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One common complaint about The Office now days is how often the show leaves the comforts of Dunder Mifflin (I suppose I should call it Dunder Mifflin/Sabre now..) and focuses on the situations that occur outside of the office. I have to agree with this since “The Office” was created as a mockumentary about Dunder Mufflin and it should focus primarily on Dunder Mifflin related topics. However, over the past two seasons, I’ve stopped viewing the show as a documentary on the company and more of a documentary about the employees who work there. I mean, why else would this crew follow everybody to Jim and Pam’s wedding or visit Dwight at his exclusive beet farm? It’s a show about mid-level employees doing their best to survive in a strange and somewhat surreal world where they can be attacked at any moment by strange and hyper bosses, maniacal employees and other paper related fiascos. This episode takes place almost completely outside of the office, but it allows us to be re-introduced to some great supporting characters who sometimes get lost behind Michael’s gigantic ego and Jim and Pam’s cute, but admittedly time-consuming relationship. This was an episode where the strengths are derived from the supporting cast.
The “best in show” tonight has to go to Darryl, who has finally returned to the show after being M.I.A for so long, making movies with John Cusack about a hot tub time machine. His scenes with Oscar were superb, and the tag may go down as one of favorite ones to date. The show has never introduced us to this Japanese warehouse worker, and I didn’t even care after hearing his completely insane story about how he got from Japan to America and what he had to do to get there. It’s just been announced that Craig Robinson has been upgraded to a series regular, which is great to hear, especially considering how under-rated he’s been on the show. There’s so much focus on the office workers that people forget how awesome the warehouse can potentially be. I don’t think the Sabre plot has provided us with anything worth remembering except for bringing Darryl into the office and allowing us to see more of him.
Don’t get me wrong, Darryl wasn’t the only strong actor tonight; Dwight was on point too. I’ve been on the fence about his relationship with Pam’s friend Isabel, but tonight showed me that Isabel is actually giving Dwight something new to work with. Watching him flirt and attempt to be a physically intimidating presence is leading to some hilarious quotes, including his “whacking moles” statement. And I must add this as well: his reaction to seeing Angela walking directly beside him while he talked to Isabel may go down as one of my favorite Dwight moments. Dwight is rarely afraid or surprised by things, so seeing his reaction to Angela was priceless. Hopefully we’ll have some more Dwight-heavy episodes in the near future. I’m missing that beet-farmer more and more each episode.
As far as the rest of the episode, there was plenty of great moments to choose from: Date Mike (definitely weaker than Prison Mike, which is one of the best Office moments ever, but still funny nonetheless. “I’m Date Mike, nice to meet me.”), Creed playing DDR, the cold open with Stanley doing push-ups and Kevin’s reaction at the end when Kelly crying makes Pam’s boobs grow bigger. There’s just a great combination of scenes tonight that, although occurring outside of the office, was still funnier than a lot of the episodes the show has churned out as of late. Michael is still incredibly naive and sometimes irritating, and I didn’t enjoy the Andy and Erin relationship as much this episode for some reason, but the show seems to be somewhat back on track.
It’s funny how The Office has gone from being one of television’s most lauded comedy programs to one of its most criticized. There’s always going to be somebody unhappy with what The Office is doing, and nobody is going to unanimously enjoy every episode. Some will be weaker than others, and some will be stronger. It’s the strong ones that you need to keep watching for; tonight proved that The Office still has the comedic chops to keep up with Modern Family, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock and other comedy shows that are still chugging along with plenty of energy.