Oscar returns from his extended vacation (or, “gay-cation,” per Kevin) to an office unhinged. Dwight’s recent dismissal has left a vacuum of epic proportions, in which uptight accountants break down, plant life perishes, and not even a fly on the wall is safe from Andy’s fisted reign of terror. Michael reaches the end of his rope and takes a surprising stand, while Jim reaches another end and does his own part to spark a little unexpected twist.
Enter week two of the reborn Michael Scott, sober, serious and professional. And completely driven up a wall by his new right hand man.
Michael : Love that Andy, right? Solid fellow. Seems smart enough. Likes me a lot. A lot. Too much. Like a crazy person, a little. Not super crazy, just… there’s something about him that creeps me out. I can’t really explain it. He’s always up in my bid-ness, which is Ebonics for “being in my face and annoying the bejesus out of me.” I don’t understand how someone could have so little self-awareness.
Insert joke about Michael looking in a mirror, except, not even on his worst days does Michael come anywhere close to Andy’s level of Grade-A Suck-Up. So if Andy is a mirror, he’s a funhouse mirror, equal parts adequate likeness and gross distortion, just enough to teach Michael a much-needed lesson.
Michael : It takes a big man to admit his mistake, and that’s what I did. The important thing is, I learned something. I don’t want somebody sucking up to me because they think I am going to help their career. I want them sucking up to me because they genuinely love me.
As for the continuing sobriety, either the love of a good woman is working some miracles or there’s some kind of massive hematoma on his brain. If a symptom of the latter is, say, a speech impairment, then there could be no definitive proof because if Michael has one constant, it is the mangling of the English language.
Michael : Of course we are going to have a party. A celebration of Oscar. Oscar night. And I want it to be Oscar-specific–
Oscar : Michael, I–
Michael : No, no. I mean, not– not because you are gay. Your gayness does not define you. Your Mexicanness is what defines you, to me, and I think we should celebrate Oscar’s Mexicanity.
If anything, it should be taken as the sign of his sound mind.
Turning the Salesman of the Year onto the streets is bound to lower productivity, reduce sales and drastically decrease profits. And when it’s Dwight, ever devoted to the seemingly menial tasks that cultivate the hierarchy of authority, much more than the bottom line is affected.
[Michael is fingering a dying plant]
Michael : Wow. What is wrong with this thing? Looks terrible.
Pam : Do you want me to ask the night cleaning crew if they stopped watering it?
Michael : Yeah. Oh, you know what? Ask them about the toys on my desk too. They always used to arrange the toys on my desk in a very pleasing way. Used to brighten my morning.
Pam : Oh, that wasn’t the night crew. That was Dwight.
That is the kind of dedication that goes largely unappreciated, if not scorned, in the world of retail. At least the unfortunate situation lets us witness Dwight’s curriculum vitae, a saga in three acts.
Dwight : For your convenience, I’ve broken it down into three parts: professional resume, athletic and special skills resume, and Dwight Schrute trivia.
What, no chapter exclusive to voluntary civic duty and the martial arts? That must fall under the umbrella of special skills, along with third generation beet agronomist and leading authority on the mythical creatures of Middle Earth. And I know I’m not the only one who would love to crack open that trivia.
Jim is ever the easygoing, laid back guy, and even in less-than-ideal situations, very rarely finds an excuse for misery. But the absence of Dwight and the very close proximity of Andy proves just a little too much to handle, even for him.
[Andy’s cellphone begins ringing to the tune of “Rockin’ Robin” and he dances it in Jim’s face]
Jim : Is that you singing?
Andy : All four parts. Recorded it on my computer. Took me forever.
Jim : Nice job.
Andy : Thank you muchly.
[Phone keeps ringing]
Jim : You gonna answer it?
Andy : [chuckles] I called it myself. Just thought you’d get a kick out of the new ring.
Jim : Yikes.
