Friday, November 06, 2009

The Office, "Double Date": Punch out

Quick spoilers for last night's "The Office" coming up just as soon as I test your politeness...

There were Thursdays last season when "30 Rock" was having an off night, when "My Name Is Earl" was presenting one of its lazier episodes, and when "Kath & Kim" was being... well, "Kath & Kim." And in that context, even a slightly above-average "The Office" stood out as something special. On a night like last night - when "Parks & Recreation" was as brilliant as it's been all season, when "Community" turned in a good showcase for Joel McHale, and when "30 Rock" finally remembered how to be funny most of the time - a relatively small "Office" episode like "Double Date" doesn't seem quite as impressive. (There's a reason it's the only one of the three I didn't attempt to write up before going to bed last night.)

Which isn't to say "Double Date" was bad, just that its ambitions were more modest, and that the episode didn't really know how to end.

Pam's discovery of Michael's relationship with her mom in "The Lover" led to a hilarious episode where Pam got to be loud and irrational while Michael was resembling a voice of reason. Everyone had calmed down by the time of "The Lover," and even Michael's decision to dump Helene on her birthday wasn't so much unfair (he had legitimate, well-articulated reasons, especially when you consider that he is, in fact, Michael Scott) as horribly-timed and uncomfortably-presented.

And then Pam's desire to punch Michael in front of the whole staff - and the staff's desire to see her do it - kind of fizzled. The problem, I think, is that once they set up what Pam wanted to do, there was nowhere for it to go - as Oscar noted to Kevin, there was really only one outcome (Pam hits Michael) - and even though they messed with the timing (Pam gives up, then hits him anyway after Michael tries to blame her mom) and the style (a slap instead of a punch), it was one of those things that the audience had built up in the same way the staff had, and there was no way the moment could live up to that build-up.

Dwight and Andy's subplot was a nice showcase for Ed Helms, and an illustration of how Dwight still doesn't really understand how society works, but it got repetitive after a while. I kept waiting for a twist on them trying to out-favor the other, but it was just a lot of variations on the same joke.

What did everybody else think?

45 comments:

Sister T said...

I loved the bit when Toby was teaching Pam how to throw a harder punch.

Stringer Sawyer Carmichael said...

Ryan's offer to Erin to be photographed for his series "Exposure in the Workplace" was pretty hilarious.

Ben S said...

The moment of the night for me was Michael inexplicably limping after the slap. A funny joke and a good character bit.

Col Bat Guano said...

I didn't get Pam's rapid turnaround from hating Michael dating his mother to being ok with it over the course of a lunch. I can see her being somewhat upset about the circumstances, but really she should be pretty happy about the relationship ending.

And speaking of her being happy, is Pam going to be pissed off the entire season? The woman has gotten married and is expecting her first child and yet every week she looks ready to go postal on her coworkers.

Mel said...

I think through the course of the dinner, Pam realized that Michael could be a good boyfriend to her mom. He seems like a caring, attentive, thoughtful boyfriend -- outside of that whole dumping her on her birthday thing. She saw Michael in that new light, a light that might show him to be a good thing in her mom's life right then.

pmaha said...

Pam's mother's name is Helene, not Helen.

srpad said...

What was most fun about Tobey's punching elssons was that for many seasons the irrational Tobey hate was one sided. Now Tobey wants in!

James said...

I also think Pam wouldn't want to be the cause of her mother's breakup and quickly came around as a result, which of course led to Michael's ill-timed breakup attempt #2.

The limping was hilarious, and I think I enjoyed this episode more than Alan. This is probably because I gave up on Community a few weeks ago and just can't jump on board P&R either, so it didn't seemingly suffer in comparison when I didn't watch those apparently funny shows last night.

LoopyChew said...

Toby teaching Pam to throw a harder punch is a twofold move that shows that the man has more spine than he's had in the past--not only is it a way to kind of get him a plus in Pam's book, but also a literal shot (of the fist, granted) at Michael after all the times he's rejected Toby's attempts at friendship.

It backfires miserably, of course, when not only does Pam not even use the advice he gave her, but still feels miserable for even trying to hurt Michael in the first place.

LoopyChew said...

Ooh, also: the birthday gifts Michael gave Helene WERE pretty thoughtful (if fast--granted, Michael's no spring chicken, either, so he may have thought that accelerating the courtship rituals would be better), so I can buy into Pam accepting it, especially since Michael's been supportive of Pam in past endeavors (her art show comes to mind, and his cashing in a bargaining chip to get her into sales).

