Tuesday, October 14, 2008
it's exhausting, being this vigilent
last thurday's episode continued the classic office feel that has been re infused this season. so much so, in fact, that by the end of the episode i felt like "that's it? nothing happened". but that is just in contrast with season 4's plot pushing character developing big happenings and the action packed 8-weeks-of-summer premiere. in reality last week's episode could have slipped right in between office olympics and conflict resolution. and, much like the episodes of yesteryear, i feel like this episode will improve with age and context. it wasn't "big" enough to become an instant classic, the appeal was much more subtle and the focus was specific: deepening the dynamic between holly and michael. we are used to watching the conflicts and developments of star-crossed office lovers after 4 seasons of the jim and pam story but that story was always played out as a b-plot line, with the antics of michael in the office taking center stage as the a-story. having the relationship conflict come to the forefront and lead the episode felt different and it definitely took me a second viewing to look past this anomaly and connect with the episode. once i did adjust to the slower pace (once the norm of the show) the snappy dialog and witty repartee that this show does so so well shone and the significance of what transpired between michael and holly came into clearer light.
we saw their first fight. and even though it centered around the ridiculous scenario of meredith sleeping with the hammermill rep in order to get discounted supplies, it illuminated some fundamental differences between michael and holly and their perspectives on right and wrong. the conflict was real and when holly said that this was not a family but a workplace it hit michael right in his heart bone. we have almost never seen michael so deeply upset, not even after the deposition or the dinner party. these things in his relationship with jan that were much more monumental did not wound him so much.
in this episode the illusion was shattered and the blind admiration - the crush, the infatuation, was no longer allowed to be the lens through which michael viewed holly. she was no longer perfect. it also served to shatter our illusions a little bit and we worried, has he not met his match after all? but in the end, corporate's h.r. rep agrees with michael (not that meredith should be given a belt with a key. not a chastity belt but an underwear garment that has little spikes like made of, sometimes they are made of metal. you know what i am talking about you unlock a little door that... down... where you, where you put, where you put the...) and the issue is swept under the proverbial rug and, despite his supposition that the best way to say "i told you so" is with humour, he responds by helping holly to rally the staff to complete the training and sign a waver. this episode is significant because his feelings towards holly have turned the corner and are no longer based in his perception of who holly is (because let's face it, his perceptions aren't exactly trustworthy or necessarily based in reality) but are grounded in the fact that she went against something he believes in and he still cares about her and does not want to see her hurt or embarrassed. his feelings are true enough to see past their differences and despite the awkwardness of the business/romantic lunch and acting on his anger (cutting in front of her to then photocopy the staff picture off the wall was a priceless moment) at the end of the day he cares about her on a deeper level than we are used to seeing from him.
other than over thinking the holly/michael relationship there were 2 other things in this episode worth mentioning. the first was the awesome reveal of the engagement. it was perfectly reflective of the ensemble and the dynamic they have with pam and jim; from angela's inappropriate reference to roy, to dwight's even more inappropriate reference to pam's 'sexual status' to michael's misguided expression of enthusiam. i loved that pam tried to dismiss jim's wariness only to see with her ears the worst expectations unfold before her. we as the audience are so attached to jim and pam we forget that their fictional co-workers are no doubt over it. i thought it was a well timed and pitch perfect opening to the show.
the second is the prank on dwight. between this and the in-office setting fan boys who know the show better than the writers and won't ever shut up about how "this isn't the office and that isn't the office" must have imploded thursday night. to be honest, i did think the prank started a little slow and forced and i thought "oh dear, has jim lost the magic?" but as it progressed and manifested itself in various ways (namely the amazing "recap" of battlestar gallactica that had nerds everywhere suffering acid reflux and dwight's brain exploding with the desire to interject; and the talking head where jim is stunned by dwight's work ethic and, exhausted by his vigilant observation, muses he might go home early) it soon joined the ranks of future dwight and gaydar. in a nice twist the final joke is on jim as dwight, having returned 20 minutes later from a warehouse romp with angela, shows a sly grin to the camera and supposes that perhaps he ISN'T completely ethical after all. because remember, this isn't season 2 and things aren't a straightforward as they once were.
final word? not my favorite episode right out of the gate but one that i am confident will grow in my favor over time and will truly be appreciated for all that it is when seen within the context of the rest of the season. not much happened but i feel that what did occur will be significant as the story moves forward and the episode has plenty of subtle biting moments that will emerge with more viewings. i like the direction of this season so far so, onward ho! (did you just call me a ho?)