Friday, March 06, 2009

The Office, "Blood Drive": Fairy tale romance

Quick spoilers for last night's "The Office" coming up just as soon as I explain my friend James' theory about how no one owns fries...
"I'm in love! I was hit by Cupid's sparrow." -Michael
"Blood Drive" only made me laugh out loud once -- during Jim's desperate double-thumbs-up, Fonzie-esque "AYYYYYY!" gambit to shut up Michael and make the phone salesman go away -- and yet I found it a much more satisfying half-hour than the slightly funnier "30 Rock" episode that followed it.

That's because "The Office" has, over the years, become as much of a kitchen-sink drama as it is a comedy, not just with the Jim and Pam romance, but with small human moments like Kevin needing a win with the Five Families, or Andy realizing how terribly Angela had played him, or Stanley pushing Michael to a confrontation point. The characters are so well-drawn by now, and for the most part so likable, that a sweet, low-key episode about Michael and the staff bonding over their singlehood worked even without a lot of memorable jokes. We get to see the office rally around Michael (whom they do like when he's not being an ass), and to see Kevin get past his own awkwardness to ask the "pretty girl" if she's on e-mail (Brian Baumgartner with a perfect delivery as he told the camera crew "Good Valentine's"), and even to see Michael accept his fate in a relatively adult way for once.

Jim and Pam's double-date with Phyllis and Bob Vance (Vance Refrigeration) was also fun, particularly PB&J's dismayed/angry reaction when the two lovebirds returned to the table (see above).

Not an all-timer, for either the series or even this season, but I had a good time watching it.

What did everybody else think?

59 comments:

Chris said...

I'd definitely agree with your assessment. After the episode was over, I said to my roommate, "You know, it wasn't a funny episode at all. But it was a good episode."

I think the show has gotten to a point where dealing with these characters instead of LOL COMEDY! is earned.

Jordan said...

I'd like to see them invent a machine that puts out candy for everyone...a vending machine.

Like Alan, I really enjoyed this episode without laughing a lot. This series has really earned a lot of it's jokes. I don't think that the Fonz loke works if the characters weren't so well developed. Jim trying to save Pam, Michael's love of Jim and pop culture, and his desire to fit in. Also Andy going on all of his honeymoons was the comic-tragic that this show does so well.

spiderpig said...

I know there is no way to ensure the time of airing for the episode, but I hate that this ep was almost three weeks after Valentine's. I think the "spirit" of that commercial holiday is lost not that we are in March. I guess a St. Patrick's day blood drive and singles conference wouldn't have been as poignant. :)

I also didn't think it was very funny. Most of the jokes were telegraphed in (who didn't know what Phyllis and Bob were doing as soon as we saw neither of them were at the table?). Meh.

Still I do like the episodes where Michael gets to play a human rather than a caricature. So I guess it was a wash.

Matter-Eater Lad said...

Valentine's Day was a Saturday this year, and will be on Sunday next year, so was this episode set in 2008 or 2011?

Lane said...

Dwight's retractable penis line didn't make you LOL????

Alan Sepinwall said...

I think I was a little too horrified to laugh, even as I recognized that it was a good line.

Andrew said...

Agreed that this wasn't the funiest episode of all time, but it did have Kelly getting a valentine card from her dentist's office.

While Michael's loneliness and inability to relate to people drives his character (and drives much of the funny things he does), the bonding between all of the single DM employees brought the lonely undercurrent up to the top.

And I loved the framing of the end of the lunch, over Bob and Phyllis's shoulders to Jim and Pam's reactions.

Anonymous said...

Was there a reason this episode aired so far after Valentine's Day? Why did they have all those re-runs in February?

Carolyn said...

I agree - I feel they've earned the right to do "bittersweet melancholy" sometimes rather than a million jokes. I thought it worked quite well.

Adam said...

Because of the DTV transition schedule, sweeps was moved from February to March this year, so shows had more reruns last month than they would have had otherwise.

Evie Garland said...

Jordan already pointed out one of my favorite lines ("...a vending machine"). The writers are doing a much better job as of late of making Pam seem kind of pathetic. For a while I felt like she and Jim were being positioned as the "normal" ones in the office who we were supposed to relate to. Since I don't relate to either of them I found this kind of annoying...I think both characters work better when we can like them in spite of their lameness, not because they're cool.

