Turn off the Lights

The Office – Todd Packer

The Office has been on a pretty good roll lately, but last
night’s episode unfortunately felt a lot like a pretty typical example of a
show that might have exhausted most of its best ideas by now. There was just
something a bit listless and tired about the whole thing. I laughed a few
times, but it just wasn’t that great of a showing by anyone.

A mediocre episode of The Office is still pretty watchable
though, even here in the show’s seventh season. There were pretty good lines
and character moments sprinkled everywhere, it’s just that the story threads
themselves didn’t live up to what they could have been. As is obvious from the
episode title, we have the return of Todd Packer, best buddy of Michael Scott
and total dick to everyone else. The character never really had a place on the
show after it moved away from the British version’s focus on terribleness and
misery, so he’s just popped in now and again to remind us that he’s awful and
then Michael likes him for some reason. But this week he wants to get off the
road as a traveling salesman and settle in Scranton, to Michael’s delight and nobody
else’s.

The only reason this can even happen is that Holly as the HR
rep is the one who would approve the change, and based on seemingly nothing by
Michael’s glowing recommendation, she oddly gives it the green light. One
imagines that if she even spent five minutes talking to him, or asked anyone
else in the office, it wouldn’t have happened. She quickly sees her mistake
though, when Packer proves to be less a jovial presence in the office and more
a blustering ass who takes peoples’ desks and insults them to their face.
Watching Kevin (the only other person who liked the guy) go from admiring to
horrorstruck as Packer belittles him was surprisingly sad (while still a bit
funny, because Kevin’s face can’t not be funny), and before long Holly’s aware
she made a mistake.

Todd Packer

Jim and Dwight are on the case though, agreeing to join
forces to get rid of Packer by any means necessary. This plot could have been
great, and it’s fun just to see the two agree on something once in a while, but
a lot of the potential seems wasted. I honestly had more fun in the cold open,
when Dwight disgustingly eats years-old bomb shelter food a mere week before it
officially expires and Jim goads him into a long discussion of apocalypse
scenarios. Their eventual plan to get rid of Packer only works because Michael
finally realizes what a jerk he is after he starts demeaning Holly. The best
thing about the whole storyline was just the simple scene where Packer explains
his motivations for wanting to stay in one place, which makes his eventual
departure actually slightly sad.

The other big plot didn’t do much for me either. Pam gets
Erin a new computer, but when Andy gets upset that she can’t replace his slow
machine too because it would mean upgrading the entire sales staff, they have a
little turf war before conspiring to get him what he wants without upsetting
the rest of the office. He sabotages his computer further to break it
completely, and then they mock up his good replacement machine as a crummy old
device that Pam found in the warehouse. Then Darryl uses his knowledge that
there was no such computer in the warehouse to cajole some extra sick days out
of Pam, who delights in the fact that she’s now totally corrupt in her role as
office administrator. Not too many laughs there, and I’m not sure what else the
story was supposed to accomplish.

So yeah, it wasn’t the most exciting episode, which is even
more disappointing knowing how close a total sea change in the show is. It wasn’t
bad, you just hope for more movement or at least consistent hilarity when
something like that is coming. I guess part of what they’re doing is trying to
show Michael becoming something closer to a real adult before he leaves, and I
suppose ridding him of his terrible friend is a step in that direction.
Otherwise, there wasn’t too much to love about this one.

Rating
7.4

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