S07.E09: Because I’m obsessed with the three act structure, I’m inclined to look at this week’s and next week’s episodes as the close to the first act of the seventh season. And as such, The Office is finally wrapping up the introductions before throwing us into predicaments and later coming to resolutions. And honestly, it's about time. I’m not saying that The Office is spinning its wheels, but something has to happen soon. There has been a severe lack of emotion in the show since: a) the novelty of Jim and Pam getting together wore off and b) Michael found and then lost Holly. Additionally, anything involving Andy, Dwight, or Angela has just become stale. They’ve tried to kick it back up with the Gabe, Erin, Andy triangle, but it just seems hollow compared to the emotional roller coaster that was the saga of Jim and Pam.
So hopefully things will turn around with Michael’s departure drawing nearer. Taking a sneak peek at the episodes ahead, Holly is set to make a return so maybe The Office’s heart will start beating again and Steve Carell can leave on a high note.
With that said, let’s get to the cold opening. In a surprising-they-haven’t-done-this-before bit the office’s power blacks out because Michael was using a space heater and an electric fan at the same time. This causes the network to be rebooted as well, which requires a password for logging back into it. A great little call back with Jim when he tries to remember the IT guy’s name but they trace back the IT guys of the past and eventually remember that the password made Michael laugh but offended Pam. Which means that the password protecting the entire server of the office was “bigboobz.” Gotta love modern day security.
If you’ll indulge me for a second, this cold opening could be viewed as a deconstruction of the modern office environment’s reliance on technology that most people don’t understand. With the network down, the whole company came to a screeching halt and they could literally not do any work until they guessed this password. But what would’ve happened if they couldn’t guess it? I’m pretty sure none of those characters would have known what to do. I mean, I work for a website and our entire business revolves around the internet yet I know absolutely nothing about what goes on behind the scenes here. I have to leave that to guys and gals much smarter than me (after all it takes way too many braincells to think of different words for “boner” and memorize coding language). So while this was a subtle (and probably unintentional) bit of satire regarding the corporate reliance on advanced technology that most people don’t understand, it was a fairly funny opening. Which is probably the important thing.
The main story of this week’s episode revolved around someone we haven’t seen much of in the past few seasons. Ryan has quietly become a tertiary character despite the fact that BJ Novak is one of the main writers and co-executive producers of the show. Feeling a bit inspired by the post-Social Network way of looking at the post-Facebook world (I think that makes sense, yep, it does) Ryan is shilling out for his website WUPHF.com which was first introduced last season. He has rounded up a bunch of investors from the office including Michael, Pam, Andy, Darryl and the bunch. However, things aren’t going quite as well as Ryan had hoped (which, considering he thought he would be a billionaire in like four months, might not be a shocker) and his investors are calling for him to sell the site before it goes belly up and bankrupt in nine days. His only lead for the sale is the Washington University Public Health Fund, who only needs the site for its acronym.
Pam confronts Michael about his delusional relationship with Ryan and calls him out on how one sided the friendship goes. This dynamic has worked well throughout the series because it's usually just a line thrown in for comedic effect. But now Ryan has other people’s money at stake in this venture and it's up to Michael to finally recognize that his relationship isn’t as special as he thought. He confronts Ryan and almost gets him to change his mind, but not quite. Then all the investors confront him and Michael stands up for Ryan with a rather inspired description of him. Ryan is image obsessed and selfish but he does aim high and have ambition coming out of his ass. But that doesn’t quell the fears of the investors, so Ryan eventually caves and sells to Washington University.
The next storyline involved Jim, who discovered to his unfortunate shock that Sabre has enacted a commission cap which he reached last week and thus removes all incentive for him to work. Thus he retracts to old-school Jim and begins to look for new ways to goof off. With Pam knee-deep in work, he has to look for other sources of amusement. This whole bit felt slightly off, except when Creed asks him how long he “can hold that pretty little breath of yours.” Old Jim slacked off because he was fighting the man, this Jim slacked off because the man basically gave him permission to do so. It didn’t feel right until he started seriously messing with Gabe using some audio editing. He leaves Gabe scrambling to keep up with Jo’s audio book which Jim manipulated into a phone call. It was that bit of inspiration that set this prank above the others in the episode.
Our final story line of the week was another adventure involving Dwight's ownership of the building. His own description of what he did is far too succinct and clever for me to try and sum up so I'll just share it with you: “Did I truck 300 bales of hay to a parking lot to rectify some childhood disappointment? Yes.” So he created a world of hay for all those to enjoy, just as long as they paid him. Angela made another slutty move to get Dwight in her pants, but he was having too much fun making money off of hay. She eventually meets another dude and they hit it off well so she decides to give him the goodies. Dwight is shocked by this, of course, because he never expects anything to go anywhere but according to plan. The only redeeming things about this bit was Dwight’s hay king outfit at the end (which looked a little like Max’s costume in Where the Wild Things Are) and Kevin being completely befuddled by the maze. A little broad and unrealistic, but alas that is the Dwight of recent seasons. I’ll take it.
So all in all, a decent episode, not terrible, but at this point it feels like we’re just shooting the shit waiting for Michael to leave. However, there was this gem when Jim talks about how good he is at getting his child to eat real food: “Let’s be honest: If I can make mushed carrots seem better than a boob, I can pretty much sell anything.” This is an interesting statement because you have to remember, in the world of the show, Jim is basically using his face and voice to turn a child against Pam’s boob. Thinking like that, it is fairly impressive. Needless to say, I gladly submit myself to test out which is more persuasive. Oh the sacrifices I am willing to submit myself to in the name of science. You’re welcome bitches.