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

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.


NOTES


– 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.

Comments (28)
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Stanley got lice??? Everyone knows that 99% of Black people don't get lice.
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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.
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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.
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"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.
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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....
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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.
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Good Review Nick, you nailed it. Could you please write all of Price's reviews for him?
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I actually entertained by this episode. The beginning wasn't all that, but the rest of it was good to me.
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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!
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I liked it. Beginning and ending weren't good.
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The episode was not very strong at all but not as bad as some others. The one thing I thought of though was couldnt it be feasible that Meredith gave lice to Pam and then Pam took it home to Cece? That should have been the ending after blaming Pam for the whole episode. Would have been much better
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This episode was pretty weak. I disagree on Dwight I liked him in this episode especially when he accidently poked a hole in his suit. But overall the episode and the show as a while has been WEAK for a good two seasons with the occasional bright spot. Everytime Nellie is on screen i want to hit the mute button she is incredibly unfunny and everything she does feels forced into making us think she's part of the gang. I never thought I'd say this but I kind of miss Ryan and Kelly they at least brought something to the table Phylis,Stanley,Jim etc have all for the most part been incredibly bland and I can only hope they turn this around at the end of the season. A Michael Scott cameo wouldnt hurt.
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show as a whole***
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Haven't really enjoyed this season, just watching it just to see how it ends, so I can understand your frustration on having to even review the episode.
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I thought this episode was hilarious, I very much enjoyed it.
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I agree with many of your points. Yes, the cold opener was bad, I don't think anyone can argue with that. In fact, I bit my lip today and guess what? It's not a big deal. I was surprised Creed wasn't utilized more/at all, I kept waiting for a Creed line every time he was on camera and was bummed every time one didn't come out.

I thought the handling of lice was overly cartoonish, as was Daryl breaking up then getting back together with Val.

However, I still enjoyed the episode. I thought this Pam was refreshing after being so boring for so long. It was nice to see her let her hair down at the end, and I enjoyed her thoroughly throughout the episode. Conversely I found myself disliking Jim. I thought the two different days showed a rift that is forming between them where Jim is being pulled into this awesome fulfilling life in Philly ultimately forgetting Pam (for a few moments) while Pam is stuck dealing with lice and baby puke, and temper tantrums at home and still going to a job that sucks during the day. (sorry that was such a long sentence)

I always have and always will enjoy Nellie every second that she is on screen...except maybe when she is making out awkwardly with Toby.

I didn't like the Erin/Pete thing at first, but in the last few episodes it's grown on me. In past seasons Erin has been very socially blind to many things, and I don't know if they've changed the character, or are tying to say something about how obvious the chemistry is by having her be so aware of it the last few times. Watching her hid from Pete at the end was almost heartbreaking.
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I'm pro Andy but they just need to write it all better. Andy and Erin can be great but they never made that truly happen so I don't care much now. Either go forward or stop. The new guy that likes Erin never goes anywhere but where's the dumpy new guy? Maybe I missed something but was he even on the Christmas ep.? Kevin and Erin are the best thing on The Office now but that's saying something from its hey day.

I've always thought since Jim and Pam got married that they're horrible. Or maybe it's just the boring married couple cliche.

In the end, the incredibly short run of UK Office is too little for my taste but this has dragged and dragged too long.
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The dumpy new guy went to go work for Jan a few episodes ago.
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I actually quite enjoyed this episode (Meredith was on fire) though the bug bomb gag was predictable and the cheesy CGI took me out of the show. I also didn't dig the fact that Daryl suddenly wanted to break up with Val -- that seemed to come out of no where, especially since a decent chunk of time was dedicated towards him trying to woo her. Consistency has definitely been one of the show's major flaws the past couple of seasons.

Side note: Pete should take his shirt off more often.
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Ok, what CGI are ya'll talking about? I didn't notice it.
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The smoke from the bug bomb.
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Ok I agree with you on some parts. The cold opening might have been their worst yet, after it was over I couldn't believe what I saw. They have had a few misses here and there, but they're usually very solid. This one not so much. I kind of wished they dove deeper into what gym was doing with Dr. J. Yes I know he is in a meeting with him playing basketball with his hero, but I would have rather more depth and business talk. Also, and maybe I'm alone in this, but I don't get the slack about the smoke bomb gag. I thought that seen was absolutely hilarious. Granted the second one was predictable, but even that one I found hilarious. Also, Merideth screaming at Pam to "shave her head!!" when the office found out it was Pam who gave everyone lice, was scary to the point of funny haha . Thats just my take on it though. And regarding Erin, this whole storyline with Andy completely dismissing her and pushing her into the arms of Pete is annoying quite honestly. Just a season ago Andy drove all the way down to Florida to pledge his love for her, now he couldn't care less about her? Come on, that just doesn't seem right to me. I know some characters change a bit, but this is a complete 180. Even before he left it seemed like he had completely lost interest in Erin. Poor attempt at finding the new Jim and Pam if you ask me. I think they could have found a better option if they were desperate for a love story.
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Awesome review: captured my thoughts exactly. This season has had some up and downs, but this episode was notable for its utter terribleness. I'll still watch the show, but hoping that they never again descend to that level of badness.
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This script was a mess, don't sell yourself short. There wasn't a single motivation that felt honest. Actually, Nellie's motivations here felt almost on-target, but only serve to lessen another character's life on accident.

Thanks for pointing out the horrible CGI smoke gag, I've never seen The Office not hit every visual effects gag they've tried for but this was a total crapfest, it looked like a South Park animation.

Erin's gotten tiresome, she's such a one-note character now, you give her a lot of praise but the writing and acting is played the same every time, it's not a highlight when you can take the same exuberance over nothing, the same pouty sadface erased by naive optimism, and jam it in any scene. She used to really WANT things, Andy was one of them for a time, now she's got him and is unhappy because the writers went and changed him into a different guy, so they take him out and give her something new to do but it's flat. Progress or realize what a mistake that'd be and stick with where she's going, but don't just repeat the same things every episode - even Pam & Jim's anti-courtship in the early seasons got stale and had to be moved forward.

Twitter is not a good gauge of anything.
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I know the Office isn't as funny as it used to be, but the comedy has given me so many years of good laughs and memories that I will watch this show until its deserved ending. The writers could have a bunch of crap but as long as the series finale is amazing, has a short Michael Scott cameo, and puts everything to rest (like Jim's business taking off), I will be happy.
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If anyone has ever worked in a place with a bailer, the scene with Kevin filling it with bubble wrap is absolutely hilarious
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Absolutely. I worked retail for a few years at a store that sold giant rolls of bubble wrap and I wanted to do that so bad. Just once.
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I didn't think it was "amazeballs" but I enjoyed it, I saw Dwight bug bomb himself coming both times but absolutely burst out laughing both times. I always enjoy the Office, not always as much as I used to (season seven in general was a notable low point) but it's always a good time in my opinion.
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