Afternoon Baseball

Common-sense ruminations on baseball and culture.

"The eyes are the groin of the head." ~ Dwight Schrute

"If you wanted to see me, you could have just called me, like an adult." ~ Karen
"Oh, no, I didn't want to see you." ~ Jim

An unusual episode of "The Office," or perhaps just unusual because amid the over-the-top lunacy that has peppered "The Office"'s fourth season -- this time, it was Michael's "panty raid" on Utica -- the insider's look at office cliques, relationships and personalities has been diminished.

We have Mindy Kaling, or Kelly, to thank for correcting that this week. Not only does she not write episodes for herself, a la B.J. Novak for Ryan, she also loves exploring Jim and Pam and their relationships. Her episodes could make a best-of DVD and notably have brought real-life issues into the office dynamic: "Hot Girl," "The Dundies," (which is referenced by Michael in "Branch Wars," asking Jim to host them for him) "The Injury," "Take Your Daughter To Work Day," "Diwali" and "Ben Franklin."

Unfortunately, "Ben Franklin" and "Branch Wars" have been the most implausible and with the fewest "true to life" moments. Not to say there wasn't a tremendous amount of laughter. For pure laughs, this episode had silly gags (the mustaches and walkie-talkie convos, Jim and the cameraman getting caught), Michael's odd basing-life-on-movies philosophy (in this case, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"), solid work from Stanley and Andy and a great line from Oscar about the Finer Things Club being the most gay thing he does -- besides having sex with men.

What works?
1. Despite it being ludicrous, even for "The Office," the trip to Utica is made semi-believable because Michael and Dwight out of the office consistently pull off a great twisted, demented interpretation of Andy Taylor and Barney Fife on a stakeout.
2. Karen and Jim's interaction. Karen is right for still being upset, but is still a really big bitch. Kudos for Jim for telling Karen he didn't want to see her (and telling her multiple times and ways), but his fear of confrontation and impatience with any woman not named Pam shows when he is somehow shocked that Karen responds sarcastically to him.
3. Oscar being in the Finer Things Club. As much as he enjoys paper football with Kevin, the cool head-nod fraternity with Jim, he's a cultural man who doesn't get much of that from Dunder-Mifflin or from accounting.
4. The nod to the cameraman being in the car with Jim and getting him caught. Brilliant, and much better than Jim actually trying to get involved with Michael and Dwight's scheme.

What doesn't work?
1. Pam's Fancy New Beesley being more like Karen (especially in snubbing Andy out of hand) than a liberated Pam. This isn't Roy's Pam in any way.
2. The mustaches. C'mon -- even as Michael trying to emulate some movie or show plot, it doesn't work, and that's not how they sold it.
3. The Finer Things Club being in the break room. Why would they think they'd be by themselves? Furthermore, why would it have worked before (in the flashback clips) but suddenly people start crowding them? I know, they have to keep some of the action inside the office.

All in all, still a good episode and one that, for the most part, stuck to strengths in exploring the characters' idiosyncrasies and how those affect office relations. Only, it's a lot funnier than most offices.


1 Responses to “"The Office": Branch Wars”

  1. # Anonymous Anonymous

    Karen was so adorable looking. I hate to see her character going away. Pam/Jim love relationship worked when they were not together. Now it is bland. Not nearly as entertaining as Jim/Karen chemistry. Karen was the reason i liked 3rd season. Now she is gone. It is kinda boring.  

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