The Office: Stress Relief

Filed under: Recaps & Reviews

This week: Hour-long, ten-minutes-late Superbowl madness! Foiling of PVRs en masse! A much better episode than the last one! Fires and heart attacks and Jack Black! Me being a day late on the recap! Buckle in, folks.

We open in the office, where Dwight is on a mission and has invited the cameras along. He locks the front door of the office suite and bends the key in the lock, then heats the door handle with a blowtorch. He voices over that last week, no one paid attention to his fire safety talk. Time to teach through experience instead of Powerpoint! He hammers wedges in under other exit doors and heats those handles too. Then he lights a cigarette and throws it into a waste basket full of paper and lighter fluid, and swaggers back to his desk.

No one else notices the smoke pouring from under the door closest to Andy, so Dwight has to point out the smell. Pam finally looks up and notices the smoke, and also discovers that the phone lines are dead. How convenient! The general state of freaking out quickly escalates from mild to severe when Michael exits his office and starts dropping f-bombs and shrieking about staying calm. Dwight, meanwhile, is hollering directions at the staff, and when Michael, on his advice, finds the main door's handle to be quite warm, a sizeable stampede occurs.

But all the doors handles are hot! Michael: "Ok, we're trapped! Everyone for himself!" Cue further stampeding; in fact, I think a cameraman is shoved to the ground. Most important thing learned here: Angela has a very large cat stowed away in the bottom drawer of her filing cabinet.

Oscar tries to escape through the ceiling tiles, and Angela throws "Bandit" up to him, but Bandit just falls right back through, two tiles over. Oh... my gosh. Funniest thing I've seen in years. Dwight's suggestions to call 9-1-1 fall on deaf ears as Michael bounces a chair off the window in the conference room and Kevin starts looting the vending machines.

Dwight lights a firecracker in the corner of the main room. Andy: "The fire is shooting at us!" Dwight pulls the fire alarm, and Oscar's bottom half falls through the ceiling. Michael finally manages to break the window with a slide projector, and Jim and Andy are using the copier as a battering ram on one of the doors.

Oh great, Dwight's got an airhorn. He blares it and announces that this was a test of their emergency preparedness and the fire was not real. Stanley, who's been holding his chest and wheezing, falls over unconscious, the victim of an apparent heart attack. Michael pounces on his prostrate body and yells at him that he will not die! "Stanley! Stanley! Barack is president! You are black, Stanley!" He wants to give him mouth-to-mouth and tries to pry open his mouth with a wallet, but thank God for Jim, there to hold him back as always.

Stanley wakes up as we hit the credits, which... ARE DIFFERENT. WHAT?! WHAT IS GOING ON. So much has happened already! All this change! All this rampaging! I'm feeling overwhelmed!

(Ok, to be fair, they just added in all the other office staff so everyone's in the credits now, plus two new shots, one of Dwight on the roof and one of Jim and Pam kissing. BUT STILL. It was jarring.)

So Michael and Dwight have been called to corporate to meet with David Wallace and another suit to discuss disciplinary measures, since Dwight's fire drill idea was not a brilliant, or safe, one. (We do find out that Stanley will be released from the hospital in just a few days.)

The upshot of it is that Michael wants to strip Dwight of his title of Safety Officer and also donate part of his salary to the charity of their (corporate's) choice. DW wants Michael to take responsibility for the fact that one of his employees nearly died.

On the drive back to Scranton, Dwight's triumphant, but Michael's worried. It seems DW's words really got to him. Dwight divulges that he's planning a bomb scare, but Michael is going to take over as Safety Officer so that nobody will have to go to work at Dunder Mifflin thinking "This is the place I might die today."

Upon Stanley's return to the office, we learn that his doctor has ordered him to be more positive about his surroundings, or he's going to die. He interviews that he feels like he's working in his own casket, but he can't quit because he doesn't have enough to retire on.

The office is having a CPR training class. The woman teaching it is very tiny. Kevin can't handle the physical effort required to pump the dummy's chest, and after 20 seconds, he gives up, all, "Call it." Thanks, Dr. Malone.

Michael sends Stanley up to try next, even though he's under orders to rest, because they won't always be there to help, and what is he going to do if he's by himself and has another heart attack? Stanley says he would die, and Michael asks if he's ok with that. Stanley's ok with the logic of it, yes.

