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Dunder-Mifflin Tribal Council: Beach Games on "The Office"

Now that's how a super-sized episode works.

Last night's episode of The Office ("Beach Games") completely took away the bad taste in my mouth (that's what she said) from last week's stretched-to-the-limits installment. In this case, the episode was swiftly paced, with some hilarious laugh-out loud moments and some emotional character beats, to boot. What other series would feature the tantalizing juxtaposition of Andy Bernard floating around a lake in an inflatable sumo wrestling suit... and a confession/declaration from Pam?

While this episode took the characters out of their Scranton, Pennsylvania office environment, I felt that it worked in this example. My former employers had a beach day every year (granted, it's LA), but the idea of a work-related field trip is one that most people can easily relate to and understand (unlike, say, a trip to a beet farm). The episodes that take place outside of the office work best when they're directly related to both the mundaneness of office life and the plot (sales calls, booze cruise, office awards, convention) rather than being an excuse to force a location shoot (the mall, the aforementioned beet farm).

In any event, I felt that last night's episode was a return to form for this series. All season long, most of us have been wondering what the hell Pam has been feeling and why she's kept these feelings--both about Jim and about standing up for herself--bottled up inside. Granted, it's been firmly established that one of Pam's strongest character traits is her fearfulness and her inability to change, to not take that internship in New York, to remain with Roy, to take the safe and easy over the scary and difficult. It was an amazing moment then to see Pam stride across the white-hot coals (which no one else was able to do) and then gleefully confess all of her feelings to everyone in the group, confronting them about why none of them came to her art show (though Oscar and Michael did show up).

But the most profound and jaw-dropping moment comes when she admits she called off her wedding because of Jim (well, for a lot of reasons, but also because of him) and now they're not even friends. I felt a little twinge when she said that she misses having fun with him. Maybe Pam isn't so afraid anymore, after all. Gee, think that these two lovebirds will get together in the finale next week? I wonder...

Jim's reaction, along with everyone's, to the above was priceless; not a word was uttered as they sat there in complete and utter silence. It's funny to see how we've subtly transferred the sympathy from Jim (pining for Pam all these years) onto Pam, who's become the underdog in this love triangle. Still, I can't help but feel bad for Karen (did you see her face during Pam's speech?); she moved to Scranton to be with Jim, though if New York (and that promotion to Corporate she and everyone seems to be up for) beckons, I'll be sad to see the back of her. I'm firmly on Team Karen, after all.

I absolutely loved the stuff with Andy last night, which was just zany enough to work. As he slips into the lake, still wearing his sumo gear, Angela (playing Lady Macbeth yet again) pretends not to hear his cries for help as he slips further and further away onto the lake. (Loved the shot of Michael's talking head where he wonders where the hell Andy is as the camera zooms onto him floating in the middle of the lake.) And the scene where someone stumbles onto Andy in the dark, only to turn the light off, was absolutely brilliant.

What else did I love? The fact that Michael would turn a quest to find a possible replacement into the Scranton edition of Survivor, complete with tiki torches, challenges, and a tribal council. Angela hearing sandwich instead of sabotage, in a perfect act of just that. Stanley pretending to kiss up for this promotion, only to give up when it was too difficult to keep that pained smile on his face. Dwight telling Angela to stand next to him in the event of a group hug. Kelly's happiness that Michael got her Amanda Bynes reference. The group sing-a-long on the bus (including Angela) with the Flintstones theme and "The Gambler." Michael, dressed in Sandals gear and a bead necklace, asking Pam to cook 800 hot dogs in ten minutes... on the beach. Jim leading Karen straight into the lake and around imaginary rocks during the blindfolded egg on a spoon challenge. Team Voldermort vs. Griffindor. Poor Toby getting stuck at the office, especially after learning that Pam would be wearing a "two piece."

But the cherry on top of this cream was when, after Pam poured her heart out during the "tribal council," Michael said he was really looking for someone with a sales background. Is it just me, or does this episode rank up there with some of the very best Office episodes this season? At once touching and funny, it used the hallmark of the series--the drudgery of monotonous office work fused with zany comedy--to full effect here, without seeming forced or contrived in any way. Gold stars for writers Jen Celotta and Greg Daniels for crafting an outstanding episode that propels us to next week's season finale.

Will Pam and Jim reconcile and become friends again (or more)? Will Karen, Michael, or Jim snag the promotion in New York and leave Dunder-Mifflin Scranton? And just who would they be replacing? (Hmmm.) Find out next week.

