'The Office' - 'The Chump': Cuckold case
A review of last night's "The Office" coming up just as soon as I throw something wet at you...
I haven't been happy with this season of "The Office," but most of my problems stemmed either from weak execution or a lack of big-picture thinking. Even a horrible episode like "Mafia" felt like an episode of the show, just one with the tonal balance thrown wildly out of whack.
"The Chump," on the other hand, bore precious little resemblance to the show I know and used to love.
We start off with a pre-credits teaser in which the entire branch has somehow become infected with Michael's pathological hatred of Toby (that, or everyone other than Stanley has ceased to care about how much time Michael wastes for them every day, and that they've grown interested in Dwight lecturing them on anything). No reality to it - just the characters being warped in service of a not-very-funny joke.
And then came the main plot with Michael continuing to sleep with Donna after finding out about her husband. Now, I'm not saying there is no way the Michael Scott we know would do this. Michael Scott is a grown man with the emotional make-up of a 9-year-old, and that gives the writers the power to take him in many directions. But with great power comes great responsibility and all that, and one of the dangers of a needy, juvenile, boundary-less character like this is that you can just make him be an ass, and that becomes unpleasant after a while. Simply put, I don't want to watch an "Office" where Michael is happily, openly cuckolding another man, even if some of the other things Michael did while embracing his dark side (eating Meredith's cake, refusing to replace the copier paper) were kind of funny, and even if the massive shaming from Andy, Phyllis and the rest of the staff finally made him see the error of his ways.
Dwight stories, meanwhile, need to have one foot in reality for them to work, which is why his relationship with Pam's friend has such promise. But Dwight and Angela together have long since crossed over into Toon Town, and an entire subplot of them arguing over a ridiculous contract with clauses about "The Matrix" and "Benjamin Button" wore thin in a hurry.
The one part of the episode that worked was the subplot about Jim and Pam's struggles to stay awake, particularly the scene where they apologized to Gabe and then began to nod off as he went on and on about the decision tree. Lord knows I've been there, both in terms of general fatigue and having to battle sleepiness while trapped with a boring co-worker or superior. I also thought Darryl's monologue about the special napping place in the warehouse was also very funny, largely from Craig Robinson's wistful delivery of it.
Overall, though, "The Chump" left a bad taste in my mouth, and has me hoping that when the writers reconvene to break the stories for season seven, they first take a look back at all the things that didn't work in season six and try to correct them.
What did everybody else think?