Friday, December 05, 2008

The Office, "The Surplus": It's on like Donkey Kong

Spoilers for last night's "The Office" coming up just as soon as I get a new Urklenomic chair...

"Motherf..." -Michael Scott

Has there ever been a funnier "Office" edit than the abrupt one from Michael swearing to Michael in the fur coat at the end of this episode? Just the perfect finishing touch for a terrific episode.

I always love "Office" stories that are largely about the minutiae of daily office life, like the war over the thermostat, or Kevin bringing the Five Families together to resolve the parking lot issue, or Stanley's overwhelming joy on Pretzel Day. The budget surplus was right in that wheelhouse, and provided opportunity for some human-scale Michael foolishness, as well as a wonderful look at what happens when Jim and Pam are on opposite sides of an issue.

We've seen Pam be ruthless before in getting what she wants (see her and Karen teaming up on the Committee to Plan Parties), but Jim is usually either on her side or an innocent, amused bystander. This was the first time in a while (if ever) where they were at odds on something like this, and it was hilarious to see them breaking out the big guns: Jim by buddying up to Michael, Pam by slapping on some lipstick and going all flirty about Michael's butt. It was nasty, it was disgusting, and it was brilliant.

Also wonderful were the demonstrations of just how badly the office needed replacements for both the copier and the chair. Michael gradually sinking while trying to give his inspirational speech to the troops was a particularly nice touch.

On the downside, I think I'm about ready for the Dwight/Andy/Angela triangle to end, even though it's clear from the developments here that it's not gonna. Outside of Andy randomly stepping in manure in the kitchen, I spent most of that subplot feeling uncomfortable.

Some other thoughts:

• Now, was Hank the security guard taking his sweet time because it was a tough choice, or because the Dunder-Mifflin office is so much warmer than his usual digs?

• The drop down from Oscar's 8-year-old explanation to the 5-year-old explanation was a good twist on an old joke.

• I grew up right near a Burlington Coat Factory store, and Michael is absolutely right when he says $600 in there would make you like a king. In fact, given the sad state of the economy and my need for some new shirts, I think I need to figure out where the closest Burlington is to me.

• What was grosser: Andy in the dung, or Michael pouring sugar into his soda can?

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

Pam's look when Jim left her the papers to be copied and she realized she didn't really win....Best In Show!

Oh, and of course, Creed's comment about Jim's balls..


Anonymous said...

Michael coughing on the phone for the second time was where I lost it.

Paul Allor said...

How awesome is it that Dwight charged Andy a non-refundable deposit?

And how doubly awesome is it that we found out in a throw-away line, rather than a big punchline?

The Chancellor said...

Great episode. The manure in the kitchen gag was great, and I will be using the, "you are a silent killer, get back in the annex," line liberally.

Anonymous said...

He didn't say it makes you like a king... he said it makes you literally a king!

Wendymoon said...

Loved the intro with the lemonade stand explanation and Andy stepping in the manure in the house.

Didn't like Pam trying to be flirty; thought she just got really annoying. (Although it was cute that when she fixed her hair and lipstick, Jim told her she looked really pretty.)

I haven't done the research, but was there really no way to get BOTH chairs and a copier? I know that would solve the issue too easily and not in a funny way, but $4300 seems like a lot to spend on chairs.

Steve B said...

My favorite scene was when Michael just walked from the break room to his office. People were opening doors for him, smiling at him, giving him high-fives, flirting with him. It was just so evident that it was the greatest walk of Michael's life. That's what he lives for, and it was great to see him get to experience it at least once. It was kind of sad that everyone was just using him, but he didn't know that.

Anonymous said...

The Andy/Angela/Dwight triangle wasn't as funny in this episode as the main story in the office, but Cousin Mose is always funny.

$4300 seems like a lot to spend on chairs.

Buying 14* chairs on a $4300 budget is only $307 per chair. You can get a decent chair for that price, but you're not going to get a truly Urkelnomic** chair like my beloved Aeron*** for that price.

*assuming I'm counting the number of non-temp D-M Scranton employees correctly

**My favorite line of the episode

***To paraphrase Charlton Heston, "From my cold, dead ass..."

Jackie said...

What I love about Michael pouring sugar in his soda was that it was just there. They didn't feel the need to call extra attention to it, which made it that much funnier and more bizarre. It reminds me of the best gags on "Arrested Development", like GOB eating uncooked spagetti.

Grunt said...

I think it also need to be pointed out that, although they could not show the can, it looked distictly like a DIET soda can that sugar was being added to.

Joe Reid said...

Oh, it was definitely a diet soda can. I know my Wegmans pop.

olucy said...

This was another winner of an episode. I agree--I also like the office-centric eps that focus on day-to-day life in an office. There's a lot of comic truth in those.

The Jim/Pam payoff at the end was great.

Anonymous said...

what bothered me about the Andy/Dwight/Angela scenes was this: shouldn't they all have been at work during the entire time? And no one called them out on it?

TMC said...

