Michael can’t handle the truth, but he sure can manhandle it. Jan brings suit against Dunder Mifflin and Michael is called to New York to be deposed, pitting his two most fundamental desires against one another: To be liked by his co-workers, and to be liked by a woman — any woman, anywhere, even one who smokes and manipulates him and won’t get a jobby-job. While teacher’s away, the children play: Darryl’s superior table tennis skill leads puts a bee in Kelly’s bonnet, and inspires Jim to take up practice to relieve Pam of Miss Kapoor’s trash — er, smack — uh . .. talk.
Michael in the context of a legal proceeding is a pretty terrifying prospect, especially if you’re counting on his testimony to prove, well, anything.
[As Jan drives Michael to his deposition, she coaches him on his lines.]
Michael: So here’s the deal: I am on my way to New York to be deposed as part of Jan’s wrongful termination lawsuit. The company fired her for having the courage to augment her boobs.
Jan: And they displayed a pattern of disrespect and inappropriate behaviors.
What Jan is doing here is illegal, but if Michael were my star witness . . . I don’t know. Michael wouldn’t be my star witness. I wouldn’t count on Michael to do or say anything if there wasn’t some way for me to control him. Like, puppet strings. Or a microchip implanted in his brain.
[Michael, Jan, and her lawyer, apparently named Schneider, wait to be called in.]
Michael: Hey, Schneider, real quick: Whaddya call a butt-load of lawyers driving off a cliff?
Schneider: A good start. And I think it’s bus-load.
Michael: Yeah, a bunch of rich lawyers took the bus. [To Jan.] Where’d you find this guy?
Michael has an uncanny ability to say things about other people that they want to say about him. Remember that brief period in which Andy made Michael look sane and responsible?
[Michael is deposed by Schneider and the company lawer, Diane Kelly.]
Schneider: How long have you known Ms Levinson?
Michael: Six years and two months.
Schneider: And you were directly under her the entire time.
Michael: That’s what she said.
Schneider: Excuse me?
Michael [enunciating more clearly]: That’s what she said.
Schneider: Ms Levinson told you that she was your direct superior?
Michael: Wh — why would she say that?
Jan: Can we just move on to another question?
Diane Kelly: Wait, I don’t understand. Who is on record as saying this?
Schneider: With all due respect, I’m in the middle of a line of questioning. Now Mr Scott, what you say Ms Levinson said, regarding your employment status, with respect to her corporate position?
Michael: Come again? That’s what she said. I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Pablo Casals had the cello, Van Gough had oils, Shakespeare had the sonnet. Michael Scott has “That’s what she said.”
(Side note: has anybody else caught themselves saying “that’s what she said” in the company of other people, and then realizing that you sound like a not-so-bright teenage boy when you actually say that and nobody knows that it’s a pop culture reference? I would feel so much better if I knew I wasn’t the only person to whom this had happened.)
[Schneider reads from Michael’s diary.]
Schneider: This is plaintiff’s exhibit 107. I quote from an entry dated January 4 of this past year: “Just got back from Jamaica. Tan almost everywhere. Jan almost everywhere. Hee hee. Oh, Diary, what a week! I had sex with my boss. I don’t know if it’s going to go anywhere. Jan was very specific that this is not going anywhere, that it was a one-time mistake. But we had sex six times, so you tell me. I am definitely feeling very eerie.”
Schneider: Irie. Sorry. “More tomorrow, XOXO, Michael.”
How surprised am I that Michael has a diary in which he writes like a 12-year-old girl? Zero. I am zero surprised.
[After Michael has learned that Jan continued to give him poor performance reviews after their relationship began, she tries to convince him that Dunder Mifflin “is the enemy” by reading from David Wallace’s deposition.]
Schneider [reading]: Starting paragraph six: “Counsel: Mr Wallace, regarding Michael Scott, was he a contender to replace Jan Levinson? David Wallace: Yes.”
Michael: See? I was the number one contender. I was being groomed.
