This week’s recap introduces Karin’s equally talented partner in crime, Linus.
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Well, not really, but I don’t get to quote Who lyrics without bending the truth sometimes, so there it is. Ryan struts back to Scranton with a new job title, a new suit, a new sense of self-worth, and, ye gods, a new beard. His radical ideas strike fear in the aging hearts of some Scrantonites: Creed comes alive, Phyllis comes apart, and Michael comes to water, even if they won’t let him drink. Meanwhile, new lovers are outed and old ones are riven in two.
Michael is not at his best in this episode. His assumptions upset by Ryan’s return, he finds refuge in increasingly desperate Luddism, with predictably disastrous results. Of course, all’s well that ends well . . . and it always ends well in the mind of Michael.
[Michael enters the conference room, where the Party Planning Committee is hanging a sign, welcoming back Michael’s progid — prodigal — his son, Ryan.]
Michael: Can you make that straighter? That’s what she said.
Phyllis: Did you plan that?
Michael [looking at a piece of paper]: No.
Pam [reading from Michael’s paper]: Can you make that straighter . . . that job looks hard . . . you should put your mouth on that. How can you even use that one naturally?
One should never underestimate the sheer amount of effort that goes into being Michael Scott. He’s not just Braveheart, he’s the hardest-working man who is only peripherally in show business.
[Michael addresses Ryan’s somewhat snippy return in a private moment with the camera.]
Michael: Yeah, Ryan snapped at me. But there was this twinkle in his eye that I picked up on, which said, “Dude. We’re friends. I’m doing this for appearances. I am the big boss now, and I have to seem like an ogre. But you know me. And you trust me. And we like each other. And we’ll always be friends. And I would never take you for granted in a million years. And I miss you man, and I love you.” His words.
And so it begins. What Ryan actually said was, “This is inappropriate, and it stops right now.” But whatever. That’s why you razz the kid who holds your career in his twitchy little hands. Because he loves you.
[Michael and Ryan sit in Michael’s office. Ryan texts furiously on his blackberry, like the twit that he is. Michael apes him pointlessly.]
Ryan: Okay. What’s up?
Michael: Yeah. I was just — after the presentation, just wanted to make sure that vis a vis me in the office, everything is business as usual?
Ryan: Well, it is business, but not as usual.
Michael: Yeah, yeah, I understand. We’re making great strides, and we’re updating — but business as usual, no?
You can see it written on his face: He’s struggling. Wrong-footed. Totally at sea. And receiving no help from the boy he once tried to trade ties with. At this point, Ryan is no longer the successful protégé, no longer Fire Guy made good. With his black suit and his stubble, he’s starting to take on a distinct resemblance to a certain fallen angel with whom some of us may be familiar.
[Michael addresses yet another room full of somnambulant employees.]
Michael: There has been a lot of talk about new ideas today. Well, new ideas are fine. They are also illegal.
[After a certain amount of legal mumbo-jumbo that Michael has clearly found on the internet, possibly with the aid of one Jan Levinson, Toby, for reasons best known only to himself, interjects.]
Toby: Technically, he’s right.
Michael: Shut up, Toby.
It’s always good to see that Michael can take time out of his busy day to hate on Toby, even as his world collapses around his ears.
[Michael explains to us the rationale behind attempting to win over old customers with gift baskets.]
Michael: Ever since I was a kid, people have been telling me that I can’t do things. You can’t be on the team. You can’t move on to second grade. Well, now they’re telling me that I can’t win back clients using old-fashioned business methods. We’ll see about that. And FYI, I eventually aced second grade, and I was the biggest kid in class.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what the rest of this episode is about: They told him he couldn’t, he tried anyway . . . and didn’t. At least the effort was valiant. And potentially tasty.
[Michael and Dwight, after six unsuccessful attempts, drive to their last gift basket delivery. This car comes equipped with a friendly, talking navigation system.]
GPS: Make a right turn.
Michael: Maybe it’s a shortcut, Dwight. It said go to the right.
Dwight: It can’t mean that, there’s a lake there!
Michael: I think it knows where it is going!
Dwight: This is the lake!
Michael: The machine knows, stop yelling at me!
[They drive into the lake.]
