‘The Office’ Recap: Jury Duty

S8:E13 Tonight’s episode of The Office didn’t exactly recapture the magic that we viewers once witnessed; far from it. It did, however, take a major step in the right direction, perhaps the most encouraging sign we’ve seen all season. It was a tough episode for Dwight — first he was dealing with Jim possibly lying about taking time off for jury duty, which would an offense punishable by death if it were up to Dwight. Then he realized that he may be the biological father of Angela’s newborn baby. It makes sense that, if Dwight is to headline his own spinoff (as is the predominant rumor right now), he have a major hand in basically all storylines going forward, and that was the case tonight.

“Can’t believe they let someone like you serve on a jury. Makes me question the whole judicial system.” –Dwight, to Jim

It looked early on as though this was going to be a rough episode for Jim, and indeed it was for the most part. The episode opened with him returning from what was essentially a week-long stint in jury duty. Everyone’s happy enough to see him back at work, eager to get the details of the case on which he was a juror. Jim, though … not so eager to provide those details, but after a while he relents. While everyone is huddled around in the break room listening to the rather unexciting stories, Dwight, like any good detective, stealthily picks up on Jim making up bits and pieces of the story, and Dwight very slowly turns around as though piecing together the cracks in a case and then realizing it was all a lie — a la Chazz Palminteri at the end of The Usual Suspects. Dwight’s got his man, and before long, the interrogation begins, and ends, with Dwight proving that Jim was lying about jury duty. In fact, as it turns out, Jim was let go early on his first day of jury duty. He took the rest of the day off. And the following day. And then two extra days for good measure. Dwight is livid, but happy, because lying about jury duty would have to be a fireable offense for Jim, and it’s a day that Dwight has been dreaming about forever. He laughs an evil laugh that he’s been waiting to let out for eons, as he helps Jim clean out his desk. Not so fast, however: Acting boss Andy refuses to go through with the firing, in the interest of office harmony, and even goes so far as to concoct a cover-up with Jim. But not long after, Jim comes clean with his story about taking the days off, and the office is not pleased. That’s when he and Pam do what all parents do on occasion: use their kids to get out of a pickle. They try to exploit their kids’ cuteness, but cuteness ultimately turns into relentless, hysterical crying so annoying that the co-workers are willing to forgive Jim if he just leaves and takes the kids. All is forgiven, since, as Daryl puts it: “Last week, Jim at home … that was no vacation.”

“That baby is a Schrute, and unless somebody taught Mose sex, that baby is mine.” –Dwight

Ah, yes, the second part of the storyline for Dwight — although it was certainly just as much Angela’s storyline. And the senator’s! The husband and wife finally welcomed their baby, and although Angela’s co-workers are, well, fairly happy for her, they’re in no rush to greet the newborn at the hospital and deal with Angela. But eventually they get around to it, starting with Erin, Kevin and Oscar — all of whom quickly observe the baby’s rather hefty weight (and, in Oscar’s opinion, that Angela’s senator husband is most certainly gay). Which is very curious, given that the baby was supposed to have been born prematurely. A very skeptical Oscar asserts right off the bat that the couple is lying about the date on which the baby was conceived. Not long after that, Dwight arrives at the hospital, indifferent to his ex-girlfriend’s (baby partner? Archenemy? Fling?) newborn. That is, until Oscar, fanning the flames already burning in Dwight’s mind, tells him of his theory. Suddenly, Dwight is intrigued, thinking that he could be a father. He badgers Angela: “We were together a month before the wedding. You said that Robert was not fulfilling you, and I said, ‘I bet I could fulfill you,’ and you said, ‘I’d like to see you try,’ and then I kissed you with the force of a thousand waterfalls.” To no avail. She’s not budging — but neither is a suddenly beaming Dwight, who, after leaving Angela’s room, tells the nurse, “Cancel the circumcision. I just might be his father.” To be continued …

Again, this was a step, if not a leap, in the right direction for the show — which, let’s be honest, is showing its fatigue and staleness; possibly nearing its end; clearly suffering without Steve Carell. He was as important to The Office as Michael Scott was to the office, and the absence has been glaring, huge this season, during which writers have seemingly been content (or maybe not) to more or less produce one-off episodes stuffed with non-stories, borderline non-continuity, and aimless non-jokes, for the most part. But in tonight’s episode, something actually happened! Something will carry over into the next episode, presumably, and some of the bits were actually laugh-out-loud funny (i.e., Dwight’s many memorable lines regarding the baby, or making a citizen’s arrest on Jim for lying about jury duty; the cold opening, which sees Andy blowing off steam in the warehouse by dancing to “Footloose”) instead of chuckle-while-the-show-plays-in-the-background funny. Let’s hope it’s not a fluke but a trend — that episodes will henceforth include mildly interesting developments and and laughs.