Schneider [still reading]: “Counsel: Was he your first choice? David Wallace: Michael Scott is a fine employee who has been with the company many years. Counsel: Was he in the top five of contenders? David Wallace: What do you want me to say? Come on, he’s a nice guy. There were many people I considered. Counsel: Was he being seriously considered for the corporate job? David Wallace: No.” . . . I have one more question, Mr Scott: Wouldn’t you agree with Ms Levinson that the company exhibits a pattern of disrespect toward its employees?
Michael: Absolutely not.
The ultimate miscalculation on the part of Jan and her lawyer here was to assume that Michael evaluates loyalty in the same way that they do: financial rewards for services rendered. But this is the man who hadn’t had a raise since becoming Regional Manager. Despite his financial difficulties, Michael is not looking for remuneration. All he wants, still, is for people to like him. If David Wallace had not said, “He’s a nice guy,” Jan might be four million dollars richer today.
All Jim wanted to do was play ping-pong. Can’t a guy play some ping-pong and not be pressured to do anything greater with himself? At least not anything that involves spending time in a locked room with Dwight?
[Dwight rumbles Jim’s practice table in the conference room.]
Dwight: All right, what is going on here?
Jim: Dwight! Thank God you’re here. As it turns out, one of our biggest clients is a ping-pong master. And I have to play him tomorrow, or we lose the account. Can you help me out? Will you help me practice?
Here’s the secret to handling Dwight: When he catches you doing something wrong, make up a bad movie plot, and tell him he’s part of it.
[Pam interrupts Dwight and Jim in the middle of practice.]
Pam: How’s it going?
Dwight: Well, he has gone from completely hopeless to simply miserable.
Jim: Check this out, though. Spin serve.
[He serves. Dwight knocks a winner back at him without looking up from his mobile phone.]
Jim: Well, it works like, eighty percent of the time, so . . .
One sort of gets the impression that Jim was happier just getting beaten by Darryl, not worrying about how good he was. It’s not like this is basketball, right?
One of the interesting things about The Office is that we’re not expected to like most of the characters. Even ones who always seemed fairly benign — Toby and Phyllis come to mind — have been shown this season to be petty and mean. In this episode, Kelly shows us exactly how limited Pam’s options are when it comes to companionship in the office. Could it be that Angela is the least offensive person around other than Jim?
[Pam and Kelly as Darryl destroys Jim at table tennis.]
Kelly: What has two skinny chicken legs and sucks at ping-pong?
Pam: Hi, Kelly.
Kelly: Guess whose boyfriend it is?
Pam: I don’t wanna guess.
Kelly: I’ll give you a hint: It’s not my boyfriend. I think it’s the guy over here.
Pam often seems to find herself in situations in which she is the only adult in a room full of grown-up children. Kelly, however, can drag just about anybody down to her level.
[Pam has built Jim a practice table in the conference room.]
Pam: You have to practice. You have to get really good and beat Darryl.
Jim: Oh, I can’t beat Darryl.
Pam: Please? Kelly’s trash-talking me because Darryl’s beating you.
And now we’re right back in high school. Kelly’s mama officially wears army boots.
[Jim cracks a decicive shot past Darryl.]
Pam: Yes! See that?
Kelly: Yeah, the floppy-haired girl you date won a point.
Darryl: Nineteen, serving four.
[Darryl wins the point.]
Kelly: Whoo! Nice, baby! Nice one! [singing, to Pam] Hey, hey, you, you, I don’t like your boyfriend. ‘Cause, ‘cause, he, he, ‘cause he sucks at ping-pong.
Pam: You know what, I’m sick of this! Let’s go, you and me.
Pam: Let’s go. Pick up a paddle.
Kelly: Okay. Bring it on.
Pam: I am.
Kelly: Think you can handle this?
Pam: In my sleep.
The feminist in me felt a little funny about a whole storyline that seemed to be about Pam living vicariously through her boyfriend. When she finally picked up that paddle, I was all, Yeah! Then, of course, they both totally sucked. Which the feminist in me might have taken exception to, if the rest of me hadn’t been too busy giggling.
