Well, we actually got to see a decent amount of the Office staff in tonight’s episode, “The Seminar”—including the highly anticipated guest spot by Ricky Gervais as David Brent from the original Office. Despite getting to see and hear from much of the ensemble and some laugh-out-loud moments, once again I wasn’t completely feeling it as a whole. Much like Andy’s seminar—it was a little uneven in quality.
The cold opening was a brief hallway interaction between Michael Scott and “the original Michael Scott” (and Ricky Gervais would clearly offer his snark at the fact we call his David Brent the British Michael when he was the one who created the character and the series). Honestly, I was a little underwhelmed by the exchange within the context of the show—I wish they had done something more with this opportunity for these characters. But, it was clear that Steve Carell and Ricky Gervais had fun playing off each other. The highlight, for me, was definitely the very last bit when David told Michael, “Comedy is a place where the mind goes to tickle itself—that’s what she said” and Michael gave him a great big bear hug from being tickled with delight over someone else using his catchphrase.
The main focus of the episode, though, was a business idea our lovable Nard Dog had to get sales leads. Andy developed (and I use that term loosely) a seminar called “How to Grow Your Small Business” and tried to enlist his coworkers to help give presentations under the guise of closing some sales of his own. When the, ahem, more capable sales reps of the office (i.e. Jim, Dwight, Phyllis and Stanley) bailed on Andy, he was forced to go with the second string team—Kelly “The Business Bitch,” Ryan “The MBA Committer,” Kevin “Dream Big,” and Creed “The Thought Provoker.” Thank goodness our second-string team is more amusing to watch than the original line-up he had planned. My personal favorite was Kelly selling her own “Bitch” brand: Business Bitch, Shopping Bitch, Diet Bitch…the possibilities are endless, not to mention I think she could actually be successful with her idea. The other best part of this storyline? The genuine pep talk that Michael gave to Andy, instilling in him much-needed confidence to close sales. I am thinking (and hoping) that as Michael’s time winds down at Dunder Mifflin, we get to see more and more of these glimmers of heartfelt and sound advice to his colleagues and friends. It is always nice when we get those glimpses of Michael’s strengths—every once in a while he does or says something that actually shows us how he can somewhat lead others and inspire them. And if anyone was deserving of an ego-booster, it was Andy! Nard Dog has had a tough year or two…and his excitement over getting a sale at the end and scoring a little movie victory with Erin will hopefully lead to even better wins.
Now for the parts of this storyline that didn’t really do it for me. First, the Dwight, Phyllis and Stanley arc that had them dropping out of the seminar and then trying to weasel their way back in when they realized the potential for sales. Not only was this lame, but it was very out of character for Dwight. I feel like the ruthless Dwight we know would have been all over an event like this, plus, since when would Dwight include Phyllis and Stanley rather than try to step over (or on) his competition? Second, Jim was ridiculously lame…but what’s new? Seriously, what has this show done to the Jim character?! He is almost intolerable to me, and that is saying a lot because he barely figures into storylines anymore. This episode he spent the entire time hiding out in the parking lot for a “mysterious reason” obviously having something to do with one of the seminar participants. The reveal that one of the participants was once his childhood friend and that young Jim had insulted his intelligence was not impressive. However, the saving grace of this plotline was when this friend eventually spotted Jim and then majorly smacked down his smug ego with some hilarious zingers (see favorite lines below). Finally, I learned that while I typically enjoy Michael and Holly’s weirdo role-playing, I apparently only find it charming and amusing in small doses. An entire plot built around them trying to pretend to be a Greek couple for Andy’s seminar fell flat for me.
The B-story tonight, which existed completely separate from the wacko seminar taking place in the conference room, consisted of Oscar and Pam trying to help Erin beat Gabe at Scrabble (for once). Apparently she and Gabe play Scrabble to determine who gets to pick the movies they watch. Poor Erin is forced to watch Gabe’s odd choices when all she wants to see is WALL-E. I thought that this storyline offered a nice trio we don’t often get to see working together: naïve Erin just trying her hardest to win, Pam actually bonding a little with the ‘new’ receptionist, and control freak Oscar growing exasperated with the ‘talent’ he is forced to work with. When Erin screwed up the final word and they lost to Gabe, Oscar’s reaction was priceless…hey, he did warn her he would go into apoplexy. This storyline also ended nicely because we got to see the cracks starting to form in Gabe and Erin’s relationship. Things could be looking up for the Nard Dog in the near future!
Some highlights from “The Seminar”:
- Michael is aware Holly is having a bad week after breaking up with AJ, but it is not as bad as her other even worse “bad week”: one week she got mono and her first period ever.
- Pam wondering if Erin knows she can use more than cow words in Scrabble.
- Kevin’s speech: “The key to finding success is to picture a winner…(then he vomits from being so out of shape after running around the room)…what are you picturing right now?
- Oscar yelling to Erin: “Put the Q there!”
- Andy introducing his next speaker: “Our special guest speaker will provoke you….he is, Creed Bratton” (‘Provoke’ probably is the best word to use for Creed).
- Gabe thinking the only way Erin could be winning at Scrabble is if she is living out a Slumdog Millionaire scenario in which every answer comes from her orphan past.
- “Where’s your jetpack, Zuckerberg?” Jim’s “dumb” friend giving him a long-overdue taste of his own medicine.
How did you like this episode? Were you satisfied with the David Brent appearance? Would you pay to attend Andy’s seminar? And…what are your thoughts on the latest news that Will Ferrell will be making a multi-episode appearance while Michael Scott heads out the doors of Dunder Mifflin for good?