“Stairmaggedon” continues down the path started by “Promos” in that our cast is facing the reality that they are about to become television stars. Though I guess, “people who are going to be on PBS” would be a more apt term. Last week, we saw the first ads. This week, a local paper printed its review of the documentary. Though I guess they mean, “printed their review of the first couple episodes of the documentary,” since it is still obviously being filmed.
The review singles several people out such as Andy, whom they consider a silver spoon flake more concerned with being a ham, and Kevin, “the Falstaffian accountant.” Michael Scott is not mentioned in the blurbs that we hear. The piece also references “the hypocrisy of a local public figure embroiled in a gay affair while preaching family values.” This leads to a press conference held by Senator Lipton where he comes out of the closet and thanks both Angela and Oscar for allowing him to find his true self before admitting he loves his chief of staff, Wesley Silver.
I consider this a misstep. As we approach the end game, the focus should be more on the Dunder Mifflinites and how this affects them. While Oscar and Angela are involved with Lipton’s homosexuality, the concentration is on Lipton himself. Additionally, how many episodes of The Office: An American Workplace did they release to the press? Assuming that each “night” corresponds with a “season,” Senator Lipton did not appear until Season 7 and he was not officially outed until Season 9. Does each episode focus on a different character instead? Also, the poor documentarians had one thing of public interest in all their footage, and the news had to go and spoil it.
In a B-plot, Jim and Pam are about to start marriage counseling. To save time and set and actor costs, they have individual pre-counseling sessions with Toby and Nellie, respectively, so that we, the audience, can share in their problems. They lay out their somewhat reasonable grievances against one another, but the scene seems horribly out of place in an episode that is vastly zany. By putting it in the middle of the episode, it also lacks the dramatic impact it needs to be successful. As with Pam’s breakdown, this needed to be a centerpiece of the episode, not in the center and immediately forgotten about.
Like last week, Dwight finds himself cut off from the rest of the office. After hearing in the review that he’s like Don Quixote, tilting at the windmills of a management position that will never come, he is upset. Ever dutiful, he decides to take Stanley on an important sales call. Stanley refuses, and Andy, more obsessed with getting a talent agent than doing actual work, gives Dwight a blank check to do whatever he needs to. It was a nice way of temporarily intersecting two plotlines in a way the show rarely does anymore. It’s a problem with a lot of series that, when the plots are established, it feels like everyone goes into their own corner for the rest of the running time. Having storylines gently bump into one another before continuing down their own paths goes a long way in eliminating a pervasive sense of disconnectedness.
With carte blanche, Dwight douses Stanley with bull tranquilizers. Once again enlisting Clark’s help, he wraps Stanley in bubble wrap and tries to get him down the stairs. At the call, Stanley is loopy and silly from the tranqs, but he closes the deal, which enhances Dwight’s pride. While this sequence might seem overly goofy and slightly out of place considering the forward momentum of the overarching storylines, it has good physical comedy and reactions from all three of its players. Even Hank, one of the show’s most unsung heroes, gets a good moment as he quietly tips his cup to Clark after he straps the unconscious Stanley into the car.
In a strange D-plot, Andy attempts to get a talent agent. With the show finally accepting that he’s a hack after so many years of trying to present him as a talent, he finds it difficult to connect with William Morris or their ilk. He signs up with local talent agent Carla Fern, played by Roseanne Barr, who will bilk him for all he’s worth. The reason I consider it particularly odd is that the introduction of Barr’s character further bloats an episode already jam-packed with things, and with certain plotlines deserving of more attention. Barr’s a known enough and commanding enough personality that it seems like a waste of time and money to use her at the end of “Stairmaggedon,” when her entire story could have been a more substantial B or C plot for an upcoming episode.
• I have not yet referred to what the episode’s title means. Dwight needs to perform maintenance on the elevator so everyone must take the stairs. This proves extraordinarily difficult to Stanley and the other lazy people in the office. Along with giving a reason for why Stanley needed to be pushed down the stairs, it also led to some classic Dwight signs such as one saying, “This Is An Inconvenience.” I also like that the show is still throwing in typical “white collar people problems,” when it might be tempted to go for broke with each and every story.
• Erin explains Stairmaggedon and Dwight’s efforts to “prepare us both mentally and physically” for the event during the cold open. It made me realize how this season has made poor use of Ellie Kemper, who was the show’s strongest character last year.
• Pam’s anti-Jim speech was strangely shot. Although she was talking to Nellie because we could see her hair, the director had it as such an oddly angled close-up on Pam’s face that I thought whom she was talking to was going to be a shocking reveal, namely Brian the Creepy Mic Guy.
• I liked Kevin’s gloating over keeping the secret of the affair.
• Runner Up Line of the Night: Dwight: “What does [the critic] know about the paper business? He only works for a news … thing.”
• Line of the night goes to Creed: “Wesley Silver’s gay!?!”