Bjnovak_theofficeThis week’s episode of The Office might not have been as sublime in its Needy Michael-ness as last week’s. In some ways, though, it was maybe even a little sadder.

But also, still pretty darn funny. Any episode that features extended Toby time, Ryan acting like a d-bag, Pam trying to engage in athletic activity and Dwight getting some action has a lot to recommend it.

Spoilers coming at a time TDB — err, TBD.

Tonight’s episode featured our first look at Ryan since before the strike, and Dunder Mifflin’s golden boy is not having a good go. In fact, he’s asking his former co-workers in Scranton to come in on a Saturday so that he can juke the stats for Dunder Mifflin Infinity, to borrow a term from The Wire, which Michael has just started watching ("I don’t understand a word of it").

Ryan may be a failure at his actual job — DMI’s primary function, selling paper, doesn’t work, and the social-networking component (really? for a paper company?) was overrun by sexual predators — but he’s just about the best junior-executive tool in America. I don’t know if Mindy Kaling, who wrote tonight’s show, has ever worked in a corporate environment, but she has a really excellent ear for the kind of patronizing, talking-without-saying-anything douchery that Ryan deployed in Scranton — "I hear you [although I’m not listening]. That’s a great observation [that I will give no thought at all]."

His time in Scranton really kind of made you want to punch the guy — but by the end of the episode, I almost felt sorry for the guy. He’s clearly not handling his new job well, has a drug problem (coke, I’m assuming, given the frequent bathroom trips) and lives in a teeny apartment in what looks like a crappy neighborhood. Yeah, serves him right a little bit, but the greatness of The Office is partly defined by how we can feel sympathy for these characters even when they act like fools.

Stevecarell_theoffice_s2_240Which brings us back around to Michael, who followed through on Ryan’s non-invite to come party with him sometime and dragged Dwight down to New York to hit the clubs. Michael, you see, really, really wants a girlfriend again ("It’s not the horniness. It’s the loneliness"), but the people he’s been set up with so far are lacking a "certain [Cindy] Crawford-ness" (lots of "-nesses" this week). But you knew, the second that he started quoting Swingers ("Classic — Jon Favreau, tall guy from Dodgeball …") that it wasn’t going to go well.

And the fact that the women he talked to and bought drinks were at least superficially friendly? Even more painful. Because clearly he was really trying, and actually being pretty sincere. Yeah, he shouldn’t have translated "finance" to "bank teller" or talked about his wish for a Back to the Future tattoo, but that’s just Michael, you know?

Back in Scranton, meanwhile, Jim once again demonstrated his unfitness for a leadership role. His idea — bang out Ryan’s fake stats in a couple extra hours on Friday so they can have all of Saturday to themselves — is a sound one. But just like with his plan to combine the birthday celebrations, he’s weak on details.

Jim forgets to tell the security guard — that’d be Hank — that they’ll be staying late, and so the entire staff finds itself locked in the parking lot. As Pam explains, Dwight has both the master key and a copy. She asked once what would happen if he died, and he replied, "If I’m dead, you guys have been dead for weeks."

The trapped staff, however, allowed for some great moments from Stanley ("If I’m not in my bath with a glass of red wine in an hour, you’re both dead") and especially Toby. Oh, Toby.

Of all the ways to have a long-standing crush on a co-worker revealed, unthinkingly putting your hand on said crush’s knee, and leaving it there for several seconds, when she laughs at one of your jokes, while all your colleagues are looking at you, has to be just about the most embarrassing. I’d want to hop the fence and jog home too — but Toby, please, say it ain’t so. Don’t move to Costa Rica.

Other thoughts from "Night Out":

  • No, I don’t know what the hell the pre-credits bit had to do with anything. Seemed awfully silly, though, didn’t it? But I guess the peanut butter worked, because Michael’s hair looked OK for the rest of the episode.
  • Kelly: "If I’d created a web site with as many problems I’d kill myself." Ryan: "Do you have a question?" Kelly: "I have a lot of questions. No. 1 — how dare you?"
  • Is Pam the least athletically inclined character ever, or what? We know she’s a terrible ping-pong player, and tonight she tries to throw a football and hits Meredith, standing not five feet in front of her, in the face. The look on Kate Flannery’s face afterward was fantastic.
  • Dwight was truly in a magical realm tonight, repeatedly questioning Ryan’s friend/supplier Troy about whether he was a hobbit, then hooking up with an "Amazon" from the Jersey State women’s hoops team. (Also, Michael’s tongue-wagging after he snaps the cell-phone picture of Dwight making out? Gross-awesome.)
  • "Mom, I gotta go, my friend is getting beaten up by some girls."
  • Michael’s beautiful-sad summation of his night in New York: "Like I said, it’s not about the horniness, it’s the loneliness. And how can I be lonely with my boys? Like a famous person once said, boys on the side. But I don’t. I say, let’s hear it for the boys."

Will Michael ever find love? Will Jim ever be management material? And how long do you figure it takes to jog from Scranton to Costa Rica?

Posted by:Rick Porter