S07E08 For a show called The Office, the show has had some great episodes that take place entirely out of the office. Dinner Party is one of the best episodes ever of The Office. It’s full of dark humor, awkward moments, and really delves deep into the psyche of the characters. It was funny, edgy, slightly embarrassing, and highly entertaining. This week's episode, which revolved around the entire office gathering at Gabe’s place to watch Glee, was not at all as good as Dinner Party.
First, the cold opening, of course. See, this is a perfect example of sticking in the office and finding the little things about a work place that makes for great television. Everyone is completely absorbed in the ongoing adventures of the Scranton Strangler and crowds around the a computer that was transformed into a TV to watch it unfold. Gabe, of course, is the pooper at the party and thinks everyone should get back to work. Poor Gabe just doesn’t understand that everyone has to watch this because if they didn’t they wouldn’t care about it at all. And when the Scranton Strangler drives by the office, Michael goes out and scoops up some of the gravel to give to his grandkids so they can sell it and buy a spaceship. Pretty good cold opening over all.
We start in the office where Erin tries to invite Michael to the party. Michael tells her to walk and talk and they meander around the office while Michael shouts out orders to all his underlings. They don’t make any sense, he’s unnecessarily mean to Erin, and basically looks like a fool, but come on, don’t we all want to be a boss and walk around like a general? Just me and Michael? Fine. I’ll take my medication. Michael accepts the invitation with glee (see what I did there?).
And then the weirdness sets starts. Michael is a little thrown off by the realization that Gabe is actually his boss. This makes him predisposed to make everything awkward at the party. And his story line through the episode was rife with awkwardness. He immediately tries to antagonize Gabe at every turn. He throws the pizza dough in the air unnecessarily, he tries to manage the volume on the TV, and eventually huffs off after a temper tantrum to a bedroom to watch it alone.
Yeah, it was just awkward and not in the good awkward that The Office perfected early on during its run. The thing about the Dinner Party was that it was awkward, yes, but it was also dark and this episode just didn’t have it. Michael’s antics, if anything, were petty and petty isn’t dark and rarely funny.
Eventually he gets so frustrated that he cuts the cable off to Gabe’s house. Erin confronts him about it and when he gets so frustrated that he snaps and tells her “why do you care if I like him? I’m not your father!” I was worried for a second that Erin would confess that he actually is...but instead they just stare at each other for a few moments and then break out in grins. The weird thing is, wouldn’t Michael actually think of himself as her father? Doesn’t he consider the office his extended family? I guess that partially explains his eventual coming around to Erin (who grew up in a foster care, so would more than likely look up to Michael as a father figure) and be genial to Gabe.
The other story lines were thinner than usual in order to spread out the bits among the ensemble. The biggest probably being Pam bringing Cece who apparently had the novel idea to sleep all day and stay up all night, which in turn has caused Pam to stay up all night and all day to take care of her. She’s about to call it quits and end it all (this might be a slight exaggeration), but Dwight steps in and does some beet induced magic and calms the baby down. Pam looks like she is about to jump Dwight right then and there for finally making her baby shut up, which would’ve made the episode only slightly better. Dwight uses this as an opportunity to humiliate Jim into bringing him pizza and beer. This bit did give us a little meta commentary on how Jim and Pam each see their relationship to Dwight, which was interesting and then immediately forgotten.
Reverse side of that was Dwight being seduced by Angela again in order to make a baby. Dwight was more preoccupied with the baby to fulfill his contractual duty so he sent Pam out to tell Angela that he wasn't going to come impregnate her. As we’ve mentioned before, Angela is really stepping out this season and it's just a testament of how wound up they’ve made her when seeing her bare shoulders seems almost... scandalous?
One would think that instead of Michael being the immature one and getting angry, it would instead be Andy because has the huge crush on Erin. But alas, anger management has cured Andy of that problem. So instead, Andy takes in all of Gabe’s Asian stuff and eats some of his dried Sea Horse powder. This causes him to go all coked out (which I thought it would be, I still had hope for a dark turn) and eventually it lands him throwing up as Gabe serenades him with his soundscapes. Andy has been pretty funny this season (one of the few) but Gabe really brought it home with his soundscapes. Gabe is rivaling Creed on weirdness. Also - who has a make your own pizza party? That’s just lame (actually I really want to do that).
The rest of the crew is regulated to commenting on how people watch TV. Kelly is totally into it and gets frustrated at Phyllis, who has never seen the show and asks questions every three seconds. Oscar spits out random facts about the actors and the show (guilty as charged for that one myself). Jim tries to check sports scores which causes people to miss an important part of the episode and everyone freaks out. But since it was Glee, they shouldn’t have worried that much, not like it really matters.
And fun fact (that a commenter on the AV Club pointed out), Artie from Glee actually was on The Office (he was the pizza delivery kid who Michael kidnapped back in season 4) which causes some universe continuum questions to arise, but we’ll just skip all those and remember that it's a TV show about people watching a TV show.
But yeah, not a great episode of The Office. There were maybe a few good laughs (easily the best was Kevin climbing in Gabe’s bed to experience eating pigs in a blanket in a blanket) but overall it just can’t compete with the far superior Dinner Party. Not that they were competing, but when you’ve had the best, nothing lesser will suffice. Lets step it up The Office. This is Steve Carell’s last season. Get him back in The Office. Thanks!