Despite my complaints about last week’s installment of The Office entitled “Lice,” I do think this season has been its best in years. And tonight’s “Suit Warehouse” is another relatively strong episode. At the very least, it doesn’t have an awful cameo by a sports legend, so that immediately knocks it up several points.
As usual with these reviews, I’ll consider the title the A plot so let’s start with the suit warehouse. In the cold open, David Wallace alerts Dwight that the contract between Stone and Son Suit Warehouse and their paper supplier ended, so he needs to “go get it!” Like when trying to vulture other family companies, Dwight expects Jim to partner with him as the Shruperts, brother paper salesmen, which leads to a short montage of Jim and Dwight wearing different costumes to appeal to potential new clients based on their business. Unfortunately, Jim is in Philadelphia with Athlead and Dwight is disgusted at the idea of Phyllis as his older sister, but Clark finally returns from his stint as Jan’s boytoy and Dwight finds himself a son … and, later, possibly, a protégé.
I’ve spoken positively about the new guys (Clark and Pete) since their first appearance in “The New Guys,” and they are both welcome additions to this show. While (Jake) Lacy is good with second/third string characters, (Clark) Duke plays well off of more veteran Officers such as Craig Robinson and Rainn Wilson. For this plot, Dwight and Clark have to go from best friend father/son to antagonistic father/son based on their reading/misreading of the relationship between the store’s owner, and it works because of their chemistry. Moreover, it brings back something that has been dreadfully missing over the past few years- actually working and interacting with clients. Last year, this element was virtually absent as the show’s idea of work seemed to be characters holding the phone or crying about “quotas.” Before this season ends, I would like to see more sales calls regardless of who goes on them.
As mentioned, Athlead is in full swing, and Jim is spending more and more time in Philadelphia. Darryl goes to Philly for his interview, initially botches it due to his inability to interview well (plus for continuity), recovers, botches it again by accidentally killing fish, but still gets the job. Although I don’t like the show spending time on the Athlead subplot for various reasons, I wasn’t particularly annoyed by it tonight. The awkward laughter and uncomfortability of its board gives it a grounded yet unstable feel, but in a positive, early Office way. It lacks the wackiness previous seasons would have added, and you get the sense that its employees are still uncertain about this endeavor. There’s no guarantee it will succeed, but you don’t wonder if employees can use a computer, like most of the people at Sabre and latter day Dunder Mifflin. Though with Darryl’s binder of suggestions, one has to ask just how much proprietary information Jim has given up. Still, I wouldn’t want this as a potential spin-off.
Finally, in the office proper, the office gets a new espresso machine with more than 70 types of espresso. Those left behind make a pact to try every flavor and, as expected, they get hyper, dizzy, nauseous, and more hyper. The novelty of that foreign beverage called the “espresso” and their response to caffeine seems like something out of an early 90s sitcom, when people were still trying to wrap their head around the crazy concept of sushi (raw fish?). And I’m relatively sure that a new coffee maker is what inspired Season 5′s horrible “Cafe Disco,” aka “Office Dance Party.” But the cast does a good enough job at making the concept light and easy to watch, if not particularly original. Pretty much everyone gets a moment or two, there are some nice character interactions, and there were more gags than “you have mayo in your hair? I have mayo in my hair!”
• Andy’s still MIA, but Erin/Pete doesn’t play much of a role tonight
• Meredith still has a shaved head. Plus for continuity.
• I kind of wish we saw the Shruperts try to sell paper.
• One strange aspect of “Suit Warehouse” was that the cold open led directly into the main plot of the episode. Usually, it has no impact on the rest of the show, even if it is the part with the most classic Office feel.
• I guess the Jim/Pam kiss ends every super-short opening credits. I don’t like it because the Jim/Pam relationship is really not that important to the show in its current incarnation, especially this season where the focus has thankfully returned to the ensemble. It’s also a weird clip because it is primarily centered around the back of Jim’s head.