Friday, March 13, 2009

The Office, "Golden Ticket": The blame game

Brief spoilers for last night's "The Office" coming up just as soon as I get trapped in an oil painting...
"David, I will be honest with you. I do want the credit without any of the blame." -Michael
If last week's "Blood Drive" gave us Michael at his most human and sympathetic, then "Golden Ticket" showed how a human Michael could also be a monster. He wasn't out-of-character (he's always hated Dwight and would have no problem sacrificing him in a situation this dire), and he wasn't behaving too cartoonishly, but his behavior in the wake of the golden ticket fiasco-turned-miracle was so nakedly selfish and unfeeling that it made most of the episode really unpleasant to watch. In a way, I suppose it's interesting to show how Michael's childish need to be liked could be twisted from harmless and amusing to ruthless and destructive, but it made for an episode I'll be glad to never watch again.

Now, there were entertaining things dancing around the margins of Michael's damage control, like Daryl simply telling Michael "Start over" when Michael barged into the warehouse to yell at him. And the subplot with Kevin getting conflicting romantic advice from Andy, Pam and Jim was as funny and sweet as the scenes last week that first put Kevin and Lynn together. I love that Kevin saying everything that was on his mind could lead to a simple and welcome request for a date, but also a mention of "Boobs" -- and one that Lynn found flattering. Brian Baumgartner's just been aces the last two weeks, and if it hadn't been for this story, I might have found "Golden Ticket" unbearable.

What did everybody else think?

50 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was pretty happy with the episode. Yes, Michael was monstrous, but at least the show is finally dealing with a real issue, i.e. the "all the credit none of the blame" management style of so many real-life bosses. This kind of topic is one that many people can relate to and that the show has abandoned for most of the season in favor of wild and cliched plots.

I too loved the B plot, everything about it. The triple-header talking head interview with Andy, Pam and Jim varied the formula in a really funny way.

Sonia said...

This was definitely one of those cringe-inducing episodes that are pretty tough to watch -- sort of like Curb Your Enthusiasm (which I love, but I have to be in the mood for Larry David). That being said, I laughed really hard a bunch of times. It sucks, but I absolutely have worked for people who acted like Michael -- maybe not that obvious, but they would take all the credit if things went well, and assign blame when they didn't. You have to laugh at these things or you'll go nuts.

I loved Pam's list of excuses for Michael. And Kevin's slip of t eh tongue ("boobs")...LOL.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Michael was a monster, but there were plenty of good moments...David sycophantically laughing at Dwight's "That's what she said" while he was still drunk with new profits, and Michael asking Darryl what a pallet was (and the way he asked) were hilarious!

christy said...

I was laughing pretty hard by the end of Michael and Dwight's exchange of yelling toilet ideas over one another.

mjryan said...

I have a hard time watching The Office most weeks because Michael and Dwight's behavior makes me so tense. It won't be a surprise to know that this episode was excruciating. Sonia's excellent point about bosses taking the praise and shirking the blame make it much more palatable in hindsight but, like you Alan, I won't want to watch it again anytime soon.

bsangs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I was happy about the episode but the framing of some scenes, which now seem to be shot for HD, were a pain in the neck when viewed on a regular screen, particularly the ones with Kevin and Andy. In one scene you couldn't see either of their faces, except for their noses.

"What's a pallet?"

spiderpig said...

Like most fans of this show I cut it a lot of slack because it's such a funny, poignant show most of the time and even a below average show is better than most 30 minute shows out there, but this episode was terrible. Like you said it if wasn't for the B plot, I would have changed the channel. How is Michael blameless even if it had been Dwight's idea? He's still the branch manager and would have had to authorize the tickets in the shipment, right? There's no way management would avoid blame in this case. The whole thing was just lame, lame, and oh yeah, lame.

Anonymous said...

I agree it was uncomfortable to watch, but then, it was very old school The Office. This was a return to Season 1/Season 2 Michael, and I think it was needed. Lately the character has been less self-serving, and more buffoonish/sad sack. The Valentine's episode was proof of this: No one in Season 1 or 2 would have sat around with Michael, waiting and hoping for the blood drive woman to show up.

I think that it is a measure of all shows that as the cast grows more comfortable with each other, a lot of the rough edges start to be rounded off, Michael moves from being self-centered to being buffoonish, Michael and Stanley (post-The Roast) seem to have some understanding. It was nice to see last night not only Micheal being a jackass, but also Stanley back in form ("why don't you go up on the roof and jump off.")

