The Office, “The Sting”

If The Office‘s writers wants to send Michael Scott off into the sunset and I believe that they do (this is American television, after all), they would be smart to not only give him an emotionally satisfying conclusion but also make sure that he finishes strong…intellectually? I guess that’s the word I’m looking for. By that I mean it would be nice to have this final stretch of episodes focus on a Michael who doesn’t make ridiculously stupid decisions and generally act like a fool. Last week’s episode walked the fine line on the Michael Gary Scott stupidity axis and probably crossed the tipping point into Dumb Michael territory.

Thankfully, “The Sting” reminds us that despite all his stupidity and other faults, Michael is a damn good salesman and on rare occasions, smart as hell.

“The Sting” sees Dwight and Jim go on a sales call only to find Dunder Mifflin’s biggest enemy in suave looking Danny Cordray (Timothy Olyphant, being awesome as usual) already there. Jim and Dwight can’t even handle how good Cordray is on their own that they actually call in Michael as a ringer. Ultimately, Michael does his best on the sales pitch — notice he doesn’t make any mistakes, offers some good deals, etc. — but still loses. Tired of losing to Cordray, the trio plans a sting operation where Danny has to sell to a fake boss (in this case, a gloriously inappropriate Meredith) while Dwight uses his office complex power to film it all.

What’s so wonderful about “The Sting” is that it starts from a place of natural reality, slowly unravels into a world of cartoonery and then somehow pulls it all together in the end. And for once, the cartoonery actually isn’t caused or expedited by Michael, but instead, he, Jim and Dwight spend most of the episode just watching the insanity unfold as Meredith tries to seduce Danny while being unphased by their attempts to stop her.

Of course, the whole sting operation is inherently cartoony in a way The Office might not have been in season two, but if it’s going to be more like a live-action cartoon than a super-realistic portrayal of the American workforce — I’m not sure it ever was as realistic as people like to remember now, but whatevs — then this is the way to go. I’m willing to buy the operation because it seems to flow naturally from the story situation at hand. Dwight already has the cameras set up, they really have that extra space and in this economy, even Jim’s desperate enough to go along with something like this — particularly when Danny had a little thing with Pam.

And like I said, the episode pulls it all together in the end because Michael regains control of the office and the situation. He stops Meredith from going too far, he actually sells Danny on joining Dunder Mifflin as their traveling salesman and then actually exerts his authority/sells the rest of the sales team on Danny’s hire. Sure, they’re not really happy about it, but Michael makes sure to let them know that he’s in charge, so they’ll just have to deal with it.

Based on this episode alone, Danny’s place on the staff should lead to some great things for the staff. Despite the goofiness of the set-up, Dwight is generally human throughout, and even makes a nice play to stand up to Danny as a way to protect Jim, Pam and really the rest of the office. Danny’s past with Pam feels like a little too convenient, but honestly, Jam needs something like this to give them more to do aside from look cute and talk about their baby. We don’t get to see much of jealous and intimidated Jim, so anytime the series can make its most comfortable character uncomfortable, it’s a good thing. Plus, it’s not as if (so far) Danny is pursuing Pam again or anything, so it should just be a fun little arc that allows Pam to be demystified a bit in Jim’s eyes and brings some laughs.

Thus far, season seven is off to a much better start than season six (even if its best episodes were early in the run) with last week being the most obvious misfire. As the Michael Gary Scott Farewell Tour continues, the writers should take note of how they wrote him here, because I think most fans would rather see this Michael than the one from last week, even if it means less laughs.

Other thoughts:

  • I had no problems with Andy, Darryl and Kevin starting a band, but doesn’t it seem very, very obvious that they are emphasizing the hell out of the Nard Dawg? He’s been given his own episode and then been the anchor of the B story in at least the last two efforts, and while I love Ed Helms to death, I’m still not sold on him as the new boss, particularly when Andy/music = Michael/acting – a some skill.
  • Apart from the hilarity of the sting operation, this episode had a number of great little moments like all the great Office episodes do like Michael confronting Stanley about his probable diabetes, Jim and Dwight’s bit about explaining things to the audience and everyone giving Andy feedback on his music.
  • This isn’t an exact science, but aren’t we pretty sure Timothy Olyphant will make any series at least 34 percent better? Probably 40 percent when there’s a hat involved.

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