The Office "Paper Airplane" Review: The Power of Love

The Office S09E20: "Paper Airplane"


Ah, miscommunication between lovers: the bread and butter of the sitcom. It was what drove a large part of "Paper Airplane" in the continuing Friends-ification of the The Office (where principal characters pair off with each other). Three couples, four if you count both of Dwight's, struggled to understand one another in the face of misinterpreted cues, ambiguous gestures, and therapy-inspired language. Most of which was surprisingly rote even for a late-series episode of The Office.

Dwight's situation felt the most trodden. The show's writers have lazily tried to keep the momentum going for Angela and Dwight since "Moving On," with a bit of jealousy from Angela upon meeting Esther, but since "The Farm," Dwight hasn't really mentioned that night on the porch. Combine that with the show's scheduling ("Moving On" was in mid-February, with a couple breaks in between) and it feels like a long time since Dwight and Angela as an item was relevant. But here we are, as the series winds down, the show begging you to remember and feel the feels.

That's not to say that, by now, we don't expect those two crazy kids to get together and for Dwight to find out her giant baby is a Schrute baby. In fact, if it weren't for the history, that child, and the chemistry between the two, the actual story would be downright confusing. The Office is leaning heavily on the persistent viewer to connect the dots after seemingly abandoning the arc entirely.

Now that they're trying to revive it, though, it seems so basic. Dwight is into Angela! Oh no, Esther showed up early! They were in the same room at the same time! They might suspect something! It reminded me of "Casino Night" with Jan and Carol, except Michael's handling of that situation was intentionally middle school, given that he's an emotional child. Dwight trying to dump the competition for Angela while being uncomfortably affectionate with Esther seemed out of character for a man who generally pursues what he wants. It's not the juggling or the waiting around for Angela that felt weird so much as his being uncomfortable given his proclivity to conviction.

This is also in light of Esther being a little too underdeveloped to count as any real competition for Angela. The Office trades in this underdog love story where the meek shall (eventually) inherit the person for whom they pine. That was simple with the show's other examples because the other person has always been kind of a jerk: Roy (vs. Jim), Andy (vs. Dwight), Gabe (vs. Andy), Val's boyfriend (vs. Darryl), Andy (vs. Pete). But Esther has only three qualities: She's pretty, she's nice, and she's a farmer. She's an obvious placeholder, for you and me as qualified experts on The Office who know Dwight and Angela's history and to the casual observer who basically only know her as a face.

The Pete and Erin story was a blip by comparison, but worth mentioning. With the innocence she projects (which walks the fine line between the juvenilia of other characters and the sweetness of the mentally handicapped Kevin), it's sometimes easy to forget that she has a dark history to her. She's kind of messed up. Seeing this competitive side wasn't necessarily unmotivated, but it was jarring. It was unattractive and complicated, which is deep for a character on this show—particularly one who is basically support for the main cast and who's been the object of affection for so many characters on this show. Erin showed honest concern for not letting Pete see that dark side of her, to turn him away. The writers didn't do more with it, unfortunately. Though it was hard for her to achieve more after that tangle with the box.

The most important storyline of the episode, however, was Jim and Pam's escalation. We've been debating for months how the show has been demonstrating Jam's martial struggles, how you have to take their small communication missteps and grade them on a scale, given that the mere fact that they're not on the exact same page at the exact same line means trouble. And while we've noticed all along how they've found themselves in a rough patch, it wasn't until later in this episode that we really understood how far they've fallen.

Rock bottom for Jim and Pam is having to use other people's words to convey what they mean. They are a couple that is used to exchanging conversations in a look and syncing their movements with each other's needs. Think of the far-away high-five or the sarcastic banter or the very idea of Jim and Pam; to have to resort to a different vocabulary in order say what they mean is a great indicator of how out-of-sync they are. Their subtlety is lost and the certainty of each other's motivations has basically evaporated. But I didn't even put that all together until the final moments of the episode.

