Happy Super Bowl, binder clips! It’s so nice to be back here with you on the Office TV Watch. I’d like to start by thanking Alynda Wheat for subbing while I was at Sundance, then send my congratulations to the National Champions More Times Than Anyone Ever Pittsburgh Steelers: I was rooting for the underdog Cardinals tonight, but there was some nice Pennsylvania cross-platform marketing in their win being followed by our scrappers from Scranton. Still, can’t help but think NBC squandered a chance to catch the casual viewer with this ep, which started strong (thanks to a fire drill that was only slightly less organized than Kurt Warner’s final attempt at a pass play) before tapering off into a disjointed plot involving workplace stress, a Comedy Central-style warehouse roast, and a pirated movie starring Jack Black, Cloris Leachman, and Jessica Alba. Like almost every hour-long episode of The Office, tonight’s didn’t really hold its ink, and if I’d been shotgunning beers and burying my face in guacamole for six hours like the rest of America, it’s hard to say if I would have stuck around for the whole thing.
Of course, my opinion doesn’t come anywhere near what I presume to be Andy’s idea of TV criticism (“That show was bad”) — a lot of the episode’s humor was engaging and smart. I guess it’s just the extension of every joke past the point of snap and into meandering randomness that kills the momentum whenever this show tries to run long. Bits like Dwight’s commentary on Michael staring at icicles and the “Stayin’ Alive” singalong felt like riffing, the kind of filler I used to put into college term papers after bringing in the margins and spacing everything at double-and-a-half still left me two pages short of the assigned length. And much like the big game itself, if things hadn’t picked up towards the end, I fear this would have amounted to a massive disappointment. Note: I wouldn’t have been livid, just disappointed.
But the cold open…the cold open was awesome. We opened on Dwight setting a trashcan on fire with a cigarette to teach everyone a lesson about fire safety, since no one was listening when he gave his boring PowerPoint presentation on the topic. “Today, smoking is going to save lives,” he said, with a menacing confidence. The room slowly filled with smoke; chaos ensued. “What’s the procedure?” Dwight repeated to his frantic colleagues, along with less-helpful comments like “Have you ever seen a burn victim?” Meanwhile, Michael yelled things like, “Stay f—ing calm!” and “We’re trapped! Everyone for himself!” while everyone stampeded around, knocking over cameramen. Angela grabbed one of the cats Dwight did not kill out of her file cabinet, and threw it up into the suspended ceiling where Oscar had crawled to get help; kitty obeyed laws of gravity, as did Oscar. Michael tried to throw a chair through a window, but unlike the overhead projector he tried next, it bounced hilariously back. Jim used the hated copier as a battering ram, Kevin took the evacuation as an opportunity to raid the snack machine, and when Dwight inexplicably set off fireworks, Andy yelled, “The fire is shooting at us!!”
NEXT: Dwight’s new mask does nothing to hide his craziness