The Office, “The Sting”: Stark Industries isn’t real. I run Google.

I was writing on my “I Love Jim”** notepad today with my Office-themed pencil, which I pulled from my “World’s Best Boss” coffee cup, which is right next to the five Office-themed magnets I have holding up very important papers, and I had to sigh. This show used to be so good – so quick and witty, so unexpected and, not always, but at times, edgy. Now, the high points are few and far between, and the biggest laugh for me came from Dwight’s attempt to intimidate rival paper salesman Danny Cordray (Timothy Olyphant). “That’s the biggest penis I have ever seen, and I said ‘I know,’ that’s why I brought you to the penis museum, where tickets are $1000. Oh hello, Danny!”

Now, believe me, I’m as game for a good penis joke as the next person, but this shouldn’t be the high point of an episode. Remember when they tricked Dwight into hiding in a box for an entire day? Remember when they sent him faxes from himself in the future? Remember the gaydar that looked suspiciously like a metal detector? They used to try for more complex humor, and maybe I was a fangirl, but I like to think my obsession with the show wasn’t entirely unjustified.

Here and there, we still get glimpses of the show’s former greatness, but the writing is consistently lazy and the characters are increasingly manipulated by the plot. Take, for example, Jim calling in Michael for a challenging sales pitch. There are two directions we can take this – either Jim has completely forgotten what a colossal screw-up Michael is and just needs to get him into the scene for the purpose of setting up the rest of the episode’s crazy antics, OR, we’re going to see one of those all-to-rare moments when Michael proves that he doesn’t actually suck at his job completely. We get the former.

As much as I think Jim is one of the only remaining redeemable characters, mostly because of his facial expressions, he’s also supposed to be the straight man to Dwight and Michael. Why would he invite Michael into that original sales pitch? Why would he go along with the “sting,” setting up and monitoring a mock selling opportunity to get insight into Danny’s selling techniques? He’s better than that. Meredith, on the other hand, is absolutely not better than pretending Oscar, and then Ryan, are Spanish-speaking members of the janitorial staff when Dwight and Jim send them in to stop Meredith from seducing Danny. I loved that when we’re in Meredith’s wheelhouse (seduction? *shudder*) she’s suddenly capable and quick thinking. She’s not letting the sales team’s objective get in the way of her sealing the deal… ifyouknowhwhatimean.

The B-story was Andy’s attempt to compete with a college friend by forming a band with Darryl and Kevin. It didn’t like it, and I won’t respond to it. The only decent part was the novelty frog song at the end. Oh, and when Creed likes Andy’s song, which bums Andy out. I just wish I knew where Andy went to school.

Long story short, Danny Cordray ends up joining the Dunder Mifflin team as a traveling salesman (which prompted me to immediately write down – “What about Todd Packer?” so kudos to the writers for acknowledging that loose end), and we do get one of those rare moments of Michael actual acting like a competent manager. Also, Danny’s really good looking, so when she finds out he’s joining the staff, Kelly busts out with “$%^& me,” which was pretty classic. I wonder if Danny will become a new man-crush for Michael to replace the wholly underutilized Ryan – that could be an interesting storyline, in which Ryan in his desperate need for attention and validation – tries to “win back” Michael from Danny. But my guess is that Olyphant’s gig is a limited time deal (with an open-ended story so he can come back at some point), which is a shame, because something needs to happen to shake this show out of its mediocrity.

**This review was written by Ashley. I’m a happily married man.

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