Yes, this was hard to watch, but then all of the best eps of past seasons have been those to make you squirm (and in my case, pause the TiVo until my levels of uncomfortableness recede.)

Bryan said...

I agree it was hard to watch at times but perfectly done. (I loved the office taking Dwight's side in front of David- Pam hugged Dwight!)

I was wondering how bad Michael was going to have to screw up for them to bring Stringer Bell in to straighten him out - I think this was it.

amitytv said...

Oh, but you are forgetting the best parts of the whole episode! The opener where we get the knock knock jokes, Michael and Dwight's girl-slap fight for a couple of seconds, folowed by Michael's ban on knock-knock jokes, and then Jim coming up with, "ding, dong." Did you see how fast Michael's face went from angry to excited?
"Answer the door, Dwight!"

I also liked the ending scene where Dwight is trying to get Jim back, only to be put off by Jim in the shower, brushing his teeth, etc.
Yes, the middle was a little cring worthy, but isn't that why most of you loved it to begin with? Isn't it returning, at least for an episode, to its comedy roots? I thought it was a brilliant show and an excellent place for it to go after such a heartwarming story last week.

Omagus said...

I was wondering how bad Michael was going to have to screw up for them to bring Stringer Bell in to straighten him out - I think this was it.

That's exactly what I thought too.

Daryl's "Start over" line did have me rolling though.

amitytv said...

Sorry, I meant cringe.

dave s said...

I think at its heart, The Office is less a comedy and more a commentary on the state of cubicle-land in America. To that end, I loved this episode. I thought it rang really true (I, too, have had the same types of self-serving bosses others have mentioned), and I thought it was a well-told story. It also had brilliantly funny moments (Horseboat!) and some nice acting moments for Jim.

Anyway, I don't understand when people find the Office unwatchable because of the serious moments. It's not a sitcom. It doesn't pretend to be a sitcom. Why be disappointed when it leaves the realm of sitcom?

To Spiderpig's comments, I don't know that Michael was going to get off free, but if he told David that Dwight put the tickets in there without his knowledge, he might have been spared being fired.

Robin said...

Odd. I thought it was one of the least cringe inducing episodes in a long time.

Michael makes me cringe when he behaves in a manner that no normal and moderately successful human being would act. IE: kidnapping the pizza boy. That horrendouse speech in front of Ryan's business school. The opening scene where he was talking over Pam, who was trying to do her job. THAT is cringe-worthy Michael to me.

Tonight's Michael seemed real. The episode itself was funny, in part because I can totally see something like the golden ticket fiasco actually happening. An idiot who doesn't understand warehouse procedures screws up the ticket placement, and then tries to weasel out of it. Sure, what he did was despicable, but I'm really interested to see how they deal with the ramifications of Michael's actions.

debbie said...

LOVED the "Boobs" moment. Best part of the show.
This Michael Scott reminded me of the old M.S. in Season One of "The Office." It was one of the reasons why I didn't watch it back then...Steve Carell's boss style was too real for me. But, I guess now that we've seen his other sides than just him being self-preserving, I can take it more.

niksarosy said...

"Why do you have a diary?" "To keep secrets from my computer"...classic.

Andrew said...

Unlike, say, Phyllis's Wedding, I could (and will) watch Golden Ticket again. Michael's behaviour was boorish and discomforting, but it didn't strike me as too far out of the norm for the character or for what goes on in cubicle land every day.

Doesn't Michael's thinking here reflect the theory behind many of the proposals for government bailouts? (Particularly those floated by the companies seeking to be bailed out.) The company sees the benefit of good times and good ideas, but someone else (the public) pays the cost. Michael is unwilling to take credit for an idea when it's a bad idea (and foisting it onto the one person in the office who's been a loyal friend-- except for The Coup), but needs to take credit for it (in an immature and loud way) when the bad idea turns out to be a good one.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't agree that he's always hated Dwight. After all, he missed him so much that he begged for him to come back in Season 3.

Best quote: "I did fall on my sword once. I was running with it in my belt. Won't happen again."

Anonymous said...

Can someone help with a line I didn't hear clearly?

When Dwight threatens to write Jim up for insubordination, Jim says something to Dwight that I couldn't understand. He calls him something, I think.

EOTW said...

The ep wasn't bad or anything, but it made me realize that, when this show ends, if PB&J aren't shown moving on from DM, I'll feel let down. I realize it's a TV show, but this stufff could only go far and Michael Scott would've been fired by anything normally resembling a real business, even in this fiscal climate (especially).

dylanfan said...

