Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Office, "Heavy Competition": Nothing up my sleeves!

Spoilers for tonight's "The Office" coming up just as soon as I change shirts in the parking lot...
"You respect dibs, don't you?" -Michael
"I'm not a barbarian." -Dwight
This was just an awful lot of fun. I tend to find Michael and Dwight episodes too uncomfortable at times, because putting the show's two broadest major characters together tends to make them each more cartoonish than usual. But by putting Michael and Dwight at odds, it forced both characters to be just human enough for the story and the jokes to breathe.

It also made the occasional broader moments (Dwight stripping down to show he wasn't wearing a wire, Dwight screaming, incredulous, "ARE YOU SAYING YOU INVENTED PAPER?!?!?!?!?" into his cell phone) work better, because they came in contrast to the quieter jokes (like the long pause before Michael accepted that Dwight was talking about him, or the miserable look on Michael's face as he bit into the terrible meatball parm sandwich Dwight set him up to eat), and in an episode where both characters were mostly at the top of their game as salesmen and competitors. I was glad to hear Dwight make a good counter-argument to Mr. Schofield when he barged in, and even gladder to hear Michael quickly turn that around on him, and even gladder to hear Michael's explanation of his hilarious color-coding scheme, which mostly meant that he should shut up about the personal details.

I've been enjoying this season in pretty much all of its phases (Holly, post-Holly), but the Michael Scott Paper Company arc has really kicked things up a notch. The only way it could get any better would be if Michael found a way to hire Holly as his HR rep.

Some other thoughts:

• Aside from the nice moment at the end when Jim assured Andy he'd find someone else eventually, I wasn't crazy about that subplot. I know I complained last week that I was tiring of seeing Jim's unceasing humiliations during the reign of Stringer Bell, but at the same time I spent most of this one wondering what the heck Jim was doing waging an elaborate prank on Andy in the middle of his big professional crisis, and I kept waiting for Charles to step out of his office at exactly the wrong moment.

• Speaking of which, would Charles really -- especially in an episode where he just found out Michael was trying to acquire inside info on Dunder-Mifflin -- let Pam just hang around in the office? And would Jim want to be seen with her in front of Charles?

• The opening montage of the Michael Scott Paper Company staff tossing cheese puffs into each other's mouths -- which either required a lot of practice from Steve Carell, Jenna Fischer and B.J. Novak, or else is something the cast was already doing between takes -- was amusing enough (particularly the final gag with Pam getting bombarded after yawning) that I'll forgive the show for ditching the MSPC version of the opening credits after only one episode.

• Mike Schur may be busy running "Parks and Recreation," but dammit, we need to see Mose again. References to him falling down wells just aren't enough.

• I liked Ryan 3.0 recognizing the genius of the "old man" with the Rolodex. Assuming all three MSPC staffers will eventually rejoin Dunder-Mifflin Scranton, I wonder if he might not be a complete and total douche by the time he's in his old office again.

What did everybody else think?

36 comments:

Yet another anonymous said...

I enjoyed this episode pretty entirely, which has been rare recently. I didn't think that this new direction - the MSPC - could have energized the show for me as much as it has. I'm not sure how much life it has in it, but for now, it's made me more excited about the Office overall.

The cheese puff that just hung in her hair had to be unplanned, but was brilliant.

And not to be shallow, but has Rainn Wilson been working out? He looked rather more buff than in the early years.

SteveInHouston said...

I thought the tag scene with the other cheese puff contest was utterly and completely charming.

And I'm glad that they showed the fun/exhilarating part of starting up a business. Yeah, there's an awful lot of grinding peril involved, but I imagine that Pam, for one, has gotten more out of a couple of weeks of MSPC than she did 6 years of DM. At least professionally speaking.

And presuming they do get reintegrated into DM, there's just no way she's going back to answering phones. No way.

Zachary said...

About Pam and Jim meeting with Andy, I would imagine in a non-written scene that Jim told Charles that he and Pam were meeting with Andy about wedding stuff and that Charles was just out of sight watching to make sure that Pam didn't steal anything.

Dwight reading the back of Michael's cards reminded me of someone reading out loud something that isn't supposed to be read, like off a teleprompter.

Nice prank that Jim pulled on Andy. I imagined he used the wedding talk with Andy to make it look like he was talking about it more in front of Charles.

Sometimes I use my cell phone as a nightlight, but I do use my contact info in there, though! :)

Jennifer J. said...

Alan, I'm fairly sure that there were 2 eps with the MCPC title credits. I just assumed the DM one was back b/c the ep would mostly take place within DM walls.

Missed Stanley and Creed in this episode. Rainn and Steve did excellent work throughout.

"You won't be walking down the aisle, you'll be groovin'!" Such a doofus! :)

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Alan, I much prefer plots that combine one of the more 'straight' characters like Pam or Jim with Michael or Dwight, rather than the two of them together, so this episode didn't entirely work for me.

