'The Office' recap: Exploding printers last all summer long

Office-Steve-CarrellImage Credit: Trae Patton/NBCHow do you make boredom look interesting? That question lies at the center of the modern television age. Movies, as a popular art form, have become nonstop assaults: they still strive for entertainment, but more than that, they try to achieve a state of relentless anti-boredom. That’s not a bad thing. But a television show is a weekly activity. By sheer virtue of repetition, television becomes boring. Most TV shows try to prevent that boredom with cast changes, or plot twists, or surprise romances (Joey and Rachel!). Some TV shows, though, try to mine that boredom for some deeper entertainment value. It’s risky…but the results can be incredible.

That’s a lengthy way to lead into the opening scene of this week’s Office, which was a mini-masterpiece of boredom humor. Pam and Jim were clicking their pens, and Dwight thought he heard Morse Code. Ridiculous, but Jim confided to us that it was true. But then Jim meaningfully tapped his fingers on the keyboard, and Pam meaningfully clipped her binder clip. Dwight heard “detonator.” Michael told him he was crazy. (Is it me, or has Michael gotten more dismissive of Dwight this season?) Dwight put on ear muffs. Pam started meaningfully blinking towards him.

Besides the fact that this was all totally hilarious, it brought home for me something that I’ve been missing a little bit from this season of The Office: the feeling that we’re watching these people try their best to make an essentially uninteresting situation — their jobs — interesting, or at least livable.

The episode was called “The Cover-Up,” and even if it didn’t quite follow through on the promise of that opening scene, it was a good little ditty, and both plot strands seem to be building up for the season finale. Michael was in a good mood, thanks to his new gal pal Donna: “We’re just clicking on every level: emotionally, sexually, and orally.” Michael needed some good ideas for a dating weekend, and he corralled everyone into the conference room. Andy suggested apple orchards, because he’s a romantic. Dwight suggested eel-fishing, because he’s a romantic. Meredith suggested heart-shaped Jacuzzis, because she’s Meredith.

Kelly thought something sounded fishy about Donna. Michael at first refused to believe that she would cheat: “I said ‘I love you’ on the second date.” (Oscar, with the MVP line of the night: “That seems quick. Even for lesbians.”) Ryan, the expert, listed all the ways to tell if someone is cheating on you: “Does she shower before sex? Does she shower after sex?”

Michael was being driven crazy by jealousy. He needed a detective. Dwight offered his services: “$100 a day, plus expenses.” Michael: “I’ll give you $50. Money is no object.” Dwight knew only one way to tell if Donna was cheating: seduce her. I think I saw this movie, and it was called Chloe. Except I didn’t see Chloe, and this was way better. (P.S.: Props to Rainn Wilson, who made his directorial debut with this episode.)

At the gym, Dwight flirted with Donna like an elephant flirts with a giraffe: terribly. “I don’t quit until something tears or pops,” he explained. (Dwight, in case you were wondering, is one of those guys who works out in pants.) Personally, I was kind of hoping for a plan that was a little bit smarter. After all, didn’t Dwight manage to seduce Isabel? Which reminds me, what ever happened to Isabel?

Meanwhile, Michael was spiraling into depression. He was eating his feelings, by which I mean he was eating mayonnaise and black olives. He told Pam that he’d put Dwight on the cheating case: “Otherwise, this whole thing is gonna spiral out of amok.” Pam dropped some truth on her boss: “You have a major self-destructive streak in you.” Michael considered all of his relationships (though, like everyone who watches The Office, he forgot about Pam’s mother.) He had to admit that Pam was right.

Now, I’m not quite so sure. Michael definitely screwed things up with Carol to a ridiculous degree, but Holly got moved by corporate, and there was probably no right way to handle the Jan situation. But I like how Pam has lately declared herself Michael’s protector/therapist. (Sometimes, I wonder if their relationship is the real core of the show.)

But Pam’s no fool. Donna came by the office to chew Michael out. They made up. They made plans. Donna went to get a coke. Kelly cross-examined her, and the look on Pam’s face was a little bit heartbreaking. Some minor Facebook research turned up pictures of Donna smooching another man.

The scene where Pam tried to distract Michael while Donna was in the room was hilarious. Even funnier was Michael’s exit line: “I just remembered that I have to go to the bathroom. Pam.” Turns out that Donna is married, and Michael is the mistress. This plot twist was so unexpected, and such a perfect combination of hilarity and sadness (especially considering what value Michael puts on old-fashioned notions of marriage) that it more than made up for the awkward set-up. (But seriously, why does Donna keep coming to the office?)

