The Office "Work Bus" Review: Jim's Kampf

The Office S09E04: "Work Bus"

"No knobbies, no probbies."

I want to preface this review by saying that I'm very fond of Jim as a character. To me, that's not a bold statement to make, but he and Pam have drawn their fair share of criticism, particularly for being the ones who are most often cited for mugging for the camera. Jim is loveable in a way that's different from Tim on the U.K. version of The Office, a way that's distinctly American, and that must have been a difficult thing to distill when porting the series. One might say Jim started as an underdog on this show, but you would never say he's a loveable loser in the way that Tim always was. Jim's pride, boldness, and amiability are very this-side-of-the-pond, and even a critic would have to agree that the nuanced difference between him and his source material is an achievement in character development.

But Jim is destructively selfish and a master manipulator.

It's amazing the amount of sway he has over the people working at Dunder-Mifflin's Scranton branch. Is it feasible for anyone else in that office to rally harder than Kevin for a trip to eat pie? Can you picture Angela or Stanley or Creed standing up before their peers and convincing them with the fervor of an Eastern Pennsylvania Mussolini to continue a trip of horror? It is only through Jim they could trust banding together into an unthinking mob.

And does Jim use his unifying charisma for good? Throughout this episode, Jim established that he wanted to do something good for his amazing wife who digested his secret squirrel job acceptance without much more than a "I wish he would've told me" and that going to Laverne's was a way for him to do something for her. But somewhere between the subterfuge, the chanting, and the general ganging up on Dwight Jim encouraged in order to get his way, it came off as more than a little self-interested.

Jim got carried away, almost drunk on his ability sic his coworkers on Dwight's attempts for control (Dwight who had more delicious one-liners here than he's had in quite some time). But Jim really came off as a jerk when he started his rooftop conversation with how he was trying to do a good thing for his wife. Not for his coworkers or for Dwight or just in the name of pie. He was looking out for his only vested interest, his quality of life, even in the face of Dwight obviously suffering a crisis, imagined or whatever.

Jim and Dwight weren't the only stand-outs in tonight's episode. Ellie Kemper sold Erin's history as a kid raised by the system. Her initial communing with Nellie on trying to make herself marketable as a child was well-written and well-executed. That she would break down and cry about Andy being the worst without first talking to Andy was a little unbelievable, given that Erin has established how willing she is to give Andy a piece of her mind, but writing the letter and reminiscing about her sad orphan history countered the sweeping nationalism in Jim and Dwight's A-story.

In an episode that could've been gimmicky (let's put 'em on a bus!), the characters made this a worthwhile venture. The roadtrip aspect of the show, such as banding together for pie and taking pictures at roadside landmarks, presented the kind of togetherness we want to remember from this series when it's gone. I'm almost surprised we got it so early, even though the premise would've felt lame if this was one of the last episodes of the season.

But I suppose the writers need to make sure they leave time at the end for Jim to funnel his charm into a Scranton strain of fascism based on shirking work and belittling Dwight. It's a platform you can get behind.

The Office "Work Bus" Photos

NOTES:

– In a season of good teasers, I thought the "fail" highlight reel was relatively weak. More than anything, it established how "fail" as an interjection has run its course and should never be used again. It is the Ed Hardy or Affliction of mainstreamed internet phrases.

– Toby: "You think I have a machine for measuring bee hives?" Andy's reaction to that was just another indication of how ill-tempered and off-putting he's been all season. Being terrible to Toby feels out of place because it was a Michael Scott thing the writers are forcing on Andy, and the Nellie thing is continuing to be awful. I almost feel bad for Nellie now even though I think she's a character who needs to be excised yesterday.

– Like, let's go back in time and eliminate Nellie. I'm over her storylines. I'm over the writers trying adoption as a way to make us feel empathy. I'm the most over them trying to find a place for her on this show and failing miserably.

– CreedWatch: So, he's a man who hitchhikes in fancy clothes when "playing hooky" from work. Not surprising. Wish the joke had landed better. But it was still pretty awesome.

Best new comedy duo on the show: Daryl and Clark. "No. Stop. Come back."


QUESTIONS:

– Who's got the better antagonistic bromance: Jim and Dwight or Oscar and Kevin?

– Will Dwight have fathered a child by the end of the season?

– Do you struggle with Pam so quickly accepting that Jim went behind her back or was that expected?

– Pete and Andy had a small rival moment as Pete told Andy it was Erin crying behind the curtain. Over/under on how many episodes go by before that comes to a head: 3?

Comments (13)
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Gotta say I wasn't exactly impressed with this episode either, especially when I feel like in the last season every episode should count. This episode was wrapped up in a nice neat little bow by the time the end credits rolled which was not a good thing. For the first time in a while Dwight showed Jim genuine vulnerability. Instead of actually developing the Dwight-Jim relationship realistically, the writers settled for yet another Jim wins scenario, except this time Jim comes off as being manipulative and just plain jerky.



However, I don't think Jim will be getting off that easy this season. I saw in an interview somewhere (I believe with John and Jenna) that things from past seasons that didn't seem to matter much then are gonna come back. I think this means that that scene last season with Jim in the hotel room with the one chick (forget her name) is going to bare it's ugly head again. If the theme in their relationship is 'I wish he would have just told me', there's definitely feasible room for that storyline to play out, since even though from what we saw Jim did not do anything wrong and was visibly uncomfortable, I don't believe he ever told Pam about it. Additionally, Dwight was also there and saw the girl in his room, allowing him to bear witness.



They also said we'd get a deeper explanation about the documentary crew's work. I believe at somepoint, Jim, desperate to prove to Pam he didn't cheat on her, will ask them to show her the tapes (which again, will lead Pam to saying 'why didn't you just tell me'). In any event, I'm certain that event will not just 'blow over'.



