The Office 4:01 review

"I hope a bat never gives you rabies". Yep, the far-superior American take on The Office is back, and the fourth series kicked off with a double episode. Ron checked it out. Spoilers ahead!

Hail the return of The Office!

After all the praise heaped on the American version of The Office by no less a leading light than Den of Geek’s own Simon Brew, I decided that since I watch The Office every week anyway, I may as well recap and discuss the episodes for an audience who I know is already interested in the adventures of Michael Scott and Dunder Mifflin Paper Company’s Scranton office.

One of NBC’s special features this year is to run the occasional hour-long episode of The Office, and since this is basically the “find out what the gang did over the summer, because we’re going to be different and assume time still passes when we’re not filming” episode, this is a good place to start the expanded episodes. After all, there are a lot of characters to catch up on.

Let’s see. Jim broke up with Karen. Michael didn’t get the job in New York, but did get Jan. Jan is horribly depressed and possibly insane after losing her job at corporate. Pam and Jim made up and are now dating, as we find out halfway through the episode where they’re caught kissing by the documentary crew. Karen quit. Ryan got the job Michael wanted in corporate. Dwight and Angela are still incredibly creepy. And, as Michael talks to the documentary crew, he accidentally runs Meredith over with his car.

Talk about a hell of a cold opening! I was on the floor for this one, folks, because it came out of nowhere.

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Angela’s cat, Sprinkles, has been sick. Of course, since everyone in the office has to go visit Meredith (Michael’s idea), someone has to go take care of Sprinkles. That person would be Dwight (and if you know this is a bad idea, you’re not alone). Needless to say, Sprinkles doesn’t meet a happy ending, because Dwight is a sociopath who decides that a mercy killing (feeding the cat antihistamines until it falls asleep, then sticking it in the freezer) is better than seeing Sprinkles suffer.

Two horrible events, Meredith and Sprinkles, lead Michael to decide that the office is cursed. So it’s time for a staff meeting, where Michael takes stock of everyone’s religion. Since everyone has a different religion, Michael suggests a sacrifice to some sort of monster “with the body of a walrus and the head of a sea lion. Or the body of an egret and the head of a meercat. Or the head of a monkey… antlers like a deer, aaaand the body of a porcupine.” Unsurprisingly, Creed has the best talking head of the night when he casually mentions that he’s been in many religious cults, both as a follower and a leader.

Things only get worse when Michael finds out that Meredith has rabies, “the foaming, barking killer,” thanks to last season’s bat attack. The solution, of course, is to organise a benefit to raise money to cure a disease that already has a cure. Cue the Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run For The Cure 5K race. Pam sees Michael naked, since he changes in his office, Michael eschews water, because there are so many people who are afraid of it in the world and he wants to do good, and Creed is 82 years old. $540 dollars were raised, but $200 went to hiring a fake nurse and getting a giant cardboard cheque, so a $340 cheque is made out to Science.

This one felt a bit like two episodes (Pam and Jim, Meredith has rabies) crammed together, and there’s a real line of demarcation half an hour in when Pam and Jim kiss. It’s still brilliant, of course, but count me in as one of the many people who feel that the show was a bit flabby at times. But there was an issue no one else has commented on, so allow me to be the first.

There were two very obvious product placements within the show, which is an unpleasant, faintly nauseating development. I saw two things during this episode where I just knew that a click over to the NBC Universal store would reveal tee shirts. One is a Schrute Farms Beets shirt worn by Dwight, and the other is the Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run For The Cure T-shirt worn by Michael and Pam, among others.

Let’s go to the scorecard:

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Line of the Night: Michael: “I’m not superstitious, just a little stitious.”Who Earned 10 Schrutebucks: Angela got a real chance to branch out as a character here. The crazy cat lady bit is perfect for her, and her histrionics over her departed kitty Sprinkles fit the character perfectly and really give her some much-needed distance between her character and the sociopath Dwight. Her expressions and reactions in this episode were priceless.Who Has Been Deducted 50 Schrutebucks: NBC Universal, for blatantly cramming a Schrute Farms Beets long-sleeved shirt down our throats.

More Office reviews:Episode 2

Ron Hogan has been deducted 50 Schrutebucks for purchasing a Schrute Farms Beets shirt. Find more by Ron at his blog, Subtle Bluntness, and daily at Shaktronics and the Flektor Development Blog..