'The Office' - 'Gossip': XOXO, Michael Scott

stevecarell_theoffice_s5_290.jpg"The Office" kicked off season six Thursday night, and in addition to just being happy to have the show back, I thought it returned at pretty close to the heights it reached last season. Not quite, but not too far off either.

"Gossip" was built around classic Bad Michael behavior, but unlike some of the other instances of Michael running amok, in this case it actually felt like Michael was acting not only out of his deep-seated need for acceptance but also because he genuinely cared about the possible consequences of his actions. Eventually, anyway.

Not that it didn't all blow up in his face. By the time he found out Stanley was, in fact, having an affair, he had spread it all around the office and had to cover his tracks by spreading other rumors about everyone else there -- including one that actually was true, Pam's pregnancy.

It didn't take them very long to discover the source of all the crazy rumors, including that Andy's gay, Oscar voices the Taco Bell dog and Kelly has an eating disorder, because, well, Michael's just not very good at this sort of thing. And Jim and Pam are forced to out themselves in order to save Stanley. (Pam's talking head, "It's clear why we were trying not to tell people. That's clear now," was brilliant.)

Taking a step back, though, Michael's motives, at least after Stanley admits what he's done, were noble. He was at least trying to protect one of his workers, and but for his monumental slip-up when Stanley's wife called, it would have worked. That's an enormous "but" given who we're dealing with, but Michael's heart was in the right place, which made his actions a lot easier to take.

Good on writer (and director) Paul Lieberstein, too, for not dwelling on too many of the rumors -- except for the one about Andy being gay, which provided an excellent opportunity for Ed Helms to do what he does. His horror at Kevin "outing" him ("Did you talk to Broccoli Rob? [his fellow Here Comes Treble member] Someone from Chi Psi? Or did you run into someone from my high school?") and subsequent self-doubt worked perfectly, capped off by his pleading, "Michael, am I gay?" in the conference room.

It was a fine start to the season, and with the gauntlet now laid for Jim and Pam's wedding in a few weeks, I think we're in for another good run. It's nice to be back with the folks from Dunder Mifflin.

Other notes from "Gossip":

- The intern "Alan Thicke," in case you're wondering, is Max Carver, who also plays Lynette's (Felicity Huffman) son Preston on "Desperate Housewives." And yes, I think the fact that he looks much more like a lanky Matt Damon than he does Alan Thicke is the joke. "Julia Stiles" was a better call; "Jet Li," not so much.
- Thanks to the pre-credits sequence, I can offer you these gratuitous parkour links: This one (scored to Rise Against), this one and of course, the knockout chase sequence from "Casino Royale."
- Speaking of the pre-credits sequence:



- Creed Bratton moment of the week: It was a tough call, but "Who's the OB/GYN" loses out to his talking head about scuba: "If I can't scuba, then what's this all been for? What am I working toward?"
- Leslie David Baker doesn't ever get to do physical comedy on the show, so watching him take a tire iron to Michael's car was a particular treat.
- Michael explains why he feels obligated to spread all the fake gossip after the Stanley issue: "You can't put words back in your mouth, but you can spread false gossip so people think everything being said is untrue. ... It's like the end of 'Spartacus.' I've seen it half a dozen times, and I still don't know who the real Spartacus is. That's what makes that movie a classic whodunit."

How did you like "The Office" season premiere? Got any good gossip to share?
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