now-plans-birthday-parties) was played by Eric Allan Kramer. He's probably best known for his role as Bear, the ultra-cool gay guy in "American Wedding", and he also was one of the folks involved in the incredible climactic shootout in the movie "True Romance".

david said...

i liked this episode alot especially pam and angela. i thought the cat licking was hilarious.

and theres no way pam was lying. the whole reason for the trip was to give michael closure. why on earth would she torture him with the prospect that holly might still have feelings for him? he cut the sleeve of the womans sweater off!!! you dont think pam would force him to face the reality of the situation for his own good? pam might like to prank but shes not cruel. youre all way off base.

also the name of the actor from my name is earl episode is eric allan kramer.

JamesG said...

I don't think Pam is being cruel by giving him false hope. She knows him well enough to know how poorly he'll take any true rejection. Look at some of the other examples -- depression when Carol dumped him, mourning the chair model, bird funeral, etc. He never gets a sense of closure from loss, he simply acts childish until something else comes around that takes his mind off the issue.

Besides, Pam sees the whole incident from the perspective of her situation with Jim and Karen. She never gave up hope when they got together in a similar manner despite indications that she should move on. Who's to say that Holly and Michael couldn't get back together? I think Pam's own experiences would definitely motivate her to lie in this case.

dez said...

7,000 dollars for a cat? I can get you a kid for that.

I almost choked laughing when Creed said that.

Larry C said...

On a slightly different theme:

Anyone else feel underwhelmed by Michael's (Steve's) performance in front of the Nashua group?
In the past, the best scenes of the office were cringe-inducing, like you get from many episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm, or the original British Office.
This scene struck me as flat; my reaction was "there goes Michael acting crazy again", and I chuckled a bit, but it was certainly nowhere near cringe inducing.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that in the early seasons of the Office (and especially the British Office), I felt so much of the humor came from the fact that most of the characters except for Michael (or David Brent) act and react "normal", like real-world people. Hence, when Michael (David) acts so anti-social, it comes off as hysterically cringe-inducing.

Instead, I felt this episode in particular fell flat, as it devolved into standard sitcom wackiness, where everyone, protagonist and supporting cast, acts crazy and you are "supposed to" just laugh at the wackiness of it. That special spark that makes (made) The Office different from most other sitcoms was just flat out missing from this episode.

So, in a long winded way, I agree with Alan: Much of this episode should have been cut and just shown up as deleted scenes.

david said...

ok. maybe pam is a little more savvy about affairs of the human heart than i am and now that ive rewatched the scene at the diner perhaps she was lying. theres no obvious facial or verbal tipoff that inclines me in either direction although theres a hint of a forced smile which may just be a whiff of pity. hard to say if we will ever know for sure unless michael brings up the letter in a future encounter which i suppose is entirely possible.

Anonymous said...

Amy Ryan is coming back to the office

http://ausiellofiles.ew.com/2009/01/exclusive-amy-r.html

Paul said...

DolphinFan-

Thanks a lot!