As far as the Nard Dog goes, I do feel like they are Michael Scotting him too much. I for one loved Andy's post-frat boy character before. I guess his new attitude can be attributed to the combination of finally getting Erin back, directly playing a part in the removal of Robert California and Nellie as Manager (getting his revenge) and being put back in a position of power. So, I think it's within the character's range to power trip and ego out a little, but that doesn't mean he has to become a Michael Scott clone, especially when pretty much everyone is hoping to see Michael before the season ends. Also, maybe it's just me, but does it seem like they're trying to force apart the Nard Dawg and Erin already, to make room for Erin/New Jim and Andy/Nellie?
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For me, these Greg Daniels' return episodes are all ruined by his attempt to turn Andy into Michael Scott. At every turn, Andy is no longer Andy, there's nothing in the writing now that says Andy, the "fail" video is the kind of nonsense we got from Michael Scott all the time, the nastiness towards Toby is straight out of the Michael Scott playbook, and his utter destruction and goofy way of addressing Nellie's storyline was ugly and reeked of that previous character. It's especially tragic because Ed Helms' Andy wasn't the greatest character but he wasn't an exceptionally cruel, grating jerk the way Helms' Michael Scott is being portrayed as.

Pam clearly wasn't over Jim's betrayal, she is shown with that hollow look of trying to move past something without dealing with it in almost every shot in the first 10 minutes. Jim, incapable of handling the larger issue, tries to cover this up with attempts to do something for her rather than just being direct with her, and that inability to get past the surface of the problem is a character flaw that haunts Jim in everything he does until the end of this episode. He really doesn't know how to manipulate the staff beyond the easy gags, he doesn't know how to finesse Dwight when the chips are down, none of which makes him a bad guy, just shallow - Dwight's attitude isn't readable because Dwight is always an ass.

Creed hitchhiking onto the workbus was the highlight of the episode for me.

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Jim was clearly "supposed" to be a relatively bad guy in this episode. It happens rarely, but it usually occurs when he gets a little desperate or worried about something. In this episode, it certainly made it a bit worse that going for pie didn't seem like something Pam really needed. Jim was just reflecting his own inadequacies at Pam being so understanding. Yes, it was a turn off, but I think it was okay considering the insignificance of her finding out his secret. I think a lot of us expected that storyline to end up with them getting in a relatively big fight and having some problems... if they were going to make Pam so nice about it, I at least like Jim being a bit off about it.
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Finally a not-so-positive review that isn't just pure trolling on tv.com!!! Fan of yours, Nick Campbell... you said aaaaaall the right things
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I usually like Jim, but I hated him in this episode.

There's a fine line between doing something your wife wants to make her happy, and doing something your wife wants to make your life easier, and Jim just drove a Work Bus right over that line.

But I'm not even mad at him, I'm mad at Pam (the writers who wrote her, and Jenna's protrayal). Because she should have seen right through that. One of the things she loves about him is Jim's ability to put her above everything else (espically himself), and I don't believe for a second she wouldn't have questioned his motives in all this.

He wasn't thanking her for being so forgiving, he was sucking up.
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I have to say I agree with every point but one, what started out as a good Jim prank turned into him being very self involved, and the bit with Creed made me laugh out loud. Maybe it's because I'm such a huge Catherine Tate fan, but I do like Nellie. There are certainly flaws with the character but overall I enjoy watching her.
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Jim is not my favorite character - but I like him well enough. In this episode though he really came off as just plain mean and a bully. I think Dwight's line "Stop ordering me around Jim!" really did me in, he sounded so upset. They aren't best friends but they did always seem to care about each other deep down - but this guy that climbed up on the roof was not the same that wrestled Dwight to the ground to keep him from getting fired.
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Maybe it's just me, but I don't remember every single line of Kevin's being about food or gluttony in earlier seasons. Makes me theorize the only thing keeping that character from turning into a caricature was the influence of Steve Carell, who didn't like that sort of thing, and it was lampshaded in his last episode.
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Staff
It's not just you. Kevin is a complete cartoon now. He went from being just a doofus to being an escaped mental patient. It's like the episode where Holly thinks Kevin is handicapped spilled over into every season after. It's not unusual for characters in long-running sit-coms to become outlandish versions of their original selves (see the Scrubs cast) but Kevin has been taken to an extreme. By the end of the season, Kevin is going to have to live with Oscar so he can take care of him.
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I've found almost all sitcoms, after a few seasons, turn to making their main characters caricatures of their worst qualities. Seinfeld did it. Friends did it. Scrubs. I guess 30 Rock did it, but a lot of their characters were outlandish from the beginning (unless my memory is failing me). Always Sunny has done it. In my opinion, Community has done it as well. It happens. All that really matters is if they don't over-do it and make the show unbearable to watch.
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I would say that in the first several seasons Kevin wasn't stupid at all. The joke was the way he spoke made him sound that way. And I thought that was a great, realistic idea (back when the show actually cared about trying to look that way). But now it's the complete opposite. And last i checked accountants are supposed to be fairly intelligent. Andy and Michael must have been telling him to play solitaire instead of crunch numbers the last several years.
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Scrubs was bad about that. Friends might've been a bit worse.
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Creed was the highlight, I loved that he looked like Harold Hill from the Music Man, I was half expecting him to be a con-man who would bamboozle the staff... Then it turned out to be Creed and I was the one Bamboozled.



Completey agree with Clark and Darryl being the best new Comedy Duo on the show. It was this episode that reminded me that they had previously acted together in Hot Tub Time Machine to great effect.
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