I also found it interesting that Michael's talking head specifically stated that in his hypothetical future, Pam and Jim specifically were his best friends.

Anonymous said...

I think they should have realized that the setup for the punch was never going to have satisfying closure in THIS episode.

More precisely, the only proper conclusion was everyone feeling bad, and letting the wounds fester till next week. Just have Pam punch Michael in all her frustration and anger, have him go down, and have everyone feel awkward about it. He's humiliated, she's guilty, the staff is uncomfortable, and that anticlimax IS the end. Set up the conflict to bubble until next week.

This was a copout attempt to pretend there was closure, but it was all so muted and off, it just didn't work.

Guy said...

I read from that scene at lunch that Jim and Pam picked up on Michael wanting to dump Helene at the same time we did.

Imamarilyn said...

I loved it when they were talking about what the baby would call Helene. Nana, Grandma, and Michael's reaction to it.

The best part of the episode was Dwight and Andy trying to outdo the other with favors.

It is great to see the character development in Pam. We have seen mousy, adorable, and seeing the more negative aspects of her personality is fun. I do feel a little sorry for Jim, but this is definitely what he wanted. Be careful what you ask for.

Laura R. said...

I agree that this wasn't one for the books, but a couple moments slayed me: the limp, Toby's punching lesson, Jim's absolute refusal to let Pam lie her way out of the lunch, Andy's "Don't test my politeness". Hopefully next week brings a more solid ep.

Jerry said...

It was a weak episode. Pam going from absolutely hating Michael being with her mom to accepting it because of his birthday gifts was just a cheap twist to set up the rest of the episode and the lame ending. I also agree with the people who have been pointing out that Pam is always angry now. I don't know if it's sloppy writing or poor acting, but she's rapidly gone from sweet and naive to constantly looking pissed off. Maybe that is the writers or Jenna Fischer's idea of a more "aggressive" career woman, or of pregnancy (though neither of these have ever been suggested on screen as the explanations), but they also clearly expect us to still "like" Pam and she's become rather hard to like.

Anonymous said...

@Jerry: I don't think so. Her feelings toward the relationship changed because she finally spent some time with her mother and Michael and saw how happy she was. Given that it's her mother, I would think she could tell when she's happy at least. Hard to stay mad in a situation like that.

David said...

Guy, I saw it the same way. It was dawning on Pam that Michael was not in this for the long term and that was making her happy. I don't think she realized he was going to do it on her birthday.

Also, I loved loved loved Creed's moment. Sometimes I wish there was follow up to his weirdness but then again not knowing what it is about only adds to the fun

Anonymous said...

I thought the payoff for Pam wanting to hit Michael was Toby teaching her to punch, which was really funny. Unexpectedly, Toby was the highlight in both episodes about Michael dating Helene. I was surprised that Pam actually hit Michael, I was expecting it to end with her backing down.

I agree this was a good, not great episode, but one that got better for me on re-watch. Jim foiling Pam's escape from the lunch seemed like Jim's payback for Pam foiling his escape from Michael and Jan's dinner party. Dwight's suggestion of "tri-managers" also made me laugh. As did Andy's BienvenEATo sign with the tacos.

Larry McGillicuddy said...

I don't know why Pam would be hard to like now. I mean, we have to have some perspective here and look at it from her point of view. Her parents were recently divorced. Her boss (who she has witnessed making crass sexual jokes for 5 years) is now dating her mom, and then he dumps her on her birthday. All this while her father is robbing the cradle, she was just recently married, and is pregnant. That's alot of mixed emotions and I think they have Pam behaving in a way that is consistent with what she's going through.

Jerry said...

Yes, I understand what happened during the episode---my point was that it happened over the course of a lunch when Pam was a raving psycho about Michael and her mom in earlier episodes. I understood what I saw on the screen, but it doesn't work as drama or comedy, at least not to me. At least a few people point out Pam's personality change each week, so I'm sure I'm not the only one noticing it. When you're done to having one character slap another in a parking lot, you're just about out of ideas.

Flap Jackson said...

I have to disagree with you on this episode. I thought it was not only a return to form for the Office, but the best episode they've had in years.

The episode was all about rivalries, whether it be Dwight VS. Andy, Dwight Vs. Jim, Pam Vs. Michael, and I thought all of them worked very well, and to great effect.

As for the humor, I had to rewind at least 5 times because I was laughing so hard I would miss the next joke.

