The Office 4:03 review

Episode three of television's finest running sitcom's fourth season: and Ron reckons The Office is on top form...

Just when I’m down on The Office (if only slightly) in last week’s episode review, the show comes back with its strongest episode in quite some time. Whereas the first two episodes of the season felt like two half-hour shows chopped up and mashed together, this episode finally feels like a full hour-long piece. The flow is much better, there’s no sagging in the middle, all the parts just work… my faith has been rewarded.

The Office, on its worst day, is still better than most shows out there. The Office, on its best day, is probably one of the funniest shows of all time. This week’s episode, from start to finish, was hilarious.

We start in the middle of a meeting with Michael, who wants to spice up the quarterly reports with racecars and storm clouds and various cute little graphics. Meanwhile, no one is paying attention to him, because they’re watching the DVD screensaver on the TV behind him, waiting for it to perfectly hit the corner and bounce straight out. As they react, Michael completely misunderstands their reactions, but continues along blissfully ignorant.

Aside: I have a DVD player with one of those screensavers on it, and I’ve NEVER seen it hit the corner straight on.

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Meanwhile, Meredith’s back and has Jim do probably the grossest thing ever: sign the cast over her cracked pelvis. She uses this opportunity to hit on Jim, not discreetly, which makes me wonder just how strong her pain medication is. I guess Creed didn’t eat it all last week

The Dunder Mifflin website, which Michael calls his “brain grandchild” since Ryan is his “brainchild,” is launching, and there’s going to be a big VIP party in New York, and satellite parties at all the branches, Scranton included. The website, as Michael reads, will lead to record sales and will soon be the company’s top salesman. The company’s existing top salesman, one Dwight Schrute, sees this as a personal challenge and declares war on the computer. After all, he’s been the company’s top salesman for thirteen of the past twelve months (he got two plaques in February instead of a pay raise).

When Andy and Dwight decide to celebrate every Schrute sale with a celebratory blast of an air horn, well… Jim and Pam know it’s time to prank the extra-obnoxious Dwight. An instant message from DunderMiff/sys later, and Dwight is convinced that the website has come alive. After all, robots and computers do this sometimes in movies, so why not in real life?

As for Angela, she’s got a party to plan, and Phyllis is taking the brunt of Angela’s anger. That’s right, since Dwangela broke up, both Dwight and Angela have gotten even more unpleasant (and the show is much better for it).

The middle of our show is filled with mistakes and bad times. Michael’s VIP party invitation is to a club called Chatroom, and… yeah, it’s not a VIP party. Phyllis’s attempts to deal with the unpleasant Angela all fail. Every time Dwight thinks he’s getting ahead of the computer, he falls behind again. He snips at Kelly, and even breaks out the sales leads he stole from Staples to try and beat the computer. Andy’s attempts to woo Angela, which he randomly decided to do after hearing Angela say she was looking for a man, are unsuccessful. Even Michael’s attempts to buy pizza go awry, both because he orders from the wrong pizza place and because there is a mix-up with the coupon and Michael ends up kind of kidnapping the pizza boy.

But when things look their darkest, the light comes through. Dwight out-sells the computer, and to throw him a bone, Pam (who was running the prank for Jim) has the computer admit Dwight is the superior being. Aww, she’s so nice. Phyllis gives up trying to kill Angela with kindness and decides to just quit the hospitality committee and throw a bunch of crumpled paper wads in Angela’s face. Michael gives up and makes Dwight pay off the pizza kid.

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We end our episode with some sweet moments. Jim and Pam head up to the roof to eat their pizza in peace and discuss when they first liked one another. Michael gets to make Ryan look bad by announcing that Dwight out-sold the computer before driving to New York with Dwight for some New York-style sushi.

And as for Andy’s quest to get into Angela’s frozen, hostile panties? Well, let’s just say that one conference call barbershop serenade later, and Angela’s got a little hidden smile on her face and Andy has his foot in the door.

Let’s go to the scorecard:

Line of the Night: Kevin: “Oh no! It’s bad… it’s REAL bad. It’s like eating a circle of hot garbage.”

Who Earned 10 Schrutebucks: Andy takes this one home handily. His conference-call serenade of Angela is one of the cutest moments of the entire series, and Ed Helms pleasantly surprised me with his ability to carry a tune.

Who Has Been Deducted 50 Schrutebucks: Me, again, for ever doubting the writers of The Office.

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The previous episode of The Office is reviewed here.

Ron Hogan is very worried about the eventual war between humans and machines. Find more by Ron at his blog, Subtle Bluntness, and daily at Shaktronics and the Flektor Development Blog.