Judging by the comments here on The Office blog it seems like the biggest question this season is "How dark is too dark?" For me the answer is "really fucking dark". I think it's safe to say that both "The Deposition" and "Dinner Party" fell on the wrong side of the funny/creepy divide for a lot of Office fans. So it was both refreshing and perhaps inevitable that tonight's episode chased two of the darkest, creepiest, most punishing Office episodes with something substantially lighter and goofier.
After what at least felt like a season in Hell (shout out to Eddie and The Cruisers and to a much lesser extent Arthur Rimbaud!) Michael and Jan finally called it quits. Commenters have complained that the show made Jan too crazy and pathetic this season but I wholly understand how prolonged unemployment, losing your job in the most humiliating way possible, losing an embarrassing lawsuit and moving in with a man you have bottomless contempt for could drive somebody a little crazy. Besides Jan was wound so tight she seemed borderline crazy pretty much from the get go.
A newly single Michael immediately abuses what little power he has by forcing his employees to set him up on blind dates. It was an incredibly broad turn that once again raised the question "In what universe is doing something like that legal, ethical and not grounds for instant termination?" The answer, not surprisingly, is the television universe, where reality tends to bend and stretch in whatever ways its writers see fit.
After accidentally attempting to score a date with a Wendy's restaurant Michael ends up going on an amusingly traumatic, predictably uncomfortable date with Pam's landlady, a nice enough woman Michael treats like something stuck to the bottom of his shoe. It was a quintessential Office scenario: the everyday indignities and embarrassments of real life pushed to the comic extreme.
For a relatively light show, this episode had its share of darkness, as when Michael falls helplessly in love with a catalog model he learns too late died an undignified death before she had a chance to bear his children. In OMFG OMFG OMFG OMFG news Jim and Pam are totally gonna get married!!!!! Something tells me they'll stop making goo-goo eyes at each other once they're tethered together for eternity through the icy handcuffs of matrimony. Jim totally promised to propose to Pam and even bought a ring! He is such a sweetie! Sorry bout that, there's just something about the Pam and Jim relationship that brings out the middle-aged secretary in me. It was all actually handled sweetly and poignantly but I dunno, nothing good has ever come of legendary will-they-won't-they couples sealing the deal via marriage. Prove me wrong, Office motherfuckers. Prove me wrong!
In a third plot thread that easily could have been lopped off, the Dunder-Mifflin gang is inconvenienced by parking problems. After the straight Jager shots of misery found in "The Deposition" and "Dinner Party" tonight's episode was like a sweet beer chaser.
Grade: B+ Stray Observations –Jim and Pam getting married? Whaddya guys think? Good idea? Bad idea? Discuss –I loved the silly little dance Andy does at the end of the episode. He's really coming into his own as something more than just a foil for Dwight –I thought the scene at the grave was unexpectedly sweet. –What do you think Creed needs that third chair for? I'm guessing something unsavory. –Fun fact: B.J Novak wrote tonight's B.J Novak-free episode. Whoda thunk it?