By the way, why did this episode air so far after Valentine's Day?

Bryan said...

Bob asking Phyllis if she wanted his meat and the double camera look - is that a first - very cringe-funny.

Was Creed stealing a bag of blood!?

Gabriel said...

Was Creed stealing a bag of blood!?

You know, for most characters stealing a bag of blood from a blood drive to sell to another blood bank would be a horrifying act. For Creed, it's a best case scenario.

Steve B said...

This show has really become the equivalent of the old sweatshirt I throw on after work in the winter. It's warm, it's comfortable, it makes me relax after the work day. It doesn't need to be supremely hilarious anymore for it to be wonderfully entertaining. It's just nice to have a show around that gives me good feelings almost everytime I watch it. Along those lines, the best part was, far and away, when the singles all walked out of the office together.

G-Fafif said...

For all of this show's charms (the whole series, that is), do you get the sense that the writers are completely out of touch with how business operates? They have the tone of drudgery right, but it never stops bugging me that certain details make absolutely no sense in a 2009 office (and that's putting aside the economy). Dunder-Mifflin wouldn't have figured out years ago there are automated phone systems and wouldn't have looked into them? Kevin would ask his potential Valentine "are you on e-mail?" as if this is 1995? Why would a large paper conglomerate have headquarters in a (presumably expensive) Manhattan high-rise when those companies tend to be headquartered closer to the forests from which the paper is born (field trips for Michael, I get it, but no corporation that can avoid Manhattan real estate and New York taxes doesn't skedaddle to at least Westchester or Connecticut)? And why, in a day and age when Fortune 500 companies let alone small enterprises have gotten away from suits and ties is every man at D-M required to wear them?

I know the MST3K mantra: just repeat to yourself it's just a show, I should really just relax. But that stuff always gets in the way of the realism that otherwise makes "The Office" so much fun.

Perhaps they need to hire the business equivalent of TGS's youth consultant.

Castaway said...

G-Fafif,

I'm certainly not worried about where the show is set or where the corporate offices are.

As far as Kevin asked about email, I thought it was supposed to be cute, a bashful way of asking to keep in touch that had the lowest chance of rejection. I thought it was cute anyway.

This show is about the people, not really about matching up with business specifics in recession/depression era 2009.

As far as this episode, it was good, solid character stuff. I thought it was nice that Michael got closer to his frequently stated view that the office is a family than usual, with all the single people sticking with him and even giving him a pat on the back heading out the door.

Brian said...

"Kevin would ask his potential Valentine "are you on e-mail?" as if this is 1995?"

This is the same character who someone believed was retarded based solely on his interactions in the office. This was totally in character.

I have never worked in an office with an automated phone system that was on during the day so that part rung completely true to me.

To me, the realism is in the interpersonal relationship, not the details.

Brian said...

Castaway - one of the subtle touches I loved in that exit scene was that Stanley was prominent in it even though he's married. He wasn't going to sit in a room and commiserate with the rest of them and the ones in relationships would never invite him to lunch with them.

But at the end of the day, he's right there when the insanity of Michael is over and done with.

Drew said...

I didn't love the episode overall, but I'll say that I didn't find Kevin's e-mail line to be some sort of weird out-of-touch error. I thought it was perfect for Kevin. It was very sweet, simple, and awkward. I smiled more at that line than I did at his later line about it being a good V-Day, although I did like that one as well.

I thought that the stuff in the office was solid, but not enough time was spent in the circle of loneliness and on sharing the horror stories (and Angela's story about two sets of men dueling over here was stupid as hell, true or not). I loved the way the office rallied around Michael, though, and I loved the bittersweet feeling that ended the episode. It's the honest type of emotion this season hasn't hit very well.

The lunch storyline was horrendous, too predictable, too over-the-top. Jim and Pam played it well, but I loathed the whole idea of it, and Phyllis chugging water when she came back was entirely too cartoony.

I also have to say that I feel like the "sparrow" comment was just a sign that the writers have lost touch with what makes Michael a believable idiot. Not that this itself was that bad, but they have used this type of joke way too many times this season. Michael can be my favorite character on TV, or he can be the absolute worst. I did not like that joke, nor did I like the passing out joke, which seemed like a physical bit tacked onto a scene that could have stood well on its own. Michael panicking over getting his blood drawn is funny enough. Of course he would panic. He probably could have even gotten in a few off-color AIDS or Hepatitis jokes. But the passing out bit was also silly and sitcommy.