Andy : Side note: I’d just like to say I’m thrilled to be working directly beneath you. I feel I have a lot to learn from you, even though you are younger and have less experience. So… here’s to the future. Andy and the Tuna. [Starts singing] Andy and the Tuna…
[Cut to interview]
Jim : I miss Dwight. Congratulations, universe. You win.
I’m trying to think of when Jim has been so exasperated, and not very many instances come to mind. Diversity Day, maybe, which right about now is looking pretty good compared to being the 185 lb catch of the day. I guess it’s true– you really don’t know what you’ve got until it’s the new sales associate at the local office supply superstore.
If there’s one thing Pam knows, besides fundamental administrative skills and how to keep Michael at bay, it’s Jim. She watches his time bomb tick all morning, just one “Rockin’ Robin” away from knocking Andy’s block off. Finally, the other possible conspirators fall through and he turns to her not a moment too soon.
Jim : Would you like to pull a prank on Andy?
Pam : Um, I’m kind of in the middle of– yes, please.
The plot to follow is a glorious thing to behold; all unspoken communication, brilliant choreography and flawless execution. As a pair known for their pranks, this ranks up there as one of their best– not in the least because Pam plays it cool, without so much as a hint of taking it to mean more than it should. She’s just doing what she does best and that’s why we love her. Well played, Ms. Beesly. And who knows, it just might pay off.
It’s continually amazing how this show plows over all conventional television timelines and blindsides right when least expected, staying true to the erratic nature of life, pivotal moments unadvertised, leaps and bounds made in silence and side glances, 20 seconds here and there that change things forever. Honestly, I was prepared for a week or two of floundering after the cover-up last week. Karen would observe from afar, see a few actions that didn’t quite match the words, eventually become suspicious enough to confront. But no– bam!, one-two, before you know what hits you, there it is, all on the line again.
Karen : Do you still have feelings for her?
Jim : [slight pause, almost imperceptible nod] Yes.
Chalk it up to yet another moment all the air has left the room in reigning disbelief of what just happened. Even as Karen asked, I held my breath waiting for the painful lie. Instead, yes. Halpert!
I imagine he’s sitting there, recovering from the first day he’s spent close to Pam in ages, trying to sort things out all over again, when suddenly Karen asks the exact question he’s been wrestling with himself. The answer comes all at once, and aloud, without the chance for him to soften the blow for anyone, much less for the girl he should want to shield most of all.
Abrupt as it may come, honesty is always the best policy, even when it’s unintentional, just the reaching of the point where you can’t lie to yourself anymore. Hence, Pam’s breakdown of two weeks ago, and now, the somewhat different defeat of Jim. It’s not necessarily fair for Karen to learn so late that her relationship with him has been, at least to some degree, about Pam all along, but matters of the heart aren’t so easily reduced to a science of what is fair and what is not, any more than they can be reduced to a polite transaction where everyone wins and no one is bruised in the process.
We’ll have to wait a week or two for the aftermath, to see if this spells the beginning of the end or if a new twist in the system appears. Either way, it won’t be all fairy tales and roses, but a reminder of the stakes just takes a little rewinding to one of the best moments of the day: Jim and Pam, reunited over a prank, sombreros knocking together, surveying their handiwork in the shape of Andy’s fist through the wall.
Jim : Oh, my god. That’s half-inch drywall.
Pam : I think we broke his brain.
Jim : [bursts out laughing] It’s not freakin’ funny!
It’s just so right.
As if you couldn’t guess, The Return sends the Jim/Pam Index soaring Up, into the ceiling, past a certain singing cellular device, straight through the roof.
Let’s hear it for Angela and her own brand of grieving widow in the wake of Dwight.
I don’t know how James usually decides these things, but I’ve held to some kind of general rule of who just really makes the episode, anchors the comedy and sends up the exclamation-worthy moments. And this week, it’s definitely Michael Scott, on basis of all reasons mentioned. It takes a big man, indeed.
Dwight : How would I describe myself? Three words: hardworking, alpha male, jackhammer. Merciless. Insatiable.
Definitely not observant, sensitive, or at all suited to work under a woman in an office with abundant pink floral.