I’m more intrigued by the B-plot. Andy discovered that one of his client’s Sabre printers exploded. He notified Gabe, who promised to call HQ. Darryl, seeking vengeance for a two-year-old indirect insult by Andy, got the Nard Dog worried that Sabre would try to silence him. Darryl engaged in some mental warfare, even enlisting Creed.

Creed: “So there I am, minding my own business. Darnell offers me three bucks. All I had to do was walk by Andy’s desk and go like this [slices finger across neck]. Darnell’s a chump. I would’ve done it for anything. I’ve done a lot more for a lot less.”

This all resulted in Darryl filming Andy as he tried to make a printer explode. I think they were filming inside of the old Michael Scott Paper Company HQ. Darryl convinced Andy that he had to talk in a higher voice. Because the camera subtracts five octaves. But shock-twist: the printer actually exploded! That leaves Andy proud and ready to blow the roof off, Insider-style. This smells like corporate malfeasance! I’m a total geek for when The Office actually explores vaguely realistic business issues, and this seems to point toward a larger Sabre showdown in the last couple episodes.

What did you think of “The Cover-Up,” viewers? Does the big twist make you like the Donna plotline more or less? I’m going with “more,” just because it puts Michael in some different relationship territory, but it certainly seems to make the subplot look even more futile. And which was funnier: Pam diving below the window to avoid being seen, or the utter pride in Michael’s voice when he yelled, “I live in a fantasy world!”

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  • LOL

    Pam rocked this episode. Good stuff.

    • Lizabeth

      She did! There were so many things about that episode that reminded me of why I love this show! But, seeing Pam and Jim being silly Pam and Jim was my favorite. I also liked the Gabe ate his toast!

      • kim in kentucky

        OMG YES, he ate it like a squirrel!!

      • haleysname

        that’s how Angela eats, too!

    • AIan

      I loved when Donna saw Pam watching them from the window and Pam dove to the ground: “Did she see me???”. And did you see Stanley pressed up against the wall in panic? So funny!!!

      • Lori

        And Jim said, “Nice Effort!”

  • Chuck Bartowski

    That was a spectacular episode. So many great little moments. That cold open… oh wow. That was hilarious, vintage Office right there! I was smiling really, really big. ^_^

    • Elizabeth

      Jim’s wink… still laughing about that this morning…

      • kim in kentucky

        the wink was Classic Jim !!!

      • Louise

        I actually rewound to watch it again. Priceless.

    • Hannah

      It always feel like vintage Office when it’s written by Gene & Lee, wish they would stop by more often

    • Kristin

      SO miss the old Jim and Pam pranks. They had to stop when Jim went co-manager. Bring ‘em back!

    • AIan

      Much better episode than in previous weeks!

  • Chappel

    Great episode. I’m really loving assertive Pam 2.0 and Darryl upstairs screwing with Andy. Loved the little look Erin gave to the camera when Michael said “I like the attention”. She’s going to fit right in.

    • tasl;kl;

      Darryl is fantastic! I know its a large cast, but I wish he had more plotlines.

  • steve

    How could you talk about that hilarious beginning without revealing that perfect punchline? Pam starts blinking, then Dwight, cut to Jim, blinking meaningfully, then winks at the camera! Perfect! I love the Office! Great episode ;)

  • MomC

    I watched that open three times and laughed out loud each one. I have been smiling at the office this season, but not really laughing. This was vintage Office and it was perfect.

    The rest was OK. I saw the printer fire and Michael being the “other” woman coming earlier in the episode, but still liked the way they got there.

    Also, Pam is right. No woman buys herself heart shaped jewelry. Men, if you are reading: we don’t like it!

    • jeannieb

      Mom C, speak for yourself, not ALL women! I love heart-shaped jewelry, and my engagement ring is a gorgeous heart-shaped diamond! I get tons of compliments on it!

      • love

        Your ring sounds beautiful! I think a lot of women dislike people who comment on internet articles and think they are the arbiter of taste and style. :D

    • HelloKitty

      I THOUGHT THE SAME THING! Most women hate heart shaped jewelry. It just screams CHEESY!
      Got that jeannieb?

