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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.
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.