Last night’s episode, Scott’s Tots, was, even by The Office’s lofty standards, just about the most awkward awkward that ever awkwarded. The baby-talk intro was probably the funniest cold-open of the season (Thank you…thank you a lot), and after that, well, the episode was a big ol’ punch to the crotch. Hilarious, but very, very painful.
It goes without saying that The Office has always prided itself on a grand tradition of awkward circumstances, from David Brent’s first “She has left him, forgot about that…” to anything involving Michael Scott being in or near the conference room. Still, Scott’s Tots, may have set a new bar for awkwardness in the franchise’s history, with Michael forced to confront a group of underprivileged high school kids to tell them that he will not actually be paying for their college tuition as he had triumphantly and very publicly promised them more than a decade earlier.
Usually, Office awkward situations involve some sort of over-the-line comment that offends a person or two, or the leaking of compromising information, or at worst, something that makes Michael and the persons directly around him uncomfortable for a brief period. Last night, though, Michael’s outlandish tuition promise — clearly borne out of his ongoing need to have people like him, as well as his once overly-optimistic vision of his own success — directly crushed the life dreams of 15 innocent kids. Sure, it’s a little on the exaggerated side for a believable Office dilemma, but we’re six seasons in — our tolerance for awkward is too high at this point for offhand comments about Stanley playing basketball to get us Office-high.
After the jump, a silver lining (not laptop batteries):
The school scenes definitely walked the line between funny/awkward and just straight-up painfully awkward, leaning more towards the latter at times, but the kids’ choreographed dance number and succession of tearful speeches kept making me laugh (loved the dude flipping), and the situation wasn’t helped by Erin being noticeably touched by the stories, completely ignorant of the inevitable bombshell that was coming. In the end, Michael’s escape was actually more painless than I was expecting — his laptop battery consolation prize nonwithstanding — and Erin’s comment on the drive home about Scott’s Tots having a higher graduation rate did legitimately salvage some positivity out of an otherwise apocalyptic situation.
The only question now is, after wiping away the dreams of more than a dozen unsuspecting children, where could Michael’s awkwardness possibly go next? Is he just gonna be napalming babies by Season 8?
In the sideplot, Dwight launched another diabolical scheme to get Jim fired by convincing him to institute an Employee of the Month program and tricking him into unknowingly giving himself (and later, Pam) the award. This leads to one of the other funniest parts of the episode, Dwight’s series of Doubtfire-esque impressions of his officemates:
I’m really enjoying the ongoing plot of Jim struggling as a co-manager. For five seasons, Jim (and the home viewing audience) sat there witnessing Michael botch office situation after office situation, wondering why the company wouldn’t just throw someone remotely competent in the position and instantly solve everything. Now Jim has this privilege, and he’s finding out again and again how uncontrollable the office is and how tough Michael’s job is, and he’s starting to realize that Michael’s “all play and no management” philosophy isn’t so much complete incompetence as it is just the only way to not have a collection of bored, jaded paper company employees hating him all the time.
Can we expect a Tales From The Crypt-style season finale twist where Jim looks in the mirror and realizes he’s turned into Michael and vice versa? Eh…maybe in Season 7.
Episode thoughts? How’d you handle the awkwardness? Favorite parts / lines? Quote away in the comments.