Thursday, April 05, 2007

"Usher Jennifer Hudson Kapoor": The Office

The Office returned from a something-like-six-week break with an oddly plot-ful episode. While there was a lot of funny stuff in the episode, some of it felt a bit forced, particularly the incident that incited the other events that set off the episode. Still, having The Office back, even if for an episode that wasn't wholly successful, was great, and I look forward to the episodes that close out the season.

The best stuff in the episode was the comedy. The workplace situation feels like it should be so mined for laughs by now that they'd have to go wackier and wackier to make us laugh, but they keep finding new ways to stretch believability but only just enough. Michael buying a woman's suit? I'll buy it, especially when the rest of the office finds out and mocks him for it (I loved the shot of the pants without pockets and Michael reading off the suit's brand). Michael's negotiation tactics and Wikipedia use were also funny.

Another favorite plot was Toby's growing frustration at having to sit by Ryan and Kelly, who have one of the more tempestuous relationships (completely played in the background!) on television. Their argument over what Ryan would have done in a life-threatening situation was great (particularly how he laughed when the kid on the Ferris wheel dropped a milkshake on her). And Angela's growing, giddy passion over Dwight's act of heroism was perfectly played by all involved. It also provided a great way for Jim to pay back Dwight. And, of course, Creed's long story (completely inaccurate) about the attack was hysterical.

And, of course, Andy returned from anger management but Dwight got him with the pepper spray.

What didn't work as well for me were the odd dramatic elements of the episode. The initial attack by Roy on Jim just felt like something out of a telenovela. The fallout from the attack was played pretty well, but it felt forced in many ways, especially as it seemed designed to force a wedge between Jim and Karen and push Pam and Jim together (seriously? Roy would tell Pam to go for it with Jim?). We're reaching the point in the will-they/won't-they cycle where we begin to see the endgame in involved getting the two regulars get together. Still, the scene with Roy and Pam in the diner wasn't bad, all things considered, until it went to Roy encouraging Pam to pursue Jim. His sense of loss was palpable, and David Denman has always shown us the sheer unexamined quality of Roy's life and how things can completely blindside him because of that. I hope this isn't his last episode on the show.

But, because I like to save good things for the end, I loved the way that Michael tried to get Jan to give him a bigger raise by bringing up personal details (and then how she finally gave in and gave him a bigger raise than she thought she should, mostly because she found out how bad his day had been). Their fight and gradual reconciliation at the negotiation table was well-done, and I'm starting to enjoy the Michael and Jan pairing more than many of the other pairings.

Still, this episode pushed the plot wheel further up the hill, and I hope they crank out some truly hilarious episodes for the final run.


benaiah said...

I thought it was a great episode on the plot side, but then I guess I am really invested in that part of the show. The Jim and Pam scene in the break room was pretty devastating. She attempted to apologize, not just for the attack but for choosing Roy in the first place, and Jim denied that she was even sincere. Pam has jerked Jim around quite a bit and this season has been the mirror of last season where Jim constantly was hurt (think Booze Cruise) where Pam is the odd man out (the hilarious crying scene with Dwight asking "You're really PMSing pretty bad, huh?").

A lot of people are saying Karen is a nag and insensitive with her "Go sell some paper so we can go on vacation" line, but I took it the opposite way. Their relationship is at its strongest and all those late night talks have given her a sense of security, so she can afford to be flip. That said, she will ultimately be the odd man out.

I don't see how Roy's attack is forced. He destroyed a bar last episode, so clearly he is a little unbalanced. Still, all in all it was a pretty hilarious episode, and I am at the point where I love the show pretty unconditionally. It and 30 Rock will be the best comedy one two punch since Frasier and Seinfeld (though I don't know if those two were ever back to back).

Todd VanDerWerff said...

I think you give the writers too much credit for Karen. They're clearly trying to show us how she's "wrong" for Jim. Still, I wouldn't have the same problem if it didn't come at the same time as Roy randomly turning into an OMG! PSYCHO! I could buy Roy overreacting at the bar because he was drunk, but his blatant assault on Jim REALLY seemed forced. In the office? Really? He couldn't wait? And why hasn't this come up before?

If Karen's foibles were being dissected earlier or later than this, it would feel less like the writers trying to break up the couples to get the central couple together. As it is, it feels like forced drama designed to achieve a desired result, which is disappointing from a show that's usually so smart about human behavior and relationships.

Todd VanDerWerff said...

Also, Seinfeld aired before Frasier for one season only -- the former's fifth and the latter's first.

Kenny said...

I kind of felt like that Karen line was meant to make us see her as wrong for Jim, but it just made me like her more. Her tough talk was what Jim deserved to be told at that moment--why should she indulge his obsessing over this? This season, I've felt like Jim belongs with Karen because Pam no longer deserved him, but pretty soon I'm going to start feeling like Jim doesn't deserve Karen. If they don't end up together, the one consolation is that Karen deserves better.

Kenny said...

I say "if," even though, of course they won't. But I'm rooting for Karen over Pam anyway.