Just when you think you’ve got Dwight all sussed out, he surprises you.
[A Dwight talking head.]
Dwight: All of my heroes are table tennis players. Zoran Primorac, Jan Ove-Waldner, Wang Tao, Jeorg Rosskopf and of course Ashrov Helming. I even have a life-sized poser of Hugo Hoyama on my wall. And the first time I left Pennsylvania was to go to the Hall of Fame induction ceremony of Andrej Grubba.
So, Dwight’s skills include: Purple belt in some form of martial arts, bowhunting, paintball, beet farming, carpentry, and, of course, sales. Now we find he’s what you might call a “gifted amateur” when it comes to table tennis. How does he find time in the day to persue all of these things, and still read Harry Potter to Mose?
(For all you sticklers out there, I looked up all of those names on that list of famous table tennis players, and the only one I can’t confirm the spelling / mere existence of is Ashrov Helming. If you have information on this mysterious man, please leave us a note in the comments.)
I don’t want this to sound like a harangue, but I would have liked to see Pam realize sooner that there is more honor in your own victory than in your man’s. That said, it’s usually a mistake to read messages into plotlines on television shows. And it’s easy to forget, sometimes, that Pam lived a lot of her life in a very restrictive and unsupportive relationship, in which she was a wallflower and her boyfriend was a Neanderthal. She’s come a long way, our girl, but she’s still learning to break out of the roles that Roy forced on her.
Which explains why Jim, ultimately, is a little baffled by her desire for him to beat Darryl at ping-pong. But when you come right down to it, if Pam wants something, Jim wants it, too:
[Pam has given Jim the lowdown on Kelly’s trash talk.]
Jim: So you’re asking me to defend your honor against Kelly.
Pam: Sorta, yes.
Jim: Bring me players.
Jim’s probably not cut out for the white knight role, but Pam brings that sort of thing out in him. Her honor needs defending? He’s strapping on his armor.
The Deposition gains induction into the Table Tennis Hall of Fame on the JPI.
Michael ends up on top. That’s what she said.
Anybody who can draw this kind of distinction ought to win something:
[A Kelly talking head.]
Kelly: I don’t talk trash, I talk smack. They’re totally diffferent. Trash talk is all hypothetical, like, “Your mama’s so fat, she could eat the internet.” But smack talk is happening, like, right now, like, “You’re ugly and I know it for a fact, cos I got the evidence right there.”
And so Kelly it is.
Pam: Every time Michael’s in a meeting, he makes me come in and give him a Post-It note telling him who’s on the phone. I did it once and he freaked out, he loved it so much. The thing is, he doesn’t get that many calls, so he has me make them up every ten minutes.
[Cut to a montage of Pam handing Michael notes: One says “good morning”, the next is a smiley face. He importantly says he’s in a meeting each time. Now he sits with Ryan.]
Ryan: You have to know how to work this. There is no excuse for this. I can get you a tutor if you need –
[Pam hands him a note with a hot dog saying, “hiya buddy”, on it.]
Michael: Ah, this is a very important client, but I have the most important client sitting right in front of me — my boss. So I will call him back.
Ryan: No, no, customer service is obviously priority one. You can take the call.
Michael: Money isn’t everything, Ryan, and you’re my friend, and I don’t want to be rude.
Ryan: Take the call, friend.
Michael: I refuse, no. My house, my rules. I insist.
Ryan: I insist you take your work calls.
Michael: All right, Pam, would you put the call through? [Picks up phone.] Hiya buddy.
Do you ever get the feeling that Pam just likes to watch Michael hang himself with his own rope?
Jan: And they displayed a pattern of inappropriate behaviors.
Michael: Yes, yes. Pattern. Pat-hern. My friend Pat took a turn. That’s how I remember that. Could we pull over and put down the top? I’m feeling a little queasy.
Jan: No, I want it up. My hair. Remember, it’s not just a pattern, it’s a pattern of disrespect and inappropriate behaviors.
Michael: Disree. My friend Disree got new specs. Dis-re-spect. My friend In Ah Pro drives a Prius with his behind neighbor.
