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I've heard people say that Ricky Gervais' (as David Brent) appearance on The Office last night was too short, but I thought it was perfect. It didn't need to be any longer, it was enjoyable just to see him and Michael meet, and it was perfect how they managed to quickly bond over racial stereotypes and silly sex jokes. It also had the right note of melancholy, as Brent is apparently looking for work these days. In some ways it was just another cold open, and I liked that it didn't go too far in pointing out to the audience what was happening.
The rest of the episode that followed was fine by the show's standards these days, consistently funny throughout but rarely gob-smackingly brilliant. This time it's more Andy's show than Michael's, though the latter does make time to practice a terrible Greek improv character, remind us he's very good at the sales side of his job with a psyche-up speech at the end, and inappropriately try to get Holly to kiss him in-character. Will that wacky guy never change? Anyway, Andy has had the idea to create a business seminar at the office, and use it at the opportunity to sell small business "packages" to attendees that the show never explains the actual nature of. Unfortunately, his speakers bail out, Jim because he recognizes someone from his past and the other salespeople because they don't think there are any clients in the group worth having. So he has to make do with fill-ins, and the best he can do is Kevin, Creed, and Kelly (who's actually a fill-in of a fill-in). Hilarity ensues.
Of the three, Creed has to be the best, with possibly the best monologue he's ever given on the show. It has nothing to do with small business, and I'd rather not spoil the joke, but the episode is worth watching for his scene alone. Kevin has been great all season long, and he does well here with an overly enthusiastic self-introduction that ends in him vomiting into a garbage can before he can get to a point. Kelly's "business bitch" persona was pretty fun as well, although it ended before we seemed to get to a real punchline. Eventually the other sales guys realize there actually are a few decent potential customers in the group, but Darryl stops Andy from letting them swoop in and take the sales he earned, and after a fair amount of encouragement and help from Michael, he manages to close a few deals. A pretty successful day for the Nard-Dog.
Meanwhile, we find out why Jim is hiding: one of the people at the seminar was a childhood friend that he rudely broke off ties with in elementary school for being "too dumb", and when he finally runs into him face to face, the friend makes fun of him for his not-too-impressive paper sales career. I didn't get much from this story, I found it hard to believe that someone would carry that grudge for so long and the comic payoff wasn't really there. Elsewhere though was a pretty funny side plot where Pam and Oscar secretly help Erin in a game of phone Scrabble with Gabe which will decide what movie they watch next, although she ends up accidentally losing anyway which ends in a moment where the Gabe/Andy tables seem to be shifting again. Gabe and Erin together just doesn't make sense in the long run, a relationship where one partner clearly thinks very little of the other's intelligence doesn't really have legs. There was some good humor there too, principally in Erin's preoccupation with cow-related words and how Oscar gets way too into it.
There's not much to get too deep into discussing episodes like this. I know at least I'm looking at each episode in terms of any movement it makes towards this season's end-game, and it's fairly minimal here besides maybe looking a bit more closely at Andy in a leadership role and minute progress in the Michael/Holly relationship. I can't help usually feeling like they should be doing more, but in the end the show is a sitcom and they don't have to do much on any given night besides get a few laughs. And on that front, the episode was generally a success.