The Office "The Target" Review: The Redvining Craze

By Nick Campbell

Nov 30, 2012

The Office S09E08: "The Target"

What is it about Jim looking vulnerable and overwhelmed that makes an episode so sweet? I wish I knew. I like Jim and his pranks, the general confidence that feeds his humor, and all the things he does for Pam. But seeing someone get the best of him, make fun of him, knock him down a peg—ah! You can't see me, but I'm doing that thing where you kiss your fingertips and let it float away... you know, like what awful people do when they think they're gourmets of some kind.

I wonder if anyone still does that without being sardonic.

Anyway, despite the fact that "The Target" carried a pretty heavy (and hilarious) story between Angela, Dwight, and Oscar, the only shot in the opening that featured any characters was an old shot of Jim and Pam kissing. So let's start off by talking about them twisting in the wind.

I'm not exactly sure why Jim is worried about Stanley and Phyllis. Stanley has proven time and again that he can be made to do anything when plied with food (the man lives for Pretzel Day, remember?) and Phyllis has never been anything but a pushover. So how does Jim not see that he just has to spend a little to get them on his side?

The set-up was weak, but the payoff was strong. Similar to how I think a New Girl episode without Drunk Nick is a waste of our time, the addition of alcohol to Stanley and Phyllis made those characters a lot more interesting. The difference, of course, is that Nick on New Girl hasn't been mostly in the background this season and contributes to the show on a regular basis. I just really like Drunk Nick.

Stanley and Phyllis working together is a tandem you don't think about often since they've been overshadowed by the rest of the sales staff for, at the very least, several weeks: Jim and Pam have been the center of the universe for eight years, Dwight is a close second to Team Halpert for storylines, and Nellie has drawn a lot of focus this season in an effort to severely normalize her, leaving very little room for Stanley and Phyllis. Even Meredith has been getting more lines lately than these two. So seeing them not only overwhelm Jim but to do it with the coworker/friend chemistry you'd hope they'd have is wonderful. Also: the giant wine bottle. Get you some, Phyllis.

Overwhelming Jim is the most common way to demonstrate his vulnerability since it's the antithesis of his otherwise smooth nature, which is manufactured by affability and confidence, even if we don't generally think of him as a "smooth" character. We see him as down-to-earth, our proxy, which positions him to judge the others (since we, as an audience, laugh at these jokers, too). As few times as we see Jim fall flat, Pam falls even more infrequently as she's often one of the folks making sure Jim is where he needs to be.

Pointing out that Pam doesn't have a customer complaint was a great complement to her perfectionist artist block. Of everything in her arc, her attempt to be a failure is so true to character, and it's just nice to see her have a storyline of her own. Even though Jim and Pam share a common thread of winning after seemingly facing disaster, Pam's story is squarely centered on her and completely outside of her husband and, a rare combination we haven't seen since... since...

Somehow, the climax of the Oscar and Angela arc didn't step on Jim and Pam's fractured moments. The comedy overall was sharp throughout the entire episode, but it felt particularly good here, with Dwight vacillating between helping Angela and stopping a dude in child molester glasses from knee-capping his coworker, and Angela exhibiting the subtle violence that is her way. Oscar also did great during his breaking point after wrestling the lead pipe away. My only complaint is, why did the show have to introduce Trevor? Why couldn't it have been Mose?

For a story with a vaudevillian receipt gag and a dude carrying a pipe in a sandwich, this plot line also exhibited a lot of emotion and dealt with a relatively touchy subject without falling into being preachy. I'm not sure I can recall a show dealing with this kind of issue at all, let alone with this amount of grace. Talking about a closeted gay man who falls in love with someone who isn't the woman to whom he's married seems like it could lay the ground with hyperbolically dramatic mines and sounds more like it hails from Grey's Anatomy than The Office. It was handled well here. Angela Kinsey did a nice job of selling the spectrum of emotions that would come with finding out your husband, to use Dwight's words, is gaying a solid friend of yours.

"The Target" was an episode all about failure and feeling like the target of some vengeful enterprise. Whether it was Jim being taken advantage of by Stanley and Phyllis or Pam being sidelined by a fear of not being perfect or Angela being crushed by a marriage in shambles, each of them was picked back up again. Or at least Jim and Pam were. Angela, well, she had that awesome tag with Dwight at the end. That was amazing.

A sharp episode, completely absent of Schizophrenic Andy. Funny how that works out, huh?



NOTES


– Over the course of two episodes, the writers have really turned around how much Jim's new company needs him. I got the impression last week that his partners were ready to continue without him and that Jim would have to scrape and scratch to get back into their good graces. This week, the other members of the company turned out to be a bunch of yokels who named their venture "Athlead." How could they ever trust any of their decisions without a Jim smirk test?

– "Make it go wider. Up." The house of comment cards. A funny bit of business and yet another hint that Erin and Pete like each other. The pride everyone feels in accidentally (or intentionally) ticking off their clients is funny—and, weirdly—a bit of cynical work culture that hasn't been explored very much in eight years of this show. Pete flexed some of his leadership and affability muscle when he made Kevin feel better about knocking over the tower. It was like watching a guy comfort a child who's fallen down or lost a game by turning on that irresistible paternal charm. Get it? Because Kevin is an effing child now?

– Also, in case you didn't get that Erin thinks about Pete like that, we got to see it twice. The only way The Office could've drawn more comparisons between Erin/Pete and Pam/Jim were if the tower had actually been part of an Office Olympics.