Stanley pumps for a bit until Angela finally calls Michael on it, so he takes over, and you know that when he takes over, that means the instructor isn't getting another word in edgewise. She does finally tell him he's pumping too fast, and of course when she suggests pumping to the beat of "Stayin' Alive" (Michael starts singing "I Will Survive" at first), it starts a whole bad karaoke dance party, with Andy on harmonies and Kelly acting like a drunk hippie college girl.

This quickly turns horrendous when the instructor announces that their patient has now died because they didn't call the ambulance or perform CPR correctly. Dwight announces they only have minutes to harvest the organs, and now he's taken over the class, pulling a knife from an ankle sheath and slicing the dummy's chest open. As Stanley distracts the room with some breathing difficulties, Dwight slices off the dummy's face and puts it on his own, a la... well, I'm not sure who exactly, but I'm guessing Hannibal Lecter, or maybe the guy from Saw (correct me if I'm wrong; I'm not into intensive Google research tonight). The room at large is grossed out, and we quickly cut to another meeting with DW at corporate, which results in Dwight being ordered to issue a formal apology to the staff.

And now, this episode's throwaway story line and the reason for all the Jack Black/Jessica Alba guest appearance hype. Andy's downloaded a movie (Mrs. Albert Hanaday, it's called) and Jim and Pam join him in the break room at lunchtime to watch. They interview that they're not into illegally downloading movies themselves, because they are honest, hardworking people... but really they just don't know how, and Andy does. The punishment fits the crime, they say.

This fake movie they're watching is truly, truly disturbing. The gist of it is that Jessica Alba and Jack Black play a couple, and Cloris Leachman plays Jessica's grandmother, who seduces (or falls in love with; hard to say) Jack Black. This culminates in a stomach-churning scene where Jack finds Cloris in the bath and makes out with her half-naked (she is; it would have reached a whole new level of squick were he also half-naked).

I do not understand the purpose of this stunt-casting, and why it needed to be so... so... so... I have no words.

Andy explains to Jim and Pam that originally Nicole Kidman was supposed to play the "Lily" character, and she was supposed to be Jessica Alba's mom, but when Nicole dropped out, they cast Cloris Leachman and rewrote the part. So, so disturbing.

We are introduced to a more pertinent subplot through this, in a roundabout way, when Pam gets a disturbing text from her dad during a movie-watching lunch. Pam's parents have been having problems, and her dad has been staying and her and Jim's place. Jim and Pam agree that they just need to communicate and say to each other what they're saying to everyone else; Andy thinks they're talking about the movie, and he can't get over what perceptive movie-watchers they are.

Dwight's back to the office with his statement of regret: "I state my regret." He needs them all to sign it, but everyone refuses due to his insincerity.

Jam convene in the kitchen, where Pam asks Jim to please talk to her dad about what's going on, because she doesn't think he can talk to her about it.

Michael's leading a yoga class in the conference room, in order to make things as peaceful as possible for Stanley. Next, he turns the lights off and makes everyone lie down for quiet time like they're in kindergarten, as he wanders the room with a lit candle (this makes me nervous the whole time, because I am sure he's going to drip wax in someone's face; he doesn't, though), droning on about happy places and castles and marijuana. He stops in his tracks at one point, virtually straddling Pam, and Jim's like, "Don't open your eyes." She does, of course. Gack.

When Michael gets too close to Stanley, Stanley's bio-feedback machine, which alerts him when his stress level goes up so that he can try to calm down, starts beeping. The closer Michael gets, the faster it beeps. As he backs up, it slows down. Michael says he thinks it's on the fritz. He asks Oscar to reach over and touch Stanley's thing. "That's what he said! Right, guys? 'Cause of gay?" Oh, Michael. But even in Oscar's hands, the bio-feedback reacts the same way to Michael.

Later, Pam gets a distressing call from her mom, and she goes rampaging (well, rampaging Pam-style, which, as I'm sure you can imagine, is quite calmly) into the lunch room to ask Jim what the hell he said to her dad, because he just called to tell her mom that he was going to look for an apartment. Jim is flummoxed and sincerely apologizes but has no idea what he could have said to cause this. Pam remains irate, and interviews that she wonders at what point in their own marriage he's going to say whatever it was to her, too.

So Michael has determined that he's what stresses everyone in the office out, which he thinks is because they're all too intimidated to tell him what they really think. He proposes a Dean Martin-style roast; he wants them to really take him down, no holds barred, attack anything about him. Everyone is pretty freakin' excited about this opportunity.

