For starters, I won our Oscar pool. Details about my co-authors wagers are forthcoming.
It’s hard to know what I expected from The Florida Trip, even now that we’re halfway into it. That it was different and seemingly a long-term arc definitely tempered my opinion on the past couple of episodes. I was more willing to give certain things a pass because I saw it, or wanted to see it, as a slow build, a quasi-mini-series within The Office. The first episode needed to set up the new universe. The second gave us the human element. But after that, I expected at least one genuine Business Episode. An episode showing how and why the Sabre Store should be created; after all, all we know about its products is that its tablet (the Pyramid) stinks, its printers explode, and paper is a dying industry. After tonight, we learn that everything is triangle shaped, its phone is named the Arrowhead (which isn’t bad), and that the Pyramid will have wireless capability in 2013. How they thought this was a lucrative business model, I don’t know. Nevertheless, it leads me to the next point…
The Office was never exclusively about the crazy people in the business world; it was about the craziness of the business world. I described Tallahassee as a more professional conference room scene. I wanted a more professional The Office episode. We’ve seen bits of Dunder Mifflin corporate, but we’ve never really gotten the insider’s perspective. Now that our minor leaguers have temporarily moved up to the majors, I thought that we’d see some satire about the corporate environment. Impassioned arguments on font, font sizes, mottos, focus groups, layouts, products, shades of blue. It might not have played towards the show’s current penchant for silly, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have been funny in a way the show hasn’t been in quite awhile. I honestly didn’t expect us to have a Sabre Store after two episodes, and it ended up disappointing me.
Moreover, while I liked (and still like) the idea of Dwight as the lead of The Office, I never liked the idea of The Dwight Show (spin-off notwithstanding). Dwight is supposed to be the general, not an army of one. Three out of three episodes dedicated to Dwight trying to impress Nellie shows laziness on the part of the writers, in addition to the squandered potential of this entire endeavor. And that brings us to tonight.
Tonight’s episode, Test The Store, features the first Sabre Store, and it’s under the command of Dwight Schrute. They are expecting customers, bloggers, reviewers, and hipsters, and it all leads up to a major presentation that Ryan has to give to wow the audience into believing that Sabre is the future. For some reason, the only employees at the store are Nellie, Todd Packer (who disappears about halfway through), and the Scranton crew. All those other extras we saw over the past two weeks need not apply (actually, I might have seen one holding the door). Either way, you’d think at least one person from Sabre Corporate would have better people skills than Stanley, and it’s not like he’d complain about not participating.
The gang’s biggest concern is about bloggers, and Dwight chooses Cathy to flirt with them while Erin becomes the hipster liaison. Hipster Erin was probably the best concept of tonight, and most definitely one with which they could have done a lot more.
Eventually, Ryan freaks out and leaves Florida forcing Dwight to recruit Jim to give the speech. Despite the speech being a complete mess, the audience seems to love it, so Nellie gives Dwight the job as Vice President. I’m still having trouble figuring out if the speech was a success or a failure. I mean the audience liked it, but from my perspective, it was an embarrassing catastrophe. It’s like in Three’s Company when Jack has a horrible night at his restaurant and the food critic acts like “that was the greatest experience of my life! 4 stars!” It’s moments like this that make me ponder through which reality’s lens should I view The Office.
In Scranton, Andy gets a black eye after getting hit by tweenage girl. He pretends a gang attacked him. Everyone finds out the truth. Everyone laughs at him.
• I couldn’t figure out how to shoehorn this into the first or second paragraph. Dunder Mifflin always seemed like a mismanaged company, but never an egregiously horribly managed one. Its leaders weren’t forward thinking and they were overly complacent, but Dunder Mifflin’s collapse seemed believable. Sabre is a company operating under the smarts of Jo and Robert California, but the idea to create a Sabre Store came across as the brainchild of a moron. I’d like to believe that there’s some level of intelligence at the Sabre’s top, because otherwise, it just completely saps this show of any reality. The Sabre Store initiative makes me doubt everything.
• Guess I was wrong in Tallahassee, Nellie’s just stupid.
• I liked Jim accepting his punishment of holding the Grand Opening sign for using his non-Sabre phone in the Sabre Store in front of FAIL bloggers without complaining.
• Dwight role-playing as Kelly was fine, but the scene went on a bit too long.
• I like to believe that Ryan’s panic came from lingering issues regarding his fall from grace at Dunder Mifflin Corporate, even if it doesn’t entirely fit his character.
• The Chuck joke (that NBC’s ex-show Chuck has some sort of sponsorship deal with Sabre/the Pyramid) didn’t work. It didn’t help that the show didn’t use a promo picture of Zachary Levi wearing the classic short-sleeved white shirt/black tie Chuck Uniform for the stand-up. And I think they forgot about this joke for most of the episode. I don’t remember seeing the sign between the cold open and Jim’s speech; the sign should have been everywhere throughout the store and Chuck should have been mentioned many more times. If we understood the obsession, it would have made Jim’s line “from Chuck to Cars II” a lot funnier.
• I also couldn’t tell if they were making fun of Chuck or making fun of Sabre for allying with Chuck or both. I mean Chuck wasn’t a popular show but it had a somewhat loyal fanbase. And Cars II was a very popular movie…I am thinking way too much about this throwaway gag.
• It was announced this week that James Spader/Robert California would not be returning to Season 9, if there is a season 9, of The Office. Despite him being my favorite character this season, I can’t say that I’m disappointed. He was too smart and too offbeat to fit into the world The Office occupies, and the show struggled thinking of what to do with him. He was the best part, but he wasn’t the savior. In fact, his superiority might have harmed the show more than helped it.