• Season 4 : Episode 6
  • First aired on November 1, 2007
  • Written by Mindy Kaling / Directed by Joss Whedon
  • Recap by Linus
  • Discuss this episode at The Watercooler, and remember to submit your vote at OfficeTally.

I feel a great disturbance in the Force. As if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced. It’s the Return of Karen, attempting to hire Stanley away to the Utica branch of Dunder Mifflin, where she is now Regional Manager. Michael and Dwight go on the offensive, and drag a reluctant, mufti-clad Jim along with them. As the sparks fly in Oneida County, back in Scranton, Pam’s “Finer Things Club” is having some difficulty getting any privacy — especially from Andy, who would join a a pack of lemmings if he thought there was something to be gained at the bottom of the cliff.

The Michael Scott School of Hard Knocks

For a guy who doesn’t seem to be terribly happy, Michael certainly is emotionally invested in the status quo.

[Stanley has just informed Michael of his intention to take a better-paying job in beautiful Utica, New York. Michael now makes an announcement to the office.]
Michael: Hi, everyone, can I have your attention, please? I just thought you all should know that Stanley Hudson is planning on leaving us, because our old friend Karen from Utica is going to give him more money to work there. [General applause.] No, no, no, no! No, no, no, no — you completely misinterpreted my tone. This is a horrible thing. Clearly, Karen is trying to get back at us because Jim dumped her.
Jim: Oh, I don’t think that’s what’s happening.
Michael: Okay, smarty-pants, then why? Why is she trying to take Stanley from us?
Stanley: I think it’s because of my sales record.
Michael: That could not possibly be it.

I think there’s a technical psychological term for what Michael’s displaying here, but I can’t remember it. I just want to put out a reminder from everybody with a propensity to ascribe personal motivations to seemingly impersonal actions, to everybody who thinks we’re crazy for doing so: Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. Franklin Delano Roosevelt said that.

[Michael attempts to poach Ben Nugent, Karen’s top salesman, in retaliation. Pam provides moral support.]
Michael: I’m going to cut right to the chase here. Do you like magic? Because I am a genie in a bottle, and I am going to grant you three wishes: To move to Scranton, to have a great job, and to be my best friend.
Nugent: Aren’t you the guy who hit the woman with your car?
Pam: [laughs]
Michael: [To Pam.] Get out. [Pam leaves.] Uh, yeah, I also saved her life. But I guess that’s not as grabby.
Nugent: Everyone says Scranton branch is worse than Camden. Didn’t everyone from Stamford quit like, immediately?
Michael: No, I fired them, and you’re next! . . . So, whaddya say?
Nugent: Seriously?

It all started off so well. That “genie in a bottle” line is going to get anyone’s attention. Then, we move on to the creepy intimation of social isolation, followed closely by mistreatment of subordinates, defensive hostility, and rapid mood swings. They say you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. It sometimes seems like Michael’s trying to lure them with toothpaste.

[Michael lays out his plans for the Utica prank.]
Michael: All right, Dwight, here’s how it’s going to go down. You and I are going to sneak inside, and pretend that we are warehouse workers. Then we will Silly String the bejesus out of them.

According to dictionary.com, bejesus has no real meaning outside the context of an emphatic noun. In other words, there is no such thing as a bejesus. I find this simultaneously a little disappointing and kind of cool. I also learned that it’s a contraction of “by Jesus”. Anyway, it’s one of Michael’s favorite words, and I have to say, if one were going to Silly String the X out of something, it’s probably best if X = bejesus.

[Jim sits in the car, while Michael and Dwight, inside the Utica branch, communicate with him via walkie-talkie.]
Jim: All right, Great Scott, if you’ve found that choking hazard poster, just head on home.
Michael: We’ve got something far better. Their crown jewel: their industrial copier.
Jim: Isn’t that thing huge?
Dwight: It’s enormous. But it’s got wheels. We’re wheeling it down the hall into the stairwell. Get the car ready, keep the engine running.
Jim: No. This is a terrible idea. Don’t do this.
Dwight: Auggghhh! My hipbone!
[We hear the copier crashing down some stairs.]
Michael: We’re wedged between the copier and the railing! Ow! [unintelligible] Leave us, Jim! Leave us!
Dwight: Help! No! No!
Michael: Save yourself!
Dwight: Don’t leave us — help us! We need help, Jim.
Jim: Okay, first of all, stop using my name, and second, d — dammit, guys.
[Karen walks by. Jim notices, and attempts to hide.]
Michael: Move over a little bit. Oh, my bladder!
Jim: Oh my God. Oh my God. Karen is back.
Michael: Take her to to a hotel. Make love to her.
Jim: No, I’m not doing that.
Michael: Say you want to get back together.
Jim: No! I’m not doing that.
Michael: It doesn’t have to mean anything, just . . . do it for Stanley. Come on, Jim, just climb on top of her and think about Stanley. Ow, God. Jim, if this is it for me, promise me something . . .
[Karen knocks on the car window.]
Karen: Jim?
Michael: . . . host the Dundies.

First of all, the decision to play this scene as essentially a radio show with reaction shots from Jim was a great one. Frequently what’s left to the imagination is funnier than that which is spelled out explicitly.

Beyond that . . . well, there’s a lot going on here. It seems right that Michael would be the one telling Jim to save himself — it fits a certain part his self-image so perfectly. Of course, if this were an actual war-type situation, I think we’d see him saving himself first. Also, his dying thoughts are of the Dundies, which we haven’t actually seen in more than two years, but which seem still to loom large in his psychological landscape. And then there’s the horrifying mental image toward the end (would you rather “think of Stanley”, or “think of England”?), Dwight’s continued need to play with the walkie-talkie, and of course, the highly embarrassing reunion with Darth Va — er, Karen.

Dwight Being Dwight

So, exactly how much Dwight is too much Dwight? That’s a question we’ll address later; for now, let us remember that almost every episode of The Office has at least one line that is truly classic, and often as not, that line comes from our man Dwight.

[Jim listens from the car as Dwight and Michael attempt to infiltrate Dunder Mifflin-Utica.]
Dwight: We are in a stairwell. We are climbing some stairs. I’m breathing heavily.
Jim: Okay, you know what? You really don’t need to be updating me as much as you’re updating me.
Michael: Woah, there’s a guy, there’s a guy.
Dwight: It’s a security guard. [To the guard, brightly.] Hello! We’re warehouse workers. Would you like more proof?
Michael: Whew. Oh my God, that was very close.
Dwight: I can see the security guard’s eyes.
Jim: No! Don’t do anything to them!
Dwight: I have to do something to his eyes.
[Cut to a talking head with Dwight.]
Dwight: The eyes are the groin of the head.

