My 25 Favorite Episodes of The Office, Part 2: #10-1

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Office series finale airs tonight, and I'm celebrating by counting down my 25 favorite episodes from the show's run. #25-11 can be found here.

10. Traveling Salesmen

The Office was often at its best when it paired characters up that don't normally interact with each other, just to see what happens. Though a huge part of this episode's bright spot is the chemistry between Jim and Dwight, what really puts it over the top is the forced pairings of Karen and Phyllis, Ryan and Stanley, and Michael and Andy (still a new transfer trying to make his way up the office food chain). The pairs are forced to go on sales calls together, and the lengths the couples go to in order to close the deal are creative and funny. Phyllis illustrates to Karen why knowing one's client (and his family) is important, Ryan tries to take the lead with some of Stanley's established contacts, Andy screws up a sure thing for Michael, and Jim and Dwight dust off a well-worked phone routine that underlines the importance of DM's customer service abilities. The episode ends with Dwight resigning in order to protect Angela, but the move never felt like anything more than a footnote. It's an episode that proved that the writers of this show had chops - they even made selling paper interesting.


Dwight: "One of my life goals was to die right in my desk chair. And today, that dream shattered."

Andy: "Oompa loompa, doopadee dawesome, Dwight is now gone, which is totally awesome. Why was he gone, he was such a nice guy? No, he was not, he was a total douche. Doopadee doo."

Michael: "I want you to think about your future at this company. I want you to think about it long and hard."
Dwight: "That's what she said."
Michael: "Don't...don't you dare."

Dwight: "Here's my card. It's got my cell number, my pager number, my home number, and my other pager number. I never take vacations, I never get sick, and I don't celebrate any major holidays."

9. Niagara

The Jim and Pam wedding episode probably should have been a half-hour show, but it was an anticipated television EVENT, so it got the one hour treatment. The result was that we got a lot of extraneous material (Michael not reserving a hotel room, Andy injuring himself dancing) that would have been entirely forgettable otherwise. The meat of the episode carried it, however. Jim and Pam have always been the heart and soul of the show, and given the office's track record with other weddings, it was a foregone conclusion that someone (probably Michael) was going to ruin everything. As it turned out, it was Jim himself who caused the discomfort with his rehearsal speech gaffe ("To waiting!" was such a beautiful line reading), and it appeared that Pam was on the verge of melting down. The runaway bride sitcom staple didn't materialize, thankfully, and what happened at the end was exactly what the show needed in terms of giving those who watch for the office romance the beautiful wedding they needed while keeping everything light-hearted for everyone else. Anticipating that the bridal party was probably going to do the most Scranton thing ever and copy a popular internet video from months before, Jim books a trip to Niagara Falls so they can get secretly married (another sitcom staple, but genuinely earned here) while the guests fight over which of the wedding gifts they'll get to take home after the whole thing falls through. The payoff with the Chris Brown song is great because we know the pressure is off of the Halperts to have a storybook wedding, and we get to see some hilarious dancing at the same time.


Michael: "Meemaw, I think you just need to chill out."

Pam: "She the 80 year-old woman with no smile wrinkles."

Michael: "I have another [painting] of them in the nude, but that one's for me."

Pam: "Are you pushing me off the phone?"
Jim: "No, let's talk for a long time."

Jim: "Is there something about being a manager that makes you say stupid things?"
Michael: "I have not found that to be the case."

Jim: "I bought those boat tickets the day I saw that video."

Kevin: "My dogs are BARKING."

8. The Job

The thing about season finales is that a gigantic shift in the premise of the show is actually believable. If Michael Scott were interviewing for a position at corporate in the middle of a season, it wouldn't carry any weight - we'd just assume it was a setup for him to fail spectacularly. At the end of season 3, however, Michael goes to New York a day too early for his interview and gives David Wallace a pre-interview that clearly impresses, so when he hand-picks Dwight as his replacement (because he totally has the authority to do that), we believe that maybe this might just be the new world of The Office. Of course, things do end up going totally wrong. His real interview is a disaster and he figures out that he's interviewing for Jan's job, leading to an exceptionally awkward dismissal in front of Jim and Karen. The star of this episode is the ending - when it becomes clear that Michael isn't the man for the job, it seems like change is on the horizon for Jim once again, but the final scene reveals that David has chosen the one member of the office that has an MBA: Ryan. His immediate breakup with Kelly is the perfect end to a pretty amazing season.


Michael: "The other managers are total morons. Hey, Pam, I forgot which day the interview was and I drove to New York. I'll be like three hours late."

Dwight: "I don't care if that's how they consolidated power in ancient Rome."

Michael: "I didn't get both of your messages."

Michael: "You could come stay at my condo. I think I can pull out of the sale, though I'll probably get some negative feedback on my eBay profile."

Dwight: "What is the ratio of Stanley Nickels to Schrute Bucks?"
Stanley: "Same as the ratio of unicorns to leprechauns."