There’s been a certain amount of controversy about the lake scene. Is even Michael dumb enough to do this? They weren’t going very fast when they hit that water — doesn’t it seem like maybe they could have backed out? I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t like this scene. It’s exactly the kind of scene that makes me yearn for some good, old-fashioned antics inside the office: Cartoonish, silly, somewhat difficult to buy. But a plausible explanation has been put forth by some people on the forums, and I thought I’d share it with you, totally, of course, without their permission: We all know Michael is a man-child. He’s still, in some very important part of his soul, the isolated teenager who wore matching suits to school, and his emotional learning curve either flattened somewhere around the ninth grade, or is so shallow that he’s just getting there now. The idea, ladies and germs, is that Michael is acting out: He’s following the machine, not because he’s dumb, but to prove the point that technology is a flawed and terrifying master, even if it does mean ruining his rental car and getting everybody inside it wet. I think this is a pretty interesting perspective, and I want to stress that this is one hundred percent my own idea. No, wait — the opposite of that. Anyway, whether this is his motivation or not, I still feel like this scene lacked credibility and therefore lost humor points. And now I’ll shut up, and let you return to your regularly-scheduled recap.
[Michael, mostly dry, sums it up for us as we watch the Scrantonites eat what’s left of the last gift basket.]
Michael: Everyone always wants new things. Everybody likes new inventions, new technology. People will never be replaced by machines. In the end, life, and business, are about human connections. And computers are about trying to murder you in a lake. And to me the choice is easy.
That’s better. The world was falling apart, but now, with perspective, Michael Scott, philosopher, is able to bring us a message of hope: The human connection, friend, makes us real. Our gift baskets may have cost hundreds of dollars, and they may not have brought back a single defected client, but they have brought us together, and that is what matters — isn’t it?
Michael is not the only man in the office entering a long dark night of the soul — but poor Dwight faces, not an existential crisis, but the kind of emotional disaster that you have to be a robot not to understand.
[Dwight has brought a feral cat named “Garbage” in a woeful attempt to replace Angela’s beloved, but diseased, cat, of which he so humanely but inappropriately disposed last week.]
Angela: I can’t believe you thought you could replace Sprinkles before he’s even in the ground.
Dwight: You haven’t buried her yet?
Angela: Don’t rush me, I’m grieving.
Yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. Okay, now that that’s out of my system, Dwight is way out of his depth here: He just cannot grasp the emotional complexity of a real person, even if that person is Angela. He’s vaguely aware that he’s done something wrong, but will never see the reality of Angela’s grief, and it’s about to rebound on him tenfold. As a man, I find all of this disturbingly familiar.
[Angela and Dwight are out to dinner.]
Angela: I can’t do this. I can’t be with you. Every time I look in your eyes, I see Sprinkles’ stiff, lifeless body.
Dwight: Then don’t look in my eyes. Look right here. [Motions to a spot in the middle of his forehead.] It’s an old sales trick.
Angela: I’m sorry. I gave this everything I could.
Dwight: Please don’t do this, Monkey.
Angela: I will leave your toothbrush on top of your tire tomorrow morning.
The difficulty that Dwight is having here is that most people aren’t interested in old sales tricks when attempting to salvage a dying relationship. Most of us aren’t even really interested in them when trying to sell things. In short, he’s floundering: Confused, casting about for any solution, coming up with all the wrong ones — drowning, and unaware of how to find air. Side note: I wish Dwight would stop calling Angela “Monkey”. Some people find it sweet. It gives me a wiggins in a serious way.
[After rejection at the hands of yet another in a long line of ex-clients not impressed by gift baskets, Dwight and Michael ride to one more hopeless rendezvous.]
Dwight: That’s how it goes, sometimes. You lose everything, everything falls apart, and eventually you die and no one remembers you.
Oh, Dwight. If you weren’t such a hostile weirdo with a gun fetish and an affinity for fascism, I’d want to hug you right now.
Jim Halpert? Jim Halpert is happy. Haven’t you ever felt like that? You wake up every morning, the sun is out, the leaves are just changing and the colors are amazing, all the traffic lights are green on the way to work, everything smells good, like wood smoke or bread or . . . you know, a girl you really like?
Jim: In the interest of revealing secrets . . . oh my God, this is going to make your brain explode — Dwight and Angela: dating. Have been for six months.