That’s why they made Dwight sempai. He knows the pressure points.

The Many Faces of Jim

Hell hath no fury like a, um, a whatsit somethingorother — what is that saying? Pachyderm shorn? I wouldn’t want to shave an elephant, that’s for sure. I guess that’s not as relevant here as I thought it was. Anyway, Jim’s been pretty happy for a while. He’s about to have a really bad day.

[Michael and Dwight have convinced Jim to come with them to make a “monster sale”.]
Jim: We just missed the exit for Corcoran.
Michael: [badly feigning surprise] What? What? We did?
Dwight: Surprise! [he and Michael high five]
Michael: Yes! Look at his face! Look at his face!
Jim: What are we doing?
Dwight: [waves hands in Jim’s face]
Michael: What are we doing? Dwight, what are we doing?
Dwight: Well, gee, Jim, I don’t know. I guess there’s no sales call today!
Michael: We are going on a panty raid to Utica, is what we’re doing.
Jim: We’re going to Utica?
Michael: Uh-huh!
Jim: I’m not going to Utica right now.

You can practically see his tongue sweating. And it’s only going to get worse.

[Michael and Dwight show Jim their pranking supplies.]
Michael: Here’s what we got. We brought uniforms from the warehouse. We brought Silly String. Dwight brought gasoline and chunks of rubber to make stink bombs.
Dwight: Or real bombs.
Michael: No, no. No bombs.
Dwight: C’mon, it’ll be so badass.
Michael: Eeh — maybe. I don’t know. I don’t know. That’ll be badass. It will.
Jim: No. Absolutely we’re not doing this.
Dwight [holding up a Molotov cocktail]: But I already filled the bottles with the gas! It’s gonna be so badass!

What’s the matter, Jim? Prank on Dwight, and it’s “Absolutely I do”, prank on Karen, it’s “absolutely we’re not”? Where’s your sense of humor? You don’t find high explosives funny?

[Jim and Karen have a face-down in Karen’s office, after Michael and Dwight have been apprehended. Jim still wears his “disguise”, that of a Dunder Mifflin warehouse worker.]
Karen: So, you’re still doing this kinda stuff, huh?
Jim: Yeah, trying to quit, though.
Karen: If you wanted to see me, you could just have called me like an adult.
Jim: Oh, no, I didn’t want to see you. Not that I’m not happy to be seeing you, right now. I’m just saying that, ultimately, I was just here for the copier. Equal. I’d say it was equal. So. Good to see you. . . . [Karen is unimpressed.] . . . I mean, it’s just that, you know, Pam and I are still dating, so . . . And — I just mean that things are going really well, so I didn’t want to see . . . you.
Karen: Oh, things are going really well? Are they? They are. That’s great. That’s so great. I wanna hear more about how happy you are with Pam. Can you tell me more about that? Thank you so much for coming to Utica, and breaking my copier, and telling me how well things are going in your relationship! Really, thank you.
Jim [stands to leave]: All right. You are welcome. I’m going to go. Because of, um, traffic.
Karen: Traffic, yeah. Go because of traffic. Definitely, beat the traffic.
Jim: So. I will — [He walks off.]

Jim’s deer-in-the-headlights routine here was superbly acted by John Krasinski. You could see him dying every second of the conversation. Unfortunately, this whole situation could and probably would have been easily defused by a couple of simple words from Jim. Like, say, “Those idiots kidnapped me!” But it wasn’t to be.

I think one possible explanation is that Jim feels he deserves whatever he gets from Karen. If that’s the case, he’s right. He treated her shabbily last year, and as much as one has antipathy towards her because she’s not Pam, I think it’s completely fair that she’s still mad. Frankly, this could have been a lot worse, and I think Jim probably sees that. I mean, it’s not as though he walked out of that office skipping, but she also didn’t give him a laundry list of every way in which he did her wrong, which wouldn’t have been completely unwarranted.

Confessions of a Receptionist

It’s great that Pam is finding new ways to enjoy her life, but she needs to get some friends outside of the office. Because Toby is starting to give me a wiggins with extra wig, the way he follows her around.

[Pam, Toby, and Oscar have gathered in the break room for a meeting of their Finer Things Club, at which they dress up in silly clothes, eat pretentious food, and generally make like freshman English majors. Meanwhile, Kevin does noisy battle with the vending machine.]
Pam: . . . and Lucy’s torn between those two things, between passion and convention.
Kevin: Dammit.
Pam: It just –
[Kevin begins to pound on the vending machine with progressively more violence.]
Pam: To be making a case for [unintelligible] . . . I thought was, at times, uh –
Kevin: [his candy having finally come unlodged] Yes! [He is unable to reach the candy, which causes a bit more racket.] Dammit.
Pam: I mean he was sort of ahead of his time as a writer.
Oscar: Very brave. [Phyllis enters and punches a frankly incredible number of buttons on the microwave, eliciting a series of beeps.]
Pam: Very brave choice, I thought, also.
Oscar: And George [beep beep], his youthfulness [beep], his freedom [beep] evokes, um [beep beep beep beep] feelings, um… WHAT ARE YOU MICROWAVING?
Phyllis: Popcorn.
Pam: Why don’t you use the microwave in the kitchen, Phyllis?
Phyllis: Someone needs to clean it, it smells like popcorn.

Pam is a Pharisee among Philistines. (That’s a little Biblical humor for ya. Hope you liked it. Alliterative, too.) It’s not as though she bought a ticket to the blockhead convention, but somehow she ended up there anyway.

The Jim / Pam Index

For this week, the Dwangela S&P is on hiatus, because, sadly, Angela hardly made an appearance. That probably means that she and Andy haven’t got much beyond the “Oh, D!” phase of their relationship. There’s still a glimmer of hope — but it’s the same glimmer as last week.

