So I’m back with my first The Office recap of 2012. We’ve lost Community (a loss I didn’t fully appreciate the disappointment of until tonight), the amazingly pitch-perfect Beavis and Butt-head, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and The League. 30 Rock returned tonight, but, most importantly, Archer comes back next week. And now onto The Office.
Entitled Trivia, the main plot revolves around Oscar attending a bar trivia night in Philadelphia and Andy getting everyone in the office to participate so that he could meet a sales quota (more on that below). I just first wanted to mention how pub trivia night was the plot to the third episode of the original British The Office. And no, tonight did not include a sequence where Quizmaster Dwight refused to accept the answer of Vulcan to the question “what type of alien is Mr. Spock?” (After all, he is half-Vulcan/half-human.)
As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, Andy needed everyone (including the dialogue-less Pam’s replacement) to join trivia night and divide into teams because the top prize was $1000 and they could use that to meet the quickly approaching sales quota by buying their own paper. I should note here that I have never heard of any bar trivia night offering anywhere close to $1000 for their top prize. I might accept this total if Oscar was part of a tournament of champions, but this clearly wasn’t the case despite the banner since the entire office was allowed to enter at the last minute. I also don’t believe anyone mentioned an entry fee.
The “sales quota” catalyst has been used several times in The Office this season, but it always seems forced, as though the writers came up with a zany plot and needed a quickie excuse as to why everyone would be involved. I’m not a The Office scholar, but I can’t remember the sales quota element being used this often in earlier years. It’s also hard to root for gang when they all seem like such bad workers.
The plot plays out pretty typically where the “stupid”/underdog team (Meredith, Erin, Kelly, and Kevin) beats everyone including Oscar’s gang and the Dunder-Mifflin “smart” team (Ryan, Andy, Darryl, and Jim). Putting the “smart” team into print makes you realize how little intelligence is spread throughout the office. Overall, this wasn’t a particularly bad plot (probably because of a lack of Andy), but it wasn’t particularly memorable either. It felt like treading water, which is significantly better than drowning.
Meanwhile, in the much better series of Florida Corporate, Dwight travels south to personally ask Robert California for a management position. Turns out Gabe, like Robert, splits his time between Pennsylvania and Florida and spends several day each week working as the “office toilet” at Saber Corporate. It doesn’t make a lot of sense why the company would spend significant amounts of money to fly a lackey up and down the East Coast every day, but either you accept it or you don’t. I accept it because a) Gabe seemed to work better here than in Scranton, b) I liked the Dwight/Gabe scenes, and c) I don’t really have a choice. Robert blows Dwight off by telling him to meet with the COO and then telling Gabe not to bother the COO, wait 20 minutes, “listen to Dwight’s pitch and make him feel valued, make him feel heard.” It’s not the nicest technique, which is part of the reason I enjoy Robert so much, and it offers an interesting insight into the tactics of a super business executive’s mind. The plot kind of peters out when, after Dwight forces Gabe to take him to Robert’s condo, Robert tells him that he’s not suited for the position, but if something better comes up he’ll keep him in mind. Despite the ending, this was actually one of the stronger storylines this season if only because the actors played off one another really well.
• The stupid team’s stupid answers were more silly than funny, and I presume one’s enjoyment of them would be directly related to their thoughts on this season’s penchant for Sleeping-In-A-Van-With-The-Engine-Running Kevin moments. (See, someone still watches Chuck.)
• I find it hard to believe that everyone would travel two and a half hours to Philadelphia to participate in this trivia contest on behalf of the company. Why should the secretary, the accountants, and the whatever-it-is-Pam-does lady suffer?
• The timing between both plots was weird tonight in that presumably 20 minutes passed in Florida during the same period that nearly 3 hours passed in Scranton.
• I enjoyed Dwight not buying into Robert’s offer of a medal in lieu of a job opportunity and would like to believe that Robert was being genuine when he said that he’d consider him for a more suitable position.
• It really stinks not having Community on tonight.