After the last episode, I complained about the way the writers were handling the Jim/Pam relationship, leaving red herrings all over the place and pulling these "oh no, they're really fighting for real now!" fakeouts.

This week, I think they handled the relationship in a much more interesting, believable, and better written way. There was conflict, but it was normal, believable conflict based on their characters (instead of some kind of contrived RomCom miscommunication). Even when they were on opposite sides of the struggle, there was no indication or hint given that it could be some kind of big catastrophic thing. It was just a couple, in love, being involved in a little day-to-day conflict. And it was handled perfectly.

And, yeah, the Dwight-Andy-Angela triangle is getting a little repetitive to me. Except for Andy's homage to Sideshow Bob (stepping on the rakes) when he stepped in manure in the kitchen. That was awesome.

Anonymous said...

"cow, goat or sheep? its not that hard."

"i would like a cat."

"cats dont make butter."

"i would like a cow butter sculpture of a cat!"

Anonymous said...

For some reason, Michael coughing on the tiramisu KILLED me. I'm also with the commenter who wondered about Dwight-Angela-Andy not being at work. The whole chair-copier thing might have been even funnier had they been there -- if that's possible.

A- episode -- would have been an A+ but I, too, think the triangle is on its last leg.

Anonymous said...

Loved Michael in the sinking chair.
Mine does that too!

Anonymous said...

i loved the shout out to burlington coat factory,that place is awesome."best lunch ever".funny.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone else feel that the tracking shot of Michael from the break room to his office was an homage to the classic Goodfellas scene? Loved it.

Anonymous said...

My memorable moment was both Meredith AND Creed blatantly playing solitaire. But yeah, full of gold nuggets this one was.


Anonymous said...

I thought this episode was pretty weak. Maybe it's because of the opening scene with the joke that Michael can't understand a budget surplus. I thought that was really inconsistent with the Michael Scott character, as we've seen him be a shrewd businessman before. I've always sourced his comical side in the work place stemming from not understanding how to act as a boss. So that really bothered me off the bat.
I thought the whole "tension" between Jim and Pam was silly, and the Dwight-Angela-Andy triangle is, indeed, played out.
The only part of the episode I enjoyed was Oscar asking what Michael was doing for lunch and seeing Michael's eyes light up.

Anonymous said...

I love this episode too! The budget surplus main plot is too funny for words. One other thing I really liked was Andy whistling Pachelbel's Canon in D and then switching to humming it. I've tried countless times in the past to whistle that same tune in its entirety, and failed miserably every time. I'm convinced it is unwhistleable. Either that or I'm just plain awful at whistling :)

Anonymous said...

Great episode. My co-worker and I talked about nearly all the parts of this episode as opposed to the episode before this one, which I just thought was lackluster.

leor said...

i also found myself wondering at one point, why not just buy Pam a new chair and get the copier...but then i realized it's a tv show, and continued laughing :)

Anonymous said...

One Paul Lieberstein a regular again, and if so, is it because the spin off is no longer a spin off, but a new show altogether that he is not involved with? Glad he is back, as I love the confrontations with Michael, but am just curious.

Anonymous said...

I thought that was really inconsistent with the Michael Scott character, as we've seen him be a shrewd businessman before.

Good salesman? Yes. Shrewd business man? No way. I found it very believable that he wouldn't understand the accounting documents.

Hilarious episode -- I was cracking up.

After the underwhelming episodes before Thanksgiving, I was glad both The Office and 30 Rock came back so strong.

Anonymous said...

what bothered me about the Andy/Dwight/Angela scenes was this: shouldn't they all have been at work during the entire time?

Yes, especially Dwight. His whole deal is that he never misses work for any reason. Right? It's possible they explained it away somehow that I missed. Between this and 30 Rock, it was one of those nights I missed a lot because of laughing, and will have to watch again.

barefootjim said...

This season has been pretty great, and one of the reasons that I love this show so much was that I could turn to my wife about halfway through last night's and say "they're doing a comedy episode!!"

Anonymous said...

I can't help each week (the last 3 seasons now) doing a comparison between "The Office" and "30 Rock' as to which is the funnier show - which one am I laughing out loud more at?

Two seasons ago, during the first year of "30 Rock", I'd call it essentially a draw. Last year, definitely "30 Rock" which apparently hit its peak (I sure hope not).

This year? I have laughed far more at "The Office" than I have at "30 Rock", any week. Quite simply, "The Office" not only has the better ensemble, but unlike Tina Fey and her writing staff, Paul Lieberstien and his writing staff actually take advantage of all their players.

For "The Office" to suddenly turn into the current 3rd and mediocre season of "30 Rock", it would have to make Creed, Phyllis, Oscar, kevin, Stanley, Tobey, kelly at all vanish, and only focus on Jim-Pam-Michael-Dwight-Angela.

I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment in here that the everyday little things of "The office" that involve the whole etam is much better and I also agree that the only average parts to the episode was the stuff at Shrute farms (with the exception of Andy stepping in manure - that was fantastic).

Anonymous said...