As for Jim and Pam, well, there might have been a small amount of angst last week, but this week was really nothing but good for these two. Jim faced down one of his demons, and came home to find a woman who knew exactly how to make him feel better:

[Jim, Dwight, and Michael have just returned from their disastrous trip to Utica; Jim stops at Pam’s desk.]
Jim: Hey.
Pam: I’m so sorry. Rolando told me everything. How humiliating. Would it help you to return to another age? A time of refinement and civility?
[She reveals a plate of finger sandwiches.]
Jim: Are you inviting me to the Finer Things Club?
[Pam nods.]
Andy [from across the room]: Oh, come on!

Every relationship, if not exactly a perfect sine wave, has peaks and valleys — and it usually starts on a high. Jim and Pam rode that high for a good long while, but here we see them settling into a steadier pattern of two people who truly belong together. It was a long day apart, and Jim’s was especially unpleasant. One of the reasons we humans seek love is for the comfort we glean from being understood by another human. And we make sacrifices for each other to that end. Pam has it nailed down in this instance: She knows exactly what will make him feel better. Ultimately, she knows it will be a bit of a sacrifice on her part, too . . .

[A meeting of the Finer Things Club. Jim is in attendance. The men wear driving caps, and Pam a scarf around her head.]
Jim: Angela’s Ashes. Top o’ the mornin’ to it. Frankie’s prose is finer than a pot o’ gold. Say I.
Oscar: Okay. Did you get it out of your system?
Jim: Yep. No, I mean, I really liked it. I thought it was a fun read.
Toby: Fun? Really?
Jim: Yeah.
Toby: What was fun about it for you? Was it the death of the twins?
Jim: Mmm — no, that wasn’t fun.
Toby: Did you even read it?
Jim: Course I read it.
Oscar: How does it end?
Toby: Who was the main character?
Jim: Angela. Nope. The ashes.
Pam [mouthing to Oscar]: I’m sorry.

You know what? Shut up, Toby. I’ve always felt sorry for Toby, but when his Pam-crush manifests as hostility toward Jim, that’s below the belt.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s see. Seems to me that Branch Wars has earned some hot chocolate, and maybe a pat on the head when it comes to the JPI.

Supporting Nod

I wanted to give it to Oscar, who had the single funniest line of the night, and to Stanley, who was the shiny bauble over which Michael and Karen fought, but instead it must go to Andy, whose picture just got a little clearer:

[Talking head with Andy.]
Andy: The Finer Things Club is the most exclusive club in this office. Naturally, it’s where I need to be. The Party Planning Committee is my backup, and Kevin’s band is my safety.

Somehow, Scrantonicity II wound up the least lame thing on this list.

The Superstar

By the time our heroes had arrived in Utica, Jim was practically chewing on his own heart. You have to give him credit for that.

Transmissions from the Office

  • Michael: This is perfect!
    Dwight: He looks like your twin.
    Michael: This is a dummy, a la Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. We have tied a string to the wrist that goes to the door. When somebody opens the door, the hand goes down, hits the remote, turns on the tape recorder, which is me, snoring. [Snoring noises from Michael’s tape recorder.] Now, nobody knows whether I am here or whether I am am gone.
    Dwight: I will know.
    Michael: But you will not tell anyone.
    Dwight: I won’t need to, cos we’ll be together, playing hooky!
    Michael: Well, sometimes. Most of the time I will be with Ryan. Or Darryl. [a knock on the door] Yes? [enter Stanley] Oh, good, good, Stanley — first victim. This is what I want you to do: go out, come back in, we’re gonna hide, I want you to tell me if this looks like me, okay?
    Stanley: I don’t understand why sleeping at your desk is better than you not being here.

    This is why Michael is Regional Manager and you are but a salesman, Stanley. Lack of vision.

  • Michael: You cannot take the hilarious black guy from the office. Stanley is part of what makes this branch so extraordinary — the bluesy wisdom, the sassy remarks, the crossword puzzles, the smile, those big watery red eyes. I don’t know how George Bush did it when Colin Powell left. And if Utica thinks that they are going to poach Stanley, they got another thing coming.

    I don’t usually talk politics, but I think the answer to this one is easy and uncontroversial: George Bush isn’t a crazy person. One of the signal differences between Michael Scott and George Bush, I’d say.

  • Michael: How can I get you to stay?
    Stanley: Money.
    Michael: Yeah. We all want money, but there is none in the budget, so tell me why you’re really leaving,.
    Stanley: Money.
    Michael: Mo’ money, mo’ problems, Stanley, you of all people should know that. Let me ask you this: If I were –
    Stanley: Money.

    Is anybody else a little disappointed that Michael didn’t do his Cuba Gooding, Jr. impersonation? (Side note: Remember when René Zellweger was still cute?)

  • Oscar: Besides having sex with men, I would say the Finer Things Club is the gayest thing about me.

    And there it is: the funniest thing Oscar has ever said.

  • Michael: You, me, Dwight are going to jump in my PT Cruiser and we are going to crush this sale. We are going to prove — what the hell is that music?
    Pam: Vivaldi. For Finer Things.
    Michael: That’s the problem. That’s the problem. We need rock n roll, Pam, we need rock n roll, all right? [Michael turns to find Toby entering the room wearing a bow tie and carrying an armload of teacups.] Oh . . . my . . . God. That’s why people are leaving. I . . . I have no words.

    One shouldn’t need to join a club to find an excuse to wear a bow tie.

  • Michael: So, why did you and Karen break up? Was it the sex?
    Jim: What?
    Michael: I can’t imagine the sex being bad, I mean, her body is awesome –
    Jim: You know what? Why don’t we play that alphabet game that you were talking about?

    Here’s the question: How could you tell? Karen dressed in formless clothes that occasionally made it look as though she was wearing a fatsuit underneath. We’ve already seen through Pam why it might be wise for a beautiful woman to dress down a little bit in this office, so I don’t blame her. I guess this is just another example of Michael’s hyperactive imagination.

  • Michael: What is that? That sound? Is the air conditioning leaking or something?
    Jim: That doesn’t make sense. Couldn’t be.
    Michael: What is that?
    [We see Dwight doing . . . something . . . in the back seat.]
    Michael: Dwight? Are you peeing?
    Dwight: I’m peeing in this empty can.

    I was just going to present this for your, well . . . for you, without comment, or maybe with something brief but snide, but I’m sorry, I just can’t keep my mouth shut. This was awful. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no prude, and I’m not above the occasional joke involving the ejection of bodily fluids of one kind or another. But this was bad. The Office is at its best as satire, and at its worst when it becomes too much like any other show on which wacky people do wacky things, wakka-wakka-wakka. This is probably the worst example of that yet. When it happened, I think I said out loud, “Come on, seriously?” Leave this kind of dumbass stunt to a lesser show, all right?