Creed: "I blogged the whole thing. Check it out."
Ryan: "Last year, Creed asked me how to set up a blog. Wanting to protect the world from being exposed to Creed's brain, I opened a word document on his computer and put an address at the top. I've read some of it. Even for the internet, it's pretty shocking."

7. Stress Relief

After giving a presentation on fire safety that nobody pays attention to, Dwight decides to run a fire drill, which to Dwight means actually setting a fire, locking several doors and blocking exits, and heating up door handles so they'll be hot to the touch. He shouts instructions as the panicky workers try to make their way out, then finally reveals it was a drill after Oscar falls through the drop ceiling and Stanley has a heart attack (Michael's idea of calming Stanley down? Yelling "Stanley! Barack is President!" at him). Dwight is stripped of his Safety Officer title, forced to apologize ("I state my regret"), and Michael brings in an outsider to run a CPR class, which ends with Dwight harvesting the dummy's organs after he's unable to resuscitate him. When Stanley returns, Michael puts the employees through stress relief exercises, and it's revealed through Stanley's new heart monitor that Michael is himself the cause of his stress. Feeling guilty, Michael sets up a roast in his honor ("I've got to make sure YouTube comes down to tape this"), which is where a good episode becomes great. Some of the roasters are decent, but Pam, Oscar, and Andy steal the show, hurting Michael's feelings in the process. He retaliates with a roast of his own, which could have gotten very awkward, but Stanley's laugh ends up being the tension reliever. If it sounds like a full episode, it is, and none of the story is wasted. The best of both Michael and Dwight are on full display, and the minor characters get to play a major role as well.


Stanley: "My doctor told me that if I can't react more positively to my surroundings, I'm going to die. I'm going to die."

Dwight: "If we come across somebody with no arms and no legs, do we bother resuscitating him?"

Kevin is performing CPR on the dummy. "I can't keep doing this forever."
CPR Instructor: "It's been 20 seconds."
Kevin: "Call it."

Oscar: "I consider myself a good person, but I'm going to try to make him cry."

Michael: "What kind of ice cream do you want? Yell it out."
Meredith: "Chunky Monkey!"
Michael: "Too expensive."
Stanley: "Chocolate."
Michael: "Racism is dead, Stanley. You can pick any kind of ice cream you want."

Phyllis: "You almost killed Stanley."
Dwight: "Yeah, right. I filled him full of butter and sugar for 50 years and forced him not to exercise."

6. Business School

Most episodes of The Office have at least 2 storylines running through them, if not 3 or 4. In most episodes, at least one of those stories is completely forgettable. Business School has three different stories running concurrently, and they are all awesome. Ryan brings Michael along to guest lecture for one of his business classes, which of course turns into a disaster. A bat gets loose in the office, sending Dwight into animal control mode and inducing Jim to pretend to be a vampire in order to get into Dwight's head ("One crisis at a a time," he reminds himself). Finally, Pam displays her drawings at an art show and is dismayed when her co-workers either fail to show up or make tacky comments when they think she's not listening. Michael's cringe-inducing candy-bar-inspired speech is bad enough (and he brings in his own boombox - shades of David Brent), but then he reacts petulantly to Ryan's assessment that Dunder Mifflin is a failing company. It's not a good look for him, but he redeems himself in a way - he's not going to fire Ryan, he's actually just exiling him to the annex, where he'll have to work with Kelly. When he shows up at Pam's art show and gives her the highest of compliments (buying the painting of the office complex after telling her it was so good it could be a tracing), we have already forgiven Michael for the events of the day. Huge bonus points to this episode for the physical comedy involving Dwight and Meredith.


Michael: "There are four kinds of business. Tourism, food service, railroads, and sales. And hospitals slash manufacturing. And air travel."

Dwight: "I don't have a lot experience with vampires, but I have hunted werewolves. I shot one once. By the time I got to it, it had turned back into my neighbor's dog."

Michael: "A boss is like a teacher. And I am like the cool teacher, like Mr. Handell. Mr. Handell would hang out with us and he would tell us awesome jokes and he actually hooked up with one of the students. And then like 12 other kids came forward. It was in all the papers. Really ruined eighth grade for us."

Michael: "You know what else is facing five Goliaths? America: Al-Qaeda. Global warming. Sex predators. Mercury poisoning. So do we just give up?"

Michael: "Yeah, sure. You know business. Sitting up here in your ivory tower. (notices the ethnicity of the professor) And your ebony tower."

Kevin closes the door on the bat. " a hero."

5. The Fire

I don't particularly care too much for the B-story in this episode - Jim holds court outside while waiting for the firefighters to finish up inside. It's fine, but nothing spectacular. The rest of the story is so strong that it makes up for it, however. The Fire is a simple conceit, but it's brilliantly executed. The writers have to do something with B.J. Novak. The show is about a dozen episodes old at this point and Novak's name is in the credits, but all he is is The Temp. His character is perfectly fine with that, by the way. He has aspirations and wants to start attending business school, but in a talking head he reveals that he doesn't want to be the "something guy." He wants to put his head down, get through school, and put Dunder Mifflin in his rearview mirror. His ambition naturally draws the attention of Michael, however, who sees an opportunity to be a mentor, much to the chagrin of Dwight. The tension between the three builds as the episode does, until Dwight, trying to please Michael, runs back into the building after his cell phone. While inside, he discovers the cause of the fire: Ryan set the toaster oven wrong while trying to cook a cheesy pita. Just like that, Ryan has an identity: The Fire Guy.


