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I Will Survive: Amid the Chaos of the Strike, "The Office" Still Provides Laughs

I'll admit that last night's episode of The Office ("Survivorman"), written by Steve Carell and directed by Paul Feig, was more than a little bittersweet for several reasons.

First off, while the Michael venturing into the woods storyline pushed the limits of believability just a little bit, the Jim storyline was absolutely pitch perfect and completely restored the tone, scope, and mission statement of the series in a way that has been missing this season so far. It's ironic to me, then, that it took star Steve Carell to write an episode in order to get the series back on track in terms of restoring the office setting (yes, save the Michael A-story) and grounding that plot in terms of a mundane reality.

Second, it was depressing to watch this particular installment of The Office because, due to the current writers strike going on right now here in LA (and in NYC), this is the penultimate episode of the series for now. Next week's episode ("The Deposition") is the absolute LAST episode of The Office, until the WGA strike is resolved, regardless of what anyone else might tell you. So hopefully it will prove to be a good installment because it's the last of the series for what appears to be quite some time.

Michael. I do wish that instead of seeing Michael go off into the woods, we could have witnessed him attend that wilderness expedition with Ryan and the other branch heads, although I do agree that Ryan probably knows enough about Michael already. I liked the fact that Dwight followed Michael with the camera crew in order to capture his excursion and that , in the end, Dwight didn't let Michael die (as he has sworn to) but instead rushed over to him when he ate those mushrooms and stuck his fingers into his boss' mouth, as any good sycophant would do under similar circumstances. Although the plot made Michael a little too cartoonish for my liking, there were some nice moments there: Michael attempting to tell the time based on the sun's position in the sky, only to glance down at his watch, his decision to transform his pants into a hat and some kind of kerchief for his neck... and then into a tent. Ultimately, I was happy that Carell didn't have Michael try to spend the night in the woods and returned him to the office in time for Creed's birthday song.

Jim. Last night's installment was also a fantastic Jim episode as he quickly slipped into the role of Michael while the boss was on his own wilderness retreat. The ease with which he made this transformation was sobering and terrifying to young Jim, especially when further goaded by Pam with the conference room comment and his attempt to make things more fun by changing the order of the office by combining everyone's birthday parties into one mega-party. Furthermore, the look on his face when (A) Phyllis called him Michael and (B) Michael told him that, like Jim, he had done the same thing starting out and had even said he wouldn't still be here in ten years was absolutely priceless. Loved the improvised ending with "that's what she said," in which we got a frightening glimpse of Jim's future.

Andy. I've said it before, but I am constantly amazed by how much I am growing to love Andy's loopy spirit. Last night's episode was no exception, with some singular Andy moments that perfectly captured his selfish nature, from his insistence about having a Fudgy the Whale cake at the mass birthday party to the call for mushroom caps (and his excitement at the realization that there were mushroom caps).

Creed. Just the right amount of Creed in this episode to tantalize the audience and want more. Loved the comment about "Jimmy" not caring about the sanctity of the solo birthday party because he had already had his two months earlier. And who asks for peach cobbler for their birthday cake? Creed, that's who. Best bit: "Tell her it's for Creed. She'll know what that means."

Phyllis. LOVED the fact that she called Jim Michael last night. So fitting and coy and it was played with such authentic restraint and realism that you actually believed it was unintentional. Also loved her reaction to Michael jumping out at her in her car with a birthday cake. Classic.

Dwight. I loved the way he led Michael into the woods like someone leading a lost little boy by the hand... and the fact that he was spying on Michael using a rifle scope, only to learn that the safety wasn't in fact on. Bonus points for having Dwight take his hands off the steering wheel to remove his shoe and try to beat Michael into unconsciousness with it. And the smooth slide into creepiness continues with Dwight's reveal that he would kill Michael and remove his teeth and fingertips in order to conceal his victim's identity... and that he keeps caches of weapons all over the office. The Overkill Killer, indeed.

Best line of the episode: "I took an extra shot of insulin in preparation of this cake today. If I don't have some cake soon, I might die." -Stanley.

Ultimately, this was easily the best episode of the season to date and it's with more than a little sadness that it seems that The Office's fourth season will be derailed by the strike just as things were finally getting good again.

Next week on The Office ("The Deposition"), Michael is deposed as a witness when Jan sues Dunder-Mifflin for wrongful termination and Kelly puts Pam down after new boyfriend Darryl trounces Jim at ping-pong. Consider it a mini-season finale for now, albeit without a cliffhanger or resolution.

Comments

Anonymous said…
"Loved the improvised ending with "that's what she said," in which we got a frightening glimpse of Jim's future."

How do you know that was improvised - couldn't it just have been great acting?

But anyway, great Jim episode.
Anonymous said…
I work on a TV show and just lost my job because of the strike. I've been pretty down about it but The Office and 30 Rock really cheered me up last night. The writers and actors of both these shows, and many more, are so wonderfully creative and brilliantly funny and I'd like to give them a big THANK YOU and wish them success in their campaign. Hopefully they'll be able to get back to work soon and continue making us laugh.
Unknown said…
Nah, the best scene was the end between Jim and Michael, who was both genuine and clueless--his best features.

I hope some enterprising writers and actors get together with an Internet video production group and write their own show and sell it on the Web. That'll be the beginning of the end for the Big Networks, just like Madonna and Radiohead are the beginning of the end for the Big Labels. These stupid old companies think we all still need them because they have their heads in the sand and think the Internet is a bunch of tubes.

Idiots. It'll take a while, but they're all going to be crushed by the Internet because they're too big, slow, and dumb.
The CineManiac said…
Finally got to watch this today and I loved it. IT really was a great episode, and it's sad knowing that this week and next weeks episode were supposed to be concluded with the episode adverted by the strike.

I also loved 30 Rock and my favorite part may have been the flashbacks to Kenneth's parties, mostly getting to hear "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah" again. (I wish they'd release the whole song, I'd have it looped on my iPod.
The CineManiac said…
Apparently they have released the full single! iPod here we come!
Although does this song count as part of the 'New Media' or would this be the work of a songwriter?
Anonymous said…
You know that column in tv guide, "Is it just me?"

Is it just me? I thought this was one of the better episodes of this highly disappointing season, but I can't say I thought it was good. In comparison to the others, it seems better, but I hardly laughed and I thought the Michael story was bordering on hard to watch. Enough of having major storylines outside of the office! They just don't work (unless it's work related, like last week's visit to Karen).

Best part of the ep was the tag (Which did seem improvised). That cracked me up.

And Stanley never fails to make me laugh.

On the flip side...there is 30 rock. Nuff said.

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