Next week on the one-hour season finale of The Office ("The Job"), Michael, Karen, and Jim all compete against one another for that corporate job in New York City, Jan has some thrilling news, and Dwight is left in charge of the Scranton office, where he implements a set of sweeping changes to the office.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: The Ghost Whisperer (CBS); Dateline (NBC; 8-10 pm); WWE Friday Night SmackDown (CW; 8-10 pm); Grey's Anatomy (ABC); Nanny 911 (FOX)

9 pm: Close to Home (CBS); 20/20 (ABC); Bones (FOX)

10 pm: NUMB3RS (CBS); Law & Order (NBC); 20/20 (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

8 pm: Absolutely Fabulous on BBC America.

What better way than to begin your weekend of debauchery than by starting it with two people even more pickled than you'll be? On tonight's "vintage" episode of AbFab ("Fish Farm"), Edina and Pats fantasize about their new gardener.

8:40 pm: Coupling on BBC America.

Revisit the Coupling gang way back when. On the first of two episodes tonight ("The Girl With Two Breasts"), Jeff falls for a girl who doesn't speak English. Then it's "The Cupboard of Patrick's Love," in which Susan discovers that ex-boyfriend Patrick films his sexual conquests and she is one of his "stars."

Comments

Anonymous said…
Last night's episode was great, save one moment. I was really shocked (but not in a good way) by Oscar's talking head when he said he "might try girls for awhile." I don't understand why Oscar, after all this time, would suddenly not be gay. It seemed completely out of character and unfunny to boot. I'm not sure what the writers were trying to accomplish with that but, for me, it definitely did not work or add anything to the show.

Otherwise, a funny, fabulous episode. I was originally worried about Andy Bernard coming back as a full cast member but he has been nothing but hilarious. Andy floating around in his sumo suit or throwing rocks at ducks were some of the best moments of the episode.

I also enjoyed poor Pam getting the lame job of taking notes on the beach (and Michael's unique rating system) and the bus ride where Michael stated that Dwight's enthusiasm was "putting people off." A great episode leading to what is sure to be a great finale!
Unknown said…
Definitely one of the best episodes this season. My wife (who doesn't watch) asked from the other room why I kept rewinding scenes. {head shake} She doesn't get it.

bella, I can see why you think Oscar's talking head was out of sync, but I took it to be an ironic statement of the writers.

I enjoyed Pam saying she doubted there was a conversion chart for Michael's gold stars and thumbs-up. (I can't remember the third!)

I absolutely loved watching Pam work up the courage--by herself--to walk the coals. I've rarely seen such a well-done example of a character working to effect a positive change in their personality, and on a half-hour comedy yet! You could feel her fear, determination, and angst, and finally, her elation at succeeding. Kudos to Jenna Fischer. Her acting portrays Pam as a person not just a character.

Gee, think that these two lovebirds will get together in the finale next week? No way, Jace. The finale will have Karen get the job, and Jim will have to decide whether to go with her or stay and maintain a long-distance relationship. He'll, of course, stay. I have an image of Jim and Karen hugging goodbye while Pam looks at the camera with a pleased/satisfied--but not smug--expression.

Next season will have Jim and Karen trying to maintain their LDR, while dealing with Karen's inevitable (and understandable) jealousy as Pam and Jim's friendship rekindles. This will give Rashida opportunities for a few guest spots, and next season will end with Karen and Jim breaking up. {snif}

Disclaimer: I have no idea--I'm just guessing.
Jeff Schiller said…
At first I was taken back by Oscar's Talking Head segment. But looking at it later, I wonder if it was Oscar being ironic to the camera (i.e. showing how ignorant his co-workers can be like when he stated that he wouldn't want to get married as it would offend heterosexuals).

On the other hand, there is some comedic potential if Oscar does try to date some girls...
Anonymous said…
Another thought on Oscar's head is that that's something women will say after a relationship ends badly. "Men suck. Maybe I'll date women." Not really serious or anything.

He did just say "I've been looking for a way out of that relationship for a while."
Anonymous said…
But we never see Pam in the two piece! WAH!

With news that Rashida Jones' new show has been picked up, it seems that Karen is on her way out (which I think we've all known for some time). As Michael would say, "I hate to see her leave, but I love to watch her go."
Anonymous said…
Excellent, excellent episode.

Finally, some truly laugh-out-loud moments. I could not stop laughing when we had Michael's talking head w/Andy floating in the background. I don't even know what michael said during the talking head I was laughing so loud.

I watched the Pam monologue twice. So, so great.

I was not bumped in the least by Oscar's statment. :)

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