A certain level of soap opera drama is so hard-wired into The Office’s DNA that it’s always a little surprising when an episode shoots solely for yucks. Tonight’s Office was just such an episode. Oh sure, it dealt light-heartedly with some relatively serious issues, like Michael contemplating whether to take responsibility for a serious professional fuck-up or ask an employee to fall on their own sword and Dwight wrestling with his loyalty to Michael vs. his personal pride. But tonight was primarily about the guffaws. On that level it was a success.
In “Golden Ticket” Michael decides to spice up sales by inserting into orders five “golden tickets” in the form of gold pieces of paper Dunder-Mifflin clients can turn in for a ten-percent discount on paper products. Being a terribly theatrical, impractical sort Michael dresses up like a mutant version of Roald Dahl’s iconic candy pimp and gallivants about with a curious accent that owes little to Gene Wilder or Johnny Depp’s interpretations of the character and a lot to Michael’s high school sense of drama.
Michael’s seemingly pointless, moot gesture (what good could a rinky-dink ten percent discount do anyone?) backfires when Dunder-Mifflin’s biggest client finds five “golden tickets” they can use simultaneously for a massive discount. Suddenly Michael does an about-face and begins to pretend that the “golden ticket” idea wasn’t his at all and goes looking for a fall guy.
At this point the episode prompts the eternal question, “How stupid can Michael possibly be?” For that matter, how stupid does he think everyone else is? Obviously a documentary crew has captured him frolicking about in road show Willie Wonka garb and gushing about his brilliant Golden Ticket idea. Obviously all that footage wasn’t burned or deleted to make Michael look better.
Then again, questions like, “Why doesn’t Michael get fired?” don’t keep me up at night. They don’t ever really bother me unless the laughs dry up. I found tonight’s episode consistently funny. Michael decides to ask Dwight to take the fall for him by playing the friendship card. Dwight is only too happy to walk and talk with Michael but scoffs at falling on his own sword.
When Michael was trying to convince Dwight that getting fired wouldn’t be that bad, that he would be much happier leading a rural existence, I found myself thinking, “You know, that really does sound kind of nice. Idyllic even.” Maybe Dwight really is wasting his time in an office when he should be a gentleman beet farmer.
Michael and Dwight’s ethical conundrum took an ironic, O. Henryesque twist when the mega-client that received the multiple Golden Tickets end up being so bowled over by their discount that they agree to send a lot more business Dunder-Mifflin’s way. The goat becomes the hero and Dwight and Michael’s frantic scramble to avoid blame becomes an equally frantic scramble to claim credit.
Meanwhile the two-headed entity known as Jim/Pam and Andy give Kevin antithetical advice on how to ask out the woman he met at the Valentines Day Singles Mixer. For a certified doormat, Andy offered some pretty misanthropic advice, admonishing Kevin to confuse/alienate his object of desire with back-handed compliments and weird bursts of passive aggression. Kevin ends up taking Jim and Pam’s advice instead and tells his crush everything that pops into his head. That works fine when he compliments her smile and asks her out but takes a regrettable turn when the next thing that pops up in his mind is “boobs”.
Tonight’s episode lacked a certain gravity but it delivered the goods, comedy-wise. I particularly liked Michael’s Willie Wonka impersonation and his stone-faced attempts to distance himself from it once things went South. The Golden Ticket thing is Michael in a nutshell: goofy, grandiose, delusional and child-like in a simultantaenously ingratiating and annoying fashion. We got to learn a lot more about Michael’s bathroom-themed inventions (like a device to keep people from losing their keys and wallet in the toilet) and business brainstorms (a store for fancy men’s footwear called Shoe-La-La) as well as Dwight’s diary. Tonight might not have been one for the ages but it was certainly good for a larf.
—For a Mindy Kaling-written episode this featured very little Mindy Kaling
—We haven’t seen much of Darryl as of late