Stanley trying to get a cookie was hilarious, though.

Omagus said...

Alan: "The Office" has, over the years, become as much of a kitchen-sink drama as it is a comedy

Jordan: I don't think that the Fonz loke works if the characters weren't so well developed.

I think that these two lines sum it up perfectly. I've noticed for a some time now that I don't laugh quite as much during The Office as I used to (or as I do now when watching, say, Scrubs) but it is still must watch TV for me.

Alan gives exactly the reasons why. The Office isn't that show that just tries to make people laugh as much as it is now a show that allows viewers to reference the humor in our own lives. Occasionally it is laugh out loud funny but more often it is much more subtle. And that it perfectly fine with me.

And, as Jordan points out, much of the humor cannot be appreciated without understanding the characters after watching them for years. The "AYYYYYYYY" scene would make absolutely no sense to someone watching the show for the first time. For lack of a better term, they wouldn't "get it." But anyone who understands the personality of the characters involved (and their dynamic with one another) had to find it hilarious. Especially when Michael, after being the most enthusiastic participant, questioned why they were doing it.

Matter-Eater Lad said...

I thought the point of Kevin's 1995-worthy phrasing was that it was the only way he could manage to ask if he could get back in touch with her. It was a lovely moment.

amitytv said...

On the contrary, I don't believe the writers are out of touch, I know of a company that just hired a woman to do exactly what Pam does, answer phones and be a general secretary for the office. Some companies still see the value of having a live person at the end of the phone rather than an automated machine that bounces customers around.
Regarding Kevin's awkward, "Do you have email?" question, I took that more to be a way that he was quietly asking permission for her email address. Sort of like a guy asking, "Hey what are you doing Saturday night?" is easier to say than, "Will you go out with me?". An intro question to let her know he's interested without totally putting himself out there to be squashed.
Plus, in some cases, it still is a valid question. There are a few ah-hem, middle aged women out there who may or may not be email savy.
I'm just saying, not everybody thinks their life should revolve around the internet.

JamesG said...

I generally agree with Alan's comments on this episode. It wasn't hilarious or overly touching, but we've come to know these characters so well that we don't mind watching them in relatively normal situations. That's a hallmark of good writing and well developed characters.

My favorite line and biggest laugh out loud moment was Jim's "those mines aren't going to sweep themselves" comment, in reference to Minesweeper. I absolutely loved this. The exact kind of thing that someone in an office like that would relate to.

Nicole said...

I think there will always be a need for a receptionist. Removing them is just corporate America trying to save a few dollars instead of the big wigs taking serious pay cuts. New technology or not, a human element is always needed.

I agree with the others who didn't find this the funniest, but enjoyed it nonetheless. This probably wouldn't have worked a few years ago, but we know these characters enough to just sit back and enjoy what happens. The lack of laugh of loud moments actually makes this episode a bit more like the UK version, where the comedy was less slapstick and more awkward moments.

The Office was much better than 3- Rock this week, the latter trying a bit too hard for laughs.

amitytv said...

Oh, and I loved the woman who came by herself to the party looking hopeful. She gets interested looks from everybody there, followed by Michael's dismayed, "no" and the resounding moans from the rest. What else could she do but turn away? That was great!

Jeff L said...

@Jordan: I don't think that the Fonz joke works if the characters weren't so well developed.

That's exactly right.

Even more, what makes The Office so great is how well developed the secondary characters are.

Add up all the screen time Creed has had across all the seasons, and I bet it's less than an hour. But there is still enough character there to have him coming out of the bloodmobile with the bag of blood in his pocket be, as Gabriel says above "a best case scenario" -- and laugh out loud funny.

Really, I could make this point with any of the 2nd tier characters. Kevin's clumsy attempts to hit on that woman, Kelly reading the "Valentine" from her dentist, Stanley scamming the cookie from the Bloodmobile, and on and on.

Really, I can't think of a show that's done this so well. Maybe because almost all of the actors are really writers? Do they get to write their own character's lines?

Whatever the reason, it works.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Really, I can't think of a show that's done this so well. Maybe because almost all of the actors are really writers? Do they get to write their own character's lines?

