"It's like the end of 'Spartacus.' I have seen that movie half a dozen times, and I still don't know who the real Spartacus is. And that is what makes that movie a classic whodunnit."(*) -Michael Scott(*)For those unfamiliar with "Spartacus," Michael is talking about one of the most famous scenes in movie history.)
Coming off arguably the best season of its run so far(**), "The Office" returns with an uneven but ultimately satisfying episode. Leaving aside the unrelated parkour opening(***), "Gossip" started off slowly, but it built and built as Michael's invented gossip began hitting home, and it all came together in a very funny, and kinda sweet, climax in the conference room.
(**) Straw poll: Season two (climaxing with Jim kissing Pam) or season five (Michael and Holly, followed by The Michael Scott Paper Company)? And can anyone make an argument for why seasons one, three or four should be in the discussion?
(***) This gives me an excuse to do the obligatory parkour YouTube links, including the "Casino Royale" scene Jim refers to, a chase scene from the all-parkour French action movie "District 13," and a collection of amateur parkour highlights. If you only have time for one, go with the "District 13" clip.
Now, this episode features Michael at his most juvenile and insecure, and your mileage will obviously vary on that. But I don't mind this Michael on occasion, particularly when he's used in service to hilarious bits like the "Spartacus" reference quoted above, or his complete inability - despite Jim and Pam's warning - to keep the secret from Stanley's wife.
And the gossip plot turned into a nice showcase for the entire cast, whether it was the usual 10-second brilliance of Creed ("If I can't scuba, then what is this all about? What have I been working toward?") to Dwight's weird hang-ups ("You told people that I use store-bought manure... when I showed you where my manure comes from?") to the more elaborate subplot about Andy's gay panic. That one wins points not only for a reference to Broccoli Rob (my favorite Here Comes Treble nickname), but for Oscar's exasperation at having to comfort freaked-out heterosexual men. Ed Helms is so wonderful, and fits in so well, that's it's weird to think that the show existed for two seasons without him.
And, as with Jim and Pam dating in season four, and being engaged in season five, we see that Jim and Pam as expectant parents are not going to get in the way of the laughs. If anything, their horror at exposing their unborn child to these lunatics has even more comic potential than their fear of being outed as a couple, I think.
So, not an instant classic, but a solid start to the season.
What did everybody else think?