The Office "Suit Warehouse" Review: Erin and the Allegory of the Pens

By Nick Campbell

Jan 18, 2013

The Office S09E11: "Suit Warehouse"

Excise all the boring people and let the rest of the crazies loose—that was seemingly the intention of this much more satisfying episode of The Office. Last week, we had to suffer some sleepily slopped-together nonsense about lice and Val being one-dimensional and suggestive. "Suit Warehouse" was the treat for our torture.

It was a "drunk party" trope that set us up, except instead of booze, the catalyst was coffee. You may know Nespresso from the recent ads where Penelope Cruz claims that her kitchen is the best coffeehouse in the world because she has this gadget that makes single-serving espressos. And she should know because she has an exoctic accent. Here, Oscar was just short of a spokesmodel on The Price is Right.

Once the writers gave an excuse for Pam and Jim to be gone (with Darryl, who's already had his drunk scene this season) and for Dwight not to interfere with the descent into madness (because his help last week pretty much sealed the terribleness of that episode), everyone started abusing caffeine like some sort of Mormon Reefer Madness. And then there was a fever dream.

It's like the writers know we know THEY know WE know. They understand we're already in on the gag that Erin is repeating history, especially since the repetition is agonizingly slow but not nearly as compelling. So instead of paralleling Pam's position, Erin had an espresso-induced paranoia about stealing Pam's job. Stocking the pens, unstocking the pens, and Kevin's fighter pilot gunner contributed to the clearest metaphor of what I can only imagine is a hallucination in the middle of everyone else getting strung out on coffee.

Erin stumbled through a few lines in confessionals that attempted to match up the pen delivery with her feelings for Pete while Andy's away. That connection never quite got off the ground. There was something about betrayal and unpackaging the pens that correlated to seeing people behind Andy's back, but I really had to think about it to see any alignment. Coming right out and saying she was gunning for Pam's job, however—that was obviously more clear, but an actual connection, too. By performing Pam's role on the show, no matter how ancient, Erin IS trying to steal her job. Yes, we get it: Erin is a receptionist with a man who doesn't treat her right and who can be at least tempted by the gangly but sweet officemate. Just pair them up already and say Andy died falling off a ladder while chasing a parrot or something.

It's interesting, however, that the show brought up the fact that Erin isn't doing as good a job as Pam. It was subtle but present. When Pam came back, the office was in ruins and she wondered out loud what happened. "You left me in charge of the pens. That's what happened." I'm not saying that Pam would've stopped the carnage from happening (she might've gotten just as wired as everyone else), but Erin's admission that the torch being passed it what burned the place down, so to speak, is a small point to consider.

The fever dream of Erin debating her life while putting away pens was nestled inside a lot of nice moments: the hands-in moving to include Angela, the impulsive wreckage caused by strung-out coffee tweakers, and Nellie even having a funny ("The worst flavor so far is Alpine Select."). Well, let's just give that one to Nellie. She could use a win. All of it was capped off by my favorite part of the episode: Stanley saying "It's five o'clock" and no one being able to get out of the parking lot because they were all so grouchy from the caffeine crash. Purely for yuks or a statement about our nation's afternoon road rage issues? You decide.

The chaos of the office falling into disaster without an "office manager" juxtaposed well against the much calmer sequences. Dwight's was probably the weakest of the three as it dealt with the predictable (but no less funny) twists and turns. That Jim and Dwight used to pose as brothers when flipping family-owned businesses is absurd, but it gave us a shot of Dwight riding bitch on Jim's motorcycle so I'm letting it slide. It was nice to see Clark after being (wo)manhandled by Jan for a few weeks.

The little bit of character work that happened during the episode, though, belongs to the Pam/Darryl/Jim story. We got to see Jim in his new element, doing well and living the dream. We never got the betrayal storyline that The Office seemed to be angling for when Jim was first talking about this job, which put Jim and Pam squarely back in the bland territory. But I like this direction, too, since Pam having to leave her comfortable experience is much like what we're going to have to do when the show ends.

I would assume the Halperts will move to Philadelphia by the time the series concludes, but Pam having to uproot her family, quit her job, and move to an unknown city is frightening stuff. Right now she's comfortable living in her den of comfortable: She has a job with a bunch of insane people she's worked with for close to a decade, she and Jim live in the house Jim grew up in, she has routine. It's a cave that we, too, will have to leave soon as we move on from The Office. Pam's impulse to hold on mirrors how we may feel about the show, wanting it to continue for the bright spots we catch a glimpse of every once in a while but that would delay the inevitable. It's the end of an era, for both us and Pam, and it might be tough to think of what we'll do at 9pm every Thursday next season.

But I think we'll manage.


– I find it hard to believe that Dwight is like the rest of us who might slip in a "love you" at the end of a phone conversation. I have trouble even thinking he was saying goodbye.

– I still defend that Erin has been the most consistent character this season but this episode constantly tried to prove me wrong. The pens thing at the beginning and end was fine. Everything else was weirdly ham-fisted for her.

– Some choice one-liners this episode. Clark describing sex with Jan as a judgemental swarm of bees. Meredith with both "Talk classy, act nasty" and "Let's tear up the carpet!" Oscar assuming Meredith would mispronounce espresso was true to character. Essentially, everything in the actual office was worth watching.