It certainly makes up for last week's weak episode if anything.

Anonymous said...

It was pretty obvious to me that Pam was trying to sabotage her mom's relationship by emphasizing her mom's age, but forgot about how quickly Michael would react to that realization. Ultimately, I thought she was more torn about the immediacy of Michael's reaction than the outcome thereof.

Larry McGillicuddy said...

How is Pam a "raving psycho" because she freaked out that her recently divorced mom is now dating her immature boss who she has witnessed making crass sexual jokes for more than five years? Maybe some people wouldn't react strongly to that, but I certainly would.

Matthew said...

"Something's up. That paper was never supposed to arrive."

Anonymous said...

"Wll, I'm not robbing the cradle. I'm robbing the...grave."

Anonymous said...

I honestly thought that was one of the most boring episodes ever. Sorry, JMO. Creed is gold though.

Tom M. said...

I liked this one...it wasn't great by any stretch, but I'd put it middle-of-the-road to slightly above--which is fine, it was solid, not every episode can or has to be "best ever".

I agree with what one of the first commenters on this post, James, said though...in that my higher enjoyment factor is probably influenced by the fact I don't watch the other shows in the NBC Thursday block.

As far as the (seemingly growing) sentiment that Pam is becoming more angry or moody or negative...I've said and will keep saying that I just could not disagree more. If you place yourself in her shoes and see things from her perspective, I think her behavior and attitude are not just understandable, but appropriate. Nobody is 100% sugary sweet all the time--at least not without seeming fake and really annoying--it's a realistic development of character, I think, to play her this way sometimes. Especially playing against Michael Scott, who, although ultimately "lovable", often operates like a crazy kid in a candy store, largely without consequences for his ridiculousness.

Robin said...

Re: Pam's mood lately. I agree that Pam's mood has been different than we're used to, but I look at it as character development, not sloppy writing/acting. She's just gone through multiple major life changes (no matter how much you want it, pregnancy AND a wedding in 3-4 months is beyond stressful). She's also known her co-workers for at least 4 years. It could be that she is comfortable enough around them, or doesn't care enough about what they think of her any more, to let the stress she feels over her personal life spill over into her work life.

I think sloppy writing would be to leave Pam as the super sweet girl that she was the first 2 seasons. I loved that Pam, but I find the current one much more realistic (and funny).

DolphinFan said...

Short overview: This was a good if very uncomfortable episode, where almost all of the laughs were outside of the main storylines of Michael/Pam/Helene and Dwight's favor-currying (Ryan's creepiness, Creed's odd comment about the paper, and especially "BienveNEATo").
And some general thoughts:
I LOVE that Toby was not only showing Pam how to properly strike Michael (and loved even more that Michael saw every damn thing Toby was saying and doing) but acting like he finally knew that there was no appeasing Michael--and that he had leeway to act in a very unprofessional manner because of how improperly Michael's always treated him.
I worry about where the show can go with Dwight's work aspirations: he's basically a younger Michael, a great salesperson who is totally unsuited to be a manager, only Michael filled the Peter Principle spot so...where can he go? The "tri-manager" line was funny.
The best thing about the showdown scene is that both Michael and Pam came out looking much worse because of it: Michael as a pregnant woman's punching bag, Pam as a borderline psycho who (I was glad to see) didn't feel any better after slapping him.
I wouldn't want Michael to date my mom or someone close to me on balance, yet this episode did feature three compelling elements in his favor: the gift he made was perfect; his concerns about a future with Helene were legitimate if also infused with Michael Scott-type inanity; and Pam would never have been happy with any decision he made unless he could travel back in time and not begin dating Helene in the first place.

KB said...

The restaurant name "Papparazzo's" means "Mosquito's" in Italian. A reference to Fellini's La Dolce Vita.

Anonymous said...

A lot of Office fans have to defend any episode, but it wasn't very good and they seem to have forgotten how to write for the characters. I don't know about Pam being a "psycho", but other than the wedding episode her only expression all season have been a scowl, so I can see where someone would say that's either bad writing or bad acting.

Anonymous said...

Worst of the night.

Diana Frost said...

I'm a woman and I think they should have let Pam punch Michael and not just slap him. Pam has endured (yes, it's been her decision to stay with the company) his ridiculous behavior for a long time. I would have punched him and would have felt better too!

Michael G. said...

