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

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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?