"You know what? I had a great time at prom, and no one said yes to that, either." -MichaelThere are many different flavors of "Office" episodes, and not surprisingly, fans have their favorite flavors, as well as the ones they can't stand. You've got your supporters of the squirm-inducing, British-flavored episodes like last week's squirmy outing or "Phyllis' Wedding," and those who would rather be stabbed in the eye with a fork than to see another of those. You have your broadly comic ones where Michael and Dwight are wearing fake mustaches and Dwight is peeing into a soda can, and some people think those are so silly as to be worthless. Then you have your low-key, relatively realistic episodes where Michael's verging on bankruptcy or trying to get a date on Valentine's Day, and some complain that they're not funny enough. And you have your swoony romantic episodes where Jim and/or Pam makes some grand romantic gesture, and the people who aren't into the PB&J thing roll their eyes the same way Meredith did when "Little Miss Thing" Pam(*) tried to get everyone's attention.
(*) And I'm surprised it took the show this long to establish that Meredith, the aging office tramp, would resent the hell out of someone like Pam.
"Two Weeks" was a mix of the silly and the realistic flavors, starting off with a bunch of gags about how much worse Michael behaves when he's not even trying to be a boss, but then heading to that moment near the end where he convinces Pam -- who has spent all day mastering the new copy machine and realizes just how empty her career is -- to join him in his Jerry Maguire quest to build a new paper company to rival Dunder-Mifflin. The jokes were great (I particularly loved Jim hearing monster noises from Michael's computer and yelling that Monster.com is singular), but what elevated the episode into something really special was the Pam and Michael stuff at the end: Michael and Pam's pure joy at telling Jim they're in the middle of a company meeting, followed by end-of-"The Graduate" shot of them walking away, as you see their giddiness replaced by the realization that they've both walked away from secure jobs in a bad economy to start up a business that has very little chance of succeeding. Steve Carell and Jenna Fischer are always brilliant in those moments when they have to show multiple emotions at once, so it was nice to finally see them get to do it side-by-side.
But will the Michael Scott Paper Company really fail? Before we get into discussing the rest of "Two Weeks," I want to speculate a little -- and I'll remind you early not to go discussing the previews, or anything you've read on other sites, or anything that's even vaguely spoiler-y -- about the different paths this story can travel.
The episode's end plants the seeds of Charles Minor inadvertently destroying the Scranton branch because he doesn't know the employees as well as Michael does. Michael, for all his social obliviousness, does know how to read people professionally, especially these people, and he would know better than to put inarticulate Kevin on the phones or make lazy Stanley the "productivity czar." So we could certainly see a situation where the once-profitable Scranton branch goes in the tank under the leadership of Charles (or whatever outside guy he brings in to run things), and David Wallace has to go begging for Michael to return, regardless of how Michael's new venture is going.
But do you think the show would be brave and/or foolish enough to have Michael succeed? He does know paper, he does know the area, and he does know the customers better than anyone else. He is at times a miracle worker with sales, and with the right people around him running the business side of things, maybe he makes a go of it. I doubt it -- Oscar made very salient points about how hard this will be for him -- but you never know. But while the show has gotten away with keeping certain characters apart for a batch of episodes (Jim in Stamford with Andy and Karen, Ryan at corporate, Pam at art school), would a permanent split really work? I doubt it. It's too much fun to see Pam and Jim working as a team, or to see Stanley have to deal with Michael, etc., to take those elements away forever. But as an interim thing (again, ala Jim in Stamford), it could work, especially if it puts Pam on a different professional track when she returns.
But back to "Two Weeks" itself. A drunk Michael wandering through the office and being more disruptive than usual was hilarious, as was one of the best collections of talking heads I can recall from a single episode: Oscar's dreams about quitting; Charles recognizing the effect he has on women; Toby comparing Michael to a movie on a plane; Kevin wondering if he should compliment Michael directly, then being too lazy to do so; etc. And there were great throwaway jokes about the office dynamics: not just Meredith's disdain for Pam, but the staff all having thought out what line they would use if they quit (and Michael not quite recognizing that they dream of using it on him); Andy trying desperately to not respond to Michael's job offer; Michael and Dwight both hoping the other one wouldn't want to keep working together; Michael putting a "sterile" note in Oscar's food; and more.
I also loved Michael listening to the tearful farewell message from the head of Prince Family Paper and realizing that he let Dwight talk him into putting out of business the one place that might hire him.
Yup, the creative team (in this case led by writer Aaron Shure and directed by Paul Lieberstein) was firing on all cylinders with this one. I look forwarded to the two episodes we're getting in two weeks (next Thursday is all-"ER"), and can't wait to see where this arc goes next.
What did everybody else think?