Jim: Oh, this is great. I was actually going to wait and tell you on your birthday, but this is much more fun.
Pam: No, they have been dating for, like, two years. Since before your barbecue.
Jim: Wait, what? You knew. And you didn’t say anything?
Pam: You didn’t say anything to me.
Jim: Fair enough. Wow. We should have started dating, like, a long time ago.
This is true.
Pam is clearly pretty happy, too. She’s in no danger of becoming Pamela Anderson, her boy is back for real, and her hair is down. But, true to form, it’s much easier to be a guy in an office than a woman.
[Angela gives an interview.]
Angela: It’s not a surprise to me. Pam is the office mattress.
Okay, it’s Angela, and it’s even Angela with extenuating circumstances. Furthermore, Pam didn’t hear her say it. But this is so unfair that I want to draw up a chart and maybe a couple of graphs that will prove in an objective way that it’s just the most unfair thing ever said. Well, maybe second, to . . .
[Phyllis stumbles onto Jim and Pam lunching in the break room.]
Phyllis: Sorry, I didn’t know you guys were in here.
Jim: No, we were just sitting here.
Phyllis: Couldn’t see your hands . . . Hey Pam, by the way, it’s great that you’re dating. But when a new client calls, you just have to randomly assign them to a salesperson. You can’t base who gets new clients on who you’re sleeping with that week. Okay?
Yikes. There are probably a million reasons that Phyllis might say such an unbelievably snotty thing — jealousy over Jim (he is “on her list”, after all), insecurity over her job in the face of Ryan’s innovations — but this is straight up uncalled-for. Seriously, Phyllis? You’re the one who asked about one night stands, aren’t you?
[Ryan has asked Pam to mock up a new logo for his website, Dunder-Mifflin Infinity, and she positively glows as she gives an interview in the conference room.]
Pam: Yeah, I’m gonna do some mockups, and then turn those into thumbnails, maybe do some, uh, splash . . . frames? I don’t know what I’m talking about, but I’m excited.
So it’s not all doom-and-gloom when your second office romance is exposed to your coworkers . . . for now. I’m feeling a little sorry for Pam at this moment. I hope there was something genuine about Ryan’s request, because, as we’re about to see, he’s not completely without an agenda here . . .
[Jim approaches Pam at her desk.]
Jim: All right, I just have to ask. Now that we’re public, is the magic gone?
Pam: It’s funny you bring that up, because yes, it is.
Jim: [grimaces] I knew it. Oh man. Just like that, huh?
Pam: I think — I mean, I don’t know what it is, but –
Jim: Be honest.
Pam: I now find you repulsive?
Jim: That’s honest. All right, fair enough. It was really fun while it lasted though, wasn’t it?
Pam: [noncommittal monosyllable while shaking head]
Jim: Well, for me, it was.
PSYCH! If you saw Pam’s adorable shoulder shrug before the conversation, and then her absolutely radiant smile afterwards, you would know that this whole conversation was a giant put-on for their own amusement. But then, if you didn’t know that, you haven’t seen the episode, and in that case, why are you reading a recap? Go watch the danged episode!
Anyway, I’d venture a to say that this conversation epitomizes much of why most of the men who watch this show fall hopelessly for Pam, most of the women fall hopelessly for Jim, and they have clearly fallen so hopelessly for each other: Quick wit, good humor, and . . . well, it’s not as though either of them is a dead ringer for a mole rat.
This whole thing was made possible at the beginning of the episode:
[Jim and Pam have a chance encounter in the break room.]
Pam: We’re still having lunch today, right?
Jim: I guess.
[Pam walks away, smiling. Then, she swoops back in for a quick peck on the cheek.]
Jim: How dare you.
This is all very lovely . . . until you realize that poor old Toby Flenderson has seen, and Toby has heard, and you remember that kind of cute crush he had on Pam last year that was so sad and so hopeful at the same time? Well, it’s about to get a lot less cute. Toby, in the guise of champion of HR, composes a weasely little memo about public displays of affection, and Michael manages to out them to everybody, of course, this time without un-tucking his shirt or mussing his hair first. As we’ve already seen from Angela, reactions are mixed:
[Michael has hugged Jim, and attempts to hug Pam.]
