A review of last night's "The Office" coming up just as soon as I send out a snail mail blast...
There were a lot of good things in "Secretary's Day," including maybe the best showcase yet for super cast addition Ellie Kemper, and a fine subplot about Oscar's joke video about Kevin. But several pieces never quite fit together well.
The Cookie Monster video has irrevocably changed the way I will hear Kevin's voice from now on in the same way that I can no longer watch the "Parks and Recreation" credits without singing "Jabba the Hutt!" That whole subplot was a very funny portrayal of an office joke run amok, and had a nice payoff with Kevin taking control of the joke by turning everyone's impressions onto Gabe. And, for that matter, it was good to see Gabe doing something other than playing middleman between Michael and Jo Bennett. The idea of him as the corporate bogeyman whom no one actually fears because they can see he has no power is very promising, and I look forward to more of that.
But when Kevin went to Gabe to complain about the video, all I could think was, "Why isn't he going to Toby?" Had they done this as an episode where Toby wasn't at work that day, it would have been fine, but once we saw him at the fax machine, it became a distraction. Toby eventually figured into the story (by giving Jim and Pam the ammo to get two extra paid vacation days), but overall it felt like they shoehorned Gabe into what should have been a Toby story because they needed to give the new guy something to do (and/or because, as one of the showrunners, Paul Lieberstein has less time to appear on camera these days). It's something that could have been easily fixed either with Toby absent all show, or even with a brief scene of Toby sending Kevin to see Gabe because he didn't want to deal with the problem, but we got neither in the final cut.
As for the Erin story, it worked if you were able to completely forget every previous Michael/Erin scene. Until now, the idea has been that these two have a mutual admiration society - that Erin not only worships Michael, but that Michael in turn is grateful to finally have the fawning sidekick and partner in crime he always hoped Pam would be. Here, though, Mindy Kaling's script tried to portray the relationship as entirely one-sided, with Michael barely tolerating Erin's presence as a favor to Andy. As much fun as some of Erin's non-stop chatter was ("then it became a full Taco Bell and I couldn't keep up"), and as well as she played the freak-out at the restaurant (pictured above, with Erin trying to turn her hair into her room), it wasn't until the final scene on the bench that any part of the episode resembled the previously-established dynamic between those two.
Still, it was good to have the Angela cat finally come out of the bag, and funny to see Erin throw a cake in Andy's face, and also to hear the phrase "a novelization of the movie 'Precious, Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire,'" but as with the Kevin subplot, this needed some tinkering.
A few other thoughts:
• I was afraid to go back and freeze-frame, but did we actually see Meredith's exposed breast in the scene where she was using Pam's breast pump? Also, should I even ask why she would be using it, or just block the whole moment from my memory?
• TV-savviness: Dwight thinks of "Sesame Street" as "that program where all the puppets live in the barrio," while Gabe suggests everyone leave the impressions to "the pros at 'Mad TV.'"
• I should also say that I liked how Kaling's script and Steve Carell's direction gave us a slightly more grown-up, recognizably human Michael, after we've seen a few episodes this season (including the Kaling-scripted "Manager and Salesman") that set him at a more cartoonish angle.
What did everybody else think?