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The Office — “Fun Run”

For fans of The Office, the show really can do no wrong. The recipe for success is simple; the characters just need to be themselves, and the comedy will eventually come out. But is there a point, even in the run of a great show, where the formula becomes stale and the show needs to step outside of its normal boundaries? If a show wants to improve season to season, then the answer is certainly yes. It seems as if The Office has begun to cross this threshold.

Tonight’s episode was the premiere of the fourth season, and was certainly funny. There honestly hasn’t been an episode of The Office that wasn’t funny, its the most consistent show on TV. Problem is, all that consistency is beginning to feel stale.

We see Michael Scott in his home, and he shows us that he is still living with Jan, who is sprawled out on the bed (“This is what I have to come home to every day,” he accidentally says with a smile). As he drives to Dunder-Mifflin, he neglects to watch the parking lot and hits Meredith.

Michael has a heard time accepting that he is to blame for injuring Meredith, insisting that she just has a tiny crack in her pelvis and that it’s no big deal. The workers all go to visit Meredith in the hospital at the same time, and Michael has some good physical bits, where he pulls out an IV, and tries to climb on top of her to hug her. Not too much substance here, though.

The real effect of Meredith’s injury is that it causes Michael to lose his faith, temporarily. Michael Scott is the kind of guy who would accept a religion without really ever thinking about it, and because of this, he rationalizes the existence of God in some funny ways, like “Why are there all those chruches?” and “Who is Jesus’ dad?” He also calls Toby satan for not allowing him to discuss religion in the workplace, telling everyone “Satan is the master of lies, everything he says is the opposite.” When Toby tries to play along and reverses his reasoning, Michael says “Psyche!” and uses it as permission.

Along with Michael’s inner struggles with his faith, the episode featured some character development of two key couples, Jim-Pam and Dwight-Angela. Through the first half of the hour-long episode, Kevin and Oscar speculate as to whether or not Jim and Pam are together. Kevin notes how much they’re smiling, and asks Pam a few very pointed questions. At the end, we see him spying on Pam as she leaves. She drives a bit down the road, by herself, and then stops and pulls over and puts her head down. A few seconds later, Jim gets in the car and they smooch. Was this misdirection really necessary? Clearly, Greg Daniels did it so everyone would think “Oh no, she’s sad!” for a few seconds. But it was a really odd move to make considering the situation, and the show would have ended better if she just had left that out.

In the second half, they’re shown the tape of them kissing by the camera crew and Pam admits to them that she and Jim are now dating. They still haven’t told anyone in the office, but they’re a bit open later when they walk down the street holding hands. For some reason, I feel a disconnect with Pam now that she’s dating Jim that I never felt when she was with Roy. I don’t know why, I just don’t like her as much anymore.

On the Dwight and Angela side of things, their secret love encounters its first real road bump when Angela realizes that Dwight killed her favorite cat, Sprinkles. Sprinkles was sick, and Dwight clearly didn’t want to take care of it. Later in the episode, we learn that Dwight’s method was to knock it out with drugs and stick it in the freezer. The cat woke up in the freezer though, threw up, and then froze to death. Angela is furious with Dwight, and their issue remains unresolved. It was nice to see them fight, though, because they’re both so stubborn that we know the issue won’t soon be resolved.

Michael, as I mentioned earlier, has a hard time coping with his guilt over the Meredith situation. He learns that Meredith has been diagnosed with Rabies from her bat attack in an earlier episode, though, and suddenly all guilt from the car accident goes out the window. He actually feels pride that he caused her to go to the hospital and get this checked out. Michael decides that it’s his duty to raise rabies awareness, and he decides to hold “Michael Scott’s Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run Race For The Cure.” (Thanks to Glenn for that)

This is where the episode really takes off. It’s a shame that it had to come so late in the extra-long episode, because it was definitely the best part. At first, Pam wants to tell Michael that “5k means 5 kilometers, not 5,000 miles,” so she knocks on his door. He answers “Come in,” so she does, and he is literally caught with his pants down. Pam sees his weiner! Lots of great awkward encounters follow, though Michael tries hard to downplay the severity of it, telling Pam that she is an artist, and shoud “think of him as one of her models.”

The funniest part of the episode, to me, was the decision around the giant check and the presentation of it to the sexy nurse. Almost all of the money was donated by Jan, though it’s Michael’s money. They’ve got $700 to work with, but Pam tells Michael that his idea of a giant check is going to cost them 200 of it. He decides to go through with that, and then wants a doctor to accept the check. Of course, there are no rabies doctors, but Jim has the great idea of hiring a stripper nurse, about which Michael is completely oblivious. The best part is the presentation, where Michael hands the stripper a giant check for $348 (correct me if I’m wrong), made out to SCIENCE. That still cracks me up, I love that it’s made out to science. Of course there’s already a cure for rabies, everyone is aware of it, so what else were they supposed to do?

During the actual 5k run, Michael refuses to drink water, saying that it’s not fair because sufferers of rabies are afraid of water. He also stuffs himself full of fettuccine alfredo and calls it carbo-loading. While I love the pasta idea, I think that the dehydration is a little stupid even for Michael. Ultimately, its used as a device to get him into the hospital for dehydration so he can get closure from Meredith, but it just seemed like a stretch for me.

The episode really ends with a strange, Heroes-like scene. Michael overcomes his inner demons, gets up, and finishes the race. The whole moment is muted, featuring a soft voice-over by Michael, though they never cut to the “talking head” like they usually do. It was also lit by the sun behind him, which gave the whole scene this strange, epic lighting. It was cool, but not really Office-like.

But I’ve discussed enough plot, now I’ll bullet point some things that I thought were funny or interesting:

  • Michael’s flaw: “Sometimes I spend too much time volunteering.”
  • The LiveStrong style bracelets reading “Support the Rabid.”
  • Michael’s extensive list of possible animal mutations that they could offer up as sacrifice; “The body of a walrus, and the head of a…. sea lion.”
  • The fantastic mosaic blur on Michael’s wang was perfectly placed.
  • Michael pulls down Toby’s pants at the starting line, right before Dwight shoots a real gun into the air to start the race.
  • Everyone ran in the race but Kelly, who sat at the finish line texting.
  • Even when Toby wins the race, nobody cares.
  • Andy drifting behind Kevin during the race was great, though his nipple thing was a little much.
  • The official race t-shirts that say the entire huge title of the race in a tiny text block on the front.
  • The Meredith abuse was good, from Dwight saying “It was only Meredith, thank god,” to going to the hospital and saying “She looks awful,” with Michael responding “She always looks like that.” Also, printing the huge photo of her before the race and saying “The face of rabies; this should scare you.”

Please, tell me what you thought of the episode. I promise, it won’t be this long every week. I just had nothing else to write about, so I figured I’d take up some space.

And as a P.S. — Did you see the commercial for the Uniball 207 pen (i think) that said Americans lose $800 million a year to people stealing checks, erasing some of the ink, and changing them? That’s unbelievable! That is a huge number. Now if only there were a pen that could embed its ink within the fibers of the paper… but I guess I’m just a crazy dreamer, huh?