Jan: Does this work for you?
Michael wants the top down. In November. I don’t know what the weather is like in Scranton right now, but I’m looking out my window and it’s snowing, and I’m in Oregon.
Jan: Stop saying ridiculous things. He’s just going to tell the truth, the truth is very, you know, complicated, so we went over it carefully, just so that we wouldn’t leave anything up to chance, or Michael’s judgement.
The best laid plans of mice and men.
[A montage of Kelly talking smack and trash to Pam.]
Kelly: [In the warehouse.] Your boyfriend is so weak, he needs steroids just to watch baseball. [At Pam’s desk.] Jim couldn’t hit a ping-pong ball if it was the size of the moon. [Back in the warehouse.] Were Jim’s parents first cousins that were also bad at ping-pong?
Kelly Kapoor: The Jeorg Grubba of smack talk.
Jan: People underestimate Michael. There are plenty of things that he is well above average at. Like ice skating. He is a very good ice skater.
I don’t know. I think they’ve pretty much got him figured out. It doesn’t take much to estimate Michael.
Schneider: How long have you known the plaintiff?
Michael: I haven’t actually seen it, but I have seen The Firm, and I am planning on renting The Pelican Brief.
Don’t do it, Michael. Just — no. Do not give your support to John Grisham. He doesn’t need it, and it won’t make your life any better.
Schneider: Did Ms Levinson ever say why she thought she was being fired?
Michael: She thought it had to do with the twins. That’s what I call them.
Schneider: Can you be more specific? Who are the twins?
Michael: Do be delicate, they hang of m’lady’s chest. They . . . make milk.
Schneider: You don’t need to go any further — her breasts.
I’d bej very interested to see what Michael’s idea of indelicate is.
Diane Kelly: Are you telling me that your relationship began two years ago and not in February, as you previously testified to here?
Diane Kelly: I’m sorry, what?
Random Lawyer Guy: He asked for a line, like in a play.
One wonders if Michael actually thinks Jan’s going to supply him with a line here. I half expected him to tell everybody that he was Agent Michael Scarn and that he had a gun.
Court Reporter [reads from the record]: Mr Scott, do you realize you just contradicted yourself. I did? Yes you did. Can I go to the bathroom? No. I really have to, I’ve been drinking lots of water. You went five minutes ago. That wasn’t to go to the bathroom, that was to get out of a question. You still have to answer it. First, can I go to the bathroom? No.
I can totally see this scene in my head.
Michael: I don’t think anybody in this room has a right to read my diary.
Diane Kelly: It’s basic discovery. We have a right to review it.
Random Lawyer Guy: Okay, let’s make ten copies of this diary.
Toby: Could you make it eleven?
When Toby interacts with Michael, I love him. When he interacts with Pam, I get my wig on.
Michael: How could you give up my diary like that?
Jan: I had to. I’m sorry, but I need to win this. We need to win this.
Michael: How’d you even find it?
Jan: You keep it under my side of the mattress.
Michael: I don’t like the lump. I’m really upset about this.
Jan: All right. I stole your diary, and gave it to my lawyer. You emailed a topless photo of me to everyone in our company. Let’s call it even.
Michael: Fine. I love you.
Jan: I love you too.
I don’t know about you, but this relationship is starting to give me the creeps.
Diane Kelly: Mr Scott, who is this other woman . . . Ryan, who you refer to as, “Just as hot as Jan, but in a different way.”
Michael: Not a woman. Just a cool, great-looking best friend.
Now, do we think that Michael is a repressed homosexual, bisexual, merely confused, or very effectively hiding an alternative lifestyle from, like, everybody? Because this isn’t one of those situations in which a straight man is comfortable enough with his sexuality to recognize a nice-looking man when he walks down the street. Something about Ryan really creams Michael’s Twinkie on the most fundamental level.
Linus is a kung-fu master and already has an in with the Galnathian overlords who will soon be coming to take over Earth. You can write him to beg for mercy at firstname.lastname@example.org, or drink his Kool-Aid at That’s Not What She Said.