Welcome to 2013 everyone and the start of our descent to the final approach of the The Office. We return to Scranton with “Lice,” an episode that is pretty much the epitome of filler. As a bonus, it also features one of the worst side plots in the series’ entire history.
As the title “Lice” suggests, the office must contend with lice. Pam’s daughter Cece had lice, and, after cleaning the entire house, Pam unintentionally brings it in and infects more than half of the office. But because Jim is spending so much time in Philadelphia with his new job (more on that below), she’s stressed, so who can blame her for this lapse in judgment? The first person they accuse is Meredith because her hygiene is and has always been suspect, and she even blames herself and shaves her head in response. Dwight, who still hasn’t emotionally gotten over a lice problem from when he was 7, commandeers the office, puts on a hazmat suit, and threatens to bug bomb the office. Eventually, they learn that Pam is the cause, so her and Meredith bond at a bar.
Despite all of these elements, it seems as if the best the show can think of doing with this storyline is show people with mayonnaise in their hair because mayonnaise kills lice. We see people putting the mayo in their hair, working with mayo in their hair, talking about having mayo in their hair, and washing the mayo out of their hair. It’s not as funny as they seem to think it is.
Additionally, while Dwight going overboard has been a regular feature of this show since its beginning, it feels like they’ve tapped into that well a bit too often this season (Dwight Christmas with the party, Here Comes Treble with the anti-anxiety medication, and Work Bus with the work bus immediately come to mind). Similar to Work Bus, at least this storyline made some sense because it’s his building, and if there’s a lice/bedbug/insect infestation, it can hurt him financially because he must hire an exterminator, but I don’t think that aspect was brought up. Instead, it was just Dwight going over-the-top. Again.
On the relationship front, the Pete/Erin dance continues. Originally, I liked the two of them together. I thought they had more chemistry than Andy and Erin, and I thought they worked well off one another. I am not saying I was wrong about any of that, but I am tired of their moon-eyed gazing. Either move the relationship forward or drop it for a few episodes. Unfortunately, the show can’t progress this storyline because Andy’s still gone. As with Pete/Erin, initially, I liked not having Andy on the show. I disliked the character, and I felt he added very little to the series, but his absence has become as annoying, if not more so, than his presence. He’s been part of the show since the start of the third season, he’s still the boss, and he still has a role to play. He’s been absent for four episodes (three if you include the brief bit at the start of The Whale), which accounts for almost half the entire season, and it’s been two months in our time. There is a sense that things are on hold until he comes back to the continental US. Or dies. I wouldn’t mind the latter.
Saving the worst for last, we get to Jim Halpert: Sports Manager. One of The Office‘s greatest problems has been what happens when people get jobs elsewhere. Occasionally, it makes sense to some extent, like with The Michael Scott Paper Company. I’m not saying that storyline completely worked, but Michael was the “star” of the documentary, and it was about starting a new paper business in a “series” about the paper business. Other times, it’s completely baffling, such as when Pam went to art school in New York. This time, we follow Jim to Pennsylvania and New York as we see the offices of Athlead and watch him meet with his first potential client – Dr. J, or Julius Erving. Which means that we get to see a sports star try to act. This is hardly ever a good thing. It’s not good here. Jim thinks he’s meeting the legend in a conference room, but no, it’s at his private court. So they play basketball. It’s a waste of time.
Bringing The Office back to its genesis, it reminded me of Ricky Gervais’ other show, Extras. In the episode entitled “Chris Martin,” the Coldplay lead singer “forces” himself on Andy Millman’s series When the Whistle Blows in an attempt to promote his new album; it’s uncomfortable and embarrassing for all. Although Dr. J had nothing to sell, at least from what I can tell, it had the level of cringe worthiness that Extras could only achieve by design.
• Also on the relationship front, Darryl gets Val to break up with him because he doesn’t want to bring her along to Philly if he gets the job with Athlead. Later, Kevin asks her out, and she feels bad about it. It’s more pointlessness in an altogether pointless episode. If Val never appeared or was never mentioned again, I wouldn’t think twice.
• Another part of the Jim storyline occurs at the end- he misses a call from Pam because he’s playing basketball with Dr. J. Are we supposed to feel bad for Pam because Jim is having “fun,” even though he’s really working? Are we supposed to think he should be at her beck and call, even if all she’s doing is saying she’s leaving work? Is the point of Athlead going to be that complacency and mediocrity is better than professional success/happiness?
• It was weird seeing Dwight in a white dress shirt.
• Nellie probably had the moment of the night with her speech about loneliness.
• I am looking forward to the Dwight spin-off pilot reconfigured into a traditional episode of The Office, but probably for all the wrong reasons.
• I wonder if Meredith’s shaved head will appear in the next few episodes.