The Office: "The Chump"
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The Office: "The Chump"

A commenter a few episodes back complained that they’d grown disillusioned with The Office since Michael started behaving like what they deemed a sexual predator. I can only imagine how horrified the commenter in question would be by tonight’s episode. "The Chump" was all about men behaving badly: we saw Michael and Dwight at their very worst and most sexually rapacious while Ryan maintained his baseline level of douchiness. Michael and Dwight need to really elevate their creepiness just to keep pace with Ryan.

For the past few episodes, Michael has been romancing a sexy middle-aged woman with low enough standards to date him. Actually, “romancing” isn’t quite the right word: it was more like hot, dirty sex. In the last episode we learned that Michael’s latest fling is married. This puts Michael in an unfortunate predicament. It pits his desire to be seen as a nice guy and wonderful human being against his equally overpowering need to be admired as a sexy, powerful, exciting alpha male.

The office assumed that Michael would break up with his lover after learning her dark secret and immediately switched into consolation/damage control mode. With a level of planning, meticulousness and discipline worthy of the Mossad, Pam snapped into action making sure the office was as loving and safe a haven as possible. She stocked the office with all Michael's favorite flavors of Eagles-themed ice cream, had Jim invite him over for Billy Joel Rock Band and had everyone be as freakishly kind and considerate as possible.

It all turned out to be moot, however, as Michael the guy who’s overjoyed to be having hot sex with a hot girl handily defeated Michael the nice guy/everyone’s pal. Michael went over to the dark side tonight. Sleeping with a married woman convinced him that he’d somehow evolved into a Nietzschean ubermensch who wasn’t hemmed in by the laws that dictated mere mortals.

If the new Michael wanted to something he simply took it, whether that was birthday cake or another man’s wife. That was liberating and a little insane. In an attempt to reawaken Michael’s dormant conscience, Andy took him to a baseball game so he could see that his lover’s cuckolded husband was not quite the monster his overactive imagination made him out to be.

In a parallel act of consummate jerkdom, Dwight discovers that he can finagle his way out of his contract to breed with Angela by having sex with her five times. It was either that or fork out thirty thousand dollars and giving Angela the old Hong Kong Surprise clearly struck him as the lesser of two evils.

Jim and Pam stumbled through the episode in a sleep-loss-induced haze and Ryan decided to follow Michael’s lead and simply proposition Erin sexually, something he was able to laugh off as a joke when she responded with something less than enthusiasm.

I long ago stopped looking for realism from The Office but tonight’s episode was particularly unrealistic. It’s been established that Michael keeps nothing from his office mates, especially the kind of stuff that would get him fired for sexual harassment in every other workplace in the universe. Yet it still seemed more than a little ridiculous for him to stop just short of presenting a slideshow of photos of his lover naked in his ongoing attempt to keep his coworkers abreast of any and all developments in his sex life.

Michael has seldom been less likable. He behaved like a grade A jerk throughout the episode, softening only at the very end. Yet if the episode came up short in the likeability and realism department it was nevertheless funny and full of great little character moments, like the dreamy, faraway look Darryl gets while describing the warehouse employee’s secret napping spot or Ryan’s response to Michael’s new gung-ho, take-charge personality. Shit, I’m tempted to bump the show up a grade just because I too cannot tell the difference between latter and former after all these years. Sad but true.

Stray Observations—

—“You were really funny, then you went too far”

—“Like in my favorite James McAvoy movie!”

—I like that Andy’s only frame of reference for baseball is Damn Yankees and Cricket.

—“You probably shouldn’t keep the baby up that late.”

—“He will wallow if you empathize, so keep conversations direct.”

—“Michael, nice tie or something.”

—“I ask everyone in the room, “Are you in a relationship?” Oh Meredith, you are incorrigible

—“There is a provision here if the baby is born an old man a la Benjamin Button

—“No, but we’re gay for baseball”

—“Stop kissing me. It’s not in the contract.”

Filed Under: TV, The Office

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