“The Office” is the famous sitcom/mockumentary featuring Steve Carell as the offensive, ineffective, pointless boss for which he’s so famous. “The Office” is also famous for its ensemble cast and extensive use of different writers/directors/producers for individual episodes. In this post, I’m going to look at, summarize, and rank four episodes written and directed by four different individuals.
I’m going to summarize these episodes in the order of quality, with what I thought was the best episode first, and the worst episode last.
1) Episode 67; S04E14 (accounting for 2 part episodes);Episode Title: ‘Chair Model’; Air Date: 4/17/2008; Written by: BJ Novak; Directed by: Jeffrey Blitz.
This episode begins with a Kevin and Andy complaining about how there is no more parking spaces for them because of construction workers doing work on the building, causing them to have to park in the satellite lot and walk a considerable distance to the office.
Next, Michael Scott wants to be set up on a date since he just broke up with Jan. He’s ready to get back on the market after his breakup. In the process of soliciting his subordinates for dates, he asks Oscar for help and he calls being gay a “condition” which is incredibly offensive to Oscar. Phyllis then asks Michael if he’d be interested in her friend that is a pro softball player. Among a few different offensive questions Michael asks about Phyllis’ friend, he asks if she’d be able to fit in a rowboat, trying to find out if she’s fat without asking it directly. Michael then makes a formal request to his workers to submit him a name and number of someone he could go on a date with. My favorite line from Michael in this part is how he says he’s a catch and doesn’t want to be the one that got away.
I thought it was interesting how Jim jokes with Pam and says he is putting her mom’s name and number down for Michael to call. Just 40 episodes later in the series (“The Lover”) in season 6 episode 7 it is revealed that Michael has been dating Pam’s mom since Jim and Pam’s wedding.
Michael calls up “Wendy” who was Kevin’s submission, and it happens to be “Wendy’s” fast food restaurant, and not a woman named “Wendy”. This seemed to really upset Michael.
The title of the episode comes from the model Michael finds in the chair magazine while looking for a new chair to order, and not a literal “model” of a chair. Dwight has the idea of tracking down this model for Michael because he thought she was so very attractive. Dwight does some digging and finds out this woman is dead. Michael takes the news of her death very seriously, even though he has never met this woman.
Pam then sets Michael up with her landlady (Margaret), which turns into a real disaster. When she first approaches Michael in the coffee shop, he denies his name is Michael. This backfires when the barista calls out his name “Michael” and hands him the drink he ordered, hot chocolate. I like how in this scene, Michael breaks the third wall and looks into the camera hopelessly. Michael then starts asking her really stupid questions, like what she does with the rent checks she gets from tenants. He then shows her a pic of Jan on his phone and tells her about Jan’s boob job and accidentally calls Jan. He then says he “felt like he was talking to the sweet old lady on the bus” which the landlady says is incredibly rude.
Meanwhile, Andy and Kevin arranged a meeting of the “5 families” which are the four other businesses that work in Scranton business park + Dunder Mifflin. I enjoyed this scene because it is a truly incredible waste of time, which could have been completely done through email or phone calls, which one of the attendees points out.
Then, Michael yells at Pam about hooking him up with Margaret, and how he’s a man of “cool, youth, and ‘passionately'”.
At the end of the episode, Andy is talking about how proud he is of getting their parking spaces back. He says some bizarre things in this scene like he did it for the guy who “wakes up everyday in his $400 apartment and wonders how he’s going to pay his mortgage every month”.
2). Episode 64; S04E11 (again, accounting for the 2 part episodes); Episode Title: ‘Survivor Man’; Air Date: 11/8/2007; Written by: Steve Carell; Directed by: Paul Feig.
This episode was definitely a close second to “The Chair Model”. Season 4 had some of the best episodes of the show, without a doubt. The episode opens with Toby telling a group of workers about the retreat in the woods he went on with Ryan, who recently became an executive with Dunder Mifflin. Ryan took all the branch managers and HR people, except Michael Scott because everyone already knew enough about him. This is pretty upsetting to Michael, who feels very left out and excluded and appalled that Toby was invited and he was not.
Because of this feeling of exclusion Michael is experiencing, he decides to go out into the woods himself and will try to survive on his own. Dwight rides out to the woods with him to make sure he gets set up properly. On the way there, Dwight digresses and says if he were a serial killer he would cut off people’s fingertips and remove their teeth, and he’d be known as the ‘overkill killer’. Michael, disturbed, yells at Dwight and says to let him have his one cathartic experience in his life — I also notice this word ‘cathartic’ was used in the next episode on my list, ‘Frame Toby’.
Back in the office, while Michael is gone in the woods, Jim is in charge. He seems to be having major issues with the changes he made to birthday parties in the office. His new ideas aren’t very popular. Birthday parties happen to be one of the areas that Michael was very good in, even tho he sometimes went overboard with the singing, surprises, and jokes.
Back in the woods, Dwight is shown spying on Michael. Dwight didn’t want to leave him alone in the wilderness to fend for himself, what a pal! While being watched by Dwight, Michael records himself yelling out some bizarre things that he apparently needed to let loose. He bellows, “I wish I could have gone with Ryan on that cool retreat!”, “Jan has plastic boobs!”, and “I have hemorrhoids!“.