Pam: The phone’s ringing.
Michael: No, no, no, Pam, let ‘em ring. Let the bells of Dunder-Mifflin chime out your love, because . . . this is really good. This is really good. My heart soars with the eagle’s nest.
Come on, we all knew that Michael would be ecstatic about this.
Dwight: I don’t see it. I think they both could do better.
So, clearly, Dwight . . . well, did you expect what Dwight said to make sense?
Andy: Jim Halpert’s off the market. Guess who just became the best-looking single guy in the office?
Creed? The answer is Creed, right?
[Ryan slimes his way through Pam’s ideas for the logo.]
Ryan: It’s clear and subtle at the same time. It’s really good, you have a real talent for this stuff.
Ryan: I’d love to talk to you about it more.
Pam: That’d be great.
Ryan: Do you want to go out to dinner tonight?
Pam: Oh — is it — do you — no . . .
Ryan: Wear something nice –
Pam: Um, I’m sorry –
Ryan: I just wanted to have dinner.
Pam: I’m uh — I’m dating Jim.
Ryan: You’re kidding.
[They look at Jim. Jim gives a happy little wave without looking up from his work.]
At least he took her artwork with him afterward, the scumbag.
So when it comes down to it, people find out about Jim and Pam at the office, and pretty much everybody other than Michael has a negative reaction to it. Well, not Andy, but Andy isn’t aware that other people exist in any meaningful away. As Jim said at one point, this is why they were keeping it a secret.
So, the question now becomes: Does the Jim/Pam Index have meaning in our postmodern America, where everybody is texting on their Blackberry, kids are wearing mohawks and belly shirts, and the fevered imaginings of thousands of fanfic writers appear to have come true? They’re together now, as they keep saying, what else do we want?
Of course, life in Jim-and-Pam-land will not be all roses and fluffy bunnies forever. For now, they’re in the honeymoon phase, and perhaps coming out to the office is a step forward in their relationship — but I can see the seeds of discord already being sewn. Having an office romance is hard, as we’re seeing right here in this episode, in which one falls apart and another feels pressure from the outside.
This is too hard. Karin exploded the Index last week, and so now . . . Dunder-Mifflin Infinity rates a purple on the Jim/Pam Index, and I leave it to you to figure out what that means, because I don’t know.
I don’t think I’ve made any secret of my loathing for Ryan Howard, but between the baby-mama-drama with Kelly, locking horns with Michael, and hitting on the right girl for the wrong reasons, he stole the show this week.
Perhaps this episode was about Michael’s journey, but Dwight was the real star, to me. Michael was just freaking out. Dwight is heartbroken, and everything he sees, hears, and does reminds him of Angela. For that, we honor him.
Jim: So, now that we are dating, we just wanted to know if we had to sign one of those, “we’re dating” things for the company.
Toby: Oh, well, you know, those are only for, you know, relationships. So if it’s just a casual thing there’s no need, really.
Pam: Well, I don’t want to speak for Jim, but it’s like, pretty official.
Toby: Uh huh.
Jim: I’m sorry, so we need to sign one?
Toby: Let’s just wait and see what happens.
Jim and Pam just want to sign their love contract, but there goes Toby, starring in his own creep show.
Michael: There he is! He’s back! And he’s with a beard. [laughs] He has facial hair. Look at him, all grown up and no place to go. C’mon, Mr Sonny Crockett. I’m Tubbs.
So, let me get this straight: In your fantasy, you play sidekick to your former protégé in an imaginary episode of Miami Vice?
Kevin: Fire Guy!
Michael: That’s right! That’s right! Don’t start any fires!
Andy: Fire Guy!
Kevin: You weren’t here for that.
Trust Kevin to keep the continuity straight, and Andy to screw it up.
Ryan: I am your boss now, you’re gonna have to treat me the same way you treated Jan.
Michael: Oh, wow. Eh, that’s a little kinky. I don’t swing that way. Whoo! I think Ryan has a gay crush on me.
This from the man who once said, “I would definitely have sex with Ryan.”
Dwight: What if we don’t want to use a Blackberry because they are stupid and pointless?
Is it bad that I agree with Dwight in this matter?
Creed: When’s the website go up?
