The Office "Lice" Review: I'd Rather Have Actual Lice

By Nick Campbell

Jan 11, 2013

The Office S09E10: "Lice"

Before we begin, please allow me to remind you that I've been so very nice to The Office lately. The show gave us a more impish than admirable Christmas episode this year but I had good things to say. The absence of Andy has been a boon to the program and I've made sure to note that. Dwight and Angela providing us with the term "redvining" is one of the best moments we've had in many moons.

Which is why you should know that I feel no malice when I say that "Lice" was terrible.

Or maybe it wasn't terrible. Maybe this was an episode that actually took place in some Fringe-like alt-verse. That's the only explanation as to why Val was reduced to an impressionable pawn in Darryl vs. Staff sexual politics. It's the only reason Pam would be such a disaster simply because Jim was gone. It's the only possible conclusion you can draw when after seeing Creed NOT be the funniest part of the show. Like, there was a scene where Creed was being smeared with mayonnaise and, somehow, it wasn't hilarious.

I know this isn't how TV shows work but how I picture some producer chewing on the stub of a cigar pulling Niki Schwartz-Wright aside and saying, "I have three things for you to keep in mind as you move forward with this "Lice" script. One, I want a couple of the broads to karaoke the hell out of Cyndi Lauper. Two, in order to get John Krasinski back this season, we had to promise him an episode with Dr J. And three, I want you to write in some CG so we can throw my cousin Lenny some work since his side special effects business, Industrial Lenny and Magic, has hit some hard times. Now get out there!"

To be fair to the writer, I'm not even sure it was even entirely the script's fault. All of my least-favorite performances by the characters were here. As much as I like it when Pam doesn't have a storyline where she can smirk at everyone from her high horse, the frantic "I wish Jim were here" excuses were out of place. Dwight always walks a line between cartoon and realism, but he swung way too far into the territory that is known as "annoying caricature." And the writers just need to quit with Nellie. Isn't there a boat trip she can go on?

Now. We might not agree on how weak this episode was and I'm fairly certain there are some of you huffing and puffing louder than old men during Question Time in British Parliament. I'm willing to concede that there were some bright spots: Angela waterboarding Oscar, Kevin putting bubble wrap in the baler, and, of course, Meredith shaving her head. Though I'm surprised that NBC didn't try to synergize the latter with Parenthood and Kristina's own chrome dome.

The other highlight has been the most consistent part of the season so far: Ellie Kemper playing Erin. No matter what kind of material she's received this season, she's played it as funnily and as warmly as anyone else. Erin jumping on Stanley's back, the mayonnaise explanation, "he got to purple." While everyone else seems to find peaks and valleys, Erin remains a constant, even if she has to be a part of the Courtship That Would Never End.

Watching Pete and Erin not date each other while Andy is away makes me curious as to how we were able to stand 28 episodes of Jim and Pam and still want more. I'm not sure if it's just because I know this storyline can't continue for much longer (since we only have the rest of the season for it to wrap up) or because I know the end game is drama for when Andy eventually (groan) returns, but it's starting to get repetitive. I think part of it is that the chemistry isn't the same, but another part of it is that it feels drawn out. Instead of being incrementally teased, we're in a holding pattern. Each passing episode is less like an installment of a great love and more like a plea to 'ship these two. And it's going to take more than a lingering arm while watching Die Hard and some quick shots of trying to pull off Ed Grimley mayonnaise hair for me to buy in. Or maybe I already have and I just want it to progress already.

The bottom line on this episode is that it wasn't nearly as sharp as others we've seen in Season 9. The jokes were predictable and the execution was only mediocre. There was no button to Jim's day with Dr. J (it was supposed to contrast with Pam's day, but did nothing in the end), the characters didn't behave like themselves, and the show wasted our time with punchlines that weren't funny the first go-round (did we need to see the smoke bomb gag twice?).

I know not every episode can be a winner but now that we're back from the winter hiatus we're just counting down the episodes until the end of the series, and every week counts. This one was weak sauce.


– It's depressing that Meredith's bald cap was better than Kristina's on Parenthood. I guess when you got that Office paper, you can get the real deal.

– One other positive to note is an attempt to create a story between two characters who almost never hang out together: Pam and Meredith. It was only slightly hackneyed and gave us the phrase, "Shave her head!" Maybe the writers should look into some other team-ups between people who rarely spend time together: Stanley and Oscar, Kevin and Dwight, Toby and anyone who's not Nellie.

