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Newsflash: Michael is a secret genius and Stanley is a middle-aged black man with sass. Oh, the things we can learn from an episode of The Office. Looking back at the Office convention last weekend, which left me feeling like a girl who just had the best date ever, tonight’s episode of The Office, titled “Branch Wars,” felt like the first time I was seeing date-guy since our amazing date and realizing he’s just as charming and funny as I remembered him.
I know I was kind of down on the whole hour-long format but re-adjusting to the 30-minute episodes has been kind of frustrating. I felt like this week’s episode went by way too fast!
When Michael finds out that Stanley is looking to transfer to the Utica branch of Dunder-Mifflin, he does everything in his power to stop it from happening. For whatever reason, Michael considers Stanley the “hilarious black guy” in the office. Granted, his dry, annoyed reaction to just about everything related to his work is funny to us but with the exception of pretzel day and the reaction he had to Ryan’s poor sales abilities, Stanley rarely ever smiles. Tonight’s episode turned out to be another exception. Don’t you just love it when Stanley laughs?
Michael’s ego and competitive spirit wont allow him to lose Stanley without a fight. He talks to Karen, who is now the regional manager of the Utica branch, and tries to pawn Toby off on her. Unfortunately, his extreme dislike of Toby inhibits him from pitching the guy as a good employee. So he tells her if she’s going to poach Stanley, he’s going to steal one of her salesman. The conversation goes about as well as any given conversation that Michael might have had with Jan back before she lost her job and became a domestic goddess with huge boobs.
If Michael’s attempt to lure one of Karen’s sales guys to the Scranton branch is any indication as to the reputation of this branch, no one wants to work there. Apparently, the Scranton branch is kind of a joke. Go figure. So Michael and Dwight trick Jim into driving up (in Michael’s oh-so-stylish PT Cruiser) to Utica to commit some kind of terrorist act on the branch using homemade gasoline bombs. I’m not sure if Jim was more mortified at the prospect of seeing Karen or the fact that Dwight thought burning Utica to the ground was a good act of retaliation. The only way he could get them to not use explosives was to agree to come with them and to wear the woman’s warehouse uniform and mustache disguise.
Between Dwight peeing in a can (and inevitably spraying pee all over the place and cutting his penis in the process), Michael’s lame car-games and the fact that they were driving around with gasoline in glass bottles in the trunk of the Cruiser, I’m thinking going on a road-trip with either one of them is a pretty bad idea.
When they get to Utica, Michael and Dwight sneak off to try and steal the branch’s copy machine while Jim sits in the car on lookout. He ducks down but the camera guy gives Jim away and Karen ends up seeing him. She pulls Jim, Dwight and Michael into her office to tell them off. The ridiculousness of the scene was heightened by Dwight’s fake mustache, which I think he should wear for at least a few more episodes. The three head back to Scranton feeling defeated but not before Jim and Karen exchange a few awkward words the way exes often do when they run into one another.
Upon returning to the office, Michael hands Stanley a mail bin to use to pack up his stuff and tearfully wishes him well. As it turns out, Stanley never intended to transfer and was only using the Utica job opportunity as a way to make a play for mo’ money. He sees Michael’s behavior as him calling his bluff and considers that Michael might be some sort of secret genius. This thought makes him give a rare chuckle.
While all of this was going on, Pam, Toby and Oscar admit to starting a “Finer Things Club” in which they sit in the break room drinking tea, talking about books like “Room with a View” and listening to classical music. Oscar describes this as “Besides having sex with men, I think the ‘Finer Things Club’ is the gayest thing about me.” Truer words, Oscar. Jim isn’t allowed to join the club because Oscar doesn’t appreciate his jokes. Andy tries to get in but only because the club is so exclusive. One of the best moments in the episode was when Michael sees Toby, decked out in a Pee-wee Herman-like suit and bowtie, carrying a stack of teacups. The sight renders him almost speechless.
No amount of frilly decoration can make the “FTC” as elegant as the trio would like it to be. Between Kevin’s fight with the vending machine, Andy’s desperate attempt to join the club and Phyllis’ incessant microwave-button-pushing, the group has a hard time really immersing themselves in the conversation.
After Pam finds out that Jim was dragged off to Utica, she decides to let him sit in at their next lunch. Unfortunately, Jim uses the “Angela’s Ashes” theme to talk in an Irish accent. He didn’t even bother to read the book so chances are, he won’t be invited back to tea again.
Oh, how I love The Office. Tonight’s episode was written by Mindy Kaling (who wasn’t in the episode at all this week) and directed by the great Joss Whedon.