Loved the camera going back and forth between Stanley and the black security guard. It's the little things that let me know how much they care.

Jennifer Boudinot said...

I disagree with the first commenter--I loved the fact that Jim gave Pam his copying, but didn't like the look on her face. They had been delightfully competitive throughout the episode, so I thought her look should have been more of a good-natured "eff you" kinda look. Since she really wanted the chairs, I don't think she'd actually be THAT upset that Jim is making her do his copying, like she is supposed to anyway.

Anonymous said...

The best scene in the episode had Pam saying "It is on" with her usual smiling, pleasant expression and then saying "It is SO on" while almost face-morphing into a mirthless, no-bullshit terminator. Jenna Fischer's work there might be the best single moment of acting in this show's history. I laughed and was scared at the same time.
The structure of this story also worked by showing how karma struck back at Michael. If he hadn't gotten distracted last year by catalog models, angry Stanley, being an ass at a job fair, and romancing Holly Flax, he would have given Pam his chair and then we wouldn't have had Pam and Jim at odds. So nice that in the end, Pam got her chair, Jim got the last laugh, and Michael got a blood-stained $600 faux-fur coat he doesn't have the credit for.
I like that Dwight, the best salesman at the company, has no idea when he's overselling things once he's off the job. That scene worked because it was in character for him, plus the visual punch line had Mose throwing something that hit Andy in the head.
And any time they want Oscar to have a storyline, they should do it. He's as good at a consistent level as Steve or Rainn or John.

Anonymous said...

Evie- I thought Pam's face was much more stunned "You wouldn't..." look than negative or angry.

I think only Angela and Oscar really understand accounting in that office(poor Kevin). The others might understand some basics of economics, but not much more.


Anonymous said...

I loved the powder choking, too, especially because he was eating the cake Pam had thrown in the trash.

Anonymous said...

We all knew it was coming as soon as Toby brought it up, but Michael's "You are the silent killer" line was hilarious. As was Hank's instant "I know what a surplus is" response when Michael tried the lemonade explanation.

Just because they were under budget at the end of Dunder Mifflin's fiscal year doesn't necessarily mean the Scranton branch's sales were very strong, but Oscar's talk in the opener did seem to suggest they're doing well, at least for now.

Bix said...

Fun Burlington Coat Factory (not affiliated with Burlington Industries)...fact: I once spotted a pidgon and its poop in the store thanks to open windows. That may have been the same day that I found a purple sports coat there and wondered if anyone would actually wear it.

Anonymous said...

Number Five said:

We all knew it was coming as soon as Toby brought it up, but Michael's "You are the silent killer" line was hilarious.

And what it made it all the more hilarious for me was that Toby's suggestion really was pretty lame, and I actually agreed wholeheartedly with Michael's reaction. "Go back to the annex" was a great tack-on, too.

The Engineer said...

My favorite scene was when Oscar trapped Michael by asking what was 15% of $4300, and Kevin immediately responded with "Michael's a Genius!". Then even later he is giving Michael an impossible multiplication question.

Anonymous said...

One last comment regarding Toby's suggestion:
The deleted scenes strike again! In "Goodbye Toby", people who only watched the NBC broadcast didn't see Toby giving a witty, heartfelt farewell speech to his co-workers (who received it very well, to Michael's dismay) where he suddenly began talking about how important it was for the office air quality to be tested. So his request here fits with that continuity--not that it makes it any less of a left-field concern--and I'm sure we'll get more Toby-on-air comments in the future.

Anonymous said...

I liked this episode, but I got the sense that the acting, directing and especially the editing really made a so-so script shine.

I looked up the director, Paul Feig. This is his 9th Office episode - among his past efforts was last season's devastating "Dinner Party."

He's also done several Arrested Developments, one 30 Rock, one Mad Men, a few Weeds and...(wait for it)...the "Discos and Dragons" finale of Freaks and Geeks.

That's quite the resume, and definitely a name I'll keep an eye out for in future viewing.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Feig, in fact, was the creator of Freaks and Geeks.

Unknown said...

I thought Pam should have used her flirt on Toby instead of Michael. His endorsement of a new copier could have reverse psychologied Michael into choosing the chairs.

Dave said...

I didn't get it till somebody else mentioned it that the tiramisu Michael was eating was Pam's from the trash. But did nobody else catch the line about the Tiramisu having a little tiny hair on it... and Pam's reaction to that?

I'm betting Jim ordered Tiramisu for dessert, noticed it had a hair on it and, instead of sending it back, asked for a to-go box.

Anonymous said...

you have achieved something i never before dreamed imagining could be.

watching lots of tv (mostly good, can't agree with everything, ahem chuck) and writing about it and letting lots of other people see it.

you watch alot of tv. i thought i did but you are serious as a critic. all the essentially good stuff that is watched today that i don't all watch because i am comfortable in the zone of tv that i watch, especially from nbc (just office and 30 rock, no heroes or chuck for me)

anyway. congrats on your success. i am inspired. i found and old post about freaks and geeks, the garage door. good stuff. keep it up