Pretty meh episode, but this whole segment was gold:

Jim: Oh man, that's crazy. Right as we were on our way out.
Pam: I know, isn't that how it always goes?
Jim: Rarely...if ever. Let me give it a whirl...Turns out the paper was there all along.
Creed: Oh, thank God.
Creed TF: Something's up. That paper was never supposed to arrive.

Anonymous said...

Jumped the shark?

Anonymous said...

Very solid episode as usual. I dont care how bad someone thinks an office episode is, this show is always better than the rest of the nbc shows. Its really not even close. For someone to say that that parks and rec episode was funnier than the office really makes me think they dont understand the show.

Anonymous said...

well, don't forget that michael had not one but TWO vasectomies when he was with Jan, which tells me that 1) having kids isn't his be all and end all in life-obviously he will go without it if it suits him and 2) after not one but TWO vasectomies, he's probably no more (and maybe even less-given modern medical technology) fertile than Helene.

personally, i think italy, snowboarding, triathlon-ing and kids were just his way of rationalizing what he was doing-trying to make it sound better than he's just freaking out over dating a 'grandma'--

which is completely hypocritical on his part, since I'm going to estimate his age as at least around 45-since we are in the 6th season-and 45 is plenty old enough for him to be a 'grandpa'

Anonymous said...

It's not character development to have a character angry and confrontational all the time. Pam has had about two moments all season where she didn't seem ready to bite someone's head off. Even in Niagara she was unhappy for most of the episode and she was getting married!

lambertman said...

Aside:

Jenna Fischer looks absolutely fantastic on the current cover of Shape magazine.

Yowza!

Larry C said...

I was away for a few days and just watched this on DVR.

Overall, a very, very weak episode. I don't think I laughed out loud once during the entire 30 minutes.

I think the writers of this show have gotten into a rut. The past few episodes have been entirely by the book: There's an "A" plot involving Jim & Pam or Michael and some sort of relationship issue, and there's a "B" plot involving Dwight or Andy acting stupid/silly.

The "B" plot especially annoyed me. Instead of what used to be the shows strength - showing the absurdity in everyday office life - it basically was a showing Dwight acting clueless and silly. It reminded me of one of the later episodes of Cheers, when the writers had gotten lazy and the characters were just acting silly for laughs.

Overall, I'm very disappointed in the show this season. There have been a few funny episodes for sure, but too many of the episodes have been weak.

par3182 said...

south park did a much better version of this story when wendy was going to fight cartman after school

vic said...

@Diana Frost: Yeah, Pam sure has endured a lot, with what her being given time off to go to art school, accepted back into the company after she quit without any warning, and as a saleman no less, for which she has no experience. Her sales figures don't even compete with the rest of the staff, and she is aloud to treat Michael with little or no respect, and still demand it from him.

@Anonymous: I agree with you completely, that the Creed inclusion was the only thing worthwhile about the whole episode. While it may be character growth, I do find it interesting how the writers have managed to take Pam, in a season, from being genuinely likeable, to now being just plain aggravating because of her arrogance.

vic said...

@Larry C: While watching the episode, I actually turned to my housemate and said "I can't wait until they're done with the Jim and Pam shtick, and we can start to see Dwight a bit more". That's what I'm missing this season. Dwight has been relegated to the back of the bus, and while his screen time may not suggest that, the way he's being written does. The show really feels like its split into two separate shows, with one being the Michael, Jim and Pam Show, and the other being comprised of everyone else.

That said, I don't notice the show that much any more, apart from when it's a standout episode, due to the strength of the rest of the Thursday' night lineup.

Luci said...

Although it was to be expected I was deeply disapointed in Micheal. To go from the sweet man who made Pam's mom feel special he quickly went into jerk territory. I thought that the Office would get more out of that relationship.

I'm suprised Michael wouldn't have thought of pam's mom as a Cougar.

As for Pam being overzelous etc, I think the writers feel safe makeing her like this during her pregnacy. Anything she does, bad behavior etc can be explained because of her hormones.

MikeS said...

I liked the episode for the most part, and I believe that Pam's behavior was warranted.

Lets face it, when Pam found out that Michael was dating her mom, why was she SO against it? Because she knew that Michael could be charming at first, but when the other shoe dropped, it would be ugly. I think that Pam knowing Michael, like we all do now, realized that he would end the relationship with Helene in a very bad way.

The story line with Dwight and Andy was amusing, but wore on quickly.

The funniest moment for me was in Toby switching gears from HR legal guy to coaching Pam in how to throw a punch, and Michael's reaction in the background.