Angela : [to Oscar] Certain events have transpired, and I’ve thought about certain things. And I’m sorry for the way those certain events transpired. [Begins crying] And I would just like to make some changes about certain things, and certain situations, and certain accountants…
Could you be a little more specific?
[Oscar has joined the party planning committee]
Kevin : Can I join too?
Angela : [still sniffling] Never.
Whew, I was beginning to worry about her there for a second.
Michael : Phyllis, I want you to go find firecrackers and a chihuahua. Pam, in the frozen food section, Swanson makes a delightful chimichanga.
Oscar : Why don’t you have me riding in on a donkey? Into the office, like Pepe–
Michael : Ah, a burro. Of course. If Oscar wants a donkey, let’s get him one.
Michael at his most benevolent, Oscar at his most sarcastic.
Dwight : Need any help?
Staples customer : Oh, no thank you. I’m just looking.
Dwight : Great. I will literally be standing right here if you need anything at all.
And he literally will. Literally.
Michael : Who’s that sportscaster that bit that lady? Marv something? Andy is like Marv something. Great sportscaster… big weirdo creep.
Andy must be campaigning for position amongst the Greatest TV Villains We Love To Hate But Sometimes Really Just Want To Punch Their Freakin’ Lights Out, But Still Love… To Hate. In fact, he’s well on his way to the top five. How? Name repetition, personality mirroring…
Jim : Hey, Ryan? Do you want to pull a prank on Andy?
Ryan : Not right now, but ask me again ten years ago.
Jim : I liked you better as the temp.
Ryan : [sighs] Me too.
Cue scene of Ryan converting Value Save soda into “Mexican Lemonade” by adding phonetic accents to the label with a marker.
Michael : Have any of you talked to Dwight?
Stanley : Oh sure, we talk all the time.
Michael : Really?
Stanley : No.
Stanley never fails to prey on Michael’s boundless naivety.
Paris : I don’t like him, his giant head, or his beady little eyes. That’s all I got to say on the matter.
Someone better get Dwight out of that Staples before all that’s left of him is a dismembered uniform.
Angela : I just wanted to tell you that Dwight was late that morning because he had to drive to New York to drop off the quarterly tax forms that I forgot to send. Though to be fair, Kevin never reminded me.
Angela, always the champion of fairness and highly subjective justice.
Andy : I forgot to tell you the plan for this Saturday: You, me, bar, beers, buzzed… wings, shots, drunk. Waitresses, hot. Football, Cornell/Hofstra, slaughtered. Then, quick nap at my place and we hit the tiz-own…
Michael : No. I don’t want to do any of that.
Andy : Duh. Which is why I was joking about doing it.
Michael : No, just stop. Stop. Just stop. Stop doing it. You are going to drive me crazy.
Michael actually scared me a little right here. I’ve never seen him so fierce– probably because he’s never been so fierce.
Andy : And I’m also sorry that a lot of people here for some reason think it’s funny to take someone’s personal property and hide it from him. Here’s a little newsflash. It’s not funny. In fact, it’s pretty freakin’ unfunny. [Screaming, he drives his fist through the drywall, then slowly recovers] …That was an overreaction.
That was a grand, sweeping understatement. Though Jim’s stricken face is totally worth it.
Michael : How’s this place treating you?
Dwight : [scoffs] The boss isn’t funny.
Michael : Oh, well…
Dwight : I don’t get to wear my ties.
Michael : No, I’m sure.
Dwight : So…
Michael : So maybe you should come back. You should come back. Please.
Dwight : I don’t want to do your laundry anymore.
Michael : We can talk about that.
Dwight’s reunion with Michael is pitch perfect to the standards of about a dozen romantic movie cliches, right down to the emotional confession and generic pop pumped into the background. In short, priceless.
Dwight : You did this for me?
[Camera pans to the large “Welcome Back Oscar” banner]
Michael : Guilty.
Poor Oscar. His long-awaited return becomes one of the least momentous events of the day.