  • Andy: So, Stanley, are you really out of here?
    Stanley: Yep, looks that way.
    Andy: Mmm. I’m gonna miss you, man. You’ve been like an uncle to me. Like a kind, old Uncle Remus. I wanna stay in touch.

    It’s a good thing for the employees at Dunder Mifflin-Scranton that Stanley is not litigious by nature or inclination.

  • Karen: I cried for weeks over that guy, so yeah. Seeing him climb out of a PT Cruiser in a ladies’ warehouse uniform felt pretty good.

    Patch is probably wondering who the hell broke into her locker, and why.

  • Michael: Hum. Wanted: Middle-aged black man with sass. Big butt, bigger heart. I can’t do this.

    Michael’s preternatural ability to be insulting while simultaneously showing that he cares way more about you than seems quite right shines through yet again.

  • Stanley: I wasn’t really planning on leaving. All I wanted was a raise. How on Earth did Michael call my bluff? Is he some sort of secret genius? [laughs] Sometimes I say crazy things.

    Crazy . . . like a fox. I think Michael really is “some sort of secret genius”, though it’s not really a kind of genius that does him much good as regional manager of a paper company. His ability to throw the entirety of his emotional being into even the most ridiculous project, if it concerns his employees, is amazing to behold. I, personally, would be exhausted by living the life of Michael Scott. I think almost anybody would. And there it is, that’s Michael’s genius: His desperate need to be liked drives him like a furnace stoked high.

Odds and Ends

  • Utica branch is way nicer than either Scranton or Stamford. I find that weird, because my research (read: Googling) seems to indicate that Utica is something less than financially viable these days. Maybe it’s just that there’s a girl in charge.
  • Jim had a bit of a Michael moment in Karen’s office, trying to use humor to deflect criticism and instead making it worse.
  • The writers went on strike on Monday, 5 November. The situation is complicated, and I haven’t read anything about how long people think it will last. I do know that there are a couple of episodes of The Office in the can already, so we’re not feeling the sickness yet, but it’s in the post. In theory, a show like this one would be less likely to see the effects soon than a topical show, like The Daily Show or Late Night with Conan O’Brien, but the situation is complicated by the fact that at least four of the show’s actors (Steve Carell, B.J. Novak, Mindy Kaling, and Paul Lieberstein) are also writers — as members of the Screen Actors Guild, they’re not on strike, but as members of the Writers Guild of America, they are. There are some fine hairs to be split, if they even come to the set. Can they make ad hoc suggestions onset? Is changing blocking enough to qualify as a violation of the strike? It’s a complicated situation, made more complicated by the issues at hand (the changing ways that people watch television, and the ways in which writers are paid as a result). Already reports are that Steve Carell didn’t show up for work at all today. (See James Gunn’s Myspace for that.) The last strike was nineteen years ago, and it lasted for five months. If this one goes on for that long, there will be some lean times for us addicts pretty soon. I suppose we could all start reading more books. Ha! Wouldn’t that be funny?
  • On that note, The Office may go off the air before too long, but Northern Attack will soldier on. You may have noticed that the archives have a few gaps; I have offered (more like begged) to write recaps of the early episodes that aired before James was fully up-and-running around here. If people are interested, I’ll be keeping track of strike news, and can include updates in future recaps.

Linus is a writer living in Portland, Oregon. His naked ambition is matched only by his monumental sloth. He can be reached at woodstein52@hotmail.com.

The Story in Pictures

Gallery Image

59 comments have been recorded under this entry.

Comments have been closed for this entry.

Done reading? Return home.

I wonder how Pam is going to take "the return of Karen" ?
This looks like it's going to be a good episode. I'm already looking forward to Linus' re-cap!

1Posted by Denise on November 1, 2007

"The eyes are the groin of the head."

Most hilarious TH of the series yet!

2Posted by emstevens on November 1, 2007

Man, what a disappointment. Worst of the season so far. Though it was nice to see Karen again.

3Posted by Dwigt on November 1, 2007

Man, that was one of the funniest episodes ever!

4Posted by Philip on November 1, 2007

Worst episode. Worst season. What happened to the good writing? Why is everything so literally bright now? Why is every camera shot predict someone's reaction instead of panning to a reaction or to what's going on in the scene. "I want my Office back, Office back, Office back, Office back. Barbecue Sauce."

5Posted by Jason on November 1, 2007

Well, there's another big difference with Jim and Pam. I wasn't big on her 'club' ..when do these people work?
I loved this episode, alot of funny moments, for example Jim trying to get the camera man to 'duck and cover' too.
I don't know what it is about this season, tho, it doesnt seem to be grabbing me.

(Did I notice one blooper?...Toby seemed to change clothes, from the ugly red bow tie to a regular tie. I believe the whole suit and shirt changed too, but I could be wrong)

6Posted by Denise on November 1, 2007

Michael seems to have no concept of travel time...Utica is 3 hours away from Scranton! Unless they left when everyone first got in, and the time in Utica was less than an hour, there's no way they get back and people are still at work. Just something I noticed...Michael Scott does this a lot, like when he drove into NY and then realized it was a chat room invite.

7Posted by Dwigt on November 2, 2007

Dwigt....I've said that before. Then I have to remind myself "it's a tv show...and they have to have creative license" And then I say it again LOL
I've noticed in many tv shows that there is no concept of (actual) time.

8Posted by Denise on November 2, 2007

Was Karen just screwing with Jim with her "if you wanted to see me" line? She didn't really think that's why he came right? She doesn't still want a piece of the Jim-pie does she? Can I stop asking questions now?

9Posted by Black Pepper Snake on November 2, 2007

Where is The Office from season 1? The characters are becoming cartoonish, and the writing is absurd. I chuckled a couple of times, but overall the episode was just plain dumb.

10Posted by HuskerMac on November 2, 2007

Did not like this episode. Jim cowering in the car was funny, but the Finer Things Club was totally absurd.

How long is it supposed to have been going on? If for a while, then (a) we should have already known about it and (b) unrealistic because ridicule from the others should have shut it down immediately.

I can't believe these characters would actually engage in something so pretentious and obnoxious-- except maybe Toby, because you know how he is & for the chance to spend time with Pam.

