'The Office': Single, and maybe not

Stevecarell_theoffice_s2_240On the one hand, I'm a little surprised that Michael Scott had the fortitude to actually break up with Jan. Then I saw how he was handling it on Thursday's Office, and sure enough, that was our guy.

(These spoilers can, in fact, fit in a rowboat.)

Of the various personae Michael Scott can put up, I think we can all agree that Bad Michael is the least palatable. But tonight's Indiscriminately Needy Michael wasn't exactly easy to take either. Funny, sure. But not easy to take.

Really, there was probably no way to come back from the dinner party, but given the pathology that both Jan and Michael exhibit it wouldn't have been a huge surprise if they'd stayed together. Somehow one of them summoned up the will to leave, though, and so we have Michael alternately returning to his outsize sense of his own attractiveness and wallowing in self-pity over being single again. Good times.

Of course, the spectacle of Michael trolling for dates by having everyone in the office write down someone's name on a 3-by-5 card -- and more specifically, how everyone reacted to it -- made for some fine comedy, from Stanley's "I don't hate anyone enough to put their name on these cards" to Kevin suggesting a "hot and juicy redhead" named Wendy.

And even if the whole thing was an excuse to get Michael and Dwight at the chair model's grave site singing "American Pie," that'd be kind of all right (how much did that scene feel like the director just let the cameras run while Steve Carell and Rainn Wilson got silly?). The way he treated Pam's landlord, though? Not cool. And aside from mistakenly dialing Jan while going on about her boob job, mostly just uncomfortable and not uncomfortable-funny.

Johnkrasinski_theoffice_s2_240But while Michael was treating the landlady like crap and possibly getting Pam evicted, one of the sweetest Office moments we've seen in a long time was building. As they're joking about the setup, Jim pretty much asks Pam to move in with him -- which takes our girl aback a little. Finally she stammers out something about not living with anyone till she's engaged. "Have I not proposed to you yet?" Jim asks. "Well, that's coming."

And by god, he's not joking. Jim shows the camera the ring he bought for Pam -- "I got it a week after we started dating." That qualifies as a serious Wow, not just because it's all sweet and shmoopy and romantic, but because Jim is actually stepping up. He's known he's love Pam for a good long while now, but Jim has not exactly been, you know, a grown-up for much of the show's life.

I also liked how the show (B.J. Novak, who has yet to be on screen since the show returned, wrote the episode) managed to stay true to the jokey nature of Jim and Pam's relationship by having Jim get down on one knee -- to tie his shoe -- as they're walking to their cars. You can tell that Pam, even though she wants to, doesn't quite believe Jim is actually going to propose, but since we do, that makes it all that much more fun. It's kind of a marvel that, best efforts of the NBC promo department notwithstanding, this relationship hasn't fully crossed over into gooey, Notebook-ish territory; it takes sharp attention to character to pull that off, and The Office has done it really well thus far.

And no, I haven't forgotten about the goofy parking subplot. I'm always up for anything that gives Ed Helms and Brian Baumgartner more to do, even when it's as trifling as that. Kevin's quizzical look after Michael asked "What part of 'shorn't' don't you understand?" and his genuine happiness at getting a post-breakup win after the meeting of the Five Families.

But what sealed it was Andy's utterly ridiculous speech about why he took on the task of getting the parking spaces back from the W.B. Jones construction crew. Here it is: "Did I do it for me? No. I did it for the little guy, Joe Sixpack. The guy who wakes up every morning in his $400-a-month apartment and wonders how he's gonna pay the mortgage, how he's gonna fill his car up with oil, how he's gonna pay his kid's orphanage bills. That guy shouldn't have to wonder where he's going to park."

More good stuff from Thursday's episode:

  • Jim and Pam explaining the walk from the satellite parking lot: "Today, we saw a junkyard dog attacking the bones of a rotisserie chicken." "Nature!"
  • Michael on being single: "I like it. I like starting each day with a sense of possibility. I'm optimistic, because every day I get a little more desperate, and desperate situations yield the quickest results."
  • The entire, rowboat-based conversation between Michael and Phyllis about her single friend. And later, "I'm setting Michael up with my fat friend anyway. He can just deal with it."
  • And finally, this fantastic Creed non-sequitur: "When Pam gets Michael's old chair, I get Pam's. Then I'll have two chairs. Only one to go."

Is Needy Michael just a little too much to take? Did the Jim-Pam story make up for him, and what the heck was Creed talking about? Have at it about this week's Office.

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