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Office Fodder

The Office: Broke

office-pam.jpgYou can't make money if you barely charge anything. Unless, of course, you're Wal-mart or McDonalds. If you're the Michael Scott Paper Company, as the eponymous Michael learns in the episode, "Broke," you can't undercut Dunder-Mifflin and still expect to make a profit.

At the start of the episode, Michael and his dream team of Pam and Ryan are up at the crack of dawn, delivering paper. They have bought a used Korean church van for deliveries-- the Alleluia Church of Scranton name is still on the side of the van, confusing Koreans looking for a ride.

Pam: "It was either this, or an old school bus with an owl living in it."

(I think the owl would have been a fun mascot. "The Michael Scott Paper Company-- We give a hoot!")

Anyway, back at Dunder-Mifflin, regional manager Charles is upset the branch has lost another major client to Michael's company. He demands results. Andy unsuccessfully tries to point out he's been at the branch a shorter amount of time and so should get more leniency. Charles stares him down.

Charles says he sent a memo out to employees asking for cost-cutting measu... wait, there's Angela, sucking up again, telling Charles she is going to put her foot down on expense reports. Dwight flashes a cocky smile to his boss as Angela leaves.

Dwight: "Been there, done that."

Charles has other problems to deal with, though. David Wallace, who might be the worst CFO this side of AIG, has traveled to Scranton to discuss how to stop Michael from stealing clients. Jim notices Charles is a complete suck-up once an executive is around.

Jim, Dwight, Charles and David go in the conference room to talk strategy. How can they stop Michael?

Well, it seems like the Michael Scott Paper Company might stop itself. Michael, Ryan and Pam are talking to an accountant to see if they can afford a delivery person. The accountant says there's absolutely no money to do so, and the company isn't charging enough to make a profit.

Michael: "Our prices are the only thing keeping us in business."
Accountant: "They are actually putting you out of business."

Michael is depressed his company is going down the tubes. It's the saddest day of his life, not counting the eventual "day when Steve Martin dies." Pam said she needs to make more money, but she couldn't even get a part-time job at Wal-mart, Target or Old Navy. Ryan reveals he never went to Thailand, but he did got to Ft. Lauderdale.

On the other end, the Dunder-Mifflin brain trust is coming up with nothing. Jim's idea of giving a discount to returning customers is scoffed at by Dwight and Charles... and then Dwight says they should just attack Michael's company with bees. David suggests they just buy out the Michael Scott Paper Company.

Jim tells Michael about the buy-out idea, which is ironic since Dunder-Mifflin doesn't know the company is completely broke and worth nothing (Jim knows this, however). Pam and Ryan have to repeatedly remind Michael not to spill those beans to David during negotiations.

David's offer is $12,000. Michael is offended. All of a sudden, he becomes a shrewd negotiator and tells David the stockholders will be angry Dunder-Mifflin's best branch is losing money to an upstart company. David gets rattled and offers $60,000.

While Michael, Pam and Ryan mull the offer (read: can't believe their fortune), Dwight discovers Michael's company is broke. He tries to tell Charles, but Jim convinces Charles that Dwight is just up to his crazy antics. Crisis averted (Jim, after all, has to protect the interests of Pam).

And then the plot thickens. Michael convinces Pam and Ryan they need jobs, not a one-time paycheck. He turns down David's offer, and demands all three of them-- even Ryan, who got arrested for stealing money from Dunder-Mifflin- get their jobs back. Pam, Michael adds, has to be hired as a salesperson. And Charles has to leave, too.

David accepts the offer!!! Michael is back at Dunder-Mifflin!!! Why am I using so many exclamation points!!!

What will happen to Charles now? How will Pam fit in on the sales team; she will be working alongside Jim, now, and will have to work more with Dwight. Will Ryan screw Dunder-Mifflin over again? And are we ever going to learn more about the hot receptionist?

Thoughts: I think it's time we come to accept that The Office is a different type of show now. For too long, people who were initial fans of The Office's quirky style and humor have become critical of the past few seasons for not having enough laughs. Well, maybe we're just looking at this all wrong.

Sure, The Office is still a comedy, and any time Kevin or Stanley get screen time, I laugh. But it is much more a plot-driven, character development show now than it used to be, and that means you can't have as many comedic gems as it did, say, in season two. You'll still have laughs, but the show is going to be more about how Michael handles his new company, how Jim and Pam work out their engagement, how Dwight and Andy handle Angela... that sort of thing.

This episode was a good example of that. I laughed a few times- such as with my line of the day (below), but in the end, I was more interested in how Michael's company handle negotiations and if they'd get back with Dunder-Mifflin. Using that as a basis, and not a "this better make me laugh the entire time," we'd better appreciate the writing and the show overall. Or, maybe I'm freaking crazy. Thoughts?

Quote of the day:
Pam: You didn't happen to bring any coffee, did you Michael?
Michael (hands her cup): Milk and sugar.
Pam (takes a sip): Awesome, you're a lifesaver...(looks disgusted) Wait, is this just milk and sugar?
Michael: That's what I said.
Pam: Do you drink this every day?
Michael: Every morning.

Posted by Andy Shaw on April 26, 2009 8:33 AM
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