Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Office: s.4 ep.7: "Survivor Man" wri. Steve Carell, 2007

That's what she said.

The "Survivor Man" stuff was fun, but pretty much just a lark. We love watching Michael play idiot, but the meat of this episode was in the Michael/Jim alignment. Do we really buy that a) Jim could become Michael and b) Michael was once Jim? Mostly, yes. This episode is one that would make little sense to viewers who haven't been through seasons 2 & 3, but clearly The Office has earned the occasional moments of normalcy that Michael partakes in. Here we get a sort of back story for both those moments and Michael as a whole.

Here we get the apotheosis of the normal-Michael moments, like when he was the only one to show up at Pam's art show, or when he offered that (relatively) adroit V.O. on the make-shift Dunder-Mifflin ad, or his general ability as a salesman. Him saying, "I just say that stuff to break the ice, relieve the tension" (I paraphrase; sorry) is a jarring moment, but the show earns it. Michael's personality isn't a shtick, a grand put-on for the benefit of those around him, but it kinda' is. That is, he sees it as a benefit for those around him, which is totally insane, even if it isn't beneficial. So his shtick is a put-on, but he simply doesn't realize the inanity of it. Which makes perfect sense in the context of this episode.

Maybe this was Michael 10 years ago? Jim's plan to consolidate the birthdays is well-intentioned, if a little selfish; that is, it's meant to benefit the office. But, in spite of his good intentions, it's not entirely beneficial. Here Jim operates as a tamer, less "mature" version of Michael-as-Regional-Manager. Michael even says that he tried the birthday consolidation thing.

The Office as entity: so far this show has dealt - various digressions granted - with the people of the office as the beings that make it what it is. But here we tread some Office Space-type territory. Is the job, the environment, so overbearing that it turns normal people into Michael Scott, into Jan Levinson-Gould? This episode provides ample evidence for that argument. Jim and Michael in a medium two-shot is a perfect ending to the episode. Both are musing - to interject some critical interpretation on the scene - one on his future, the other on his past. The alignment of the figures - to both the audience and the characters themselves - is alarming in its simultaneous improbability and possibility.

As for the Survivor Man plot itself, it was great writing: Michael nailed the diction of the real Survivor Man, making the parody authentic. This was one episode, though, that could've benefited from a 40-minute (or even an hour) time slot. It would've been nice for the writers to connect Michael's sadness w/r/t not being invited on Ryan's circle jerk male bonding trip to his love for his job and its mutating effect on his (and Jim's) personality. How would it feel to have your life changed - for the worse, maybe - by a job, only to have that job leave you alone and isolated?

(And, um, I guess I'm aware that there's been plenty of evidence implying - if not outright declaring - that Michael's always been a freak, at least in his childhood. It ain't my fault if the writers are inconsistent, now is it?)

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15 November, 2007 16:22  

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