Friday, May 02, 2008

The Office, "Did I Stutter?": These are due back Thursday

Spoilers for "The Office" coming up just as soon as I go take advice from an ugly scientist...

Hot damn, they're on a roll right now. Every episode since the strike has been brilliant in some way, and all in a different way. We're being shown every facet of the show and its characters, and I am loving every minute of it.

This was the first post-strike episode to take place entirely in the office, and therefore gave nearly everyone (except, as usual, Meredith) something funny to do. And we'll talk about Kelly's Will Smith story, and Kevin again getting too invested in office politics, and Creed's love of jazz in a bit. But what made the episode special was how it provided one of our periodic reminders of how Michael still has his job.

Michael's arrested development third-grade hang-ups prevented him from dealing with the Stanley situation immediately and properly -- Toby, though he turned evil later in the episode, nailed it with the comparison to his daughter not wanting to face the mean girls at school -- and the fake firing was the kind of boneheaded idea he comes up with semi-weekly. (Remember: the pilot episode climaxes with Michael pretending to fire Pam as what he thinks is a hilarious joke.) But after ducking the issue, then getting lots of bad advice from Daryl (more on that below as well), then having the fake firing blow up on him, Michael finally showed some backbone and a bit of self-awareness. He and Stanley reached a detente -- the best they can hope for, really -- and Michael was able to save face with the rest of the staff by getting Stanley's approval at the next staff meeting. (This, in turn, led to the hilarious final joke with Phyllis.) Carell and Leslie David Baker were both very good in a straight dramatic scene, and production did a good job of showing how the documentary crew slipped back into the office to film the private summit.

(Also a nice, subtle touch to show that Michael's not a complete idiot; unlike Andy, he didn't allow himself to be bullied by Dwight's "Do it! Do it!" sales approach, no doubt recognizing how much damage Dwight would perpetrate on the office under the emergency disaster plan.)

Beyond the rare moment of humanity for Michael -- and the rare bit of anger from Stanley -- "Did I Stutter" was just awfully funny in spots. This may have been my favorite Daryl-punking-Michael scene ever, between the reference to "Newsies" and Daryl's explanation of Fluffy Fingers. (And was I the only one waiting for Michael to resort to tickling when the fake firing didn't work?) Craig Robinson is always so marvelous in the way he keeps a straight face as he tells Michael these outrageous lies, and yet still lets you see how much Daryl is enjoying the power he holds over this fool.

Also hilarious: Creed again establishing himself as the office perv in his talking head about jazz; Kevin nearly matching him by revealing his librarian fetish to poor Pam; Michael having Pam translate Kelly's latest inane ramble (and Pam doing it perfectly); Andy and Angela (who now looks absurdly pregnant) playing the worst game of Mad Libs ever; the glee in Kevin's voice as he prepares for the match with the same level of enthusiasm he brought to a potential Five Families gathering; Dwight getting his first measure of revenge against Andy; and Jim's latest fake proposal in the meeting.

Meanwhile, on a slightly more dramatic front, we have the continuation of the Jim/Ryan tension from last week, with Ryan teaming up with Toby (and don't forget, Ryan has had a thing for Pam in the past as well) to put Jim on official notice in his usual d-bag management way. Jim looked mortified at the possibility of being fired from this job that he hates, and since the writers obviously aren't dumb enough to break up PB&J, I'm really interested to see where this is going. Ryan, despite seeming vaguely sober here, is clearly in crash-and-burn mode -- I predict he's going to wind up back in the Scranton branch office by the start of next season, having failed so miserably that no other company would touch him for an executive job or even lower -- so might we see Jim begin taking his career so seriously that he winds up with the New York job, after all? (We know David Wallace loves him.) If the show goes on long enough, will we eventually see every Scranton employee (except, of course, Meredith) wind up in Jan's old office? Or might we see Jim and Pam forced to separate professionally but not personally? Will Jim wind up wearing Dwight's old Staples vest?

I don't know, but I'm looking forward to it. "The Office" has built up an enormous amount of goodwill with me at the moment.

What did everybody else think?


Joan said...

Brilliant. What made the episode, as you so rightly noted, was the one-on-one scene between Michael and Stanley. Michael played that so perfectly -- he didn't push Stanley, because somehow, in his goober way, he knew that pushing Stanley would get him nowhere. Stanley, not being pushed, relented.

I also loved the new nexus of evil shaping up between Ryan and Toby, although I was disappointed that Jim didn't have a stronger comeback to the idea of being put on notice for his job performance. I recall that Jim was a top salesman, if not the top salesman given Dwight's insane competitiveness. One thing I know about salesmen is that they are hyper-aware of how well they're doing versus expectations, because everything ($$$) depends on that. So that tiny, tiny bit rang hollow, but then again, Ryan glossed over the details ("You can talk to Toby about it") so quickly, he didn't really give Jim a chance to respond.

