A review of last night's "The Office" coming up just as soon as I get my free stress ball...
After two fairly strong episodes to start 2011, "The Office" was back to being frustrating with "The Search," an episode that felt as aimless as Michael's journey through the mean streets of downtown Scranton.
Even the very sweet ending - in which the universe all but forced Holly to admit that she and Michael Scott are made for each other - wasn't enough to redeem all the minor-key noodling that came before. I'm a Michael/Holly fan, but not to the point where it would make me overlook the faults of an episode that had me continually asking, "Is that all there is?" Maybe if I believed there was actually some question about whether these two would hook up again, that moment would have felt more powerful, but since they brought Amy Ryan back just as Steve Carell is on the verge of leaving, there hasn't been a whole lot of tension here. Even their opening conversation in the episode seemed to take it as a given that Holly was going to take Michael back, and he was just impatient with waiting.
I don't necessarily mind "Office" episodes done in a minor key like this, and I suppose I'll take meandering over the stifling discomfort of something like the christening episode, but there was just no there there to most of the A-story. Michael's wanderings(*) - and the Dwight/Erin/Holly search for him - felt like the sort of thing that would wind up as a series of deleted scenes from an episode that had more interesting things going on.
(*) Also, I know we're supposed to stop asking any sort of logistical questions related to the camera crew, but for Pete's sake, the whole story depends on Michael being unreachable and hard to find, when in fact he's being followed around by at least a cameraman, probably a sound man, etc. Either Michael borrows one of their phones (because we've seen characters interact with the crew before, so there's not a hands-off "Star Trek" Prime Directive approach here), or at the very least their presence comes up when Dwight's interrogating the Chinese waiter or the credit card lady or whatever. This isn't "Modern Family": the camera crew exists as a part of this universe.
This one didn't, unfortunately, and even the caption contest B-story seemed like the kind of thing that would have been an amusing little sidenote in an episode with a more memorable main plot. In this one, it had to carry virtually all the humor load, and I don't think the staff's disdain for both Sabre and Gabe was enough. Also, this was the third Krasinski-light episode in a row, and while the writers have definitely struggled with how to use Jim and Pam lately, the show definitely is missing something when he's not around - particularly in an anti-authority story like that one.
Oh, well. The last two episodes were good enough, and the final scene rewarding enough, that I'm just going to shrug this one off. But given the early portion of the season, the show really needs to start building momentum for the final Carell episodes already.
What did everybody else think?
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