Stevecarell_theoffice_240 Michael Scott is a great salesman — “The Office” has shown us this fact time and again. Unfortunately, he’s not much good with most other aspects of business, and that’s why this week’s episode is called “Broke.”

The desperation at the Michael Scott Paper Company, coupled with seeing a new side of Charles — plus Charles seeing a different aspect of Dwight — and a reasonably efficient way of getting the gang back together, made for another strong half-hour. The show has been in a very good groove of late, but now that Michael, Pam and Ryan are back in the Dunder Mifflin fold, will that continue?

Michael Scott Paper is really taking it to Dunder Mifflin, as its 5 a.m. deliveries and low, low prices have resulted in at least 10 big clients leaving D-M for the startup. Charles is unsurprisingly displeased at this development, and the situation has gotten so dire that David Wallace makes his way down from New York to try to help the branch get moving in the right direction again.

Couple things about that: First, seeing Charles be an obsequious suckup to Wallace was just a brilliant stroke (as was Jim’s talking-head smooch). One of my beefs with the character has been that he’s been a little too one-note, so giving Idris Elba a chance to play a little something different worked fantastically.

So did Charles’ realization that Dwight is, in fact, a crazy person. The look that ran across his face at Dwight’s first mention of siccing a swarm of bees on Michael’s office, followed later by an exhausted, “What is wrong with you?” as Dwight laments the fact that Michael doesn’t have kids and therefore will be immune to certain types of pressure. Just really good stuff.

I also like the fact that Charles didn’t suddenly become a Jim convert, and that Jim has realized that they just aren’t going to get along and has started to push back a little (seeing the way the boss acted with Wallace probably didn’t hurt either).

Jennafischer_theoffice_s2_240 So with all the turmoil at Dunder Mifflin, things must be great at Michael Scott Paper, right? Alas, no. The company’s prices are so low as to be unsustainable; they have maybe a month before things go belly up. They’re exhausted from the early-morning deliveries, they can’t get clients to agree to higher prices, and they don’t know what to do.

Their bleakly funny conversation in the office, with Pam sharing that she can’t even get weekend work to make extra money and Ryan admitting he went to Fort Lauderdale instead of Thailand (“there was a great pad Thai place, though”) was a nice moment. I also liked the subtle dig at Ryan’s business-school chops (or lack thereof) when the money man had to explain a variable-cost model to them all.

Wallace finally hits on an idea that will help out both sides: Dunder Mifflin will buy out Michael Scott Paper for the more-than-generous sum of $60,000 — a deal that Michael rejects, instead demanding his old job back and sales positions for Pam and Ryan. His sudden resolve as a negotiator doesn’t really track — this was, after all, a man who a short time ago hadn’t even received a raise in years — but Wallace recognizes his own weak hand enough to give in.

And that final moment, with Michael throwing the “You’re done” back in Charles’ face as he leaves? That was pretty sweet. (So was the goofy one right after it, with Michael awkwardly putting his foot on Jim’s desk.)

A few more notes from “Broke”:

  • Loved Wallace’s incredulous reaction to the idea that Dwight was Charles’ “guy” in Scranton: “I find that … extraordinarily surprising.”
  • Jim steps up for his fiancee in approaching Michael about making a deal: “I came here to learn as little information as possible. All I really need to hear is that your incredibly successful company would be receptive to a buyout.”
  • The running bit about Michael’s delivery van having come from a Korean church, and the fact that people kept getting on board, was a good one.
  • Andy had only one scene tonight, but it was a good one: “I just want point out that I’ve been here less time than these other guys.” Charles: “Why are you telling me that?” Andy: “I think the bar should be lower for a newbie?” Charles: “Is that something you really want to have said.” Andy: “I don’t want to have said it, but I think it’s important that you know.”
  • Jim losing his fear of Charles also led to the very funny scene in the breakroom as he challenged Dwight to name five cases he’d cracked — er, solved. It seemed to me to accomplish two purposes: the usual one of messing with Dwight, and also cementing the fact for Charles that Dwight was absolutely the wrong guy to have backed.

How did you like the way “The Office” brought Michael and Co. back to Dunder Mifflin? Do you think the show can sustain its high-quality run for the final episodes of the season?

Posted by:Rick Porter