Spoilers for last night's "The Office" coming up just as soon as I feel lachrymose...
Michael Scott believes he is a performer at heart, and "Shareholders Meeting" put him - and the show - on the biggest stage to date. It's one thing for Michael to make a fool of himself in front of the branch staff, or even at a company picnic, but the scale of the shareholders meeting was much larger, both in terms of the number of people present and the potential impact of Michael's blunder.
So while I cringed as he kept talking and talking and talking about all the money the company had spent on him that day, I got an enormous kick out of seeing Michael turn the crowd in his favor by throwing out the kind of meaningless promises and gestures that he assumes you're supposed to use on a crowd this size(*). The DM Scranton people all told him not to do the twirl, but those people in the ballroom ate up that damn twirl.
(*) Michael's performance on stage reminded me very much of David Brent's turn as a motivational speaker on the British show. In both cases, we have men who understand human interaction largely through their consumption of pop culture, and who assume that if they just do it like they've seen in the movies, their audience will love them. The outcomes are different, as befits the two series' worldviews - the bleak British show has David perform to stony silence, while Michael is cheered - but neither gives their crowd anything of value.
Michael's speech also typified his blind faith in Dunder Mifflin - the only real family he has - in that he assumed these people had to either have a plan or have the ability to come up with a plan once they were sufficiently inspired by him. But they had nothing, and for a brief moment it looked like Oscar was really going to help save the day. But it felt funnier, and truer to life, that Oscar would be terrified of offending the corporate elite, leaving Michael there to face angry comments from the top brass(**). And then all that's left for Michael to salvage the day is to get back to the limo before anyone can cancel it on him.
(**) Once again, I blame David Wallace, who is clearly not remotely as smart as he and the other characters want to think he is. Not only has he (as chief financial officer) allowed the company to get into this mess, but time and again, the man places Michael Scott in situations where Michael Scott simply does not belong, and he should know better by now. Michael has a very valuable skill set, but it's a limited one, and every time David tries to stretch Michael beyond it, he gets burned.
With Michael, Andy, Dwight and Oscar dealing with the angry horde in New York, Jim got placed into a more Scranton-sized subplot, as Ryan's d-baggery finally came to a head and required dealing with. Interesting that Jim's solution to the problem - move him to an undesirable new location in the building - was similar to what Michael did to Ryan at the end of "Business School," but even rougher, because Ryan had clearly grown to enjoy and take advantage of being Kelly's cubicle-mate. Ryan's continued employment at the branch - assuming the company stays in business - should be a good source of tension between Michael (who has an unrelenting crush on him) and Jim (who hasn't liked the guy since Ryan's corporate wunderkind phase).
The one part of it that felt odd was Pam suggesting that Jim's incapable of yelling. We saw him yell at Michael in "The Lover," and I have to assume if he can lose his temper there, he's done it at some point in Pam's presence in all the years they've known each other. Jim's laid-back, but he's not that laid-back.
Still, a very strong episode, and I'm curious to see how the company - and/or the show - gets out of this mess.
Some other thoughts:
• Because the show so often does teasers that have nothing to do with the main story, Recyclops was a painless and funny way for the writers to meet the demands of NBC's Green Week stunt.
• Is it me, or was Andy's fake PA announcer voice supposed to be Ed Helms doing an impression of Ray Clay, the guy who introduced the Michael Jordan championship Bulls teams?
• Loved Erin's line about the limo: "It's like what high school kids take to prom on TV shows."
• Of course Dwight has a shirt guy in the Garment District. Of course he does.
What did everybody else think?