Are we ever going to see it again?

For the sake of continuity, we should. But for the sake of our sanity & enjoyment, please no.

11Posted by disappointed on November 2, 2007

Dwigt-- Michael probably drives 85 MPH. We've had much evidence of his being a terrible driver.

BPSnake-- I think her question was very ironic. She knew that he meekly went along with Michael and hoped to get in & out of Utica without her becoming aware. Her question was meant to humiliate him for his weakness in participating in the caper and intensify the awkwardness of his position. Payback for dumping her and immediately taking up with Pam. Her tactic worked because he came off looking terrible. He could not say that he wanted to see her, nor that he didn't want to see her.

12Posted by disappointed on November 2, 2007

I actually liked this episode, everything with the finer things club was hilarious. Did I detect an angry, assholish side of Toby towards Jim at the end. Wonder where that's going to lead. My favorite part had to be Stanley saying Michael was a secret genius. Michael is usually an effective manager when he's not even trying to be. Michael called Stanley the funny, sassy black guy, does he filter everything through a prism of TV and movie archetypes?

13Posted by jackalope on November 2, 2007

I think there were high points and low points to this episode. The look on Jim's face when the true nature of their outing was revealed, those mustaches, Toby's bowtie, the walkie-talkies, those were high points.

The low points? I didn't buy Stanley's "I'm not leaving" deus ex machina at the end, the Karen being bitter at Jim thing was... awkward but not entirely unexpected, and The Finer Things Club seemed weirdly tacked-on, in the sense that it was a good idea, but there wasn't enough input from, say, Toby about it - I can't imagine that the fact Pam's in it doesn't have some measure of pull for him, and... agh, I'm just ambivalent about it.

Which is not to say I didn't spend half this episode yelping and covering my eyes at the embarrassingness of it all (mainly Michael's plan and Dwight's willingness to gouge people's eyes out).

14Posted by Karin on November 2, 2007

Wow, I came on here expecting nothing but rave reviews from everyone. I thought the whole epidsode was brilliant. And although I am a HUGE PB & J fan, it was really nice to have Jim and Pam be deeply involved in seperate stories. That should score some points for the people that don't like them together.


15Posted by Melissa on November 2, 2007

I agree about the highs and lows. The Finer Things Club could have been a decent B-story, but it didn't seem to be really fleshed out in any way, almost as if it were a first draft.

Karen said that Stanley approached her. It's hard to imagine Stanley going to that much trouble to finagle a raise--he's usually pretty direct.

16Posted by Steve_OH on November 2, 2007

Although this episode was not in my top 10 (mainly for lack of quotable quotes, with the notable exception of Dwight's "The eyes are the groin of the head."), I really did like it.

One of my favorite parts was Phyllis' explanation for why she was not using the other microwave. "Somebody needs to clean it. It smells like popcorn." I loved this because it was a moment of real life absurdity, and the Office is so great about this kind of minutia. SOMEBODY should clean it. Just…you know…not her. Need I point out that she is making popcorn? Does anybody besides me work with people just like this?

On Karin's point about the FTC, I’d like to point out that the NBC website has deleted scenes about the Finer Things Club that justify the inclusion of this somewhat absurd sub-plot. In my opinion, it’s what this episode was missing. It gives us more talking heads, more Angela, more Toby, and it fleshes out the joke that the aired episode only hinted at. (Andy: "The Finer Things Club is THE most exclusive club in the office. So I have to be in it. The party planning committee is my backup. Then Scrantonicity.") It's well worth watching. I can't believe it didn't make the final cut.

(Has anybody else noticed that the deleted scenes in the DVDs are almost always fantastic? I bet it KILLS the writers to have to edit out these things.)

17Posted by TeamDwight on November 2, 2007

I'm still grappling with it, myself. I felt there were parts that were borderline genius (Jim listening to Michael & Dwight on the walkie-talkie, in particular), parts that were a let-down (Karen & Jim's confrontation was strangely anticlimactic), and parts that sub-Stiller idiotic junk (Dwight micturating in a can and cutting his important parts on it).

With the World Series over, this recap may go up a little earlier than last week's. Unless the Ducks beat Arizona State, in which it's likely to get a little crazy around here.

18Posted by Linus on November 2, 2007

How did I forget about that can? It was the most relevant-to-life thing on that show in a while (I know someone who does that, only into bottles instead of cans - resealable openings FTW).

UGH, sorry, just grossed myself out with that.

19Posted by Karin on November 2, 2007

TeamDwight, I AM the person who will use a different microwave because the first smells like popcorn even though I'm making popcorn... this was the spotlight moment in the epi for me.

I agree that except with the PB&J of the first epi, this season is slighly off - not awful just not awesomeness of Season 1&2 and latter part of Season 3. But hey... we're not even 1/4 way through so I remain hopeful. Although I did expect more from writer Mindy Kalig (The Injury) and director Joss Whedon.

20Posted by S.Kim on November 2, 2007

Well, personally, I loved the Jim/Karen reunion, precisely BECAUSE it was so odd and anticlimactic.

It reminded me of the moment from season 3 when Roy found out Jim had kissed Pam, and the episode ended with "I"m gonna kill Jim Halpert!" We spend weeks with buildup wondering what was going to happen. And then...the result (Dwight with the pepper spray) was so wondefully anticlimactic!

This reunion felt in the same vein for me. I was expecting something more tearful or brutally honest. Instead, it was devastatingly awkward...and I loved the surprise! Think about it...isn't it true to real life? Does a reunion to an ex we dumped and never expected to see again usually go well? Or is it more like what we actually saw in the episode? Poor Jim...he just didn't know what to say to her, just like any of us wouldn't.

Just something for everyone's consideration.

21Posted by Philip on November 2, 2007

Now THAT was a great episode!

I cant put my finger on it, but the way this episode was written and directed....seemed very different from anything they did before.

22Posted by Pat D. on November 2, 2007

I try with all I have not to think about anything that happened with Roy last season, because I felt it was all bad – bad storytelling, that is, indicative of the fact that they'd run out of ideas for Jim & Pam apart and that they needed to be together for the show's own good. I agree that Dwight's defusion of the situation was pretty good, but I saw nothing of that in this. Just plain old missed opportunities. Jim was easily the best part of this episode, and his embarassment was palpable, but Karen neither let him have it (which is what I expected, and what I wanted, because I think he deserves it) nor let him off the hook, completely. The scene wasn't particularly funny, and felt sort of like what Roger Ebert calls an "idiot plot" – a story that wouldn't happen if one character would just say the obvious thing to the other. In this instance, Jim should (and would) have told her that he was essentially kidnapped. He didn't say the obvious thing, and what we got was that scene in which Karen busted his chops a little bit and then let him go with a few snide comments. It wasn't funny, we didn't get any particular insight into anybody's character. It felt like a blank spot where there should have been something else, or more.

