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The Office: "The Surplus"

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Hello, television friends. How were your Thanksgiving celebrations? Didja have any exciting adventures? Though I can't really say too much or be more specific for legal reasons, I traveled to an exotic destination and watched in horror as the veteran of a popular seventies cop show did a crude pantomime of an adult sex offender raping a twelve-month-old. He was only doing it for educational purposes, to illustrate how quickly a subsection of the criminal community he called "pukes" could go from beating it to a girly magazine to stalking playgrounds in search of fresh prey but it nevertheless scarred me for life. Say, didja know said TV icon is now a real life police officer? I certainly do now. After working alongside the mystery celeb for eight hours I now know more about his life than many members of his immediate family. Homeboy likes to talk.

Sadly, strangely, I am not making any of that up. But that is a tale for another time and place. Hey, let's talk about The Office! 30 Rock and The Office were all about cute geek girls behaving in a mildly evil fashion. On tonight's episode of The Office Oscar's discovery of a modest surplus in the Dunder-Mifflin budget brought out the worst in the gang as the wage slaves split into warring factions over how best to spend the money. After having the surplus explained to him several times, Michael learned that he needed to spend the four thousand plus dollars immediately or it would go away forever. Yes, it was kind of like Brewster's Millions only with fewer dead comic icons and more German-speaking Mennonite ministers.

Pam wanted to spend the windfall on new chairs and wasn't above using her feminine wiles to get her way. The epic surplus war pitted co-worker against co-worker, accountant versus receptionist and Pam versus Jim. A cold war developed once Jim asserted his independence by breaking with his beloved fiancé and agitating for a new copier. We saw a new side of Pam tonight, a more cold-blooded, calculating dimension that put getting her way above office unity.

Pam joined the rest of the gang in shamelessly kissing up to a suddenly powerful Michael, who spent a disturbing amount of the episode wiggling his posterior in an ostensibly comic fashion that came off as more than a little creepy. Michael is split between whether to side with Pam or the rest of the office until he learns that if he can keep fifteen percent of the surplus money if he doesn't spend the windfall.


This of course tips the scales firmly on the side of pocketing the excess moolah. Michael intends to use the money to splurge at his favorite clothing store. "I love Burlington coat factory. You go in there with 645 dollars and you are literally a King," he confided in my favorite line of the show. I am a big fan of people misusing the word "literally". I dug the idea of Michael's instant transformation into Burlington Coat Factory royalty.

In the b-story, Andy and Angela's grim death march to the altar continues as the miserable couple travels to Shrute Farms to discuss the nuptials of the damned in further detail. The cuckolding of Andy subplot walks a fine line between engagingly nasty and gratuitously mean. Tonight's episode fell firmly and unbecomingly on the off-puttingly cruel side of that line; the cruelty/funny ratio felt off and I all but rolled my eyes when Dwight tricked Angela into marrying him by having a German-speaking Mennonite minister furtively perform a gotcha sorta-kinda-maybe wedding ceremony.


I definitely thought this was one instance where the show went big and wacky and broad at the expense of verisimilitude and quality. I'm really starting to feel sorry for Andy; he's such a hapless schmuck and I don't know that I find Dwight and Angela's cruelty particularly funny any more. I did like that Andy somehow managed to step into a giant pile of horse shit inside Dwight's house. He's having that kind of a year.

I guess those anger management courses Andy took a few years back must have worked too well; he went from being a powder keg of rage to being metaphorically castrated. At least Andy got to enjoy a little physical affection from Angela when she jumped his bones as a way of getting back at Dwight for his trickery.


To borrow the terminology of Metallica's Some Kind of Monster tonight's episode felt a little stock. I wasn't feeling the Dwight/Angela/Andy triangle and the surplus plot was O.K, though it did provide the priceless sight gag of Michael wearing a fur coat that would look more natural on a sixty-year-old woman as well as the big reveal that it was now coated in blood thanks to an animal rights activist.

I also liked the cold open though the episode, on the whole, felt–to borrow my colleague Noel Murray's favorite word–a little "meh".


Grade: B-

Stray Observations–

–How scorching was that Andy/Angela kiss? What's that? Not scorching at all? Never mind.


–"Do you have to slaughter on our wedding today?"

–If Andy were any more pathetic he'd be a character in a Todd Solondz movie


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