– Dwight was great this episode. Not cartoony, not plain. The series of shots where he put the clues together that Oscar was the target, the mediator of arguments, the naked person in the paper supply fridge (what is that place that Angela and Dwight used to make such sweet, sweet love in?) was great. He also had that awesome line about how Angela broke her wedding vows first by sleeping with him. Way to give us a talking point, pal.

– Pam's snap is perfectly suited to her. It's bland enough to not suggest a raunchy side and ancient enough to demonstrate how out-of-touch she is with cool ways to insult people. Perfect.

– CreedWatch: Two lines this week! When Pete announced that the comment cards contained a whole lotta Creed: "Let's see what I did." And when Pam made the prank call: "Remember: You're a scumbag, so you think scummy thoughts. Like this." I love that man. I've been told he was also in Liz & Dick. Which is unfortunate. Because now I want to watch it. As a prequel to The Office.

– Funny as Creed was, the episode's end tag might've been my favorite in a long time. Why was Toby the go-to for that information? It doesn't matter. "When gay men have sex, how do they know whose penis will open up to accept the other person's penis?" If the term for two intertwined penises wasn't Red Vining before, it is now.

  • Comments (21)
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  • dref22 Dec 06, 2012

    Oh hey, the deleted scenes including the one with Jack Coleman is on the NBC site! Now I'm less pissed off! Yay!

  • logossun Dec 03, 2012

    Best episode in YEARS.

  • dref22 Dec 02, 2012

    I don't understand, was The Senator in this episode? Did I miss a scene? I'm seeing promotional stills on the NBC site and I don't remember seeing those scenes...especially that Jack Coleman one! WTF?

  • LittleLostPup Dec 02, 2012

    It's almost sad how much better the show is when there is no Andy. Heck, we didn't even have to see him in the opener!

    Jim and Pam's story lines were good, I think I forgot for a moment that they were two separate people, it was nice to see.

    I always love when Dwight shows that he's not really that bad a guy. That Angela, she has more screws loose than Dwight ever did, probably why they make such a spectacular couple. Loved the look on his face when she said murder. I still have not given up on it being his baby (there was more than one baby there, I don't think it's completely out there that he had the wrong diaper!) He always has such a soft spot for Angela and still manages to be so funny - "I don't get in your panties - I don't go vigilantes!"

    Hopefully Andy gets lost at see and we never have to see him again. Sorry Ed, but they just destroyed your character.

  • MiguelArmend Dec 01, 2012

    Honestly I hadn't seen such a great episode of The Office in a long time! I jumped straight on here to make sure it wasn't just me who thought this way. Honestly one of my favorites of all time. I love Angela so...I think her comedic ability is hugely underrated in this show.

  • mmmshuddup Dec 01, 2012

    Wow I've actually really liked this season especially compared to last season, which, admittedly, had a few episodes that were hilarious but for the most part was off track.

  • GHOST_DOG_DMC Dec 01, 2012

    The Pete character is just lazy writing, we don't need a Jim clone.

  • mmmshuddup Dec 01, 2012

    Yeah what happened to the other guy? I know they gave him a nickname too but I already forgot it. The two of them together were funny, but Pete alone kinda basically sucks.

  • LittleLostPup Dec 02, 2012

    Last time I saw him I think Dwight gave him to Jan. Oh boy, I wonder if we will ever see him again.

  • mmmshuddup Dec 02, 2012

    Hmm I don't remember that happening.. Did I miss an episode?

  • LittleLostPup Dec 02, 2012

    At the end of the Whale when Dwight is trying to get the white pages account - he goes and gets him and brings him to Jan because he knows she likes "younger" men. He tells her that he will be at her service for anything she needs... I haven't seen him since!

  • QuestionMarq Nov 30, 2012

    This was a solid episode. Without Schizophrenic Andy, the Office is doing much better. I did like Andy when he was anger management problem Andy. They should bring that back. It would be hilarious to see him punch a wall again.

  • angeleys151 Nov 30, 2012

    I love your positive reviews so much more, maybe because the episodes they go with were also enjoyable. Pete is soooo the New Jim. I melted just a little when Phyliss said "of course we will, we love you Jimmy" It was just so sweet. Angela being two-faced was awesome, and Oscar's reaction thinking he was in the clear was great too. Overall a terrific episode.

  • EsmeBuffay Nov 30, 2012

    I never stopped loving this show but now that it's great again I can love it proudly once more. I think Andy staying gone (I don't even care about an explanation, just have his boat capsize and he drowns, I couldn't care less) is the best thing that could happen for the show right now, and Nellie having minimal screen time can only be a good thing.

  • Dayman90 Nov 30, 2012

    I really liked this episode probably my favorite episode of this season. Which still ranks below any episode with Michael Scott, but the thing I liked most about this episode was that the humor felt appropriate and not forced. Dwight finally got back to being funny and the Phyllis Stanley Jim storyline was a great throw back.

  • Dayman90 Nov 30, 2012

    Also Nellie is probably the worst character on this show. So out of place and just not funny

  • NicholasCampb Dec 01, 2012

    They destroyed that character. She was great during the search for Michael Scott's replacement and as the "special projects" coordinator. But, when they brought her on as a season regular, they crushed her quirks and normalized her, which, oddly enough, makes her stick out like a sore thumb. They're trying to force us to like her. It's not working.

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