23Posted by Linus on November 2, 2007

Well, I'd criticize "idiot plot" in a normal sitcom, but people in real life do refuse to say the obvious thing. That's cringeworthy realism at work in this episode.

24Posted by Moratorium on Cornell Talk on November 2, 2007

quote:Well, I'd criticize "idiot plot" in a normal sitcom, but people in real life do refuse to say the obvious thing. That's cringeworthy realism at work in this episode.

Heck yeah, it happens to me all the time. In fact, I've been going through it a lot recently. So I sure can relate!

25Posted by Philip on November 2, 2007

In this instance, I agree with MOCT and Philip. Although it seems obvious that the Jim/Karen conversation could have gone better I thought it was really interesting and realistic the way Mindy wrote it. Jim was obviously out of sorts for many reasons. Confrontation with an ex is not Jim's forte at all under the best of circumstances. Combine that with the stress of the kidnapping, dealing with Michael and Dwight all day, the humiliating conditions under which he is seeing Karen again for the first time, the fact that his former relationship with Karen probably reminds him of negative things (that he wasn't with Pam - not Karen's fault, but still) and Jim just put his foot in his mouth at every opportunity. The writers do a terrific job with this kind of scenario, like when Jim and Pam had their first conversation in Season 3, Pam throughout the Ben Franklin episode, just squirmingly awkward conversations that are so painfully true to life you forget that they're scripted.

26Posted by Kristin on November 3, 2007

I still don't buy it. I think the exact opposite is true: Jim would have said anything to get out of that situation, including the obvious and easy fact that he was not there of his own will. It didn't seem "realistic" to me -- it seemed contrived. But Jim & Karen have always been a problem for this show. They were poorly-written last year, and I shouldn't really have expected that to change.

27Posted by Linus on November 3, 2007

Oh, Linus...what are we gonna do with you? LOL.

28Posted by Philip on November 3, 2007

Michael said he would be playing hookie with Ryand Daryl, does this mean that Michael now has an inappropriate, weird man crush on Daryl?

29Posted by jackalope on November 3, 2007

I heard that too, jackalope, and thought it sounded odd. He introduced Andy to the commercial camera crew as " he gives the best back rubs in the office".

I think no matter what Jim would have said to Karen, she would not have cared.... She wanted the upper hand with him. She wanted to make him feel like crap like he did to her. She wanted to "win". (and hey she did... she's moved up in the company, he is still in his rut)
Ok it's not even 7am... i hope that all made sense.

30Posted by Denise on November 4, 2007

Wow...I never thought I would be saying this, but The Office this season, and in particular this episode...it's actually making me reluctant to watch a new episode every week. I used to look forward to this show more than anything, and now it's just become...well, I suppose it's become what all the British fans of the original said it was to begin with...a watered-down, "safe" version of a mockumentary. But folks, so far this season we are venturing deep into sitcom territory. It's not to say that the episodes aren't good...for a sitcom, it's hilarious...but everything that set it apart from the standard fare seems to have been thrown out the window. If I'm not mistaken, the new "higher-ups" at NBC were also champions of The Office in its early days of Season One, when it was still struggling to find its own voice separate from that of the British show and was dealing with very low audience turnout. Now these executives have the power to really give attention and focus to the show, and what do they do? They pull every low-brow, cliched trick out of their back to appeal to the lowest common denominator; they sell the soul of the show to get ratings. In order to compete with shows on other networks that are either relentlessly mediocre "reality shows" or absurdly silly sitcoms (you know what I'm talking about), The Office has contortioned itself into something it was never meant to be. I wouldn't be surprised if we get a laugh-track next. Like I said before, it's not that the episodes aren't good, but...maybe I'm expecting too much out of this show. Maybe it's impossible to keep the standards high over a long period of time. But I would rather have the show suffer from low ratings, and even get cancelled at the end of this year, if it meant more episodes that take risks instead of following the crowd, and more characters development instead of worrying about who's dating who and turning ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends into stereotypical bad guys. God, it kills me to say this, but maybe the British version had it right. Our version of the Office should have ended after season 3.

31Posted by critterfur on November 4, 2007

I thought this was a good episode, however, I do agree somewhat that this season is lacking in sizzle that previous seasons have had. I think the hour-long episodes, the posturing, and the fact that this has become a springboard for some of the cast has taken some of the shine out of it. We're not really spending much time in the office itself this season. So much of what's happened is outside of the office which means that the stories are broader and they have to cover so much more ground. I might be wrong, but I think they're doing fewer talking heads. When there's more talking heads they can really cut back on the amount of "stuff" that has to happen and instead can focus on the smaller things that we enjoy about the show. I agree that this is still better than so many other sitcoms out there, I just hope that the spin-off rumors are not true.

Back to the episode, I kind of enjoyed seeing Jim get owned throughout this episode (kidnapped, losing his phone (getting it back rather unceremoniously), wearing the women's warehouse jumpsuit, awkward Karen situation, then clearly not being much of a reader). He's not always so cool when he's out of his comfort zone.

32Posted by Andrew on November 4, 2007

This episode should have been one of the hour longs, in my opinion anyway. This epsiodes had a lot of chances to be really funny but seemed to miss its opportunities. This one should have been an hour long, instead of Dunder Mifflin Infinity and ESPECIALLY Launch Party, with the former being really good up to the whole Michael freaking out thing and Launch Party being stupid fluff then on top of it adding the whole pizza boy thing.

This epsiode has some of the funniest deleted scenes I've ever seen, it explains why Toby is in the Finer Things Club and what other besides Andy think of it plus it has one of the funniest visuals I've ever seen, Michael and Dwight pinned under the copy machine.

33Posted by Wedding Belle on November 4, 2007

Some of have to wait for the dvd's for delete scenes :( stupid slow dial up.

34Posted by Denise on November 5, 2007

critterfur, I completely agree with you.