– The teaser this week was... weird. Jim biting his lip? Have they run out of material for the cold opens? Also, Kevin knows what he's talking about with regard to the NBA. It was good to see him get a few lines that betrayed his reputation of being a complete loser simpleton. He also knows the Hawks are garbage!

– Reading some of the tweets from Kate Flannery's Twitter reveals that some folks thought "Lice" was a hilarious episode; a few are even saying it was the best ever. I'm willing to learn. If you thought this episode was amazeballs, let me know about it in the comments.

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  • aishamayfielddioum Feb 01, 2014

    Stanley got lice??? Everyone knows that 99% of Black people don't get lice.

  • niedermayer27 Jan 17, 2013

    Not a great episode. But this review is completely over the top. It wasn't as bad as you make it out to be. In fact, Season 9 is not as bad as everybody has made it out to be.

  • danielamaya52 Jan 15, 2013

    I completely agree with this entire post. Everything felt so off balance. It was like watching people try to make a plate tower and the plates keep sliding out of place and breaking. I almost feel bad for everybody that works on this show. From the cast, to the writers and producers. It's a old dog waiting to get put down. It should've ended in the logical closure point "Goodbye, Michael" but instead has been dragged into what feels like 2 seasons of alternate endings.

  • Vincentfr79 Jan 14, 2013

    "I'm not gonna lie... LYE!" I'd a few good laughs, not the worst episode but definitely not the best. Erin confusing Pam for Meredith was funny, I would have expected Pam at the end of the episode to realize that she was becoming like Meredith and give us a typical Jim look.

  • OdumC Jan 13, 2013

    If there ever needed to be an argument for why the Office should end, "Lice" settled it. First off, stop blaming Andy. Andy can be funny, Andy HAS been funny, it's the writers falling down on the job. they're tired and just phoning it in. the bug bomb was a prime example. the first time I saw it in Andy's office I did a tired sigh and thought "Gosh I wonder what could go wrong.. OH LOOK IT WENT OFF!!" /eyeroll then at the end, "Wow.. really? they're going to do it AGAIN? yep. there it went."

    Besides being with this show for it's entire run, Erin is really the only reason I still tune in and they're even ruining her with all this Pete garbage. We've seen Andy go through some rough times through the years and personally, I was pulling for him to finally get the girl. now to just mangle his character into some inconsiderate jerk just to push her to pete and try to clone the Jim/Pam dynamic... Not cool. if the writers don't even care about their characters, Why should I? Who really wants to see a character we all know (Andy) lose his long standing love interest to a guy that just showed up and nobody knows?

    They honestly should have saved Jim/Pam having kids til the series finale because that was the death knell on them being interesting. now everything is about the kids with zero time paid to their chemistry, pranks, anything that made them fun and interesting. trying to make Jim/Pam 2.0 at gunpoint at the expense of all the characters involved isn't the solution and as the series winds up, why bother?

    "Ok.. he got to Purple"... God I love Erin....

  • youngnan Jan 13, 2013

    The best part of the episode was Nellie narrating her warped version of the future to Val.

    And Dwight was good with his jar of Lye and insect grenades.

  • GHOST_DOG_DMC Jan 13, 2013

    Good Review Nick, you nailed it. Could you please write all of Price's reviews for him?

  • JustinJohnson9 Jan 12, 2013

    I actually entertained by this episode. The beginning wasn't all that, but the rest of it was good to me.

  • Kids_Table Jan 12, 2013

    Nick, you have obviously never played the single parent game, and never had to deal with a kid with lice. Combine those things and it's not a surprise that Pam's ass was thoroughly kicked. While yes, I agree the Darryl storyline was a bust, Pam being a disaster was completely belivable and contrasted with Jim's awesome day, I thought this was the best episode The Office has put out all season.

    Angela and Kevin were on their game, and Oscar's new dynamic with Angela was refreshing, it's nice to see him taken down a peg. I think Angela generally works better as an antagonist than a love interest. Erin was as likable as always, and the fact that she had some great bits before the Pete scenes made it seem like the relationship wasn't as forced as it usually feels. She was being used to her full potential (even if Pete wasn't).

    Pairing Pam with Meridith at the end was great, I think The Office is at its best when they pair together unusual couplings. More of that please, Office writers!

  • antdude Jan 12, 2013

    I liked it. Beginning and ending weren't good.

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