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

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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