When I first watched the British Office, I couldn't follow the humor, I thought it was awkward and altogether unfunny. But by the time I'd made it through the first few episodes, I found myself loving the British version as much or more than the American one. I think this is due to the density and subtlety of the writing. But that was a year ago.

The Office, British or American, has always been an acquired taste. These season 4 episodes are progressing, as critterfur pointed out, to the lowest common denominator of funny -- the cheap slapstick Dwight peeing in a cup, the constant romances becoming the focal point of every episode...

There's still plenty of glimmers of hope though. I hope they get their act together. I'll keep watching until they do.

35Posted by Grass Roots on November 5, 2007

Best episode of the season! Way to go Dunder-Mifflin!

36Posted by JH on November 5, 2007

I just watched the deleted scenes, and I must say, it would've been really nice if they'd been included. Of course, it's kind of better not seeing what Dwight and Michael looked like pinned under that copier, but on the other hand, it's nice that Man-Pam (Orlando? Rolando?) got to see it and giggle behind his hand.

At least, that's what I remember him doing. I dunno, I'm just worried about Jim and Pam. I've got way too much dread about something going wrong, so I need to see at least a tiny fight, so that there's some pressure release and then they can make up and be stronger than before and slightly more true to life instead of "we're dating and this is awesome! Peaches and cream for everyone!"

Well, mixed berry yogurt, but still.

37Posted by Karin on November 5, 2007

Someone mentioned this to me this weekend, but it may be that the finer things club is a way for Toby to try and elbow in on the Pam? I mean, he is highlighting their differences (as exemplified by the final scene) and is doing it in a way where it is him, Pam and a dude that doesn't like girls.

The more I think about it (and other things from previous episodes) I think that Toby has gone from the silent, shy type to the "I will do every petty thing I can to make their relationship as uncomfortable as possible in order to break them up so I can almost ask her out many more times."

But yeah, I digged this episode, and am going to check out the deleted scenes right now.

38Posted by Jim on November 5, 2007

I just wanted to make it clear that I don't hate The Office, I love it, I just hate to see it travelling down this path. One has only to look at how the show is advertised to understand how the show is being pushed these days..."Uh-oh, Karen's back, and is she maaad...oh, and there are funny costumes involved...with mustaches...are you watching yet? Okay, we'll throw in a penis joke. Now are you watching? Umm...okay, next episode, monkeys fight each other in gladiator costumes, and, uhh...Dwight dies...twice." Okay, it's not that bad, but come on. The fact is, I can't complain too much, because for the life of me, I have no idea which direction the show should take now. The main crux of the show, whether we like it or not (at least on the American version) is the relationship between Pam and Jim. Once that is dealt with, what is left? We can't just watch the other cast members randomly hook up with each other, so that every single charactert in the office is dating another. I think the formula of American television needs to be reworked. Wouldn't it be cool if instead of dragging a show on and on, far past its expiration date, the creators decided right up front that the show can go no longer than three seasons...at the most. Two seasons would be preferable, and if it can be done, one season. The reason this would work on shows like the Office, even though it would mean an audience wouldn't get to follow their favorite characters for many, many years, is what was stated by Grass Roots above...density. It means that writers have to carefully pick and choose what goes into each episode, because they only have a limited amount of time and space to tell their story. Maybe do like the British do...only film six episodes of the show a season, but then pour your heart and soul into those six episodes, so that every one is a classic. I think this would work with many other shows out there, including Lost and Heroes. Just think how consistently good those shows could be if they knew they had a limited shelf-life.

39Posted by critterfur on November 5, 2007

Anyway, to finish up what I was saying, I just don't want The Office to become like Friends. Friends started out as an interesting, faster-paced version of the old apartment complex sitcom, and the relationship between Ross and Rachel was why people tuned in. But once we humans build something up, the destructive child in us loves to tear it down. So Ross and Rachel were, for no particular reason, split up and made into bitter enemies for at least half a season, and what did we get then? Chandler and Monica get together...for no real reason...then Joey and Rachel get together...for no real reason...then everyone has weddings and babies and la dee dah. Sometimes I wonder if that's all we Americans are interested in...weddings and procreation...every season finale, every series finale...either a wedding, death, or baby. Why? There's so much more to life. That's why I don't want The Office to become another victim of WDB (Wedding Death Baby), or, to put it more generally, mediocrity. You don't have to break Jim and Pam up now, writers, you don't have to have Dwight and Angela get back together. And if there really is no where left to go, no stories left to tell that aren't recycled to below your standards, then just end the show. This is all a pipe dream, of course, NBC and the other huge conglomerates don't really care what you watch as long as you watch it, and they won't cater to the more refined sense of humor...they'll just throw crap at you and see what sticks.

40Posted by critterfur on November 5, 2007

Just an addendum to what I was saying above...I suppose none of my silly posturing and pouting really matters anyway, with the writers strike going on. That means pretty much every show this season will have a short run; we'll most likely only get new Offices into about January, and then it's really mediocrity time, folks. Nothing but reality shows and reruns, and the networks are actually glad, I think. They know they can produce and film reality shows for next to nothing, because there's no plot, no actors, no writers. We will be living in a world where all that is left on television is pandering slop. Maybe it's a good thing that the strike happened. Those of us who like to watch stories unfold, to see character development and real drama, can go and read books, and the teeming masses can watch another episode of "My Dwarf is Bulletproof". It's Chinatown, man. It's Chinatown...

41Posted by critterfur on November 5, 2007

Is... is there a show called "My Dwarf is Bulletproof"? Because that has potential (for about 5 minutes) (ok, maybe 30, tops).

42Posted by Karin on November 5, 2007

Grrrrr.. Really wish that NBC would end the stupid geographic restrictions on the deleted scenes. I have no way of seeing them from Japan (but I do have to sit through the advertisements, which appear to work from anywhere...)

43Posted by FloatingAndy on November 6, 2007

Once again......great re-cap Linus..... thanks :)

44Posted by Denise on November 6, 2007

Coupla things:

"Utica branch is way nicer than either Scranton or Stamford. I find that weird, because my research (read: Googling) seems to indicate that Utica is something less than financially viable these days. Maybe it’s just that there’s a girl in charge. "

I used to live in Smalbany, so I've been to Utica several times---it is indeed a very depressed "rust belt" city, but then again, most of the cities along the I-90 NYS corridor are. Only thing that kept Albany from becoming as dilapidated/depressed as Utica is the state government and to a lesser extent, the State University (read: the downtown bar scene/police bribes). Scranton (which I have also visited), is a much nicer town than Utica.

