The Office – “Two Weeks”

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“Two Weeks”

March 26th, 2009

I always thought Michael got a bad rap: he’s a good guy, and he’s super funny…yeah, maybe I should tell him before he goes. Oh…he’s all the way over there.

There’s a moment in “Two Weeks” where Kevin says the above, and I found it kind of hard to relate: it is not as if we are actually going to be losing Michael Scott, the office’s goodbye to Michael being quite distinctly different from our own. Even as Michael walks out the door of Dunder Mifflin for the last time, we know it’s not the last time we’re going to be seeing this character. Rather, this episode does some really subtle and effective things that I felt weren’t as clear in last week’s episode, and worked better here.

Everything just felt a bit more on point: Idris Elba was given a chance to be legitimately funny, Michael was a little bit more in his element, the office as a whole got a chance to react to Michael’s antics with a rather unique perspective, and Pam’s small but ultimately quite impactful arc was nicely handled and opens up some opportunity for the future. So if I found that “New Boss” was a bit too much setup and not quite enough follow through, I think this is a solid second shot.

I really liked the Cold Open this week, because Pam was right: Michael finally has a story that the office wants to hear, and he knows it. Michael is in control in a way he has never been before, at least initially, and he loves having given his two weeks notice. Michael not trying is, actually, even lazier and even more obnoxious than Michael when he is trying, and that discovery begins with a child-like enthusiasm that really fits Michael’s character. The people in the office are less engaged with this side of his persona, finding it more annoying than helpful, and certainly Charles Minor has no respect for Michael’s lack of interest in his final two weeks.

However, quickly, the episode begins to tear away that facade: once he starts hearing about the job market, and putting together just what he’s done, reality strikes. Michael’s realization comes in the form of some great, and sad, scenes: Michael writing out his list of industry contacts and discovering it is only the Prince Family Paper company he got shut down (that tearful phone message was downright depressing), Jim pointing out that Michael has typed in Monsters.com instead of Monster.com, and eventually Michael’s last-ditch effort to start his own business without a plan, without a strategy, and with pretty well no idea what he’s doing.

It results in a scenario where Michael’s behaviour goes from annoying to awkward, where Michael is a nuisance not only because he’s still being obnoxious, but also because they don’t want to be the one to crush his dreams. Andy goes from being the ass-kisser he always is to being tentative to even talk to Michael, realizing that he had made the dumb mistake of suggesting he might work with Michael again in the future. Oscar is honest with Michael about the financials of the situation, and upset that Michael put a napkin into his lunch, but he’s the only one willing to really paint the whole picture.

There’s a point in the episode where you start to really feel for Michael, and I don’t think it’s when he’s escorted out of the building, or when he sneaks back in and tries to drag Phyllis’ chair with him as he crawls away on his stomach. No, I think it’s when Jim treats Michael as a joke, brushing him off without even a consideration. Jim’s never been perfect, but he was pretty cruel to Michael in what was a vulnerable moment, allowing the annoyance factor to ultimately be kind of mean to Michael. I know he deserved it, in a way, but Jim should know by now that few others are going to be so kind, so humouring him a bit couldn’t have hurt.

I think it’s part of why Pam would eventually leave with Michael, a decision that Jim obviously isn’t very happy with and that Pam obviously reconsiders as soon as it happens. Pam’s little arc in the episode was subtle and within character: she has made some impulsive decisions in the past, and her battle with the photocopier felt substantial enough in its patheticness that she would return to her original concerns about her career aspirations. It is a bit weird that, after starting the season by refusing Pam her dream of gaining her graphic design diploma, that they would send Pam out of the office again, but it’s consistent with her arc so I’m happy to see her diversifying.

Of course, her desire to be a salesperson is going to make for an interesting little adventure considering Michael has no capital and very little money, but there is a lot of potential in this business if they start to populate it using people from Michael’s past who might be interested in work: I currently have my fingers crossed for Serenity by Jan to have taken off and for Jan to have a large capital investment to make, or for Holly to learn about Michael’s new venture and arrive at its doorstep interested in rekindling their relationship now that there’s no conflict of interest. There’s potential in the venture that, even if Pam has a rough road ahead, narratively speaking is something I really want to see, and the division could work well as long as it actually happens.

