Just about the only upside to the writers' strike is that it more or less coincides with the sinking feeling in my stomach that I might just be running out of new and/or interesting things to write about The Office. I know this feature is meant as a virtual water cooler of sorts, but when you talk about tonight's show with your officemates tomorrow, I suspect you're probably going to say something along the lines of "Eh, it was pretty funny" or "Meh" rather than launching into a 500-word dissertation on the show and its resonant themes.
Tonight's episode finds Michael Scott apoplectic over Ryan's decision to invite a peculiarly sun-burnt Toby, his laconic arch-nemesis, to a wilderness retreat instead of him. So as a counter-productive means of revenge, Michael decides to head out into the woods with Dwight to prove his mettle as an outdoorsman. We got additional insight into Dwight's conception of himself as an arch-survivalist as well as a glimpse into the impressive stock pile of weapons Dwight keeps stashed around the office, just in case. My favorite was Dwight hiding a big Rambo knife in a file cabinet under the heading "A. Knife." Subtle.
You just know Dwight is the kind of guy who had about a dozen contingency plans mapped out in case Y2K devolved into a global apocalypse. Heck, he's probably vaguely disappointed the world did not devolve into chaos just so he would finally have a chance to show off his survival skills. He seems like the kind of guy who'd really be able to get inside the mindset of a wolf (super-obscure Office in-joke alert!).
Dwight insists that he's entirely willing to let Michael die in the woods rather than sacrifice his dignity. As the show heads steadily into Blair Witch Project territory (dude, wouldn't it be funny if someone did a Blair Witch parody?), that seemed like a definite possibility, however remote. Back at the office, Jim is horrified to see himself turning slowly but surely into Michael. This was a rare and kind of refreshing opportunity to see Jim being a dick instead of Michael. Oscar even got to do one of those mortified "My (temporary) boss is such a tool" reaction shots that used to be Jim's exclusive domain.
In a bid to condense a gauntlet of birthday parties into one big combined blow-out, Jim ended up alienating co-workers who, for understandable reasons, would prefer to have their very own birthday party instead of sharing one with six or seven co-workers. It's easy to see where both Jim and his dissatisfied co-workers are coming from. Jim's plan made sense, but it also disrupted the delicate ecosystem of the office, where having your own big day can make up for an awful lot of drudgery.
Jim tonight got a terrifying image of what his future might hold as he tried on Michael's shoes for a day or so and was horrified by how snugly they fit. Again, it's nice to see Jim have something to do beyond deliver wry one-liners, make goo-goo eyes at Pam, and get his deadpan reaction shot on old school. This was full of guffaws, not to mention chuckles, titters, and larfs aplenty. I particularly liked the montage of Michael's "surprise" birthday treat shocking and disorienting the people he's ostensibly celebrating. The "Steve Carell" guy who wrote tonight's Office might just have a future as a writer if the acting thing doesn't work out. Well, TV pals, that's about all the brilliant and insightful observations I can muster about tonight's Office. Catch you on the flipside, dudemeisters.
Grade:B+ Stray Observations: -"Tell her it's for Creed. She'll know what that means." -Who knew Creed's birthday meant so much to Michael? -If worse came to worse, I suspect that Dwight would be all too willing to eat Michael's corpse to survive. Or maybe just for a midnight snack. -I'd feel a lot safer if only there were more weapons stashed strategically around my office.