Tonight’s episode of “The Office” gave us some laughs even though it was a mess structurally and by the end of it all we realized that nothing much had happened. Throughout most of it I felt like Michael must have, waiting for Jo to pack things up and head home. After the first commercial break I just kind of shuffled my feet and checked my watch every few minutes.
There was a lot to like about “Saint Patrick’s Day,” from Darryl getting his own office upstairs to the Megadesk madness between Jim and Dwight. But in the end all of this just feels stale. What made scenes between Michael and Darryl so great in episodes like “Christmas Party” was how uncomfortable they made you. Tonight, Michael joked about putting Darryl’s picture up on the refrigerator and asking if Jo’s family owed his any money after he got his office, but more than anything else it felt like the show was just going through the motions. “Hey, remember those jokes we used to make? Well these are kind of like those, right?” With Darryl coming into the office, the show has presented itself with another chance to really change things, just like it did with Michael quitting to form his own company last year, or taking Oscar to the big boys’ room in “Shareholder’s Meeting,” or Jim becoming co-manager. And for some reason I have the feeling that ultimately the show will do as little with this new development as it did with those others. We’ll get a few token episodes featuring some Michael/Darryl craziness, and as soon as it begins, it’ll be over. If the show finds some excuse to send him back to the warehouse by the end of the season, I won’t be the least bit surprised.
We saw more of this with the fight between Jim and Dwight. Dwight tried to make Jim feel like by coming back to work, he was already neglecting his newborn baby. At one point, we see Jim on the phone with Pam. Is that it? Is he giving in and going home to his family? Well yeah, he does, after staying late. He got Dwight in the end, but it never seemed like it materialized into the dilemma it was supposed to be. And I think that that really sums up where Jim is right now as a character. He just hasn’t materialized into the person he should be at this point in the series. He becomes co-manager of the office only to leave the position. Okay, he makes more money as a salesman. He’s married and now he’s a dad. He needs the money. I can understand that. But while he’s basically hit the reset button with his job, the show has hit the reset button with him as a character. We aren’t seeing any of the maturity we should be after all Jim has been through. In the end, it seems like if he’s not taking potshots at Dwight, the writers don’t know what the hell to do with him.
It was typical Michael to jump the gun and buy plane tickets to Florida after Jo told him he’d have a place to stay if he ever decided to visit. But in the end, the whole thing never really went anywhere. We had an awkward scene in Jo’s town hall meeting, and that was it. Michael ends up canceling the tickets and telling Jo that he looks forward to working with her, she says the same, and then they all go out and get smashed. So now Michael’s relationship with Jo is more or less where his relationship with the Dunder Mifflin bigwigs was. They know he’s a quirky guy and says a lot of crazy stuff, but he’s competent and knows what he’s doing and I think we can squeeze about three more seasons out of this puppy, ya’know? We’ll have to see where it goes, but right now it looks like the status quo has been preserved.
The best parts of the episode were Kathy Bates’ return and Erin and Andy’s date. What I like about that is already we see the dynamic is so different from Jim/Pam and Dwight/Angela. I don’t feel like the writers are retreading any of the same ground, although it’s much goofier than both of those relationships were/are. And that goodbye between the two of them at the end of the night was sweet. Good stuff. Overall, a lackluster episode that offered a few nice spots, but again, it looks like the status quo has been preserved. And that’s really the biggest problem “The Office” has right now. It’s always had its formula. Michael’s crazy. Jim and Dwight annoy each other. Pam is sweet. And there are other people there, too! Now, although we’ll stick our toes in the deep end every now and then, we won’t do anything to change that formula in any substantive way, ever. And as long as the show is unable to overcome this, it’ll only get worse. We know the show is coming back for a seventh season, and it’ll only be a story of diminishing returns with each year after that.
Stuff I liked:
- The return of Todd Packer. “Maybe next QUEER! Hey, ladies, who wants some bangers and mash?”
- The creepy relationship between Erin and her foster brother.
- I loved Michael’s scene with Gabe. Talking about how horrible his social life was without realizing that Gabe was nothing more than a Michael Scott in the making.