Sorry for the delay readers. Computer problems.
Tonight’s episode of The Office is unique in that none of the plotlines really have a sense of closure. Of the three main stories going on tonight- them being a Dwight/Pam sales call, Jim Halpert: Sports Manager, and the Oscar/Angela Love Triangle- only the former seems to have something that may be considered an ending. I’ve mentioned this in previous columns about this season, but I appreciate that the show, even at this late date, is changing its overall structure and making the stand-alone plot increasingly less significant. Since “The New Guys,” the show has come significantly closer to Earth, and I wouldn’t be upset if they completely abandoned the goofy plot of the week. This idea that things matter beyond the span of the half hour is even seen with the cold open where Andy appears on webcam because he’s still on his aquatic journey.
Unlike last week, the main plot in “The Whale” is actually the one starring Dwight. David Wallace calls Dwight, the top salesman, to try and get a potential new client- the White Pages, known in the paper industry, according to Dwight, as “the White Whale.” This client is so big that it could possibly bring back Pizza Fridays. Unfortunately, the person doing the buying is a woman, and Dwight has a huge problem selling to females. To the show’s credit, this was a characteristic of his as early as Season 1 with the Katy (Amy Adams) arc. I actually thought this element was dropped around Season 6 when Dwight proved himself as a ladies’ man in the “Niagara” (The Halpert Wedding) episodes, as though the break up with Angela and the pseudo-friendship with Pam caused him to grow, but I have no problem accepting that it’s still an issue of his.
The ladies of the office give Dwight a quick training session about how to sell to women. It goes poorly, but it’s reminiscent of bits in older seasons, such as the sequence when the Dunder Mifflinettes gave a pep talk to Michael about breaking up with Jan Levinson. Whether intentional or unintentional, it was a nice bit of foreshadowing, as the woman Dwight (with Pam in tow) must sell to ends up being Jan, former Dunder Mifflin executive and Michael Scott paramour, as crazy and self-centered as ever. Although Jan only makes the offer in order to personally shove it in David Wallace’s face, Dwight makes a successful move by essentially pimping out Clark as a Dunder Mifflin “liaison”/substitute for her former assistant, Hunter.
The way the storyline ended made me think, or at least hope, that Jan’s business will remain part of Dunder Mifflin’s portfolio and that she will return. If this was just a trip down memory lane to show Crazy Jan Being Crazy, I’ll be disappointed since a) I always preferred Jan’s character as someone unhinged but not completely bonkers and b) I think she, like David, is a good way to show that The Office universe expands beyond the walls at Slough Avenue. If she is running a successful company that could substantially increase (I believe they said double) the firm’s revenue, I want her to pop up again and for Clark’s new role to be brought up from time to time.
Meanwhile, in Jim Halpert: Sports Manager… Jim is invited to the first ever board meeting of his company, but he opts to telecommute and call in from work. Unfortunately, the noises of the office distract everyone, so he takes to the streets with his cell phone, where he can’t get a good reception and must contend with ambient sounds like car alarms. Afterward, his main friend at the organization calls him and says, “With you there, I don’t know how you’re going to do this.” To which Jim responds, “what does that mean?” The answer is left unanswered.
While I understand Jim’s need to remain in Scranton to make money to support his family, especially after giving their life savings to the company, there was something about this story that just seemed off to me. The office’s attendance policy is ridiculously lax. Andy just took off for three weeks on a whim and he’s the boss; Dwight even comments to David Wallace about this. But Jim seems like he takes his new job seriously, and he knows that he would probably be unable to do anything else until after the call. Him not taking the day off to attend at least the first meeting either seems unbelievable or indicates that he’s way out of his element, which might be an interesting path for the show to take. After spending so much time believing that this show would adopt the happy ending, if it does a left turn and returns to its original premise that most people, even the people we “care” about, are just meant be cubical drones, I’d have to commend them.
Also, the problems with telecommuting seemed manufactured. Jim should have known that the office would be a place of zaniness and gone home to Skype before returning to the office. Or, he could have sat in his car and used the cell phone. If it’s good enough for sports radio (Season 7, Episode 14: “The Seminar”), it should be good enough for sports marketing.
Finally, the Oscar/Angela Love Triangle hits another snag as Angela becomes convinced that her husband is having an affair with his yoga teacher, Blake. While they’re spying on him, he calls Oscar, which makes everything come clear for Angela. I am surprised by how much screentime this plot is being given. While Oscar and Angela have always been useful members of the cast, this storyline is probably the second biggest one this season (following Jim Halpert: Sports Manager). It has played a part in most of the episodes so far this year, and it has seriously upped these two side characters’ importance. I honestly imagined that The Office would use this as a quick side joke to make Angela look like a cuckold (or a cuckquean, to be more accurate) and easily dispatch it when they got bored. Instead, they’re making it an actual part of their lives. If this wasn’t the final season, I would be curious if future seasons would give the same extended treatment to other cast members like Phyllis or Stanley, neither of which has had much to do in Season 9. But it is the end, and that’s probably for the best.
•In a not-really fourth plot, Toby, Clark, Jake, and others are growing mustaches for Movember to raise money for charity.
•Was Hunter always 17 years old at the time of “Dinner Party”?
•I noticed that Michael Scott didn’t appear in any of the Jan “flashbacks.”