First an apology for posting this TV Club entry so late: yesterday was my birthday so I was all like "I'm going to be a rebel and not post until tomorrow morning". Sorry bout that. I know I shouldn't have left you, without a dope Office TV Club blog to step to. But man, what an episode! And I'm not just saying that cause I watched it while tipsy on Spanish champagne. Yesterday's episode found the men of Dunder-Mifflin at their absolute worst.
It was a fairly radical departure from the typical Office episode in that it strayed far from the actual office and took Ryan, Dwight and Michael Scott on a dark night of the soul Michael was too oblivious to realize was anything but awesome. Like last night's episode of 30 Rock, The Office benefited from all groundwork the show has laid setting up Toby's desperate crush on Pam and Ryan's gradual descent from poor man's Jim to corporate asshole to fantastically loathsome coked-up yuppie scumbag.
In that respect the show reflected the eviscerating darkness of its British counterpart, the sort of grim, gray, how-in-the-hell-did-this-miserable-office-become-my-life after-midnight despair that makes both shows resonant as well as funny. But I'm getting ahead of myself. In last night's episode a particularly horny and desperate Michael Scott decides to ditch his Dunder-Mifflin compatriots to club it up with Ryan and Dwight in New York City (where much of my favorite salsa comes from), oblivious to the fact that Ryan, who is steadily turning into a Bret Easton Ellis character, is clearly coked out of his gourds and dealing with some seriously heavy shit.
It was a night of creepy homo-erotic bonding as Michael follows his would-be protégé around like a lost puppy and Dwight scores with a foxy softball player, then cavalierly tosses her aside so he can hang with the boys. Michael's leering man-crush on Ryan has long been one of the show's creepiest running gags and it reached an epic sort of climax last night as Scott mooned over Ryan's flashy lifestyle without realizing how desperately unhappy his former employee really is.
Even Saintly old Jim and sweet, sad Toby fucked up royally last night. With the boss-man gone, Jim figured the gang could furtively burn the midnight oil on a Friday night and thereby avoid soul-crushing work on a Saturday only to find himself and his colleagues locked-in due to gross incompetence. And, in perhaps the saddest moment of the episode, and perhaps the series as a whole, Toby makes a phenomenally ill-advised pass at a clearly mortified and embarrassed Pam by placing a hand on her thigh within clear view of Jim. If you rewind the tape and play it in slow-motion you can pin-point the exact moment his heart shatters into a thousand little pieces (oh, but I can't go more than a couple hundred words without a Simpsons reference.
Pam clearly likes Toby–as a friend–and the show has established, perhaps a little too extensively, that she's flattered by his puppy-dog crush but oh man was the moment painful. Toby is a good guy, and smart, but there is an air of desperation and sadness that clings to him like a cheap suit. Like my colleague Noel Murray I'm kind of rooting for Toby to buck the odds and win Pam–like Kevin, he could really use a win–but I certainly understand why she'd choose the handsome, young, self-confident guy over Captain Sad-Sack of the Losertown Brigade.
Last night's episode was top-shelf–funny, sad, painful and true to character. It was also different and while I wouldn't want the show to stray this far from its usual template every episode, it was a nice change of pace.
Grade: A Stray Observations –Why do you guys think Dwight ditched the fox he was sucking face with? Is it a "bros above hos" kinda thing? Abject stupidity? Has he not even remotely gotten over Angela yet? –What do you think of the Ryan-as-coke-fiend development? It seemed pretty inevitable. –I loved the bit where Jim can't remember the security guard's name. It felt very true-to-life –Hey, Mindy Kaling wrote last night's episode. She doesn't seem too keen on men-folk, I must say –I haven't yet mentioned the creepy-looking hobbit dude. He was kinda awesome. Good casting. –Should The Office leave the office more often? Less often? Discuss.