Ron Tom
Christine Fenno
October 28, 2007 AT 04:00 AM EDT

”The Office” recap: Michael makes an ad

I recently found myself in a hammock at a nifty seaside resort, smiling. Not about rum cocktails or warm trade winds, but at the thought of Michael Scott’s tryst with Jan at Sandals Jamaica. (I was, to be specific, appreciating the wisdom of keeping all digital cameras away from sunbathing activities.) That’s when I know I love a TV show: when it follows me on vacation. (My thanks to Erin Stevenson for managing the Scranton branch of TV Watch while I was away.)

Based on the comments on the message board, last week’s episode, ”Money,” was polarizing. I’m in the camp of fans who found the recent 60-minute broadcasts bloated. Not to say they weren’t peppered with stellar character work: Last week alone there was Michael moonlighting in night-shift hell, Dwight grieving in his bedroom at the beet farm, Pam beaming over Jim’s impulsive PDA, and (one of my favorite moments this season) Andy catching Garbage the Regift Cat. That was Garbage, wasn’t it?

Say what you will, I’m glad the half-hour format is back. The premise of this episode, ”Local Ad” — the Scranton staffers shoot a commercial — was strong, and allowed almost every ensemble member to shine. Jan and Toby were MIA, but dominating the other end of the camera-time spectrum was Andy Bernard. He never gave us a break from that Kit Kat jingle, from the first scene to the last, and never once figured out the lyrics for those final three syllables! (”Football Cream,” ”Lumber Tar,” and ”Fancy Feast” all just about did me in!) Tonight — probably thanks to all the ad time that Dan in Real Life bought on NBC — I saw the future: If Steve Carell leaves The Office to do films full time, I want hilarious Ed Helms at the helm. I don’t ever want Carell to leave, I’m just saying…

I appreciated that Michael’s antics weren’t as over-the-top as in recent weeks. Kicking off this episode by drumming up bad ideas from the troops for a corporate-mandated commercial, Michael was soon mocking the lame ad Ryan’s consultants had made (and rightfully so — samba lite, anyone?). He then quibbled with Ryan on speakerphone about whether ”creativity” was part of his job; on a tangent, he even asserted that he could certainly open a restaurant though he didn’t cook (”Mike’s Cereal Shack”). A classic Michael-on-a mission theme developed, with the ad dudes being told to come back in ”never-hundred hours” and Ryan being called a ”little bitch.” Finally, Ryan’s boss, David, gave in to a next-day deadline and Michael’s surprisingly reasonable vow to let the professionals reshoot if everyone in corporate didn’t love his work.

Michael doled out assignments — Oscar on costume-design duty epitomized Michael’s uncreativity — as a very endearing Hey, Kids, Let’s Put on a Show! fever took hold. I wanted to hug poor, blubbering, raccoon-eyed Phyllis when she returned from a book signing at Steamtown Mall, crushed by her failure to deliver star power in the form of Sue Grafton. T is for Thwarted! Angela, who said she shunned the entire mystery genre (”I hate being titillated”), was surely pleased.

How great were those groove-tastic rehearsals for the work-in-progress song that (I’m presuming) Darryl composed? Sing it loud: ”the people-person’s paper people!” Kevin, Andy, dance-happy Kelly, and (the jack of all random trades) Creed provided some not-bad backup harmonies. Sadly, Darryl’s ditty was rejected by Michael, who said he hoped for something more urban. (Am I misremembering, or does that joke echo the U.K. Office? Both times that clueless Michael said ”urban” to Stanley and Darryl, I had the strangest sense of David Brent déjà vu.) After Michael insisted that he hated the music, the keyboardist simply walked. Tangling with Darryl never pays.

NEXT: Does Angela miss Dwight?

For much of ”Local Ad,” Dwight seemed to backslide in his progress toward getting over Angela. Early on, we learned he has a Second Life avatar online who looks exactly like him — which is not normally the point of joining SL. (”I signed up for Second Life about a year ago. Back then, my life was so great that I literally wanted a second one.”) At this point, he was clearly in SL for an escape. Well, who wouldn’t need a haven from the torture of neck-and-tell Andy gossiping about getting to first base with Angela? Then we got a smidge of confirmation that Angela isn’t over Dwight: Andy said she closed her eyes and moaned, ”Oh, D,” when he kissed her. Dwight became elated, but didn’t indicate why, and didn’t correct his oblivious rival’s belief that ”D” was a nickname derived from ”Andy.” I wonder: Will one knight duel the other over the fair maiden? We can only hope!

Dwight’s affinity for Second Life would’ve caused nothing but mischief in seasons past, but other than Jim’s response to Dwight’s assertion that SL ”has no winners or losers” (”Oh, it has losers”), he and Pam went easy on him. Pity for heartbroken Dwight is apropos, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss arrogant, prank-inspiring Dwight. And what’s this? There’s another Dunder Mifflin geek with an SL avatar? Pam’s amusement over Jim’s guitar-toting alter ego was awkward in the best way. Sheepish Jim is cute Jim. Meanwhile, the height of comedic cuteness was Pam’s ”beep-boop-beep-beep” reply after Michael said, ”Please clear my phone lines.”

Corporate eventually nixed Michael’s ad, yet the episode had a very uplifting ending. At the staff viewing party for the bland corporate ad, Jim introduced ”the Michael Scott director’s cut.” I totally enjoyed the corny, low-budget production (and good for Michael, sharing screen time with others, especially that orange-clad good sport Stanley.) Pam’s all-nighter animation was the perfect finale to a collaboration that was, ultimately, a true Michael Scott baby — often hackneyed and desperate for approval, but full of heart.

What did you think? Was Darryl’s song as bad as Michael said it was? Do you plan to go look up the profile for Dwight Schrute’s avatar (I hear it’s funny) in Second Life? And is Angela just rebounding with Andy?

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