That, of course, is all up in the air. The show has made similar moves before (See: Stanford), but eventually everything returned to the same branch. I’m sure that will happen here, but the hope is that there will be some changes as a result: will Pam become a salesperson full time, as an example? There’s a lot of potential here, and I’m glad that this episode upped the stakes a little bit – while I didn’t have much suspense about Michael’s exit after last week, I’m actually kind of excited to see where it goes from here.

The episode overall was just stronger than last week: Elba got to have some actual jokes (even if they were all dead pan and serious in their humour: his effect on women, why he was hiring externally, etc.) as Charles Minor, almost everyone in the office got to have a great moment as Michael propositioned them (Stanley on the toilet? Certainly my favourite), and there was some nice subtle emotional material.

Cultural Observations

  • Scotch and Splenda: sweet like Splenda, gets you drunk like Scotch. So simple, so genius.
  • I enjoyed Dwight’s attempts to read the German instruction manual with his “pretty industrial, and mostly religious” German – this was a very background episode for Dwight, his style being a bit too powerful for the subtler side of it, but that was a good small moment. You could argue that Dwight would take Michael’s departure worse than this, but then Minor was in the next room: he’s all about authority, and I think it would keep him from acting out.
  • Was kind of in love with the episode’s coda, wherein Minor decides to put Kevin in charge of phones (he of very poor communication skills) and places Stanley in charge of productivity (he of absolutely no drive). The final shot of them too dumbstruck to move is kind of great, but also indicates that holing himself up in the Conference Room has given Minor absolutely no perspective on how the office operates. If he ends up trying to take on its day-to-day business himself, and if any hire gets a load of how poorly that office is going to be performing, they’re going to want Michael back pretty quickly – nice to see the coda provide their out, in that sense.

5 Comments

Filed under The Office

5 responses to “The Office – “Two Weeks”

  1. I almost hope that we don’t see Michael back at Dunder Mifflin. I almost think they should have held onto this story for the actual last season of the show because I can’t think of a more fitting ending. Michael creates his own company through his rag-tag assimilation of everyone he’s worked with (or against, maybe trying to bring in the Prince Family) and it somehow ends up a success. The crescendo is the final piece of the puzzle, his human-resources love-interest Holly as the matriarch in the family/business he’s always dreamed of and keeping him in line, making him the better man he always is in her presence.

    But because the show is continuing, it’ll be that somehow Michael ends up over his head, Charles will run the branch into the ground and Wallace will ask him back having to report only to him with no VP, thereby saving Michael in the nick of time and returning most things to the status quo.

  2. Damon

    This episode reminded me a lot of the british office. The moment you see Michael on the floor you just see how pathetic this man really is realizing nobody in the office was willing to follow or respect him but will miss him like an “airplane movie” but also seeing how he still somehow gave them a purpose. The B-plot in the show was totally boss. Great character development: Pam realizing that she is terrible receptionist and completely expendable.

  3. Joel

    I think you might be misquoting Dwight- I heard the line as “pre-industrial, and mostly religious.” I think that makes more sense given the context, and that he read the manual as hunting instructions.

  4. Paulw

    It’s funny, I’ve been watching this show intently for years, and I’ve managed to figure out what the writers are trying to say about the characters:

    Michael Scott: The embodyment of the Peter Principal. An absolutely brilliant salesman who got promoted to management because after all his successful years at the company they needed to promote him. Trouble is, he’s not a competant manager.

    Pam Beasley: Since Michael isn’t a competant manager, a lot of manager type duties inevitably fall on Pam’s shoulders. One wonders how many times she’s had to forge his signature on important documents he just never gets around to signing.

    I think we’ve seen this with the earlier Jan and Michael seasons. Remember when Jan, figuring Michael was incompetant, wanted him to shut up and follow her lead at a meeting with an important potential customer. Then she watched as he nailed the sale? With Pam it’s been more subtle, but I’ve seen it over the seasons too.

    So… I think this could work. When I read some people’s comments on the show, it seems like they miss a lot of this stuff. (They also miss the fact that the best salesmen at the company get away with a lot becuase the bring in the money that keeps the company in business. Why is a top salesman like Jim going to stay at a failing paper company like D&M if Pam isn’t there and he’s going to be treated like a 3 year old by his hardass new boss? Him and Dwight both earn, end of story, as Tony Soprano might say.)

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