But, overall I enjoyed the episode, and I agree with the poster who said that the MSPC has really energized the show. I have to admit that I thought the first half of this season was pretty weak. Between the seemingly endless Dwight-Angela-Andy triangle that dominated, and Pam out of the office, it just wasn't working for me. I blame a lot of it on Greg Daniels and Mike Schur moving to Parks & Recreation, while a bunch of new writers were brought in to The Office. But I think the writing team has really gotten their groove back in the second half of the season. Can't wait for next week!

Backes said...

Another Wire callback in today's ep...when Michael equated Charles & Dwight's sneak attack with being hit by a pee-filled balloon.

"I'm not sure how they did it...with a funnel or something?"

I always wondered that myself...I wouldn't think you could get enough pressure behind urine in a funnell to make it stretch the balloon enough that it would pop on impact.

Matt said...

Fantastic episode - MSPC has really saved this show for me. I know everybody's speculating whether MSPC will fail, DM will buy MSPC, MSPC will buy DM/steal all of the clients/employees... but I feel like I could watch at least a dozen issues about these competing businesses.

And it all feels realistic - much more so than anything on the show in awhile. Big points for not making this something disposable and cheap.

Michael said...

The cheesy poof scene was the best. I bet they could put together an entire gag reel on bloopers from that.

Second best: Michael pwning Dwight in Schofield's office.

Anonymous said...

Loved it! And yeah, I was expecting the new credits!!

Didn't care at all for the Jim plot tonight. I really don't know where his character will go from here. Will we ever see Philly Jim rise again?

Sirfuller said...

"Michael pwning Dwight in Schofield's office."

I think this could pose a big problem in the future if Michael returns to DM. It would be hard for Dwight to work under Michael after his unethical (corporate espionage, etc) behavior in the episode.

I know it's just a TV show but this could be a tricky issue when looking at it realistically.

BigTed said...

Great episode -- although I agree, shouldn't Jim actually spend a little time working now? (It sounds as if they're moving toward a situation in which Dwight is promoted above him. Which would be sort of a play on the first couple of seasons, in which Dwight thought he was Jim's superior but actually wasn't.)

I've seen those giant plastic containers of generic cheese puffs on sale at Staples. And I wondered who would ever buy them -- so now I know.

andythesaint said...

"It would be hard for Dwight to work under Michael after his unethical (corporate espionage, etc) behavior in the episode."

I'm not sure this even ranks in the top ten worst things Michael has done to Dwight, and it wasn't a problem then. Dwight's dog-like obedience to authority will always prevail.

Mike F said...

4 stars for the cheese puffs opening/close (no pun intended), 5 stars for the A storyline, 2 stars for the B storyline.

Very very enjoyable, lots of excitement and satisfaction...

...that's what she said.

Brian said...

Tall. Beets.


Pure win.

Anonymous said...

i have to rewatch this episode, and pay attention to all those detailed business messages Dwight was leaving!!!

teacher said...

The fake video for Here Comes Treble is pretty good.

Anonymous said...

Can we please stop calling Charles' character "Stringer Bell?"

Anonymous said...

Maybe Charles underestimates Pam? After all, he did ask Kevin to take her place manning the phones.

DolphinFan said...

One of the many reasons both this episode and the show are fantastic is that it seems like Greg Daniels/Paul Lieberstein/Jen Celotta generally know when to cut ties with storylines that don't work. So after weeks of Charles Miner having radar to harrass Jim and not notice anything else in the office, which waas both unfunny and stupid, he's back to being off-camera during the story where Jim got to mess with Andy's mind (not a tough thing to do) but also have fun and eventually even being kind to his stupid co-worker. And after Ryan being a total ass since his Shoe Bitch return, this time he's a harmless tool who actually backed up Pam to some extent and won the cheese-puff contest. Add to this Michael being just clever enough to outwit Dwight with his coded Rolodex instructions, and you have a winner.

debbie said...

Anonymous said...
Can we please stop calling Charles' character "Stringer Bell?"
You know, I LOVED the actor as Stringer Bell and was shocked at learning he had a British accent. But on "The Office," I don't buy him as Charles Miner, and I was SO excited for his arrival.

I think it has to do with his odd accent. I can't tell what type of American accent it's supposed to be, and I keep focusing on when it seems to be slipping. Kinda ruins all the scenes he's in for me.

Tobey said...

Rainn Wilson was on fire in this episode. I especially loved how he says "Spin move!" as he does just that in the publisher's office.

Henry said...

I agree. I loved the A-plot between Michael and Dwight. Still cracking up about Dwight screaming, "Paper is the manure!" into the phone. Also loved Michael quietly exiting Mr. Schofield's office as Dwight makes an ass out of himself, followed by Michael's hilarious explanation of his color scheme.

jasctt said...

this stuff is OK, but we all know that DM is going to have to but TMSPC at some point this season, so it really is not too dramatic.

HarrySTruman2 said...

Great Episode!
It did seem a bit ridiculous that Jim was back to goofing around..
Has he become as clueless as Michael sometimes is?