Is it harassment to make Jim's life miserable because he got the girl? Hmmmm.

Anonymous said...

I thought Jim looked so mortified by Ryan's critique of his job performance because the d-bag was kind of right. Jim may be a top salesman, but we know he spends more time goofing off than actually selling. (And as we know from past episodes, a lot of his success comes from merely being there when someone calls to reorder, and not screwing it up.) That's why he lied to Pam about the conversation -- he only wants her to see the fun side of his slackerdom, and not the lazy-and-bored side.

The best part of this episode was Michael's monologue into the camera at the end. It was as dramatic as it was funny, and I think Steve Carell deserves major props for a fantastic acting job. It must be opportunities like that one that make it worthwhile for a major movie star (not counting "Evan Almighty") to keep his TV day job.

la fashionista said...

I think Jim didn't tell Pam what was going on for two reasons:

1. He doesn't want her to worry.
2. He just got in trouble for chatting with her...why would he walk right over and affirm what Ryan the D-Bag just pointed out to him?

I think it was a smart, safe move. But that's just my two cents.

Bruce Reid said...

It's funny what you get caught up in. I like Pam and Jim just fine as characters, and think the two actors have a nice, natural chemistry. But beyond idly hoping things work out happily, I've never been on tenterhooks about any development in their relationship.

But tonight, fearing we could lose Stanley? I barely breathed during the last act. Beautifully played by Carell and Baker.

Regarding the wet cement opening, I think it's become something of a one-upsmanship challenge in the writers' room to come up with variations on "that's what she said."

medusa said...

I never got the impression Jim was such a great salesman - remember, that one episode where he boasted that he made most of his commission every year on one sale? (The one that Michael kept interrupting him from making for one of his day-long meetings.) The sense was that Jim did just what he needed to skate by. And, Dwight, on the other hand, actually won the district sales award in the episode where he gave that speech.

I think that's one of the continuing ironies of the show - the seemingly business incompetent (Dwight, Michael) are the best at selling, while someone like Jim, who in many obvious ways is much smarter than either of them, doesn't have their sales skills.

Unknown said...

Not a big fan of this one. Stanley went from generally surly to kind of a d*** (See the bit about him going through wives like they're disposable). Kevin annoys my wife so much that she becomes angry when he's on screen. The Jim thing was interesting though. Toby had a quick trip back from Costa Rica I guess.

Anonymous said...

BigTed, I agree - I loved Michael's talking head at the end. It seemed to me that it was almost all ad-lib too; is there any way we can confirm that?

And once again, Jenna Fischer absolutely nails a reaction shot - it was a perfect "i'm concerned for Jim, but also realized he just completely lied to me" expression.

And I'm not sure whether my favorite line was "...Newsies...", or "Can you say...'These are due back Thursday'?"

K J Gillenwater said...

I think there are more competent Michael moments that we never see...(if this were real, of course). I think he wants to be liked so much as the 'cool boss' that he avoids acting like one as much as possible, but when he needs to, he can do it. But notice he tries to keep that side of himself sort of 'secret' from the rest?

I like those moments b/c Michael is not as stupid or incompetent as they want us to believe.

The stuff with Daryl was absolutely hilarious. Daryl does such a great job of keeping a straight face the whole time even while making up stuff on the fly. I kinda wish he and Kelly were still dating. They were such a funny couple.

I like the idea of Ryan losing his job and coming back to work at the Scranton branch. Perhaps the end of the season will have Jim being fired...until next season when Ryan's drug and other problems come out. That would be some serious drama. What would Jim do without his office shenanigans? He'd have to find a real job where he'd have to work 8 hours a day.

Another classic!

Anonymous said...

Fantastic!!! Loved it!

Some of Stanley's best acting -- and the writers resolved that situation perfectly. Whenever I think of Stanley, I always go bock to that scene when he was ona sales call with Ryan..."Hi, Hi, Hi, Hi, Hi...". OMG -- so funny when he was laughing at him in the car and Ryan was just staring out the window b/c he KNEW he was an awful salesman...LOL.

How about Jim fake proposing to Pam in the middle of the brainstorming? LOL

I also love how Michael just cringes whenever Toby walks into his office...he is so openly hostile towards him...and Michael doesn't care if Toby doesn't like him, but he wants everyone else to like him.

As far as Jim and Ryan...well, Ryan IS experiecning some drug induced paranoia. BUT, Jim has to know he has a point. Jim's coasting. He has this nothing job that he can do with his eyes closed. He just wants to be near his lady. I think Jim knows Ryan had a point and the dressing down seemed to rock his world a bit. It will be interesting to see how they handle this moving forward...

Eric said...

I also thought it was amusing that just before he's called in to the conference room (I think) we see a corner of Jim's screen and he's playing Solitaire.

