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The Office recap: Prince Family Paper

January
23

Oh Michael, how could you?

Maybe I should direct that toward the writers. You took a sweet, innocent, bumbling Michael and turned him toward the dark side. Prince Paper was like Bizarro Dunder Mifflin. Now it’ll just be that paper company that used to offer service with a smile and a cup of bad coffee in the market Dunder Mifflin now dominates.

And yet, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Besides the Swank determination, which is objectively and verifiably false, “Prince Family Paper,” last night’s episode of The Office, ended as it had to.

They didn’t let Michael off the hook. Instead the writers took a dark and dirty turn toward the truly tragic, in the literal sense of the word. Michael has only himself to blame. Sure, Dwight enabled, cajoled and encouraged him, but Michael is responsible for the Princes’ assured downfall and he knows it.

And the best part is that Prince Family Paper is exactly the company, the life, the very world Michael would create if he wasn’t so socially inept. It’s everything he means to be, yet continuously stumbles his way away from becoming.

Never like this, though. Never. All he has going for him in this instance is his remorse, but all the pity he elicits can’t make him the victim.

Writer BJ Novak could so easily have pulled back at the end and somehow saved the Princes. It’s to his credit that he didn’t. This episode will be all the more more memorable for it.

That, readers, was my gut reaction after the episode ended.

Watch the full episode after the jump…

This episode was reminiscent of “Branch Wars” in that Michael and Dwight were off on an undercover mission, only this time it was to do reconnaissance on a competitor rather than to pull a prank on another branch.

In other episodes where Jim leads a not-so-work-related activity in Michael’s and Dwight’s absence, the contrast between the main and secondary stories seemed less stark. I’m thinking of “Office Olympics,” though a good parallel might be the reading of Michael’s unpublished screenplay in “The Client” (which got a nice Agent Michael Scarn callback last night, by the way).

The Hillary Swank debate, meanwhile, was realistic and very funny at times—Kevin isn’t allowed full Internet access?—but it was relegated to almost buffer status between cut-backs to Michael’s covert operation.

For starters, I loved Michael’s “What’chu talking ‘bout, Wallace?” The CFO is so patient, and blindly persistent in giving Michael a chance to do more than manage a branch successfully. Is persistent the right word? Insane, maybe? Michael is right, by the way. Faxing is dinosaurish.

Out on the road, Michael’s and Dwight’s banter is pretty classic, almost on a par with Andy and Michael in “Traveling Salesmen.” Of course Michael gets to seduce the heiress, but what’s socialist about IHOP?

Dwight’s a good guy to have along on a mission like this. He’s extremely perceptive and logical, determining the status of the business by its neighboring space for lease and where its sign is placed. It’s his irrationality, not his intelligence that’s an issue, i.e. the lip-licking. Michael, meanwhile, doesn’t know his cumulus from his cirrostratus, and his food chain is messed up right down to the single-celled sharks.

I knew right off that the Princes were more than just easy marks. They were Michael’s ideal of a family business. He has a fake work family and buys his own “World’s Best Boss” mug. Mr. Prince has his family beside him to buy him a “World’s Best Dad” mug.

By the way, I hear Vietnam is lovely. (Did he really say that?)

Michael quickly gets busted for his vast paper knowledge, which he counters by taking a sip from a stapler. Laughter is his job. Tears are his game. Law is his profession. Wow. And yet last week he could only muster bad improversation.

Dwight, for his part, comes on strong, replacing family members right off the bat. It’s a wonder he’s a top salesman, yet he gets Prince to set aside who he thinks is a prospective client to discuss a job opening he already said he doesn’t have.

If that’s not curious enough, did you wonder why no one was suspicious of Michael taking pictures? Or that his math skills are so appalling?

The kicks to the groin, figuratively, began when Michael finagled Prince’s top client list, only to mangle his car’s front end and look on, sipping Mrs. Prince’s coffee as Mr. P taped the fender in place, saving Michael a towing fee.

You just knew, or thought you did, that Michael couldn’t screw them over now. It almost seemed predictable. Sure enough, Michael wants to live and let live. And sure enough Dwight wants the raccoon to devour the squirrel. (Wait, what?) Michael’s heart is a wonderful thing, Dwight assures him. Let it make some terrible decisions.


I didn’t see the Lord of the Rings allegory coming, and it almost seemed to work until Michael made a run for it. Some run, too: down the stairs, outside, through the parking lot, back upstairs again, into his office, back down to the parking lot, etc.

And in the end, Dwight secured the client list for the company and Michael has to deal with his own treachery, which won out despite his misgivings.

He’s got a good point, though. What is the deal with bittersweet chocolate?

I was left hoping the tag at the end of the episode might redeem him. It didn’t, naturally.


A Swank debate

Debating the relative hotness of a female celebrity is a pretty common occurrence. I thought it was a nice job by the writers in mining new material from the familiar office setting. And Hilary Swank was a great choice, because the choice is not really clear.

There were several highlights for me. For starters, I loved Kevin differentiating between hot and beautiful by referring to a painting and what he wouldn’t want to do to one. Nice Pam reaction to that line. (Hardly any lines for her again? Did she get a pay cut this season or something?)

Jim sounds like he’s channeling John Krasinski speaking on behalf of celebrities everywhere. Ultimately, as Kevin points out to him, the game is not “Would you do her?” It’s is she hot? Respect the game. And go Kev!

Angela swings it with her Boris Becker play, just to spite Kevin. Toby’s input creeped me out. And Kelly takes it all way too personally. Oh, and Oscar takes a clinical approach. Figures.

Stanley was the most convincing, in this juror’s opinon. He takes a passionate tack. He only has so many years left, and she’s healthy, pretty, sexy, strong and, yes, hot.

Funny how Jim didn’t want them debating the matter, and when they ignored him—as they seem to do a lot lately—he ends up leading the debate.

And before I forget, great cold open. You’d think they’d have run out of original and simple pranks Jim can pull, but they’re making good use of visuals. That window shot of Dwight climbing the poll, like the one of Michael sprinting past the speed control sign last week, gave the joke its impact.

Still, though, $20 for a prank? The Dwight lookalike kit was much more economical.

This entry was posted on Friday, January 23rd, 2009 at 4:58 pm by Brian Howard. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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Grab a snack, pull up a comfy seat and join our staff as they share their thoughts on your favorite shows. Tune in daily for their comments and post your own on such hit shows as "Lost," "Grey's Anatomy," "The Office," "American Idol," "24," "Heroes" and more.

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