Hello, Officeianados! Nathan Rabin, well-selling author and man about town, is off leading the lifestyle of a jet-setting ne'er-do-well, so it again falls to me to recap this week's escapades at the possibly insolvent Dunder-Mifflin. This episode was directed and written by Charles McDougall and Justin Spitzer, respectively, and they've brought us some of my favorite installments of the show, so I went into "Shareholder Meeting" with high hopes.
I was a bit nervous about the cold open -- the network-mandated theme bits are often pretty awkward -- but this one was a real winner, featuring a very Dwightlike Dwight inventing a character called "Recyclops". Recyclops starts out giving simple tips about environmental awareness, but over the years (as shown in a nice little montage that even calls back one-episode wonder Ronnie), Dwight gives him an increasingly elaborate and incomprehensible backstory until he ends up as a dystopian nightmare figure that allows Dwight to wreck up the office and vow to kill the people he one saved. "God bless you, Recyclops," Jim says, "and your cold robot heart." Who can argue with that?
The title of this episode, and its A story, stems from the fact that, after the employees get the crushing news that D-M might be bankrupt by the end of the year, David Wallace has to give that same crushing news to the company's stockholders. Hoping to give the unusually hostile crowd something to be hopeful about, the Dunder-Mifflin bigwigs arrange to introduce Michael, who runs the company's most successful branch; Michael, as usual, interprets this as a starring role, but really, he's just there to soak up some negativity.
On the way from Scranton to New York, Oscar -- who's been invited along with Andy and Dwight by an impetuous Michael -- notes that one of the reasons the company is going under is that they overspend on ridiculous perks, like the limo that takes them there. It's a lesson Michael can't quite absorb; when he finally speaks at the shareholder meeting, he defends management by saying how nice they are to let him take advantage of stuff like the limo, the executive suite, and the overpriced meals. (The fact that David Wallace manages to stay CFO when he's constantly trusting the ridiculously untrustworthy Michael in situations like this is probably indicative of why D-M is in so much trouble.) Always keenly sensitive to a bad public performance, Michael tries to save face by delivering a fist-pumping, hyper-confident plan to save the company; unfortunately, he makes it up on the spot, and when it becomes clear that he's not the one who's going to have to explain that it was moonshine to the angry crowd, the bigwigs send him packing.
The B plot is slight; it involves Jim trying to get Ryan to do some actual work -- and, by extension, get the rest of the office to recognize that he has some legitimate authority -- only to find that no one's buying it, thanks in no small part to his own years of slackitude. Even ever-supportive Pam is stymied, noting that she's never heard Jim raise his voice about anything other than locating his car. This thread doesn't really go anywhere, but it does have a killer payoff, your enjoyment of which probably depends on how much you like seeing Ryan get his comeuppance and how much you enjoy kind-of-an-asshole Jim. Me, I thought it was pretty good, even though I'd really enjoy working in a small closet.
Overall, "Stockholder Meeting" didn't deliver nonstop laughs, but I liked it just the same: it managed to nicely convey how both ends of the Dunder-Mifflin coprorate chain -- the workers and the managers -- are dysfunctional in their own way, which is why nothing seems to get done to put the company back on track. At the top, CEO Allan Brand looks for quick fixes while overspending and underfunding; at the bottom, Oscar has good ideas about how to save the company, but keeps them to himself for fear of losing his job; and there in the middle is good old Michael Scott, who's predictably more upset about not being the center of attention than he is about his company going under, and who can't tell the difference between being happy because someone tells you a pleasant lie and being happy because someone actually fixes the problem. The end shot, with Michael and his crew celebrating the meaningless victory of stealing a bottle of champagne and getting another free limo ride which takes them past a huge stock ticker showing Dunder-Mifflin's continued plummet, is a perfect piece of visual shorthand for what's wrong with the whole business.
- Boy, all those people in the conference center! Dunder-Mifflin certainly doesn't seem like a small regional paper company.
- It was delightful to learn, after his endless tirades about the incompetent management of D-M and what a fucked company it is, that Oscar is himself a stockholder.
- "Polluticon wishes!"
- "A limo is something a company sends when they have cause for celebration."
- "How is he gonna have grandkids?"
- "That was apple-picking day. There's no need to yell on that day."
- "I have personally won over 17 Dundie awards, so I'm not a moron."
- Another telling bit, almost thrown away as Michael practices his speech in the limo: he considers the question of how he runs a profitable branch way too difficult.