The roast is being held down in the warehouse, and as Dwight calls people in, he demands that they all sign a sign-in sheet, which of course is his apology letter. Phyllis is onto him though, and foils his plan. Michael calls the proceedings to order with a blanket "You are all jerks!"

Angela gets things started with a Jeff Foxworthy-style "You Might Be Michael Scott" routine. (Ever put sunblock on a window? Ever call the fire department 'cause your head was stuck in a chair?) Kelly has prepared a list of people she would rather make out with than Michael Scott, including anyone from the warehouse, a woodchipper, Kevin, and Lord Voldemort. Meredith declares Michael to be the reason she drinks. Oscar cusses Michael out in Spanish. Toby doesn't even get to go up ("Friends only! Friends only!" Michael yells). Jim's got a list of vocab words Michael's invented, starting with "spiderface," as in "cut off her nose to."

Dwight gets up to rail on the staff for attacking their superior in this manner, but after repeated declarations of "Idiot!" from Michael, Dwight angrily tells him never to talk to him like that, and calls Michael pathetic and short and spits that he doesn't have any friends or any family or any land. The room applauds.

Pam brings down the house with her routine that ends with this gem: "And one time, I walked in on him naked, andhisthingissosmall." She runs back to her seat, but not before shouting on her way that "if it were an iPod, it would be a shuffle!" AHAHAHA.

Andy's rewritten the lyrics to "What I Like About You" thusly: "What I hate about you / You really suck as a boss / You're the losiest, jerkiest / And you're dumber than applesauce / We're stuck listening to you all day / Stanley tried to die just to get away / Well it's true / That's what I hate about you." Awesome.

Michael gets up to do his reply to the roast, but the thing is that he's really hurt by all the things they said, and it's not long before he's all choked up and has to excuse himself.

Later (the next day?), we see Pam answer the phone and tell the caller that Michael isn't in the office at the moment. Dwight interviews that Michael's either deeply depressed or has been impaled by an icicle, due to his habit of standing directly underneath them and staring up at them. Dwight has tried to talk him into looking at them from two feet away, but Michael won't have it.

While the gang is gathered in the break room eating lunch, Michael texts Dwight to say that he's taking a "personnel" day. Pam suggests maybe he meant personal, but Dwight's like, "I don't know, Pam, that's quite a leap."

What Michael's really doing is hanging out at a park, trying to feed non-existent birds with full slices of bread. His caw-cawing doesn't even draw the birds to him, because there are no birds. He interviews from the swingset something about how he likes to gain perspective by imagining an astronaut way off in space who doesn't have to worry about earthly problems because he's so far away.

Pam gets a call from her dad and goes outside to meet him in the parking lot. We don't hear their conversation, but Jim watches from the upstairs window and meets her in the hallway when she exits the elevator. He worriedly asks whether it's his fault, this whole thing with her parents, and she says that yeah, it is, because he told her dad how he feels about her, how he's never doubted for a second that she's the woman he wants to spend his life with, how he feels when she walks in a room... and her dad realized he never felt that for her mom, not even when times were good. Pam says that kids always assume their parents are soulmates--and her kids are going to be right about that.

Michael comes back into the office, looking actually pretty swank in jeans and a black turtleneck. Everyone apologizes for how harsh they were the day before. He has some thoughts to share with them, and he's written them down so he wouldn't forget. He roasts them one by one, but no one really laughs until Michael tells Stanley that he crushes his wife during sex and also his heart sucks. Stanley thinks this is just a riot, and pretty soon everyone's either cracking up or politely laughing, and they all clap after Michael's conclusion. Aw, they really do like each other. That's nice.


Tags: the office, the office u.s., michael scott, jim/pam, pam/jim

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Original Comments Posted (2)

Sarahm says...

Ok there were so many good moments in this episode where I laughed so hard that I almost fell off my couch. But I think Angela throwing the cat into the roof and Andy's "What I Hate about You" song were my favorites.

Great Recap!

Feb 3, 2009 4:25pm

swishy5 says...

This is the first episode of The Office that I have watched in such a long time. I wish it were always on Sundays...I could see it all the time.

I also LOVED the cat toss. So funny. The roast was quite enjoyable. Especially adorable Pam's Shuffle/penis thing. Oh, so many good times in this episode.

Feb 4, 2009 12:05am

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