The Office has a cast so deep and rich that it can keep things lively and fresh by simply pairing off unexpected members of its cast. Tonight’s episode, for example, featured what I believe is the first-ever pairing of Dwight and Toby, the oddest of odd couples and the most delightfully unlikely crime-fighting duo since Gene Hackman teamed up with Dan Aykroyd’s hilariously multiple-personality-disorder-afflicted space cadets in Loose Cannons. C’mon! If I don’t make Loose Cannons references who will?
Dwight and Toby pair up when Darryl—who has been missing in action as of late—files a workman’s comp claim after allegedly getting injured on the job. Dwight, smelling a rat, begins blowing holes in Darryl’s case. Toby plays along, reluctantly at first, but with increasing vigor as the episode progressed.
We got to see a whole new side of Toby tonight as he indulged his inner Sam Spade during a stakeout outside Darryl’s home. Then again, life must be so soul-crushing for poor old Toby that he'll embrace any deviation from the norm, even if it entails playing bootleg shamus alongside Dwight.
Ah, but Dwight and Toby’s adventures in sleuthing were ultimately just a sideshow to the real meat of the episode. If Toby revealed himself to be an amateur gumshoe, Jim dipped deep inside his Junior Executive kit and pulled out some little-seen moxie, ambition and hustle.
The episode began on a note of great intrigue, as Jim sat down with David Wallace for reasons maddeningly unknown to Michael. In his bid to satisfy his curiosity, Michael hits upon an idea so crazy it just might work: he has the always amenable, possibly incestuous Andy smuggle him inside a cheese cart that is then wheeled inside the office where David and Jim are conducting their pow-wow. What could be more natural than a platter of low-quality cheese from the upper Midwest (where we make some great fucking cheese) spontaneously appearing in an office where furtive negotiations are being held?
We eventually learn that Jim has been offered a job with another company but is willing to stay at Dunder-Mifflin if he's promoted to manager. Jim’s win-win proposal is to take over Michael’s job so Michael can be bumped upstairs to a cushy gig overseeing the whole Northeast operation.
Michael doesn’t know this, of course, so he obliviously sabotages Jim by showing David the bitter, negative things Toby has written about him in his performance report. In sabotaging Jim, Michael just ends up fucking over himself.
This raises the question: why has it taken so long for a smart, capable professional like Jim to show some initiative? Why has it taken six fucking seasons for him to make a power move like this? The answer, I suspect, is that Jim is now a family man, with a wife and baby to look after. In the parlance of Zombie Land (which is kind of awesome, incidentally) it’s officially time for Jim to nut up or shut up.
Tonight’s episode was rife with backbiting and Shakespearean intrigue, covert plots and secret alliances, scheming, and deception. Michael, having characteristically destroyed his shot at a big promotion, is offered a tough choice from corporate: he can lose Jim forever and hold onto his position as sole manager of the Scranton office, or he can hold onto Jim and give up some of his power by becoming co-manager with Jim.
Michael, rife with guilt, decides to do the right thing and submit to co-managership. Tonight was certainly not Michael’s finest moment but it was Dwight who ended up getting screwed royally. He’d always thought of himself as the heir to Michael’s middle-management throne and Michael’s partner in scheming, only to watch Jim get promoted over him and have Andy happily slip into the role of Michael’s co-conspirator.
When I wrote that tonight’s episode was rife with backbiting and Shakespearean intrigue, covert plots and secret alliances, scheming, and deception I could just as easily have been talking about the deliciously passive-aggressive way the office treats Jim and Pam’s wedding. From Meredith to Ryan to Kelly, they all seem much more intent on screwing each other over (and eating fancy meals and/or ribs) than celebrating Jim and Pam’s betrothal.
Jesus fucking Christ does The Office manage to cram a whole lot into twenty-two minutes of prime-time television but the elaborate plotting and alliances of convenience never got in the way of laughs. I haven’t even brought up the awesome sight gag of Darryl’s linebacker of a sister looking exactly like him, only more masculine. How awesome and perfect was Dwight’s primal scream of rage and disappointment? Hell hath no fury like a Shrute scorned.
It’s one of the sacrosanct laws of sitcoms that things always go back to normal at the end of every episode but The Office has an awful lot of soap opera in its DNA. Have we officially entered the Jim-Michael era?
—I missed the cold open. How was it?
—Between The Office, Community, 30 Rock and Parks And Recreation (I’m a fan) it looks like NBC once again has a powerhouse Thursday night comedy line-up. Must see TV indeed, word to Cliff Huxtable.
—It’s always good to see more Darryl. Hopefully this season he’ll do more than just glower at the gang
—Jim's outside job offer: real or a negotiating ploy?