Stamford, which I currently live about 40 miles from currently, is a VERY rich area, just northwest of Greenwich, which I am sure most of you have heard of. Therefore, you would think like Linus mentioned, that the Stamford branch would be the nicest and the Utica one would follow the trend of business in that town, and be the branch that got downsized, all other things being equal.

Still, I wish they could find some way to be more convincing on their road trip scenery--I mean, you could make out friggin' palm trees in the background on the trip from Scranton to Utica, and of course on the "trip to NY for Ryan's party", there was desertlike terrain in the background when they pulled over. ;)

Second, about the Dwight peeing in the car, I didnt have a problem with that scene because it just seems like something Dwight would think is perfectly OK to do, regardless of how other people might feel about being trapped in a car with a bottle of pee.

45Posted by Pat D. on November 6, 2007

Really enjoyed the recap, Linus. And yes please to recaps from earlier seasons that are missing and WGA strike updates.

46Posted by Kristin on November 6, 2007

Dammit, I have to stop putting hyphens next to each other.

47Posted by Pat D. on November 6, 2007

And that should be Stamford being northeast from Greenwich...damn Geography. ;-)

48Posted by Pat D. on November 6, 2007

If you believe Greg Daniels and the deleted scenes are still considered "part of the show" the 2nd deleted scene in particular is hilarious! The back and forth between Jim and Pam about Karen I wish would have been in the show and Dwight's last sentence about cutting a chunk out of his "penis" for nothing was stupendous.

49Posted by Janey on November 6, 2007

Those dashes get me every time, too.

50Posted by Linus on November 6, 2007

I do see Toby becoming more of a creep this season, I think that not signing the relationship disclosure is going to come back to haunt Jim and Pam later in the season. Michael isn't a secret genius sometimes he just stumbles over effective leadership when buying magic sets or pranking othehr branches.

51Posted by jackalope on November 6, 2007

Okay, a few more strike updates on the second day. CBS's big, multi-camera shows have mostly shut down – this includes "Big Bang Theory" and "Two and a Half Men"; "How I Met Your Mother", however, remains in production for the time being. The reason that these shows are more likely to shut down, from what I have read, is that writers are frequently on-set to make on-the-fly changes to lines and blocking.

According to James Hibberd's blog over at TVWeek.com, "The Office" is STILL IN PRODUCTION, despite the fact that Steve Carell did not show up for work on Monday, and Greg Daniels has stated his desire to shut down the show completely. "Scrubs", and "My Name is Earl" are still shoting at the moment is well, despite the fact that producer-writer-star Tina Fey walked the picket lines in Rockefeller Plaza yesterday with Amy Poehler and other writer/actors on SNL; Fey has apparently returned to work as an actress today. Greg Daniels was also out on picket lines yesterday, and the show has experienced "disruptions" (source: TVWeek.com).

According to the LA Times, Ellen DeGeneres has halted production on her show in a gesture of solidarity, and Jay Leno, whose show went into reruns last night because the need for topical material made it impossible to shoot, was out handing out doughnuts (Krispy Kremes, no less) on the pickets yesterday afternoon. William Baldwin, star of "Dirty Sexy Money", was handing out coffee to strikers in New York.

Variety's Marc Graser reports that the movie industry seems to be prepared, with most movies that are slated to come out over the next year either wrapped or well into production. The phonmenon of writer-actor-producer is also less common in movies, so one isn't running to questions of whether actors (Fey, Carell) or producers (Daniels, Fey) who also write can perform other duties without violating the strike nearly as often. The Variety article includes some pretty strong rhetoric from an unnamed executive, and this one contains very harsh rhetoric from the chief negotiator, of the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers -- ie, the coalition of the studios and networks. There is a small chance that some producer-writers or actor-writers will get sued, though it seems remote, because eventually what everyone wants is for the talent to make the shows and for money to come in. Lawsuits probably wouldn't be condusive to that at all.

As for what my take is, let me put it like this: It's facile to compare this to a strike in a major sport, with rich people fighting with other rich people over who gets the biggest piece of the pie, but I don't really think that's what's happening here, at least not entirely. It's not just the moral issue of writers wanting to be able to profit off their work (though there's something to that), there's also the much more practical issue of how working writers – those who do not have regular gigs on hit shows, or write big-budget movies – put food in their mouths between projects. With the current means of remuneration giving writers a 0% cut on new media, men and women who currently make a few thousand dollars off residuals each year, and use that to do things like clothe their kids and pay their rent in the fallow times, could see that money go away. They could – and to my mind, should – be making more of it. So there you have it. My stance in a nutshell.

For those looking for the human perspective, there's a very interesting article at EW.com; it's the first-person account of an anonymous television author who feels caught between his Guild and the company that signs his cheques. this is a very-much-not-anonymous take from prehaps the only working genius of hour-long television, the venerable Joss Whedon, of "Buffy the Vampire", "Angel", and "Serenity" fame.

Check back over the next few days, as I will continue to update.

52Posted by Linus on November 6, 2007

I notice that I neglected to note that Tina Fey is the star-producer-writer of NBC's "30 Rock", named (oddly enough) for the building at which Fey and others were picketing.

53Posted by Linus on November 6, 2007

Linus.....thanks for the updates (i'm not even going to say you deserve a gift basket lol).
All the work you do, researching and typing the info, is greatly appreciated.

54Posted by Denise on November 6, 2007

Also, I was a typo machine in the post above. That's what I get for trying to write and read at the same time, I guess.

55Posted by Linus on November 7, 2007

Oh noes! A couple more episodes and The Office will be officially closed for business!! This is so incredibly sad! Why does such a wonderful beautiful show have to come to such a yucky bitter end?? (sob)

57Posted by Dwigt on November 7, 2007

Well, it's not over for good, I wouldn't want you to get that impression. (That sticky end goes to "Scrubs", it looks like.) And there's a non-zero chance that the strike will end in time for the season to resume in truncated form.

58Posted by Linus on November 7, 2007

Jenna Fischer said in her blog that the episode they were about to shoot involved Jim and Pam at Michael's house, that sounds like a premise loaded with potential. That makes me hate the studios even more.

59Posted by jackalope on November 8, 2007