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The Office: "Did I Stutter?"

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In terms of both quantity and quality The Office probably has the best deleted scenes in the history of television. Does any other television show even come close? I recently picked up the third season DVD of The Office solely for the three hours of deleted and oh sweet Lord was it ever worth it. The Office super-geniuses create about a half hour worth of great material for every episode, which is great for twenty-two minute episodes and DVD consumers and not-so-great for inevitably padded hour-long super-sized episodes.

I imagine that there will be a wealth of great deleted scenes from tonight's episode, which brought the long-simmering, if one-sided conflict between Michael Scott and the eternally disapproving minion Stanley to a raging boil. For pretty much the length of the show Stanley has just barely tolerated Michael and his antics with an agitated scowl just seconds removed from outright hostility.


The catalyst for the Stanley/Michael friction was an outburst where Stanley went from silent, barely suppressed rage to outright hostility. Incidentally, this episode made me realize just how much I love the Stanley/Michael dynamic. Though he's far too prickly and sour to be an audience surrogate, Stanley sees Michael the way most people would: as a well-meaning but incompetent boob who has somehow managed to hold onto a position of power despite daily, no, hourly gaffes. Michael, meanwhile, completes ignores Stanley's actual personality and sees him instead as the ultimate Magical Negro–part Will Smith, part Sinbad and part Shaquille O'Neal in Kazaam.

Michael lives forever in the land of self-delusion but after Stanley's big public outburst his impregnable wall of self-delusion begins to crumble. Desperate for answers, he asks Darryl–another great supporting character who seldom gets a chance to shine–how such conflicts are handled in the gang world. In a genius riff, Darryl professes to be a Crip, a Blood, a Vice Lord, a Warrior and a Newsies–yes, it was Darryl you saw singing and dancing alongside Christian Bale as a turn-of-the-century newspaper boy in Newsies–and that gang conflicts are generally resolved via "Fluffy Fingers", a little-known gang ritual where rivals tickle each other until each party devolves into tickling and girlish giggles. It's the quintessence of Office humor–an utterly insane, ridiculous comic conceit handled with deadpan gravity–and it was hilarious. Besides, can you ever get enough left-field Newsies references?


Actually tonight's episode was all about rage and conflict. A bitter and vindictive Ryan gave Jim a formal warning for his shenanigoats and shameless flirting. It wasn't exactly unmotivated–Jim does, in fact, spend nearly all his time doing things that aren't just non-productive but counter-productive–but it also felt like a total dick move, since Ryan wasn't/isn't exactly Mr. Productivity either. Toby played along because, well, he has issues of his own (it was good to see him back, though I never really thought he was gone for good).

Lastly, Dwight exerted his will something fierce this episode, buying Andy's SUV at a bargain price so he can sell it for a tidy profit and generally bending his weak-willed colleagues to his iron will. In the episode's big dramatic climax Stanley tells Michael exactly what he thinks of him–that he's an incompetent clown he doesn't respect and never will–and though everything he's saying is one-hundred percent true it's hard not to feel for Michael, who tries so damned hard to be liked, even if he exerts far less effort in every other aspect of his life, especially his job performance.


As is often the case, the show followed up a scene of excruciating humiliation with a moment of triumph, albeit this time out it was definitely of the ironic variety, with Michael riffing on getting "no respect" with the world's worst Rodney Dangerfield impersonation. I am a little ashamed to admit that I know Dangerfield's shtick well enough to know exactly how badly he mangled every bit, oh and for the record, Dangerfield would tug at his tie as a nervous gesture, not inexplicably massage his collar. I also loved how his Dangerfield impersonation morphed slowly but surely into a terrible Borat impersonation and a god-awful take on Jerry Seinfeld. It's the kind of goofy, seemingly ad-libbed tangent that generally gets cut but I guess it was just too damned funny to leave out.

On the Pam/Jim front (ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod aren't they just the cutest couple ever!), Jim toyed further with Pam's expectations, transforming a mid-meeting would-be proposal into a request for some coffee. I talked with Scott last week about the Jim/Pam thing and I must admit that I'm warming up to them as a couple, especially if Jim continues to behave in ways that are a little jerky and a little incompetent, if ultimately lovable.


Grade: A Stray Observations– –I loved the cold open. That was some good shit –I also liked how they acknowledged/fucked around with the mockumentary aspect by having a camera man secretly film Stanley and Michael's confrontation, Nick Broomfield-style –Might Toby be going over to the dark side, like Ryan? All that bitterness and failure has got to be getting for him –I didn't write down any particularly funny quotes this time. What are your favorite lines?

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