      • MyMy

        Give her a break. Maybe she’s old! :)

    • huh?

      hate heart shaped jewelry. tacky and trite imo. but to each his own

    • bsure

      LOL, this is so true. I started cracking up and am hoping my boyfriend watches this episode. I just don’t have the heart to tell him to stop with the heart jewelry because it stays in the box. If you like heart jewelry, you probably also shop at JCPenney.

      • Lyn2

        What is wrong with shopping at JC Penney? Not everyone is rich and can shop at designer & high end stores. Really! I have a heart shaped necklace given to me by my 9 year old son for my birthday, and I wear it, but then again I shop at JC Penney’s sometimes! What does any of this have to do with this stellar episode of The Office? Juvenile posts!

  • Dysthymia83

    It was not better than “Chloe”, but butter than many of the eps this season.

    • fungus


      • KRibbons

        Almond butter

  • bringbackrocky

    I am still laughing at Creed calling Darrell Darnell. Throughout the years, Creed has mangled or not known almost anyone’s names in The Office so this was classic creed. And you forgot to note that Meredith not only recommended the Poconos fo heart-shaped tubs, she helpfully pointed out that they were big enough for 3. The Office is ending this season on a very strong note.

    • ns

      and didn’t she nudge Ryan after she said it?

      • llevinso

        Yes she did. Classic Meredith.

      • HollywoodSuperhero

        Meredith was also reading a Men’s Health in the break room. I thought that was a nice touch.

  • madduxfan

    I agree about Pam’s relationship with Michael being the real core of the show. The two of them have been through alot over the years and I really liked seeing Pam helping Michael out with his relationship issues.
    And only Michael would think of himself as a mistress!

    • haleysname

      of course he would! Also, about a month ago we went through this conversation at my job (killed a lot of time) There is NO male equivalent of the word “mistress”

      • andy

        They call it a “manstress” on 30 Rock.

      • Ambee

        My friends and I have dubbed it “Histress”

  • JenR

    Moving Darryl out of the warehouse and into the office was the best move they ever made.

    • Madd

      Yes! The scenes with Andy and Darryl were amazing!

    • Verity

      Agreed. His ending last night was the best part of the episode for me. “No more pranks. I’m done with pranks. I’ll go to church and try to do one good thing every day.”

    • yes!

      craig robinson is breakout star of this show imo!!!

    • AIan

      Kind of. I like Darryl, but what does Darryl do? His addition to upstairs feels forced just because they knew his character was popular. If someone can explain why Darryl is now in the office, with his own private office, that may help me “get” it more.

      • Sarah

        When Sabre first bough DM and Kathy Bates’s character came to the office, he pitched her an idea of how to better move printers in and out of the warehouse. She liked his idea so much she moved him upstairs and gave him his own office.

  • ihatescreennames

    At the reveal where Michael learns he’s the “mistress”, I thought, Michael’s gonna LOVE that! I think he’ll dig being the “other man”! I do wanna see him and HOlly back together b4 the end of the series, though.

  • jimm

    After the last few eps i thought it was heading downhill, but this was definitely the funniest ep in a while

  • Madd

    Of course Creed had one of the best lines of the night. I love how they are showing us more of Pam and Michael’s friendship- I’ve always loved their scenes together, from the road trip to Michael Scott Paper Company.
    I love how Dwight went to the gym in pants. It reminded me of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia when Dee wears jeans to the gym.

  • Emilee

    I liked how this episode was a mix of “The Informant” and “Up in the Air.”

    But I’m kind of disturbed by Darren’s referral to fidelity as an “old fashioned notion of marriage.”

    • Joy

      I think he was referring to Michael’s ideas surrounding marriage in general — he wants to be married and have a ton of kids — rather than the idea of staying faithful. I don’t think Michael will want to be “the other man.”

    • Jen

      Me too! Monogamy is out, apparently.

  • jd

    The Diversity poster lol

    • Lizabeth

      Was there a green arm on the poster? I kept trying to figure it out and missed a lot of the scene!

  • Sarah

    This is not really a “gripe” but just something I thought of. The photos that Pam got from Facebook seemed kind of paparazzi/PI style. you think that Donna would have photos of she and her husband actually smiling into a camera on her Facebook page, but whatever. LOVED Pam’s dive though!

    • Cait

      Good. I thought I was the only one nit-picky enough to think so! :)

    • AIan

      Yeah, I thought so too. Those kind of parazzi long-distance lens photos would not be on Facebook. They should have shown Donna and her husband at a party or something, but it’s a minor detail.

    • MyMy

      I also thought her FB status would say “married”.

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