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The Office: "Lecture Circuit"

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Oh, but there was a giddy abundance of The Office this week. First the Dunder-Mifflin gang brought the larfs in a super-sized Super Bowl episode now they’ve returned with chuckles aplenty and mirth by the bucketful in its regular Thursday timeslot.

The infamous Party Planning Committee has been a veritable hotbed of intrigue, scheming and Machiavellian power plays. First Angela ruled it with an iron fist as her own personal fiefdom. Then Phyllis blackmailed her way to head of the Party Planning Committee only to be undone by hubris. No power corrupts quite like the power that comes with heading up the Party Planning Committee.

Nature abhors a vacuum and after Phyllis lost her fragile hold on the Party Planning Committee by snitching on Angela and Dwight the committee lost its leadership and its sense of purpose. Tragedy struck: Kelly’s birthday went uncelebrated by her peers and Dwight and Jim put their personal differences aside to throw an exquisitely half-assed, tardy party for their supremely pissed-off co-worker. This thread beautifully illustrated on of the show’s recurring themes: how wage slaves cling to silly little rituals as a way of staving off the drudgery of their day to day lives. As always, Dwight and Jim made a terrific team, especially as they were forced to work together towards a common goal: pacifying Kelly. My favorite gag of the night was a Dwight crafted banner reading, “It is your birthday”. No exclamation point or frilly letters, just a dry statement of fact. It was the perfect embodiment of his brutally unsentimental, Teutonic sensibility: why celebrate and make a big whoop when you can coldly, dispassionately lay out the bare facts in the sparest manner imaginable.

In a subplot that promised more than it delivered, Michael is sent by corporate to different branches to deliver a speech on improving sales. Pam accompanied as his assistant/driver/sidekick and Michael predictably succeeded in alienating just about everyone with his spiel about using unflattering observations about people as mnemonic devices to remember people. “Sugarboobs” and “Black Woman” were my favorite nicknames/mnemonic clues though that might just be because Sugarboobs and Black Woman was also the name of my favorite late seventies cop show.


As part of his lecture tour Michael and a nervous Pam encounter Karen, who is very, very pregnant by a man who is not Jim. The Office has a tendency to draaaagggg out awkward moments to excruciating lengths for comic and dramatic effect, but it didn’t linger at all on Pam telling the now married-and-pregnant Karen (damn, she works fast) that she and Jim were now engaged. Karen seemed happy for America’s sitcom sweethearts but was it genuine happiness or smiling-through-gritted-teeth faux happiness? What do you guys think?

Inspired by Pam and Karen’s moment of closure a melancholy Michael Scott rues his own unresolved feelings towards Holly, she of the winningly geeky personality and perfect boobs, and acquiesces when Pam proposes blowing off their next speech to visit Michael’s lost love. Michael has the ingratiating quality of being completely transparent in his emotions and Carell did a bang-up job conveying how his character cycled rapidly from, “Wouldn’t it be great to achieve closure with Holly” to “We couldn’t possibly blow off work to visit her” to “Why the hell not?”


In the episode’s C story, a lovesick Andy becomes instantly infatuated with a beautiful client of Stanley's whom Stanley cynically “sells” to him for two of his clients. Andy tries to weasel his way into his new crush’s heart by furtively discovering her likes and dislikes (he might as well have been going through her mail and opening her Netflix envelopes) and makes a characteristically clumsy pass at her after unwisely listening to Creed’s counsel.

The Office tonight aimed squarely for the funny and connected. It was full of laughs but had a bit of a bittersweet aftertaste, as Michael contemplated love won and lost and Pam came to terms with her role in the break-up of Karen and Jim. All this plus one hell of a cliffhanger. I can’t wait to see what transpires next week and eagerly await the return of Holly.


Grade: A-

Stray Observations—

—“I even hate to think that Al Quaeda hates me”

—“Thankfully my feelings regenerate at twice the speed of a normal man.”

—The Pledge of Allegiance could definitely benefit from more woofing.

—“She is pregnant, she is knocked up, K for Karen.”

—“1,2,3,4 similarly would benefit from more lyrics about Splenda.”

—I like that Michael thinks Karen was impregnated by a Sperm machine

—Best line of the night: “This is how I got Squeaky Fromme”. I could read a whole book of Creed’s advice and aphorisms.


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