Posted by: StoryMapsDan | September 18, 2009

The Office 601: “Gossip”



Here’s the greatest thing about the opening of the sixth season of The Office: no one has EVER yelled “parkour!” while doing parkour.

That is, until the three worst practitioners of parkour came along, five years too late, no less: Michael Scott, Dwight Schrute and Andy “the nard-dog” Bernard.  We know this will not end well, and so does Jim: “Technically, they are doing Parkour, as long as Point A is delusion and Point B is the hospital.”

This inspired cold open ends with Andy reaching point B, as he attempts their greatest parkour challenge, which was supposed to finish with a “backflip gainer into the trashcan.”




Great opening. It confirms that we are indeed going to get some of our favorite show conventions this season, like the trio of Michael, Dwight and Andy doing incredibly stupid stuff; and soon, we will get the classic story engine of Michael Scott doing something dumb to be popular, having it backfire, and then doing something even dumber to try to fix it, which leads to utter disaster.

But before we get to that, we unfortunately learn that one of the worst conventions of The Office is also back: those super cutesy-poo, delightfully quirky, utterly painful Jim-Pam interviews where they do one of their “bits”…

Cue the "shotgun bit"...and fail.

Cue the "shotgun bit"...and fail.

In addition to just being wrong for the characters (The “free at last” line is straight out of the Michael Scott playbook, not Jim’s) the scene is functional: it confirms they are preggers.

Which is kind of a letdown, considering this moment that closed last season was SO blatantly a pregnancy announcement that I was hoping for at least a smidgeon of misdirection…

Yep, they're pregnant.  I knew it!

Yep, they're pregnant. I knew it!

I mean, what if there was some kind of twist?  Not that I’m looking for some Desperate Housewives up in my office, but it would be nice if maybe Jim (or Pam, even better) showed a hint of trepidation, fear, or worry about the incoming child (which will of course be an adorable, incurably happy moppet).

Nope, she’s pregnant.  They’re both ecstatic about it.  Couldn’t be happier.

They’re still the most happy and romantic couple on Earth, their pictures featured on Wikipedia under the “on the nose” entry. (ed. note: Boosh! is what that was.)

But I’m sniping.  The rest of the episode was classic Dunder-Mifflin goodness, and Michael’s dialogue was fantastic.  Every line was crafted with care and hit out of the park by Steve Carell; from the big punchlines (“And that’s why Spartacus is a classic whodunnit.”) to the smaller quips (“This place is like Spaniard Fly.”), it was all on point and in character and gleaming with great word choice.  Kudos to the writers of this episode, Greg Daniels and Paul Lieberstein (Lieberstein also plays Toby, who didn’t get much screen time in this episode but he delivered a keeper: “I have a daughter; how could I be a virgin?”)

Now let’s talk Ed Helms and the awesome subplot of Andy asking his workmates if he’s gay.  It’s not that he wants to know if they think he’s gay, or if he looks gay, it’s that he wants them to tell him if he’s gay or not.



It seems that they can do no wrong with the Andy character.

Now, prepare yourself, because I’m going to unleash some of “Dan’s Hollywood Prescience” on you…

Ed Helms will be top-lining major comedy movies very soon.

He’s in the exact position Steve Carell was in, pre-The 40 Year-Old Virgin.  He’s kicking ass on a hit tv show (Carell was a hit on The Daily Show, remember that?), he’s coming off a MASSIVE comedy hit, The Hangover, the inexplicably biggest R-rated comedy OF ALL TIME, with a great character role, not unlike Steve Carell with his breakout roles in Bruce Almighty and Anchorman. So he’s poised and ready, you just wait and see, faithful viewer of ha ha cinema.

“Dan’s Hollywood Prescience” over.  You’re welcome.

But please disregard the announcements in major media publications about movie deals that Ed Helms has signed.  You can’t make this kind of call without living in the ‘Wood like I do and being plugged into the most effective covert wall-fly network in the industry. After all, I live less than two miles from John Krasinski’s home, which he’s currently selling for $1.245 million if you’ve got the cash. I’d put in a bid, but who has the time?  There’s SO many blogs to read with pithy recaps of television shows…but yet so few that manage to grab the coolest screencaps, like I do. Zing!

Moving on…the backbone of the episode is a classic Michael Scott blunder — in a bid to be cool, Michael spreads a horrible lie about Stanley having an affair, but it turns out to be true as Stanley confesses to Michael in his car, a scene that threw me at first but on second viewing I have to say it’s a fascinating moment in that it’s the first time in the show’s history that Stanley has been civil with Michael and the first time he’s genuinely asked Michael for help. Let’s hope it’s a breakout moment for the Stanley character and the talented actor that plays him: Leslie David Baker.

But we still love our Stanley mean and grumpy and living up to Phyllis’ assessment: “Stanley hates crowds, kids and music.” So let’s hope he doesn’t get too soft and mushy.

Back to Michael — he reacts to the Stanley news by doing what he always does: he comes up with a plan ever stupider than the first — spreading ridiculous lies so the Stanley truth will be discounted when they all turn out to be false — which leads to even worse consequences, as the whole staff turns on him (cue angry mob sequence at the elevator, which always works), and necessitates him being bailed out by Jim and Pam.

Pam's vagina!

Pam's vagina!

I realize I’ve skipped over so many great moments, so let’s hit a few now, like Meredith’s blatant sexual harassment of the intern…

Meredith goes all "Disclosure" on the Asian kid.

Meredith goes all "Disclosure" on the Asian kid.

…or Creed’s master plan of scuba…

"What's the point if I can't scuba?"

"What's the point if I can't scuba?"

…no other details needed, just “scuba.”

And Kevin’s creep of the week moment…

"But THEN I thought, Pam doesn't NEED padding."

"But THEN I thought, Pam doesn't NEED padding."

Some other quick observations:

Andy’s two other pre-gay foreshadowing moments: Dwight riding him in the parkour scene, and the female intern opening a jar of salsa for him.

“Broccoli Rob” = brilliance.

Another horrible tale from Michael’s childhood: “I should’ve known.  Poopball?”

Michael calling Stanley’s wife Cynthia (the name of his mistress) twice.

My only concern about the show at this point (other than Jim-Pam cutesy-pooness) is that Dwight’s cruelty and violent nature goes too far at times, to the point where I just don’t buy it, like him dressing down the interns, ending on how the girl will “make a great mother.”  I just don’t buy that none of his co-workers would have said anything. It fell flat for me.

Of course, that’s not even a 5 on the Dwight crazy-meter, what with him hiding crossbows and Rambo knives around the office, but it still irks me that they’ve taken his character so far into fantasy-land.  This is still at its core a <airquotes>reality-based show</airquotes>, set within an office; he’s not the zany neighbor that barrels through the unlocked front door with yet another crazy scheme.

When The Office hits the right note, it can be utterly ridiculous but still work — like during last season’s casual Friday when Meredith wore a tiny skirt with no underwear on…or this week when Michael asks Jim and Pam how long they’ve known about the pregnancy (“…a week?  A month?  A year?”).

Great line.

And with that, we close on another Jim Pam interview scene…but this one, I will admit, was funny.  And they wisely kept it short, so as best to mine said funny…

"That's clear now?"

"That's clear now?"

The Office is back.

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  1. Such a great episode. Parkour was one of the best cold openings in a long time. I agree with the bits about Andy, as well. It was so much more hilarious that he thought other people could tell him if he was gay. The scene with him and Kevin talking about how much Andy liked tea was a highlight for me.

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