Ryan: As fast as possible. We want to start retraining people ASAP so we can hit the ground running with the new system.
Creed: Cool beans.
Where does he get this stuff? “Cool beans”? I haven’t heard that one since about 1999, but that’s really immaterial — what was Creed doing in 1999 that he was exposed to slang being thrown around by dorky teenagers?
Michael: I am not old. You are old. You are like a hundred.
Creed: You’re over 40, that’s the cutoff. Are you listening to what he’s saying? Retraining, new system, youth? I’m telling you, this kid is the grim reaper. You deal with this, or you, me, Sammy, Phyllis, the chick you hit with the car — we’re goners.
That would be Mary-Beth, Creed. He hit Mary-Beth with the car.
Michael: We had a foreign exchange student live with us when I was young, and we called him my brother, and that’s what I thought he was. Then he went home to what is now formerly Yugoslavia, taking all of my bluejeans with him. And I had to spend the entire winter in shorts. That is what Ryan is like: A fake brother who steals your jeans.
I bet he just wanted to be close to you, Michael, even though he was to be so far away.
Dwight: I am going to live for a very long time. My Grandma Schrute lived to be a hundred and one. My Grandpa Mannheim is a hundred and three, and still puttering around down in Argentina. I tried to go visit him once, but my travel visa was protested by the Shoah Foundation.
I find myself wondering how clueless Dwight really is about the Mannheims, and how much he just likes the idea of fascism in the abstract, so he doesn’t worry about that whole genocide thing.
Ryan: Six months ago, Karen Fillipelli sent me an e-mail asking me out. I said “no”, because I was committed to our relationship.
Kelly: Well, I hope you’re still committed, because I am pregnant.
[Queue talking head of Kelly shaking her head “no”.]
Kelly: And guess what, buddy. I am keepin’ it.
The levels of mendacity in this conversation are too many to parse.
Dwight: No, wait, let me cook for you! Cauliflower and noodles. Baked potato on the side.
There are so many things that are icky about this. First: The food. Cauliflower, sure. Noodles, maybe, if there’s something on them other than cauliflower, which somehow I doubt there will be. Baked potato on the side? Yeesh, you’re trying to feed the woman, not starch her shirts.
And then, of course, there’s Dwight’s tone of voice. We’ve heard it before. It’s Dwight’s sexy voice. That should be enough to explain to you why that’s gross.
Angela: Dwight, you have to listen to me. We are not seeing each other anymore. Can you accept that?
Dwight: Fine. Then I just want to be friends.
Dwight: Plus a little extra. Also, I love you.
Oh, who hasn’t been there? Let her go, Dwight. There are other fish in the . . . actually, for Dwight, there might not be. Go for it, buddy!
Michael: Business-to-business. The old-fashioned way. No blackberries. No websites. I would like to see a website deliver baskets of food to people.
Creed: Hey braw, I been meaning to ask you: Can we get some Red Bull for these things? Sometimes a guy’s gotta ride the Bull. Am I right? Later, skater.
Fo’ shizzle, my dizzle. Sometimes it be, like, a hundred degrees up in here, and a brizzle just needs a little Rizzle Bizzle to coolio diz-own, dig?
Ryan: Next night, I’m out at a bar, 2 AM, I figure I’ll get a sandwich cos you can get a sandwich any time of the night — I run into Vince Vaughn.
Shut up, Ryan. Shut up before I call my personal friend Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to come over and shut you up. Andy and Kevin feel differently, I guess . . .
Andy: He has a killer job. He’s rich. He smells like what I think Pierce Brosnan probably smells like. He wears really cool rich-guy clothes –
Kevin: — and he can get any girl that he wants.
Andy: So, I’m sorry, Tuna, but if you don’t know why that’s awesome, then you need awesome lessons.
Kevin: Tuna. Check ya later.
They’re like the Super Friends, only idiots! These guys were made for each other. I smell hetero life partners. And Kevin must keep calling Jim “Tuna”, or I will picket the NBC offices.
Michael: Ryan thinks that technology is the answer. Well, guess what? I just drove my car into a lake.
Soylent green is people! It’s people!
Questions, comments, criticisms, witticisms, optimisms, or pessimisms? You can reach Linus at email@example.com.