Only Mindy Kaling (Kelly), Paul Lieberstein (Toby) and B.J. Novak (Ryan) are writers. Almost everyone else in the supporting cast is just an actor who got hired for a small part that expanded and expanded. Phyllis Smith was the show's casting person, and the pilot director just liked the way she read with the actors during auditions. Creed is, well, Creed, and one of the producers knew him and suggested it'd be amusing if he were to play himself as a D-M employee.

Linda said...

I loved this episode. Loved, loved, loved. This one sang to me. The Jim/Pam coupledom is so lovely and comfortable and happy, Michael was just perfectly lovely in his idiotic way...I mean, Michael Scott is more motivated by what he considers to be love of others than, like, ANYONE. I love the way they write that. And I loved the bit with Kevin, too, which I found utterly beautiful. The delivery of that line at the end about how it was a good Valentine's? GOD. You make that guy say 400 stupid things just so it means that much when you suddenly get this glimpse of this completely real guy in there. I loved it.

Marc R said...

@amitytv: "Oh, and I loved the woman who came by herself to the party looking hopeful. She gets interested looks from everybody there, followed by Michael's dismayed, "no" and the resounding moans from the rest. What else could she do but turn away? That was great!"

I thought that was actually the girl who lost the glove and gave blood. Did anyone else think so? Was she?

Also, I think Creed is a producer or writer on the show too. In any case, he's listed as a non-actor in the credits as well.

Anonymous said...

Since when is Oscar single? What happened to Gil?

Karl said...

Also, I think Creed is a producer or writer on the show too. In any case, he's listed as a non-actor in the credits as well.

Well, yeah. Who wants to be on Creed's bad side?

andrew said...

"Blood Drive" only made me laugh out loud once

By god, I don't know how it would be possible to not crack up when Jim & Pam stared at the camera as Bob Vance fed a piece of steak to Phyllis.

Linda said...

Creed is not a writer or producer on the show, I don't think. I do think he's credited as providing a bit of music in a couple of episodes.

The woman who came in was not the woman who had dropped the glove.

Jim said...

but I'll say that I didn't find Kevin's e-mail line to be some sort of weird out-of-touch error. I thought it was perfect for Kevin. It was very sweet, simple, and awkward. I smiled

Yup. But the show is also capable of levels of small cruelty that recall the British version. The woman who came in to the Lonely Hearts Party in an office park where she didn't know anybody... Think how she screwed up her courage to take that step, only to be greeted with a chorus of "No". And she looked a lot like the glove-woman, and I think they both looked a lot like the woman who finally goes out with David Brent. I wondered if that was not coincidencidental.

WV: morie, as in Amsterdam.

amitytv said...

Marc R- No she definitely was NOT the same woman. Everybody was so into Michael's "fairy tale" that they were hoping missing-glove-girl would come to the party. So I guess everybody that walked in was subjected to the same treatment. Is it her? No? Oh well. Let's eat more cake and wait a little longer.

She only "looked" like glove-girl because they had the same color hair.

belinda said...

Since when is Oscar single? What happened to Gil?

I think Oscar had a one night stand earlier in the episode where they all travelled to Canada or some place. He did mention it in this episode about finally telling Gil about his indiscretion.

I don't know whether it was the warm and fuzzy remaining from seeing Sawyer's dimples, but I was all "awww!" when everyone stuck around with Michael in their conference room. There's something nice about seeing Michael being dejected but reacting very normally to it even though it might not be as funny. And to have that rewarded with kindness from even Stan was great.
I hate to compare 30 Rock to this, but seeing them one after another, with a similar warm fuzzy tone to both storylines, made me thankful that the office had developed its side characters as much as it did. It was all the more funny and rewarding to see Kevin interacting with and getting attention from a pretty lady, and I certainly didn't feel the same way with Frank (or Lutz, or Jenna, or Josh, or Twofer, etc, who all have potential of being really awesome characters, but we just haven't spend enough time with them for the past 2.5 seasons for me to care all that much about them).

