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The Office

The Office is a comedy set in a paper sales company Dunder Mifflin. Shot in a mockumentary style the show follows the exploits of regional manager Michael Scott whose excruciating behaviour can make life difficult for his fellow employees. NBC 2005-???

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Episode 9 - Surplus

29 March 2012

Synopsis: Oscar urges Michael to spend the budget surplus on a new photocopier. But Pam wants new office chairs. Factions forms with Jim on Oscar’s side and Michael doesn’t want to disappoint anyone. Dwight shows Angela and Andy around Schrute farms. He then surreptitiously marries Angela using a German Mennonite Priest, much to her disgust.

The Good: The surplus is a simple, plausible office dilemma and it is ideal fodder for all the characters to suck up to Michael. Pam in particular gets some really good jokes. After years of looking disgusted at Michael’s inappropriate remarks and requests it’s really funny to hear her say “See you later, hot tie guy.” But she tops that later with “There’s that ass! Yeah, yeah. Oh don’t take it away!” to an amusingly withering look from Jim.

It’s sad in a way to see Michael so happy once everyone is flattering him and being kind, it would be nice to see him this happy all the time. What is so clever about the writing is that we see why Michael doesn’t deserve that kind of treatment. His desire not to be disliked is well established and consistently portrayed but it is his selfishness which ultimately makes him the butt of the joke. Ultimately, Michael gets screwed (over the surplus) because he was greedy and selfish and put his own desires even above his desire to be liked by his office family. It is a very satisfying conclusion to see him covered in animal protestor fake blood because the joke is firmly on him for not doing the right thing.

Jim and Pam’s story reaches an equally pleasing conclusion. Jim’s explanation (not wanting to make Pam do copies for him since they became a couple) for working against Pam is very plausible and makes him seem like a nice guy. It adds to the playfulness of their competition (Pam dropping the tiramisu he brought her into the garbage is a fun idea). Once she has got her way he decides to pay her back for threatening him by making her do his copying once more. A very neat ending to a fun story.

The Dwight, Angela, Andy story continues to twist and turn so that presumably the wedding can be the season finale. I don’t have a problem with that as it creates a “dramatic” backdrop for the end of the season. Dwight’s decision to forcibly marry Angela does seem like something he would do. Like Michael his selfishness (and in his case his belief that he is always right) leads to his downfall just as Angela was admitting to her mistake. It’s good consistent writing of Dwight because it was his arrogant assumption that he should euthanise Angela’s cat which led to their break-up in the first place (401). Andy also becomes a more endearing character as he tries his best to smooth over all the disputes which Dwight and Angela have. His naïve behaviour leads to several amusing gags when he treads in poop and then gets smacked in the head by Dwight’s deranged cousin Mose.

It may just be me but Dwight dismissively explaining that the Priest only speaks German by saying “Closed society” amused me. As did Michael claiming “I swallowed all your ideas, I’m going to digest them and see what comes out the other end” for obvious reasons. I liked the shot of both Creed and Meredith just playing solitaire on their computers (office incompetence can almost always be plausible).

The Bad: It would have been nice to know where each member of the office stood on the surplus issue. Seeing them all busily sucking up to Michael was less interesting when we didn’t know whose side they were on. Michael telling Hank to get out when he couldn’t make the decision for him didn’t quite work as a joke. If Hank had paused over his deliberation for a long time then Michael’s frustration would have been funnier. As it is it just looks rude.

Comic Highlight: Michael decides to call David Wallace in order to pass the buck onto someone else. He is tucking into a mouthful of tiramisu as David answers. He begins choking on it and apologises for the chocolate powder going down his throat. He has a drink to clear it and begins to talk while, naturally, taking another bite of tiramisu. Which of course leads to more choking. He apologises and begins again and after reaching for his fork he throws his hands in the air. He finally learnt his lesson. Beautifully acted and absolutely believable.

That’s what I said: The Office has really hit a good stride. Their characters are behaving so consistently and plausibly and the jokes flow nicely from that. There is something nice about having Pam back in the office and the story being entirely mundane. It means some of the jokes have that extra dimension where you really can believe they would happen in real life that get you giggling at the thought of them. The episode also has a pleasing “moral of the story” with both Michael and Dwight suffering for their misdeeds.

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