If we're going to have a best quote competition, it has to be:

niksarosy said...

"Why do you have a diary?" "To keep secrets from my computer"...classic.
10:26 AM, March 13, 2009

After I spit my beer laughing, I actually thought to myself -- what a GREAT idea!

Stephanie said...

As others have said, I enjoyed this episode for the meta on how some bosses take the credit and assign blame and the dating advice B-plot. That was enough to make it fun, even though Michael was horrible.

I knew immediately that all of those golden tickets were going to the same client. And when the call came down from corporate and Michael blamed Dwight, I knew it was going to come back and bite him in the a@#. I had hoped that Dwight would successfully get the credit and Michael would have to live with it, but looking back, thematically it worked better the way it played out.

I'd like to see some fallout in future episodes, and I would love it if this is what prompts the arrival of Stringer Bell. I'm really looking forward to that.

Anonymous said...

Can someone help with a line I didn't hear clearly?

Jim said "there he is", meaning Dwight was back to his usual self.

Brian J said...

I just watched the episode online--no matter what else you can say about NBC, making their shows available online is a big plus--and I really liked it. Not that it was laugh out loud funny, but that it was amusing and showed a pretty decent dynamic of traits we've seen from the characters before mixed with some new stuff.

I thought the business element of it was done well. What CEO of a big company like Blue Cross wouldn't be happy with a pretty substantial discount on something that probably eats up a large part of their business? And if he's happy enough, and knows the company giving the discount well enough, why wouldn't he consider giving them more business? I never studied this directly, but this sounds like putting the loss-leader idea into practice.

As far as Michael being an ass, he absolutely was. But as others have said, the idea of the boss trying to have it both ways with upper management strikes home. It was entirely expected that Michael would try to do that to Dwight, since he does have a love-hate relationship with the guy. Even though he was wrong to try to make him take the blame, he did have a point in that he needs the company more than Dwight. It's a nice display of self-awareness that the writer of the episode slipped in casually.

I also really liked that others, like Pam and Jim, came to his defense. The fact that the overall relationship between the characters getting on each others' nerves hasn't changed, even as they've grove to support and like each other in different ways. It's a sign of...well not maturity, but growth I guess from the writers.

Finally, you can sense that the staff does have some long-term plans in mind. It's nice that they aren't entirely making it up as they go along.

Anonymous said...

I saw the episode was written by Mindy Kaling. Are her episodes usually this uncomfortable? My big disappointment was that she wasn't in the episode. I think her commentary as Michael was freaking out would have been priceless.

Dan Pohlig said...

Favorite throwaway moment: Michael making an announcement of information. Oscar telling him that it wasn't an announcement because it had no information. Michael correcting Oscar telling him that it was information, just information Oscar wasn't interested in. Quick pan of camera to Oscar who was nodding as if to say that Michael has a point. Does anyone else remember the moment and what exactly Michael was announcing?

Andrew said...

I feel lonely whenever they do episodes like this. It's as if I'm the only one who prefers episodes where Michael's being an absolute jerk without any sign of sentimental shit underneath.

Zachary said...

Does anyone else remember the moment and what exactly Michael was announcing?

He was announcing that he and Dwight had just taken a walk and were best friends.

I agree with Andrew in that unlike Phyllis' Wedding, this episode is re-watchable.

The great thing about Kevin's flub at the end of him asking Lynn out is that I can totally buy him saying something like that. He's a lovable goofball that just needs one good thing in his life.

I was hoping that when Michael called the crisis meeting that he would invoke "threat level midnight".

John Krasinski really sold how worried he was about his biggest client getting a 50% discount on their paper order. I could tell he was thinking "I am screwed. How am I going to be able to support Pam?"

Creed proves again that he only needs one line to be funny. "Congratulations, kid." "Thanks, old man."

I'm off to tell some knock knock jokes to others.....

Tyroc said...

I thought it was a really strong episode. Showed that Jim and the others, while they don't hate Michael (and like last week will support him when he's being a nice guy), will only put up with his crap up to a point. I didn't find it particularly cringworthy.

And for whoever above said the show is not a sitcom, I completely disagree. The whole someone blaming someone else for their mistake and then that person they blamed gets a big reward... very traditional. And that's not a bad thing. The show is a sitcom. A modern one that is pushing the form.

The form changes. Grows. And shows like The Office and 30 Rock help it do that. But they come out of a tradition that they are very much a part of and are continuing. I just wish there were more on the air.

dark tyler said...

