In the key line of last night’s transcendent episode of The Office Toby compares Michael to “an in-flight movie. It’s not great but it’s something to watch. Then it’s over, and it’s like, ‘how much time is left on this flight. Now what?’” In a casual, offhanded way, Toby’s observation cuts to the heart of Michael’s appeal.
Michael is a welcome distraction. Few people need that kind of a distraction more than the wage slaves and office drones of Dunder-Mifflin. Michael’s shenanigans and tomfoolery may be silly and ridiculous and wildly unprofessional but they do have a way of livening up a grey and dreary workplace environment.
Like Kenneth, Michael sees an adult world of compromises through the eyes of a child. The world of Michael is at once pathetic and wonderful. Where others see a bleak job market and a recession lurching into a depression Michael sees opportunities. Sure Michael is deluded but I’d rather live in his fantasy world than the dreary new order established by scowling, authoritarian Charles Miner.
When we last saw Michael Scott he had impulsively decided to quit after fifteen long years rather than subject himself to the will of his coldly condescending new boss. In the cold open Michael regales the Dunder-Mifflin gang with the story of how he quit. He stretches the story out sadistically to the palpable irritation of co-workers/underlings who are clearly living through him.
This was driven home by a brilliant capper to the cold open where Oscar talks about his own fantasies of quitting before mumbling poignantly, “But I dream, so”. Without Michael around to distract them from the banality of their jobs and existences daydreams might just be all the Dunder-Mifflin gang has left. Oscar tends not to get giant laughs or big physical shtick; with the possible exception of Toby he is perhaps The Office’s most subtle character but both characters had standout moments tonight that were hilarious, sad and incredibly insightful.
Quitting a job is both a terrifying and exhilarating endeavor. It’s liberating, though as the son of a good man who quit his soul-crushing government job twenty years ago and never looked back (or got another halfway decent job) it has a depressing way of liberating people from steady paychecks, financial security and being able to pay the rent.
This new reality is driven home to Michael when a job applicant reminds Michael about the dire state of the economy and the grim realities of his situation hit home with devastating force. Michael Scott embodied an incredible range of emotions in last night’s episode: drunkenness, exhilaration, terror, sadness, uncertainty, confusion, regret and boundless optimism.
“Two Weeks” condensed an entire season’s worth of great character moments into just under twenty-two massively momentous minutes. Michael is set free by his decision to quit. Watching him drink during work hours, vow to forget about calories and more or less live every day like it’s shark’s week I found myself thinking that Michael suddenly possessed the uncanny calm and peace of mind headshrinkers and analrapists suggest comes with deciding to commit suicide.
Isn’t that what Michael did in this episode? Quitting a steady job and fifteen years of raises and trying to start your own company in a dying field in the worst economy in the history of the universe pretty much constitutes professional suicide.
But damned if I did not want to believe in Michael and his crazy dream instead of Charles Miner’s sober, pathetic reality. As I’m sure you good people have already mentioned last night’s episode was its Jerry McGuire, with Michael playing the role of the passionate dreamer who tries to convince his former co-workers into joining him in his mad crusade.
In but a single episode Charles Miner made a transformation from creepily remote bureaucrat to full-on asshole. He even has the heartlessness to have Michael ejected from the building by a security guard after learning of Michael’s quixotic plans for the Michael Scott Paper Company.
“Two Weeks” suggests that the only worse than working for Michael Scott is not working for him. The fine folks at Dunder Mifflin met the new boss and found out that he was way worse than the old boss. In a weird way Dunder Mifflin needs Michael just as much as Michael needs Dunder-Mifflin. Without Michael around it’s just a bunch of weirdoes working for a struggling company in a failing economy.
So it made sense that Pam would pull a Renee Zellweger and follow Michael into the great unknown. She’s always been a bit of a dreamer. Nothing terrifies her more than the thought that being a receptionist at Dunder-Mifflin is her fate. She’s desperate to avoid being a sixty year old receptionist and is willing to resort to drastic measures to avoid that fate.
There’s a wonderful homage to The Graduate where Michael and Pam smile goofily at each other and wonder just what in the fuck they’ve gotten themselves into. They’ve defiantly said “no” to corporate monotony and “yes” to a ridiculous pipe dream called the Michael Scott Paper Company.
In a great final scene Charles betrays his complete misunderstanding of the Scranton branch and its idiosyncrasies by having Kevin—who is barely able to string together a coherent sentence—answer phones and prickly, leave-me-the-fuck-alone Stanley his “productivity Czar”. Charles is well on his way to fucking everything up. Heavy is the head that wears the crown. It turns out Michael’s job is a lot harder than it looks.
Hoo boy was this a great episode. I’d go so far as to call it one of the best ever. It had the depth, drama and emotional richness of a movie, great acting and larfs aplenty. I sure picked a bad time to fuck up.
—“I’m going to stay up all day, I’m going to sleep all night. I’m going to ‘ho! Hey!”
—Michael and Dwight have some very different ideas about headhunters
—“Your ‘I need you’ to is my command.”
—“I decided to go with an outside hire…for obvious reasons.” Damn! That was cold-blooded!
—“It’s monster.com. Singular”
—Hey, I had a cat named Bandit too.
—“I basically invented decline.”
—“Michael handed in his two week notice. Did you also turn in your two week notice?” even cold bloodedier
—“An incense dispenser or a pre-industrial sarcophagus.”
—“This is a dream I have had since lunch and I’m not giving up on it.”
—“We’re really tight. We’re like the Kardashians.”
—“Did Michael just let anybody into his office?
—“I am aware of the effect I have on women.”
—“She’s such a special person. She just turned 50!”
—“Little Miss Thing wants attention.”
—“I am not going to let it beat me like that wireless router did.”
—“Just saying it’s sterile doesn’t make it so.”
—“I had a great time at prom. And no one said yes to that either.”
—“It is tempting but I’m one hundred percent leaning towards no.”
—“I think he’s singing”
—I watched this online late last night thanks to a link from a reader, then watched it again on On Demand this morning. It really holds up the second time around