In an interesting scene in the office, Phyllis calls Jim “Michael” by accident. This disturbs Jim and he mentions it to the camera people.
Michael then randomly shows up for the birthday parties and sings. He then says he doesn’t need wide open spaces, because he has a pic of the grand canyon and the sky on his desk top. And he also doesn’t need fresh air from outside, because he has the freshest air, which is air conditioning.
At the end of the episode, Jim tells Michael about how unpopular his idea for the birthday party was. Michael tells him he made the same rookie mistake and in 10 years, Jim will learn. Jim says he won’t be there in 10 years, and Michael said that’s what he also said 10 years ago. This scares Jim.
3). Episode 81; SS05E09; Episode Title: ‘Frame Toby’; Air Date: 11/20/2008; Written by: Mindy Kaling; Directed by: Jason Reitman.
Toby starts off the episode by saying his time in Costa Rica was “cathartic” — see paragraph 2 of the ‘Survivor Man’ section. I think cathartic (vocally expressing ones feelings to relieve strong emotions) experiences are important to office workers such as these, and “cathartic” is the perfect word for them to be using. I am going to be paying extra attention for other uses of that word throughout the series (I’m a nerd).
A funny Michael Scott-ism from this episode, in the beginning, someone brought in brownies and Michael says he’s going to take two and parcel them out and eat them slowly throughout the day because it’s healthier that way. While getting brownies, Michael finds out Toby works there again, since he just got back from a couple of months in Costa Rica.
In the next scene, Jim talks with his coworkers about how he just bought his parents house, and not to tell Pam because it’s a surprise. He tells the people where his house is, “near the quarry”, and Creed says he lives right there too, and they should hang out and throw stuff down into the quarry (bizarre) and Jim says sure he would be up for that, sarcastically.
After Michael comes to grips with Toby being back, he begins plotting a plan to get Toby fired. His first plan is to give Pam a note to give to Toby that says to kiss her, so he would assault Pam and that would be cause to fire him.
In a very weird scene that I didn’t understand completely, Ryan and Kelly are shown making out and Toby tells them that its inappropriate, then asks them if they want to see his pics from Costa Rica. Why would he interrupt their make out session, then ask them to look at his personal pictures? But then Michael walks up and bats the pics out of Toby’s hand and tells Toby to punch him for it, so Toby will assault him and then can be fired. Toby doesn’t take the bait.
Michael starts to get stressed and starts pounding the brownies he said he was going to parcel out and eat throughout the day. While pounding brownies, Dwight and Michael decide the best way to get Toby fired, after their other 2 plans failed, is to plant drugs in Toby’s desk and call the police and get him arrested. Michael goes and talks to the 2 Vance Refrigeration employees asking if they can sell him some weed. So, they sell him Caprese salad and tell him its 2 pounds of weed, and charge him $500. Dwight and Michael then put the salad in Toby’s desk and Dwight calls the cops (saying his name is Andy Bernard). So, the cops come and immediately notice that the bag contains Caprese salad and leave. Then Toby asks Michael if he put it there, to which Michael asks “since when is it illegal to put Caprese salad anywhere?”
Ryan and Kelly are then shown again making out (too much irrelevant making out between them in this episode) and then he breaks up with her. He says he needs to go to Thailand with some friends.
The episode ends with Jim bringing Pam to the house he bought from his parents. She loves it! Happy ending.
4). Episode 180; S09E04; Episode Title: ‘Work Bus’; Air Date: 10/18/2012; Written by: Brent Forrester; Directed by: Bryan Cranston.
Overall season 9 was terrible, so naturally this was going to be the worst episode on this short list. After Steve Carell left, I think it could be argued that it wasn’t even the same show anymore. I picked this episode because it was directed by Bryan Cranston, and that intrigued me because I never knew he had any involvement in the series. He still couldn’t save it, however.
At this point in the series, Andy is the manager and Dwight owns the building the office is in. Toby is measuring the electromagnetic field in the office and marking where it’s detected. To mess with Dwight, Jim pops his popcorn so only one or two kernels pop. He then hides the popcorn under Dwight’s desk and asks Dwight to hand it to him. Of course, Dwight notices that only a couple of kernels have popped, and thinks its due to the electromagnetic field. Dwight tells Andy, who gives everyone the week off because of it. Not to lose out, Dwight arranges for a work bus for all the workers to work in so they can’t get the week off.
Jim then convinces everyone to pressure Andy to take the bus to get pies. On this ride, Dwight gets madder and madder at Jim for his prank and messing with him all the time. Jim confronts Dwight about his attitude, and Dwight asks him what position him and Pam conceived their child. The two positions he asks Jim are “regular” and “lady on her back”. What could “regular” mean? Doggystyle? This was one of only two laughs for me in this episode. The other was when Dwight stops to pick up a hitch hiker, who says he ditched work today, and it turns out to be Creed, who was suspiciously absent until that point in the episode.
That is all for today, folks! Leave me some comments and give me your thoughts.