You are not alone, Andrew. I'm usually very bored when they do all the touchy-feely soap stuff they've mostly been doing during the last 3 years, but episodes like this remind me why I used to love the show.

Anonymous said...

I didn't like this episode at all. And I think people are missing the point of this episode by thinking it comes down to liking cringe-worthy or not liking cringe-worthy. I don't mind Michael being awful (even overtly awful like this episode) but that there are NO consequences to his actions! This has been brought up since season 1, and we (the audience) have had to make up excuses as to why Michael has never been fired (I know Alan has written a few up in the past). And while I understand that there are bosses who act like Michael (want good credit but no blame) do we really believe that there is upper management like David? David has known for years that Michael has severe deficiencies as a manager, now he hears Michael outright lied to him and tried to bury a subordinate. He doesn't just suspect misconduct, he sees it firsthand and gets verbal confirmation from all parties. And what is David's response? He leaves? I know some think this is what leads to Stringer Bell coming on the show, but do you really think David wouldn't take Michael aside right there and give him a verbal dress down, or at least suspend him no the spot?

Remember, the British version of the Office was cringe-inducing. They also fired Ricky Gervais' character after two years.

Alan Sepinwall said...

What's David gonna do? Michael, idiot though he is, just brought in a huge amount of money to Dunder-Mifflin. And this is not a fluke. They've even devoted several episodes of this season to David trying to learn from Michael, since Scranton is the only branch to actually show growth in this economy.

David Brent got fired because he was a jackass, and because he wasn't good enough at his job for his bosses to look the other way. Michael is still, unfortunately for David Wallace, worth the headache.

Anonymous said...

Alan, you bring up a good point about the money motivating David. (Although, I think the merits of Michael's "success" of the branch is largely the result of a comic device created by the show. While it is believable that Michael is a good salesman and can bring in clients, it seems the only reason his horrible management skills don't lose equal or more business is because the writers wouldn't find that funny). I was going to question David's motives for waiting so long to get a handle on Michael's activities (it seems odd to just sit back and let someone you think is incompetent lead a successful branch without wondering what's going on), but then I remembered how our current economy got in it's situation.

And David Gent was fired and returned to sales because that's what he was good at. It seems odd that this David hasn't tried to hone Michael's skills a little more to maximize his potential and decrease his flaws. But, then again, I'm reminded of Wall Street.

Russell Lucas said...

I love Dwight usurping not only Michael's idea and glory, but also his "That's what she said" to Wallace.

This might have been my favorite episode of the year. I know the U.S. version of the show isn't built the same way as the BBC version, and has completely different ends and means, but as Michael's increasingly become just a clown, incapable of saying things that adults say, I've started seeing the show just as a warm-up to 30 ROCK. Last night's show, while still funny, put Michael in the position that his narcissistic lack of awareness ought to put him in on a regular basis. Sure, the show will go back to status quo next week, but for a half-hour you got to see some real consequences to his jackassery.

Savvy Veteran said...

I'm with Russell Lucas. This (along with Lecture Circuit, Part 1) was my favorite episode of the season so far. 30 Rock has me in stitches every week, but a solid episode of The Office like this is in some ways more satisfying; even though I'm not laughing quite as much as I will be in a half-hour.

BigTed said...

The idea that Michael's bad idea would turn out to be a great idea the minute he gave up credit for it was so sitcom-predictable right from the start, I was really hoping they'd go a different way with the story. I realize "The Office" actually is a sitcom, but this kind of easy plot twist could just as well have happened on "The King of Queens" or (wait for it) "According to Jim."

On the other hand, I thought the perhaps overlooked and underappreciated actor playing David Wallace was subtle and fantastic in this episode.

Dan Jardine said...

It's important that we see Michael's ineptitude from time to time, cuz that's at the centre of the show's satire. We've been seeing a lotta material that has been softening his image, and while it is also important to empathize with Michael, the show has to be careful to balance the scales now and then, and show Michael in survival mode. This ep did a good job of that.

Plus, Kevin's subplot was great. And the tormented look on Andy's face at the end of the episode was actually quite poignant.

Kevin said boobs. Heh heh.

DolphinFan said...

