Every once in a while I attempt to give some sort of loose structure to my TV Club posts by trying to discern a theme running through an episode of The Office or 30 Rock or Saturday Night Live or Eastbound & Down or my little-loved, poorly-read TV Club Classic pieces on the later seasons of Mama’s Family.
Tonight’s stellar episode of The Office, for example, was all about appearances. Michael, for example, tried to present himself as a sexy, dynamic go-getter in an attempt to seduce/romance/woo/court a client he met a few episodes back who’s sexy in a trampy, desperate sort of way. She's attractive but bears the scars of plenty of hard living and bad decisions. Never one to adopt the subtle approach, Michael also gave subliminal messages a try by juxtaposing images of conventionally sexy men with himself and, in case that proved ineffective, sliding the word “Sex” into a slide show presentation.
"Body Language" offered a sitcom perennial—will they or won’t they?—in miniature. The Office stretched out the Jim and Pam “will they or won’t they” dynamic over thirty or forty years but tonight’s episode had to wrap that shit up in twenty-two minutes and find plenty of room for japes, jests and jokes and a very funny B story.
It was to the episode’s credit that the question of “Will they or won’t they?” had no easy answer. In perhaps my favorite line of the episode, the saucy little minx in question, who is clearly pushing forty, “confides” that she was irritated by men hitting on her when she was in her twenties but now that she’s in her “late twenties” she finds it flattering.
Michael, of course, went about the seduction process with all the skill and finesse of a cyber-mega-bull in a china shop in outer space. He ate a mint out of her open hand like a socially stunted sparrow, made goo-goo eyes at a woman he hoped would become a client-with-benefits and regularly invaded her personal space.
The client sent out plenty of signals of her own. She relied upon the magical power of cleavage to fog Michael’s brain and score a really sweet deal on paper products. In other words, she relied upon a force I like to call Hot Girl Privilege. It’s like White Male Privilege but involves having really nice tits and carries a lot less socio-political baggage. Also, its power diminishes with each passing year. Was she being sexy and flirtatious for purely mercenary reasons or did she genuinely dig Michael? Or, was she being sexy and flirtatious and digged Michael? In the words of Aretha Franklin’s signature song, it was hard to tell exactly who was zooming who.
In the b-story, Kelly develops a new sense of ambition when she discovers she’s eligible for Sabre’s minority executive program. This entailed ratcheting down her Valley Girl affectations and performing a comic burlesque of her Indian heritage.
This, of course, enraged Dwight, though to be fair he was equally apoplectic about the prospect of Darryl racing up the corporate ladder past him. Alas, his attempts at sabotage proved wildly ineffective. In my second favorite moment of the episode, Erin responds to Dwight encouraging Stanley and Oscar to enroll in the minority executive training program—they’re apparently less threatening and more forgetful than Kelly or Darryl—by saying she’s really excited, not because she thinks she’s eligible but because she thinks it’d be delightful to see her co-workers do well. Erin embodies a singular combination of sweet, simple and completely insane.
In the end, everyone other than Dwight got what they wanted. Kelly made it into a minority executive program and it turns out the sexy, Cougarish client really was digging Michael’s vibe. He may be a goof and a bit of a dullard but he’s a handsome man and his single-mindedness has to be more than a little flattering.
All in all, it was a fine episode. The only reason I’m not giving it an A is because it lacked the tragicomic heft of the best Office episodes. Otherwise I enjoyed the holy living fuck out of it.
—We will all soon speak a German-Chinese hybrid.