I had some directives for the final season of The Office, a few things I wanted to see and a few that I'd rather not see. Near the top of the list was to make Jim and Pam's lives just a little more interesting than watching paint dry. They don't need to become something out of an action movie or anything, but, you know, we just need to shake things up a little. I suggested an affair. Most commenters agreed that was the stupidest thing they ever heard.
I'm willing to concede now that I see the alternative. A storyline I figured was going to play out in two weeks, Jim going into business with his friend without telling Pam, looks like it's starting to grow legs and—let me tell you, this is hard for me to say about The Office—I like where this is going. This is a narrative awareness I wasn't prepared for.
We, the fans of the show, have remarked at least once if not for years that Jim and Pam are the blandest blands who've ever blanded. Not in the first few seasons, obviously, but definitely since the marriage and especially after the kids were born. If it weren't for the fact that they're so adorable and that they're our proxies into a realm of quirkdom, we probably wouldn't miss their absence. They'd be like Gabe. Yeah, you forgot you haven't seen Gabe in a while, right?
With this season, the show is starting to explore that boredom. They've turned a situation that became stale with consummation into an examination of the ennui Jim suffered from the beginning and that Pam has (apparently) accepted. It's about how being one with a person means that sometimes there aren't any more surprises and there's nothing left to discover. It's about achieving individual dreams sometimes at the sacrifice of the person you love. It's heady stuff for this show.
I applaud The Office for taking it on, too. It's necessary. I also love that Roy's life took them down a few pegs, this power couple that generally holds themselves above the rabble, only to find out they were the white trash at the wedding (I've maintained this show is at its best when Jim is either getting the best of Dwight or life is getting the best of Jim). Roy didn't just come back to the show for a couple quick quips before exiting forever. His reintroduction into their lives means something. It's a catalyst to examination. Stakes are something Jim and Pam have been unfamiliar with for some time and I look forward to seeing where this goes.
That being said, the rest of the episode was pretty effing stupid.
The Taliban Law story was amazingly contrived, even for a latter-season Office episode. It was mildly amusing when we got to the punchline, but a terrible journey. I think the reason the journey was so awful was mostly that Nellie doesn't belong here. She was a good short-term character during the Tallahassee arc last season, but she should've stayed in Florida. Complicate things with that tag at the episode where Nellie and Dwight were flirting like middle-schoolers and all I can do is facepalm. The possible love triangle between Nellie, Dwight, and Angela (once she finds out that the Senator is gay) is enough to fill my chest with dread.
Speaking of chests, Ellie Kemper got to show off a little of hers in this episode. Clark's scheme was just as contrived as the Nellie/Dwight story but it was supposed to be contrived. It played on our understanding that Erin has a childlike naivete, but she toes a line that Kevin has fallen over as time has worn down these characters. Sometimes she's too much like a child. She and Kevin can be too much of a caricature. I also have an issue with Andy, who seems inconsistent with his perception. There are times he seems to be hip to what's happening, but then we have stories like this week's, where he thought an intern's apartment was an appropriate space to audition for a news anchor position. I believed Erin would walk into the situation blind. With Andy, I'm not sure it made any sense. Clark said that "everything is higher cut on camera" in order to get Erin to wear low cut clothing. Why would Andy believe that?
Then there's the delivery that's so popular in the mockumentary-style format, the confessional where one character has an innocuous voiceover that lends context to what would otherwise seem to be an innocuous scene. Erin said the words "maybe it'll work out for Andy" while the image showed Pete and Erin enjoying a burger together. If you are to pit Clark and Pete against each other (and the show has been begging you to, by naming them Dwight, Jr. and Little Jim or whatever), and Clark is made out to be the black hat in this particular situation, you have to assume that Pete, the white hat, is the one schmoozing the girl. When Erin says something is working out for Andy, we're actually looking at something bad for him. Another possible love triangle. Another. Possible. Love triangle. Inside. The Office.
Dear coworkers at the Scranton branch, there's a whole wide world out there. Stop trying to hump people you can commute with.
The cobbled-together situations aside, I laughed a few times during this episode so that's a vast improvement. This season feels different than the past ones, doesn't it? The chemistry is slightly altered or there's some kind of new wit to it. Maybe I'm making that up. In any case, it seems like the show has things chugging along for this season and here's hoping it continues to improve. The secret: Let Creed open his mouth more often.
– I was impressed by the Chore Wheel sequence. Slightly impossible (just slightly) but the situation, the language used, the twist at the end with Tiny Wheel, all reminded me of that clever wit prevalent in the opening seasons and so spare in the latter seasons. The prizes and punishments were awesome. My favorite: Stanley Gets Your Lunch. No whammy!
– Jim responding to Roy about what's going on in his life reminded me of how Ryan would respond to that question. Jim muttered that same douchey, my-life-is-empty response, saying he has some things cooking. Except he actually does have something.
– Phyllis and Bob Vance making out only showed how truly bland Jim and Pam are. You always get the feeling that they're soulmates. But they're never very... affectionate. I don't need a Jam sex tape or anything. Hmm, actually...
– Creed Line of the Night: "The Taliban is the worst. Good heroin, though."
– I wanted a quiz show episode so bad.
– How many shows in the past few years have done the door-closing scene from The Godfather? I think even when I try to picture the scene from the movie, I'm actually thinking about Weeds.
– I really like that Jim still calls Pam Beesley.
– I like the animosity between Clark and Pete. It's like watching the Smallville of The Office.
– Do we still feel like Pam will quickly forgive Jim's trespass?
– We had two insinuations of blossoming love interests (Erin and Pete, Dwight and Nellie). Chances that something will become of them?
– If something does become of Pete and Erin, that would mean that the new incarnation of Jim is crushing on the receptionist, one who works with her fiance. Is this show about to collapse in on itself?
– What was your favorite Chore Wheel prize?