It was a little saccharine to insert a scene from the wedding in there, but I'll allow it. Jim bending down to let Pam know that he wants to continue doing this, the desperation in his face when he was leaving the building and when he hugged her goodbye was heartbreaking, and her chasing him down might as well have been her running through the airport in the final act of a romantic comedy. When he hugged her and the scene from the wedding played and she melted back into his arms and they kissed, it was definitely a warm moment. But it wasn't until they spoke and said they loved each other that it all assembled for me, how distant they were, how cold they were, how close to the brink they came.

The only surprising thing was that it came so far from the ending of the series. I expected them to drag it out a little longer, even for Jim and Pam to watch the documentary and realize their love for each other while watching their own history. I'm not upset by the timing. Just surprised.

The Jam story was probably the only bright spot for me in an episode generally devoid of chuckles (outside of Erin losing her shoe in the box). Not a terrible episode, but basic and a little boring. We have three weeks left. Let's make it count.


NOTES

– Did Angela take a pay cut recently and I didn't know about it? She used to live on her own with a number of cats and there were no concerns for her well-being. Now she has to live in a studio apartment and steal toilet paper? I don't understand.

– I feel like it's been a long time since Pete's had more than a single line in an episode. He must be hanging out with the Stan, Phyillis, and Meredith club of background characters.

– CreedWatch: Melon tossing and the ability to turn $2,000 into $800. I'm a little surprised Creed didn't try to cash the check himself, but that might be a Kevin move.

– Kevin, by the way, is officially a kindergartner. He can't fold paper, uses paste, and writes with a novelty-sized pen. They should just put him in a beanie with a propeller and have him spin around in his chair for an entire episode.

– I didn't mention Andy's story because his story was a blight of absurdity in an otherwise heartfelt episode. Unless we were supposed to honestly feel bad for him that he couldn't squirt water in his eye. Darryl saved those scenes for me because I don't have a sympathetic bone in my body that wants anything to do with feeling for Andy. You almost want his acting career to take off so he can disappear again.

What'd you think of "Paper Airplane"?

Comments (24)
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Got a question: Anyone know why Toby crumpled up his plane and walked away when he was doing so well? I watch The Office for comedy and this was not a funny episode. The only thing that made it bearable was the Jim/Pam story, but really that type of story line needs to be balanced by a really funny b-story.
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The best thing Catherine Tate has done for The Office was to wear that referee outfit
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LOVED the outfit!!
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Other than being a terrible character that nobody cares about, why on earth did Toby just screw up his plane and walk out of the tournament?? So much about The Office doesnt make sense to me anymore, I genuinely cant wait for this show to be finished so that I can go back and watch Series' 1-5 again and pretend the rest never happened. Erin and Clarke are the only characters that are worth watching for anymore. And obviously Creed.
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I feel like it could be symbolic for how most people feel about the last season of the office. Giving up, not worth fighting for, it's ending anyway, why bother? He didn't want to stick it out in the competition, similar to how a lot of viewers are abandoning the show. Even after being the one to apologize after he got hit (anyone else remember Pam being nicer?), he doesn't feel like the competition is worth it or fun anymore. Or maybe it represents Paul Lieberstein's previous position as the showrunner and his failure to make The Farm an interesting plot. There just feels like a whole lot of giving up going on.
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Angela didn't take a paycut, she had a baby. A baby that is only moderately expensive in and of itself (although buying diapers is no picnic), but one that requires childcare. So there goes half your paycheck. It's a little surprising she isn't receiving alimony (were her and the Senator actually married?) or child support, but not inconceivable.

CreedWatch: On the screencap up there is there is that a 'DQ' next to Creed's name in the tournament roster? Disqualified? Nice touch, office.
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Michael, Ryan and Kelly @ 20:36... \m/
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Right now I'm just a former huge fan of Office just paying respect to a dying friend. :P Jim and Pam figuring things out is a good thing but too late for my taste. I finally see hope for Clark but why so late? Pete is a waste and enemy to me for being with Erin, haha. Dumb match and never really shown.

