“The Office” returned tonight to answer the biggest question of the summer. What happened with Jim and Pam? Of course, Jim and Pam got married and are living happily together and might be expecting a child already. FALSE! The reality is actually better for us viewers, if not for Jim. In a smartly written and hilarious premiere we get to go back to Dunder Mifflin and catch up with our former acquaintances, now friends.
Ryan has Jim’s old job, proclaiming that at his 10-year high school reunion he will not be announced as a “temp” but a “Junior Sales Associate at a Mid-Range Paper Supply Firm.” Jim meanwhile has taken the promotion in Stamford to become “Big Tuna” and work with the uptight corporate drones. His calculator in the Jell-o trick elicits a hilarious but frightening response from new co-worker Andy. Rather than the bluff and bluster of Dwight, Andy screams that he’ll lose his mind and violently kicks a trash can. We are then treated to one of the top five Jim glances so far in the series.
Pretty much everything else in the episode revolves around another Michael faux pas. Toby is in Michael’s office discussing an occurrence where Michael called Oscar “faggy” for liking Shakespeare in Love over not just any action movie but Die Hard. After realizing that Oscar is in fact a homosexual Michael says he never would have used the term if he knew. This is only five seconds after claiming he calls everyone “faggy.” Michael decides, in typical fashion, to unintentionally worsen the situation by apologizing out on the floor by the copier in front of everyone. This becomes a mortifying situation for Oscar.
Michael then recruits Dwight for a gay witch-hunt. Claiming that there could be others and they’d never know it, Michael asks Dwight to do research and find out if there’s a way to tell. Luckily, Jim told Dwight that you could buy a “Gay-Dar” online. They call Jim, who “checks” The Sharper Image website, but unfortunately they’re sold out. Jan is called in to deal with the situation, calling Michael “obtuse” for being so clueless about sexual orientation. Michael defends himself by claiming to watch ‘The L Word’ and ‘Queer as F***.’ Way to prove a point. Oscar is feeling discriminated against due to Michael outing him, which is silly because it’s not called “gay shame.”
Under Jan’s directive, Michael sets out to put an end to one hundred thousand years of being weirded out by gays. His first act is dealing with Dwight looking at gay porn as a part of his research for Michael. After a conflict, Michael orders everyone into the best room in all of Dunder Mifflin…the conference room. It is here that Michael takes the issue on directly. Phyllis says that in high school everyone thought Michael was gay, which Oscar believes Michael takes offense to. Upset, Oscar claims this is the worst and most backwards day of his life. As he gets up to leave, Michael stops him to prove that “gay good.” Oscar pushes Michael away and tells him he is “insulting, and ignorant, and small.” After a brief moment Oscar reaches out to hug Michael, revealing that Dwight does indeed have a gay friend. This is followed by the worst kiss since Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie.
There was one other small plot point I forgot to mention above. Roy comes into the office carrying two tin trays and asks Pam if she want chicken or fish. The camera isn’t quite able to see Roy’s left hand, but after he leaves they zoom on Pam’s ringless left hand. Pam and Roy didn’t get married. Didn’t want to leave that out, in case someone was interested.
‘The Office’ has quickly become the funniest show on television. Not only that, but it is handled with such raw emotion. This may have been one of the most hysterical episodes of the series so far, but what captivated me was the strong emotional chord it struck. The balance between laughing at Michael’s ineptitude and the discomfit of Oscar was handled so deftly that it’s a wonder the show became successful when similarly great writing in ‘Arrested Development’ did nothing to garner viewers. I wonder if people miss that underlying current; from my discussions with friends that doesn’t seem to be the case. What makes ‘The Office’ funny is the realness of it all, what makes it brilliant is perfect balance between that reality and the absurdity of a comedy series. This is displayed most clearly by the Oscar and Michael hug. The awkward hilarity of Michael trying to embrace Oscar is immediately shattered by Oscar calling Michael small, only to be picked right back up as Michael weepingly tells Oscar that he’s actually not faggy.
The show ends with a speech by Michael that puts into words exactly what the episode is about. “What is love, anyway? Maybe it’s supposed to break all the rules. Like me and Jan. Or Oscar and some guy. Life is short. When two people find each other, what should stand in their way?” What indeed. Maybe we can have lunch sometime and discuss it, but if it’s OK no one needs to explain how they “do that to another dude.”
‘The Office: Gay Witch Hunt’ Top 5 random moments:
5. “Do you want chicken or fish?”
4. Meredith eating some sanitizing lotion
3. “False! I do not miss him.”
2. Pam thinking of Jim and smiling slightly as camera zooms in.
1. “I’ll check Brookstone.”