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The Office recap: New Boss


I admit it, I didn’t see it coming. Michal quit.

I didn’t buy it either. I can already see Michael-as-Nealon-as-Ahnuld announcing, “I’ll be back. I am back. For gooood.” His name’s not in the title, but it’s still The Michael Scott Show, at least when it’s not The Jim and Pam Show, anyway.

That said, good for you Mr. S. You gave up raises and girlfriends and committed yourself to this company. (You even put off having a family, whether they asked you to or not.) And in the end, they won’t even take your phone calls. They stick you with a taskmaster for a boss, and then they think they can make things right by throwing you a party.

So good for you. And it was Wallace who drove you out, not the new boss.

For 22 minutes of not much fun and only some funny, “New Boss” was a pretty good episode. The Office has been here before, but it’s been a while. I often hearken back to Season 2, but I think you have to reach back to Season 1 to find the kind of uncomfortable tension, that actual workplace feel where you don’t dare even speak lest the boss smack you down like the underling you are. Funny that the last person to make an impression like the one Charles (The Wire‘s Idris Elba) did was Jan “Godzillary” Levenson-Gould.

She softened up when she dropped the Gould, and so did the show.

But no free lunch or barely feigned interest in Scranton history can hide the fact that Mr. Minor (I hardly know her!) is there to lay down the law. And it makes you wonder, is that what Wallace had in mind? When he stormed out in frustration last week (as I nearly did) at the Golden Ticket credit-blame fiasco, maybe he hopped on CareerFinder and started scanning resumes of prospective managers.

Well the man who made an honest woman of Saticoy Steel does seem like just the man to clean up Scranton. He won’t truck suck-up salesmen in their fancy tuxedoes (no matter how classy). The man even dissolved the PPC, something the writers might have considered ages ago, and put the kibosh on Michael’s 15th anniversary shindig. It’s a shame we won’t be seeing that “Two Way Petting Zoo.”

Michael and Jim offer contrasting examples of what I feel worked in this episode. As Michael descended into the cartoonish morass of man-child having a tantrum, I cringed. And not in the good way. Each time he butted heads with Charles and came away more panicked, I hoped his death spiral might be sidetracked. But it wasn’t. He kept calling Wallace like a schoolyard ninny running to mommy.

Meanwhile, Jim was spot-on in about the most uncomfortable role we’ve seen him play maybe since he was The Guy With The Crush on Pam. From the moment he realized the new boss was stopping by, to his pained attempts to cozy up to Charles, he was like a stumbling fool. Blaming the tuxedo on Dwight was a bit of an unseemly stretch, particularly to someone unfamiliar with the players, unfavorable to pranks and unlikely to see you as anything but the guy with the phony title and the bowtie.

I have to figure, first, that Pam, and thus Jim, would have known Charles was coming, but more important, that Charles would know who holds the staff’s biggest sales account (Blue Cross of Pennsylvania ring a bell?) and that the ARM title was awarded by his predecessor, Jan, during the merger. It was real.

But Jim did himself no favors tripping over his words and backing out of Charles Minor Privates — get it? — so sheepishly each time.

With Michael gone, at least for the time being, things might be a bit edgy around the office, with two exceptions. How adorable was Angela making goo-goo eyes at Charles? And how funny was Kelly, calling him a black George Clooney and pondering the challenges their bi-racial children will face? (Totally worth it.)

Personally, I’d call him a grumpier Mac from Night Court, but that’s just me. Charles is the anti-Michael. While he deferred to Jim’s every word because of that tuxedo, Charles was singularly unimpressed. He is, for lack of a better term, a real boss. He doesn’t know paper, but he knows people. Or at least he knows how to manage them. Paper can’t survive in a furnace, and Michael can’t survive in that setting.

Whereas I’d always thought of Wallace as the business-like one, the show’s true executive figure who stood in for the audience in his reactions to Michael’s bizarro boss-dom, Charles is the true boss figure. He is not amused. And he is not tolerating, or even encouraging Michael for a second.

By quitting, Michael redeemed himself in my eyes. I could see a moment of clarity in him at that moment. I hope he hopped on I-95 and headed north, bound for Nashua. There’s someone there with a pretty good Ah-nuld impression herself, and she’s the next thing he has to get straight in his life before it’s back to business as usual.

Just as an aside, I want to add that I loved Pam’s talking heads, with and without Jim, particularly where she expresses alarm at Michael’s emotional descent being so bad that he skipped Ace Ventura. Also, there were a few great nods to the documentary crew, which I always welcome, the best being Kelly knocking the cameraman aside as she ran after Charles.

This entry was posted on Friday, March 20th, 2009 at 1:25 pm by Brian Howard. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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