And is Ryan really making slap-the-face executive money? In addition to his crappy studio apartment (which is still probably $1500-$2000 a month)he's got a Beemer (probably leased) and a coke-and-clubbing habit. I wouldn't be surprised if his fall comes when he's found to be embezzling, not just through general incompetence.

And I'm not sure about whether Toby actually has an active role in this reprimand, or if he's just not standing in the way of it. I tend to think the latter. And this may all rebound on Ryan. If Jim starts caring and putting an effort into his job, while at the same time Ryan's incompetence becomes more manifest to Corporate, and his behavior gets as erratic as Jan's was, it's not too hard to see what that could lead to.

Larry McGillicuddy said...

I thought this was a great episode as well, and agree that Ryan is headed for a major crash and burn.

Let's pretend that Ryan could even fire Jim without Jim's buddy Wallace intervening. Ryan's (and Toby's) sexual harassment of Pam is well documented on camera. It would be the easiest lawsuit ever. Jim and Pam (and probably Kelly) are the safest people at Dunder-Mifflin right now.

Anonymous said...

Loved Dwight's negotiation tactics (3,2,1... do it) and him flipping the X-terra. Good call by that commenter from a while back who pointed out that on the dinner party episode, that Andy and Angela were in a different car (that got the ice cream cone smashed into) from the aforementioned "X-Earth". A little continuity error perhaps.

Unknown said...

Just a couple minor points:

Alan - Ryan most definitely was coked up for his Scranton visit - he checked his nose in the rear-view mirror after parking the car.

There was a noticeable "awareness" to the documentary nature of the show in this ep, especially in the 'spying' on the Scott/Hudson conference. Probably because the credited director was Randall Einhorn, their regular D.P., who the cast & crew says "is" the "documentary filmmaker" on-set.

This one actually felt like it could've been a BBC ep.

dc said...

I seem to remember an Andy talking head/voiceover where he explains that he bought a Prius, trying to show his new outlook on life after exiting anger management. It was back around Safety Training from Season 3. Maybe it was a deleted scene. I guess he just got around to selling the X-Earth.

Anonymous said...

I had assumed that Toby had masterminded the whole Ryan/Jim situation - I don't think Ryan is insecure enough to drive 2 hours from New York to say that to Jim? Maybe if something more had happened between Jim and David Wallace to make Ryan more insecure, but based solely on the one conversation they had at a Christmas party? Plus, his faulting to "you can talk to Toby about it" combined with Toby's talking head that followed immediately after basically saying Jim deserved it (...because of Pam), I think Toby instigated and Ryan jumped on it, seeing it as an opportunity to put Jim 'in his place' even more. I'm going to have to give it another watch, but it was a great episode- glad to see a show set in the office again.

Anonymous said...

I loved how Stanley's 'support' of Michael in the final scene was also a carefully worded insult - 'this has the potential to be your best idea yet'.

Anonymous said...

Re: Ryan.
It's hard not to get the sense that the way they have portrayed Ryan this year has been inspired--have B.J. Novak act more or less like himself when they want Ryan to sound human or intelligent, and then have him go against all of his normal instincts to make Ryan as much of a clueless tool as possible. When Ryan was telling Jim he didn't care about his job and spent most of his time goofing off or flirting with Pam, that was the actor/writer; when Ryan did that STUPID segue about the Eagles, that was Ryan the Tool.
And the entire story with Michael and Stanley echoed the Michael-Ryan plotline in "Business School": Michael acts stupidly and gets called on it, sulks, then somehow says or does something that shows he actually has some neurons firing (moving Ryan to the annex instead of terminating him and making that "People will never go out of style like" there, clearing the room and saying he understands Stanley's beliefs but cannot and will not allow an underling to speak to him that way in front of everyone).

Anonymous said...

"And was I the only one waiting for Michael to resort to tickling when the fake firing didn't work?"

I was waiting for this payoff so much that it was distracting from the show.

Anonymous said...


And the Ryan/Toby tag team gang up on Jim is very corporate. Get the HR guy in the meeting to document the verbal warning given so that they can exhibit a pattern in the miscreant's (Jim in this case) job performance thereby making future disciplinary action more easily justifiable. BTDT

Anonymous said...

Pam wearing those glasses?? I howled watching that scene. It was like she was telling me personally to stop laughing.

I too like when Michael steps up and kind of shows that he does know what he's doing.Stanley relented - I liked that. I also enjoyed the business school episode where Michael dressed down Ryan in front of his class.You feel good for him when those scenes are there.... I think that also was the episode when Michael went to Pam's art show and told her how proud he was of her. Another one of my favorite Michael scenes.

A great episode tonight. wife is now hooked.

Anonymous said...

Don't miss the Dunder-Mifflin org charts on (, I especially like the "Jewish?" symbol next to Toby's spot.

Unknown said...

Kelly and Daryl aren't dating anymore?! I thought they were still together.