– CreedWatch: It's been some time since I felt like Creed has had a line or two worth noting. After the hands-in, Phyllis asked where her ring was. "I'm sure it'll turn up." And when Stanley complained about Creed pouring his last espresso into the plant, Creed had a good explanation: "I saw the leaves twitch!" Fair enough, Creed.

– I liked Darryl's character nuance that he's bad in interviews. Clearly, he's very bright and a hard worker (we can recall the innovation he presented that put him in a position to screw up the regional manager interview), but a cool customer like Darryl trying too hard and wrecking his own confidence is good stuff. Flubs of innuendo ("I wanna go down on it—go down with it"), flop sweat, and forced attempts at being funny gave Darryl some good dimension. I'm not sure why he decided he would try to shoot that basket with a signed ball after the meeting was over and he was comfortable, but they had to end the act on a cliffhanger, I guess, and killing all the fish of a future employer might have made some people in the audience nervous.

– Also, Darryl sang C+C Music Factory when he got a win. Fitting that he sang the most renowned Jock Jam (other than "Get Ready for This" by 2 Unlimited) after getting a job doing sports marketing.

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  • LittleLostPup Jan 20, 2013

    In Dwight's defense - he had been hung up on and was doing an exaggerated goodbye to cover it up. And I will take it for the awkward "love you" and the look Pam gives him when he says it.

    I like the way they took the Pam/Jim story line, especially because even though I'm happy for Jim they did a really good job of making it feel kind of uncomfortable and away from home - made me want to get back to the office and really emphasize with Pam.

    They are definitely setting us up for moving on, both in the show and in real life.

  • angeleys151 Jan 19, 2013

    Loved the whole episode, except the Dwight/Craig stuff.

  • antdude Jan 19, 2013

    Meh episode.

  • Kids_Table Jan 18, 2013

    Darryl with the basketball was weird. I'm not sure by what logic anyone would have these three things in the same room: a mounted autographed basketball, a basketball hoop for playing, and a fishtank. Seriously, that's just poor planning, and in such a minimalistic space, those were like the only things in the entire room besides the table/chairs the interviewing committee was using.

    My second favourite thing the office does, after unusual pairings (I still love Pam/Meridith from last week), is when it builds an episode around tiny, common office events. A new espresso machine, a pen delivery. In recent years they take the commentary a little too far into crazytown for my liking (tearing up the carpet?), but I think those little details are a great way to start an episode, and I liked seeing them being used here.

    -I'm happy they seem to have stalled the dumbing down of Kevin's character. I like that he called Oscar out for YOLO.

    -I'm was happy they didn't put Clark into the mini-Dwight suit at the beginning of the episode, but disapointed that they did put them in matching suits by the end. That was a bit of an obvious gag.

  • rishabhpb Jan 18, 2013

    Clark was the funniest character in this episode, for me. Top work by Duke.

  • Dayman90 Jan 18, 2013

    I thought this was a pretty refreshing episode after a few horrible ones. Darryl was the bright spot for me in this episode. I went into this thinking "Okay Office make me laugh because I'm not excepting to" Darryl's whole nervousness was hilarious with the interviews and was relatable I loved the end with the fish it was sort of Michael Scott esque getting a little too cocky and then doing something over the top. It was surprisingly refreshing to see Clark back and I actually liked the Dwight Clark father son thing because it provided some nice laughs and funny competition. The whole coffee thing I'm split on... On one hand I find it completely ridiculous that everyone would act so cartoonish after drinking coffee. Now granted I've never had that much coffee but I felt like they were acting a bit too animalistic just for the joke. On the other hand there were some bright spots Creed, Stanley, Angela and Oscar were nice surprises but overall it still felt a bit cheap humor. PS I still hate Nellie hasn't changed. Also I read that Michael Scott will 100% not be back at all during the season I must say I am extremely disappointed by this news but his original send off was pretty nice.

  • JT_Kirk Jan 18, 2013

    Having seen other similar machines, I actually thought this was a fake brand they made up for the show, so they sorta failed to deliver on the product placement front, and for once I even had to sit through the commercials.

    I loved Stanley coming alive most of all, followed by Kevin's freakout where he stopped using his dummy voice and went back to season 1 voice (aka the actor's real voice). Erin's storyline felt undercut by Pam blowing off the request for help at the beginning, but was otherwise amusing - although I really have to slap down the writers for letting Erin be written as way too stupid to breathe one moment, and then able to use metaphors the next.

    I don't remember that Nellie line about "alpine select" at all, that's weird, I don't even get the joke now.

    Dwight seeing how nice the suit looked and ordering one himself, that felt like a little character growth to me, like he finally was able to let down his attitude problem that led to nonsensical preconceptions for a moment and own a moment of recognizing truths.

    Pam moping at the camera whenever something happens regarding Jim is the one thing that really grates on my nerves, it's setting up a confrontation so that they can have a final payoff and honestly it's just way too passive-aggressive for my tastes.

    Darryl pulling back from the edge of failure with binders full of collated data was awesome, then the cartoonish silliness of the missed shot just ruined that moment for me, but it was a big gag and a cliffhanger with an immediate payoff, so I guess whatevers.

  • BrookeDsBaby Jan 18, 2013

    I wouldn't say Nespresso is the leader in those machines but I think they're well known enough that enough people got the product placement.

  • JT_Kirk Jan 18, 2013

    If enough people already know the item, why bother with product placement?

    Anyway, you know what should have tipped me off? The brand name is too lame to be a phony.