It’s tempting to throw out a bunch of gangster-movie cliches in talking about “The Office” this week, but since the show itself showed a little restraint in that department, we should probably do the same.
Yeah, there was the obligatory horse-head-in-your-bed reference, and Michael tried to order “gabagool” at a restaurant, but for an episode titled “Mafia,” the show admirably didn’t have Michael spouting everything he’d ever picked up watching “The Sopranos” or the “Godfather” movies (that mostly fell to Andy). Was it a comedown from last week’s wedding episode? Sure. But it was funny nonetheless.
What worked for me about “Mafia” was the way it used the absence of the honeymooning Jim and Pam — and the way they tend to be rational counterweights to the more active imaginations of Michael et al — to turn a mundane situation into a full-blown nutball party. All Angelo Grotti wanted to do was sell Dunder Mifflin some insurance, but thanks to the fertile imaginations of Andy and Dwight and the utter suggestibility of their boss, that turned into a mob shakedown.
With the newlyweds gone (John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer were heard but not seen), Oscar was the lone voice of reason in the office — or at least the only one who cared enough to try setting things straight. It was a good showcase for Oscar Nunez, who got to play both exasperated and overwhelmed with his call to Jim (“I don’t know how you usually handle this”).
The interplay between Dwight, who insisted on confronting Grotti to let him know that they wouldn’t be intimidated, and Andy, who thinks the measure of a man is how quickly he flees confrontation, also played out nicely. Their rivalry over Angela has obviously cooled off quite a bit, but Dwight also still clearly gets off on the fact that he’s not a coward like Andy (and in a rarity in “Office” history, I think I actually sided with Dwight’s approach).
The rather simple story left lots of room for good throwaway moments and jokes, like Oscar’s talking head about how Toby has checked out and Toby’s shrug of a rebuttal; Dwight’s rationale for assuming Grotti (played by the underrated Mike Starr) is mobbed up — “Look at all the facts. He seems like a mobster”; and Andy’s brief role as the world’s worst auto mechanic (“You got a leaky spark tube. So your car’s totaled — you’re gonna want to get a refund on that”).
It also allowed for the B-story of Kevin inadvertently cancelling Jim’s credit card, which had me from Kevin’s talking head of “I started borrowing his office to fart in.” Kevin has at times gotten a little too dimwitted for my taste — a guy that dumb really doesn’t seem like he could be a World Series of Poker bracelet winner — but this worked because it was a totally well-intentioned screwup. Sure, he could’ve just said he wasn’t Jim, but it’s realistic enough to believe he just got flustered because he got caught in Jim’s office.
“Mafia” wasn’t up to “The Office’s” A-game standard, although most anything would probably pale a little in comparison to the big emotional moments last week. But as a bridge between the wedding and the rest of the season, it worked just fine to me.
Notes and quotes:
- Good on the show for not having Jim and Pam on camera this week. The documentary cameras have followed our characters a lot of places, but it makes perfect sense that Mr. and Mrs. Halpert would want a week to themselves.
- Dwight: “The only way to stop a bully is to stand up to him. Trust me — I’ve bullied a lot of people.”
- Dwight, noting Andy’s carrying a tire iron: “Do you know how to use that?” Andy: “To change tires? No. But it’s metal — I can hit somebody with it.”
- Loved the pre-credits sequence, which was like a great little one-act comedy sketch. The brainstorming of small-talk topics from Andy (“Golf, the stock market, Dave Matthews) and Creed (“Small things — peas, ball bearings, dimes”), Meredith’s description of her weekend, Toby pointing out a flaw in Michael’s presentation and promptly exiting, Ryan challenging Michael to write a business book and Michael then dictating into a tape recorder — all of it great.
- One more from Dwight, speculating on why a mobster might change his name from Gotti to Grotti: “‘R’ is among the most menacing of sounds. That’s why they call it murder and not mukduk.”
How’d you like “The Office” this week? Were you OK with Jim and Pam not being on screen?