But then again, I guess I might be comparing apples to oranges, since they are comedies of a slightly different nature.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful episode. I wouldn't say it was hilarious pre se but there were enough big laughs (Pam and Jim's opening gambit, "Type O-Cean Spray", Angela's earlier two-man duel, the horrifying realization of what was going on that handicapped stall, Michael's comparison of tool & die work to a hysterectomy) that it didn't feel like I was watching a drama series. Yet the material involving Kevin and Michael was so well-handled that I could actually see a dramatic show trying to do a serio-comic episode like this and just not being up to the job.
Michael's comment that he hasn't even been interested in dating in the 4 months since he and Holly ended it was pretty striking, since it took him a lot less time than that to enlist everyone in the office in date search after Jan was history.
I do have 3 questions for other viewers on confusing areas:
1. Does Stanley's presence at the party mean he's separated/divorced?
2. Why did everyone turn away that woman who came in late to the party?
3. Is Ed Helms working on something else during Andy's absences, like BJ was?

Andrew said...

This may be a bit too alt.nerd.obsessive, but it's that kind of day for me.

G-Fafif: "Dunder-Mifflin wouldn't have figured out years ago there are automated phone systems and wouldn't have looked into them?"

As others have pointed out, a receptionist usually does more than just being a phone switchboard. Things like signing for packages, dealing with visitors, answering and/or routing phone inquiries, checking a general email inbox, dealing with office suppliers and such. With the size of the office in The Office, I can see a receptionist/office manager definitely being useful.

Why would a large paper conglomerate have headquarters in a (presumably expensive) Manhattan high-rise when those companies tend to be headquartered closer to the forests from which the paper is born (field trips for Michael, I get it, but no corporation that can avoid Manhattan real estate and New York taxes doesn't skedaddle to at least Westchester or Connecticut)?

It's probably better to be closer to their customers. And if D-M has contracts with some big companies based in midtown Manhattan, having their office there makes a lot of sense. Being next door to your clients helps make you a more responsive business and can earn customer loyalty. (Our paper and office supply supplier is in our same Manhattan office building, which is a key reason why we keep using them.)

And why, in a day and age when Fortune 500 companies let alone small enterprises have gotten away from suits and ties is every man at D-M required to wear them?

For plenty of companies that aren't very progressive (or are dealing in sales or meeting with clients), I don't think suits are all that that uncommon. And even if they are, D-M is supposed to be that little bit behind the curve (and proud of it.) So coats and ties may be an anachronism, but one that the corporate culture of D-M would cling to.

Matter-Eater Lad said...

"1. Does Stanley's presence at the party mean he's separated/divorced?"

I think it means there was cake.

On office attire: I suspect the Scranton setting has something to do with it, as does what we've seen of Dunder-Mifflin corporate.

Anonymous said...

Kevin's e-mail comment wasn't out of line. I actually know professional people who don't have personal e-mail. Asking for an e-mail is easier than asking for a phone number.

Anonymous said...

I figured out why they didn't want that anonymous woman to come to the party: Michael was hoping she was the woman from the blood drive and she wasn't, so having her there would have been too painful for him, and as mentioned this was one of those times when the office was on Michael's side.

Anonymous said...

Because of the DTV transition schedule, sweeps was moved from February to March this year, so shows had more reruns last month than they would have had otherwise.

Thanks for explaining this. I had wondered why TV this February had been so... non-sweeps-like.

sc said...

a few random thoughts....on a receptionist....the company I work for has a live person answering the phones from 8:00-4:30 every day...there are actually 2 people, and they each have other responsibilities, but our CEO makes sure a human answers our phone lines rather than a computer.
on the dress code...I know many companies that have come full circle....summer casual, friday casual all year round, business casual all year round, and are now back to business dress...not as out of the ordinary as one might think.
and the laugh out loud line for me was definitely the retractable penis comment.
Quick one for Alan....is BJ Novak working on a film, which is why he is away? Also, why is Paul Lieberstein not a regular...he's in a few in a row, then not in for a week or two, etc.?

Karen said...

G-Fafif: "Dunder-Mifflin wouldn't have figured out years ago there are automated phone systems and wouldn't have looked into them?"

Didn't an earlier episode make it a point of pride that Pam answered promptly, while the competitor's phone tree was still prattling on?

G-Fafif said...

You guys sold me 'til the next time some little perceived real-world inconsistency bugs me. What fun is there in being obsessive otherwise?

Stef said...

I loved that moment of connection between Kelly and Michael when Michael was telling the story of meeting glove woman and the blood drive. Kelly was so engaged in his story, and their smiles were so genuine as she encouraged his feelings of hope. The two office romantics bonding. :-)

Number Five said...