Anonymous said...

he'll always be stringer. he should hire shamrock as his admin asst

Tyroc said...

I liked it, even if it got awfully crazy at times.

And Jim, get to work! The guy is just asking to be fired.

Anonymous said...

Maybe its not certain that DM will prevail. Maybe they will declare bankruptcy and go out of business. Leaving a big void in the paper market.

digamma said...

If anyone cares, I'm pretty sure they were at Alfredo's Pizza Cafe and not Pizza By Alfredo. Which is good, because there's a definite difference both in the quality of the ingredients used and in overall taste. They avoided the hot circle of garbage.

Number Five said...

I'm also a big fan of the MSPC storyline, although I wish they'd followed up more on Oscar's speech to Michael about exactly how hard it is to start a new business. But who can't help but rooting for our plucky band of entrepreneurs (or really, Michael and Pam)?

The cheeseball scene definitely looked like something that came out of the writer's room. Many writers' rooms. And I loved that Dwight would complete his betrayal by tricking Michael into eating the worst sandwich at the restaurant.

The Jim storyline was a little bothersome not so much because of Charles but because it was pretty mean-spirited. Normally his pranks work on Andy and Dwight since they're the wackiest, but since Andy was still messed up over Angela, and since it ended with Andy looking stupid in front of the whole office, it didn't seem like the best way for Jim to make his point.

Still a funny episode overall...they've been really consistent all year, haven't they?

wjm said...

I am in awe of MSPC's cheesy poof skill. [bows down]

And I agree with Tobey. Rainn was truly awesome in this ep.

Brian J said...

This was a great episode for so many reasons, but primarily because it had a nice fast pace and because it was funny. It's keeping the show interesting. Some random thoughts:

1. I do wonder why Charles would care so much about a short-sleeved shirt. The color may be ugly, and not that many people may wear them, but it's not as if Dwight was wearing a bathrobe to work. And why couldn't Dwight just roll his sleeves up, like Jim? I usually do that when I go to work, since it's much more comfortable.

2. I liked the fact that Ryan seemed to respect Michael's ability to work the clients in a smooth, professional way. There's something to be said for being able to talk to people like that, and whatever else you can say about Michael, he's able to do it well.

3. But what is to become of his rolodex? If Dwight still has it, and Michael can't access the information (except, perhaps, on his Blackberry that we never see, which Pam spent a month updating), doesn't that put him at a massive disadvantage?

4. I think someone pointed this out last week, but where are they getting the paper (and possibly other office supplies) they need to be selling? I don't have a problem with simply assuming the issue away, but it'd be nice if they'd address it, even slightly, at some point.

5. I believe Pam when she says that there's only so much cold calling that you can do during one day, but why isn't she out trying to drum up business in person? She's very likable, and since they only have two or just a few more clients, you'd think they'd be doing everything possible to sell more.

Owen said...

I really loved how Pam participated in the cheese puffs and the morning cheer. And how she seemed to get along with Ryan in a few scenes. It makes sense that she would actually enjoy the bonding and being one of the guys, because it means she's a salesman and not a receptionist. She may look sheepishly at the camera after the cheer, but you can tell that she actually likes it. Good call by the writers, and as always great job by Jenna Fischer.

Anonymous said...

I saw a very good point on another message board: Jim pranked Andy because Andy's horrible experience with Angela had him hell-bent to end every relationship he could find. Remember, Jim was visibly nonplussed with Andy's advice to Kevin on dating the women from the Valentine's Day party, and now Andy was trying to define Jim as the Andy to Pam's Angela. Jim wanted to get through to Andy that he could get over this by being something other than a love anarchist. To Andy's credit, it seems like he got the message at the storyline's end.

rhys said...

Dude, Jim and Pam are fiances! Nothing has indicated that Charles is an evil dictator and would ban an employee from seeing their fiance if it is on their own time, i.e., their lunch break. Give me a break. I don't know what pscyho places you've worked for, but that's an extremely big leap.

Anthony said...

A friend raised an interesting point:

The "whale" was Dwight's client. Why was he relying on the information on Michael's card (about the gay son)? Why would Michael have more information about this client than Dwight?

What do you guys think?

belidna said...

I'm not surprised that Michael would have information on the client that Dwight doesn't know. After all, they have a really different style of dealing with the client, and I can't imagine Dwight's style to be anything remotely to do with personal things like gay sons and whatnots.

I'm loving this MSPC bit. I thought I'd hate it, but I'm really enjoying the dynamics of the new office (I don't think it is possible for anyone to hate that whole cheese puffs bit. That was genius) and the old. It's remarkable just how much of an impact/influence Michael had on the old office. Look how dull the old office is without him! (which is a little problematic since we still have to spend time there, and it's really not too interesting. But I like it because it does illustrate this following point):-

Idiot or not, love him or hate him, Michael really is the heart of the Dunder Mifflin office (Scranton Branch). I most certainly look forward to see how the writers write the MSPC scenario out back into the grand scheme of things.