October 23rd, 2008
In what is quite definitively the weakest entry yet this season, we discover The Office falling into one of its many potential potholes (having Michael do things that are almost too on-the-nose in the obnoxiousness column) even while we get a decent glimpse at the rest of the supporting cast. There’s some funny gags in “Crime Aid,” including that the event itself is a ridiculous acronym, but it feels as if the actual plot is just a thin construct that sees the show in a holding pattern.
It’s not an awful holding pattern, but it feels as if everyone is in a rut except for Michael and Holly, who become less fun as the episode goes on and it focuses less on them and more on their stereotypical roles in the office. The result is an episode that’s going to be largely forgettable in the big scheme of things, even if we got a couple of strong little moments.
Not quite a total loss of momentum by any means, but definitely a bit of a step back from the great start to the season.
There were a few things that really worked in the episode, primarily Michael and Holly’s relationship. The episode was very quick to get to the chase with these two: before we even get into much of the episode proper, we get their wacky voice version of Crazy 8’s, their attempts to avoid the cameras while failing to, and eventually their fabulous shared talking head of “Boss,” and their cuteness over their sexual escapades. Their relationship is really enjoyable, which is why I’m really hoping that they aren’t actually heading down the path they appear to be taking with David Wallace being the driving force behind breaking up their relationship.
I know that Holly can’t stay forever, as Amy Ryan is an oscar-nominated actress and all, but she gives Michael a sort of humanity that helps balance the obnoxiousness. It’s really strange that Holly thinks that Michael is too good to be true, and that it’s only the Springsteen tickets that tip her off, because did she see that auction? While Michael never went full-idiot (Phyllis kept him from going on with the sorority point), but the episode felt a bit rote for the character: Michael as Annoying Auctioneer feels like the result of a pitch session of potentially hijinx-filled Michael scenarios. The entire storyline, actually, felt like that: like a very basic sitcom pitch that didn’t really go anywhere.
As usual, the storyline had quite a few neat elements: I loved Creed’s two moments (that the last person to steal from him was “Creed Bratton,” and that he was selling an all-inclusive “Creed” in the auction. I loved Andy wanting to buy Phyllis’ hug because Angela isn’t willing to give him one. I like that David Wallace shows up (even if his reason for being there feels a bit too convenient) and that he and Bob Vance get so excited over the prospect of also voting on the hug.
The two storylines that really kind of got a spotlight of attention were both all about characters questioning the stability of the status quo, and telling when the “right time” for stepping up and making an ultimatum. In Dwight’s case, the storyline worked really well because of some funny quirks (Like the list of things that Angela taught him including both monotheism and presents on your birthday, or Dwight whiddling a knife with a knife) and because of the continued escalation of Dwight’s poor treatment of Phyllis. This felt like an entirely different storyline, in a way from a better episode: the emotional impact of Dwight’s ultimatum felt lost when the episode’s storyline had so little to do with Angela and Dwight.
On the other hand, I can’t think of anything valuable about Jim’s storyline. It feels like a total step back from last week’s acknowledgement that these two people are quite perfect for each other – Jim becoming overly anxious after spending time with Roy makes enough sense, I guess, bit maybe last week instead of this time around. It just didn’t add anything to our knowledge of their relationship. There’s only so many storylines they can do with Him and Pam separated, certainly, but this one didn’t feel like a particularly fresh or interesting example. And, to be honest, even Pam’s cold open fell a little flat, and oddly never actually got brought up in the episode itself.
Overall, the big difference between this and the season’s other episodes is momentum – storylines that had it lost it (Michael and Holly), storylines that need it don’t have it (Dwight and Angela) and then storylines that we thought were settled and are given arbritrary momentum (Jim and Pam). Nothing was working as well as it could have, so while there’s a couple of strong little moments nothing hit like it could have in a more interesting episode overall.
- I quite liked the various character reactions we saw in the episode, but I’ll admit that I miss having Pam there – Michael and Holly is a nice substitute, but Jim and Pam is good reactive force to Michael’s plans. I understand part of what they’re doing, that Michael is actually in decent behaviour and so the snide remarks are less present, but it’s taken away one really enjoyable dynamic.
- I enjoyed Dwight’s analysis of the robbery: that it was a classic 7-man job, or “Vintage HP Computer Collectors.” I was expecting them to spend more time on the actual event of the break-in, and investigating it (with Michael and Holly playing the awkward perpetrators, and Dwight as the lead instigator), but it kind of just fizzled out.
- As usual, Darryl gets one of the best talking heads with the hilarious Springsteen debauchery by Michael. The entire Springsteen runner was pretty shallow, but it was a funny gag nonetheless.
- Andy may be “the other man” in Dwight and Angela’s relationship, but I love the guy, especially that his safety plan for Angela includes “being a good screamer” and moving to Celebration, Florida.
- C.R.I.M.E. A.I.D. = Crime Reduces Innocence Makes Everyone Angry I Declare. Which is genius.
- Amy Ryan = Still awesome.