Steve B wrote: This show has really become the equivalent of the old sweatshirt I throw on after work in the winter.

It's funny how true that is for all but the most awkward scenes on the show.

And I agree that this episode wouldn't have worked without the way they've developed the office in such a realistic manner. A lot of fun to watch. The only thing missing was Toby...how great would a Valentine's Day episode with Toby have been?

I didn't like the opener though. Everyone has done such a good job pointing why Dunder Mifflin wouldn't necessarily replace Pam. Why couldn't Pam use that same reasoning with Michael? Having her and Jim outright lie was sketchy.

My favorite moments were Kelly's dentist card and the way Kevin repeated "so fast" with an enormous pause between the words.

J.J. said...

As I watched the episode, I would have bet all the money in my pockets that the teaser to your episode recap was going to say "... spoilers coming up just as soon as I invite Jim to suck it."

Kenrick said...

Something else I found funny was when Kelly said, "It's a modern day Enchanted!" when it should be Cinderella. Enchanted IS modern. That was the joke right? Haha.

Anthony Foglia said...

Karen said...
Didn't an earlier episode make it a point of pride that Pam answered promptly, while the competitor's phone tree was still prattling on?

Kelly. Dwight and Jim (or Michael?) go out to get a customer and to demonstrate their customer service experience, they call both the competitor's phone tree, and Kelly.

G-Fafif said...
And why, in a day and age when Fortune 500 companies let alone small enterprises have gotten away from suits and ties is every man at D-M required to wear them?

I work at a small company (under 100 people), and we're required to wear suits and ties. None of us like it, and we usually end up dressing down when we work at client sites, to match their dress code. But it's the bosses orders.

Also, our receptionist/office manager answers the phone during work hours.

phyllis said...

I really enjoyed this episode from start to finish, for most of the same reasons as you Alan, so I don't have much to add on that front. But I did want to mention something re: the strange air date -- Lecture Circuit was originally supposed to be one episode, with Blood Drive following immediately. During editing they decided LC needed to be a two parter so Blood Drive got bumped. I think there were some scheduling things with reruns that didn't allow them to actually air this episode until now =). Hope that clears up some of the confusion!

Rick said...

So, you never did explain James' theory about how nobody owns fries...

Do tell.

Alan Sepinwall said...

So, you never did explain James' theory about how nobody owns fries...

That's basically it. According to James, fries are communal property to be available to anyone else at the table, regardless of who ordered or paid for them. The only possible exceptions are if they're special fries, like cheese fries or gravy fries.

JP said...

I wish I could remember the moment, but there was a nice little nod to the British series when the address for Dunder Mifflin said Slough Lane. Anyone else notice that?

Matthew L said...

My favorite line and biggest laugh out loud moment was Jim's "those mines aren't going to sweep themselves" comment, in reference to Minesweeper. I absolutely loved this. The exact kind of thing that someone in an office like that would relate to.

Oh, Minesweeper, of course. That makes a lot more sense. (I had interpreted it as Jim making a joking "I have a big important exciting job clearing mines for villagers, not just trying to sell paper" comment, but Jim playing Minesweeper makes a lot more sense.

My favourite line came after the girl Dwight was talking to left. Michael came up, and almost whispered "You don't deserve her". Hilarious.

Joe K said...

I actually thought the woman that showed up at the party was the one with the lost glove, which was intentionally a different person.

Michael saw the glove when he woke up and assumed it belonged to the woman he'd been speaking to, but that was never shown and it could very well have been someone else's.

I thought it was a nice twist having it be someone else's glove since it was just assumed that it belonged to the woman he was interested in.

KarenM said...

Even funnier in the "modern-day Enchanted" remark is the fact that Amy Adams--Purse Girl from Season One--starred in Enchanted.

Anonymous said...

No comment about Dwight talking to an attractive girl at a Valentines mixer - and trying to make the sale?

Chris said...

I am about to watch this episode of the best comedy on the air (followed closely on its heels by 30 Rock) and skimmed your post. Looks like a decent episode. I've noticed that this season there have been flashes of brilliance to The Office. There is one episode that I watch three times, then there's one that I can't get into, then a really good one...etc. Still love it though.