After some reflection, this episode came across as a really strong one because it understood how badly Michael wants to be this Teflon Man who snares all the kudos and ducks all the arrows, and recognizes (dimly) that he's just not smart or likable enough to get away with that, so he fights with everything he has to keep the very small slice of success he's somehow stumbled into. It does feel like the Michael who agonized over taking the Prince Family Paper client list doesn't fit with the Michael we saw here--perhaps it's a matter of warmth and Lord knows Dwight doesn't have much of that.
And the golden ticket story also showed just how messed up the Michael-Dwight dyad is. It makes one wonder if Dwight doesn't have some kind of samurai-master view akin to that GHOST DOG movie, where Michael once did something to "save" Dwight in some way and therefore Dwight has to serve Michael for the rest of his life.
That's the serious part of the show. The Kevin storyline worked beautifully because of Ed Helms. His comment that Jim & Pam have no business telling ordinary singletons about relationships was a hilarious bullseye, and in every measure he proposed to Kevin we could see just how badly Angela ruined Andy.
In short, this episode was a strong set-up right before Idris Elba arrives and (probably) puts Michael in a legitimate fight for his career.

Cree said...

Michael was so cringe-worthy last night that I almost had to turn the television off several times. It was redeemed when Dwight flipped the script and got the upperhand. But, in the end Michael still walked away without a scratch and that bothers me.

I guess it says something about my love for Michael when my favorite scene ever is the roast where Michael got lit up by his co-workers.
Kevin has shined two weeks in a row. I love that he sees himself as a "classic overthinker."

Anonymous said...

I agree with BigTed: I thought this was one of the most sitcommy episodes they've ever done. Michael screws up, tries to avoid blame (in a fairly extreme and somewhat out-of-character way), screw-up ends up being a net positive. The only thing missing was the laugh track.

Undercover Asian Man said...

I usually watch "The Office" because it is only a half-hour and because it pairs well with watching 30 Rock. But more and more, I find myself drifting away from the characters and the show.

What once was a comedy based on recognizable workplace pitfalls and absurdities has become so farcical and outrageous as to be completely unrecognizable as reality. I think this causes The Office to lose what once made it great. It used to point out truths that we could laugh at when a spotlight was shone on them. Now it does things outside those bounds and thus loses a lot of its comedy and impact, wandering into slapstick territory.

I think we are witnessing the End of Days for NBC. I know network dominance has been cyclical in the past, but I really can't see them ever digging themselves out before technology makes network TV even less relevant than ever.

Anonymous said...

Someone earlier wrote: "Like most fans of this show I cut it a lot of slack because it's such a funny, poignant show most of the time and even a below average show is better than most 30 minute shows out there, but this episode was terrible"

Agreed 100%!
This episode was so paint by the numbers. It was as if the writers had an instruction book that said "you have to have an "A" plot and a "B" plot".
The Office is at its best when its unconventional. This episode was just a very typical, conventional 30 minute sitcom episode. I'm surprised there was no laugh track.

Chris Lawrence said...

Anonymous: "I was happy about the episode but the framing of some scenes, which now seem to be shot for HD, were a pain in the neck when viewed on a regular screen, particularly the ones with Kevin and Andy. In one scene you couldn't see either of their faces, except for their noses."

I'm pretty sure NBC and TBS only show The Office letterboxed on 4:3 SD broadcasts, so there's no reason for them to frame the show for 4:3, except for the small minority of people who insist on cropped 4:3 output from DTV converter boxes, DVDs, and the like.

Hal Incandenza said...

Maybe my favorite ep of the year (next to the one where Jim and Dwight do the fake sales call with Michael supervising), which has a lot to do, I think, with the episode hewing very close to the UK series (which, next to Larry Sanders, is probably my favorite show ever). Dark and delightful.

Mark B said...

Since Michael's Wonka-pitch was preserved on film by the documentarian, shouldn't that settle whose idea it was?

I suppose we could conclude that Dunder-Mifflin isn't permitted access to the films, but has that actually been established?

Anonymous said...

I keep asking myself...did the office jump the shark? Frankly, I'm bored. I saw where the 5 tickets were going when he still had them in his hand. I saw that there would be a twist when he picked Dwight to be the fallguy. YAWWWWWN. There really isn't enough good writing in this show anymore.

Anonymous said...

What else can you do with a carnation? :)

Anonymous said...

I thought it was a funny episode. RE: Michael keeping his job, one of the main jokes in THE OFFICE and DILBERT and OFFICE SPACE is that clueless bosses don't get fired, they thrive in cubicle-land. The Peter Principle most likely. Also, watching this and laughing makes you think, "Well even MY boss isn't THAT stupid".

Craig said...

BigTed has a good point that Andy Buckley is doing a great and underappreciated job playing David Wallace. He's doing a great job playing the corporate version of Michael Scott -- someone who was Peter Principle'd to a job he's not very good at.