Dwight has always been the most consistent character and the glue in a way. But he mainly played off best with Carrel. It is weird how Angela is all of a sudden poor.

Dumb Kevin was great but this stuff I just don't get. :P Almost over so I'm guessing they'll screw that up but from the one news brief maybe Carrel could come back, not sure.

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The closing moment with Jim and Pam was the ONLY redeeming part of this episode. When he was desperately hugging her, not wanting to let go, refusing to let their relationship drift further apart, I'm not gonna lie, it really touched me.

The rest was just awful. I know it's a comedy, but can they find a way to kill off Andy? I don't care if the show is almost done. Copy-cat Scranton Strangler, anyone?
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For the way the writers have destroyed and ruined Andy I agree. An incredible waste of Ed Helms talent this season. Absolutely no clue why they did this to him.
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omg this reviews are far much longer than the real episode
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I hope we get more Steve Carell then a little flashback to their wedding :(
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Yeah...the office ended when Michael left.
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Angela now I guess has to pay for a nanny while she's at work, that's the only justification I can surmise from the need for a studio apartment. She's too proud to sue the *state* senator for child support I guess. Her cats on the baby was horrifying, even if an fx scene, wow that was dark.

Pete deserves to be in the background, he's a "background" kinda guy.

Creed's material this week felt very forced compared to usual, but at least still subtle.

The writing for Kevin made me sad, they should have Angela take away a pair of rounded kindergarten scissors from him to complete the gag. I hated that.

Andy's story, while absurd and painfully derivative of Michael Scott levels of naivete and selfish desires for success, actually seemed mildly interesting because he did seem to work on his success there, he may have screamed but he washed his eyes and he did a second take. That's as much as I want to see of this though, so sick of new-Andy, I miss old-Andy.

Post-notes comment: I didn't care for this episode, it just "was", there were things happening and some were funny, but the big pieces like Jim & Pam and Dwight & Angela felt shoved at us without being fully baked, and Jim & Pam's final moment didn't feel at all earned or a real solution to their ills. An episode is pretty bad when Toby and Nellie get some of the best moments. Thumbs up to Ellie Kemper's Erin though, a real character arc.
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I was thinking that about Angela too, except wouldn't her husband have to pay child support or something?
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this show is doing even worse than Community storywise.. Community has a chance to come back and do better episodes than this largely disappointing season, but The Office is ending, and this is the best they can do?

but aw, Jim and Pam still heart each other. they better fix this storyline before the end or i'll be peeeissed. so annoying.
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Divorce takes a financial hit on people. You usually have more when you're single prior to commitment than you do post-commitment, as you're starting over again.
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Maybe it's my cold dead heart, but the 'love conquers all' is a reEEEEaly lame tv contrivance. It ranks up there with "woah it was all just a bad dream" as bad, lazy, formulaic writing. Plus we saw this (wide shot, no sound) reconciliation 3 seasons ago.
These 2 character couldn't get more boring. Its like reading a facebook update from a distance cousin about their kid's soccer matches.....uhg. I'd be more happy if Jim turns out to be the Scranton stranger and goes to jail for 40 years......also for being lame
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Thumbs up for the knock against "love conquers all", a horrible message and lazy writing. But I'm responding because I love the idea of Jim Halpert being the Scranton Strangler, and when the cameras catch up to him doing his evil deeds, he turns over his shoulder while strangling, realizes he's caught, pauses, then smirks knowingly before finishing off the victim.
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I thought Erin's piggy impression to Clark was funnier than the box fight. Spot on pig impression.
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Angela is now living with her baby, probably toddler now, in addition to her many cats. That is a very costly addition to her past living standards. Diapers, plus formula, plus new clothing, plus a baby sitter while she's at work adds up.
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Daycare for a toddler runs about $800 a month. For what I pay in daycare a month for my two kids, I could own a Bentley.
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You'd think that the Senator would be paying child support. Having a baby isn't cheap but I'm pretty sure he should be helping to support his child... Unless it really IS Dwight's baby.
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