Michael: "Yes, I've heard 'women and children first,' but we do not employ children. We are not a sweatshop, thankfully. And women are equal in the workplace, by law, so if I let them out first, I have a lawsuit on my hands."

Dwight: "Question: Is there fire wood on the island?"
Jim: "I guess."
Dwight: "Then I would bring an axe. No books."
Jim: "It has to be a book, Dwight."
Dwight: "Fine. Physician's Desk Reference."
Jim: "Wow, smart."
Dwight: "...hollowed out. Inside: waterproof matches, iodine tablets, beet seeds, protein bars, NASA blanket, and, in case I get bored, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. No, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Question: did my shoes come off in the plane crash?"

Dwight: "Michael and I have a very special connection. He's like Batman, I'm like Robin. He's like The Lone Ranger and I'm like Tonto. And it's not like there was The Lone Ranger and Tonto and Bonto."

Dwight: "I hope the war goes on forever and that Ryan gets drafted."

4. Goodbye, Toby

Toby is leaving, and Michael is so happy. "If the devil were to explode, and all evil were exterminated, what kind of party would you have?" This episode is not so much about Toby (although the Toby-related bits are great, such as Michael having him escorted out by security when it's time to leave), because he's a true bit player in the show, but an excuse to introduce the amazing Amy Ryan as Holly. Michael hates her at first, simply because she's from HR and Toby seems to like her (Michael tells Dwight, "Her head is weird" before they conspire to sell her an elevator pass). It doesn't take much - just a well-placed Yoda impersonation - for Michael to fall in love, however. This is the season 4 finale, which is the end of what many people consider to be the golden era of The Office, but for me, it kicks off some of the show's strongest material. Michael and Holly are introduced to each other, Andy proposes to Angela, stealing Jim's thunder, Ryan gets arrested, Pam is going to school in New York, and Phyllis rises to a true position of power as head of the Party Planning Committee, a title she'll hold onto because she now knows Dwight and Angela's secret. It feels like a finale where the writers threw whatever they could think of against the wall to see what would stick, and as it turns out, the most important parts stuck.


Michael: "What's the group that's from Scranton and made it big. Is that U2?"
Jim: "Yes. You are not in love with Holly."

Holly: "What do you do here?"
Creed: ...
Creed: "Excuse me."

(Ryan is arrested for defrauding investors)
Oscar: "The real crime, I think, was the beard."

Michael: "Holly is the best thing that has happened to this company since World War 2."

Dwight: "It's not rabid."
Meredith: "Thanks for bringing that up."

Andy, after making the decision to propose to Angela: "Mr. Andrew Bernard. Has a nice ring to it."

Michael, to Jan: "You cheated on me, after I specifically asked you not to?"

Jim: "Hey, Ryan. It's Jim. You know what? Totally disregard that last voicemail, because you obviously have your hands tied. Good luck!"

Michael: "I just want to let you know that I am going to go to your Lamaze class tomorrow. And if there's any details you need to fill me in on, like what exactly Lamaze is, that would be great."

3. Garage Sale

There are some funny things going on in the Garage Sale portion of this episode, like Dwight's quest to trade a thumbtack away and eventually come away with the biggest prize, Jim's quest to make Dwight trade for some magic beans, and the intense game of Dallas (don't know how to play? Neither do they) between Kevin, Darrell, and Andy. The heart of this episode, however, is Michael's proposal to Holly. It's the perfect way to send Michael off - following Holly, who's going home to Colorado to take care of her parents. His initial proposal idea ("asking Holly a question in fire" by spreading gasoline all over the parking lot) is a disaster, leading to a conference room meeting where people bounce ideas off of each other. In the end, Michael comes up with the perfect idea, taking Holly on a tour of the office and reminiscing about the memories they've made there. They finally stop in the annex, where he has lit an insane amount of candles. Before Michael can give her the ring ("They say three year's salary!"), the fire alarm goes off, and they share a moment doing Yoda voices, bringing the whole thing full circle. It's a sweet and funny moment, and then he announces that they are headed to Colorado. We're sad, of course, but so are the employees, in spite of themselves. The transformation from manager everybody hates to manager everybody hates to see leave is complete.


Michael: "Hey, are you going to light this or not?"
Pam: "You had two ideas today, and one of them was great. The other is terrible."
Michael: "I don't have time for riddles, Pam."

Michael: "How about this? I throw a corpse dressed like me off the roof. It hits the ground and the head pops off. And this leads to me saying the line, "I lost my head when I fell in love with you." And it's easy to get a corpse these days, right? Just call the local medical college."

Dwight: "You got this Kosher certified?"
Ryan: "No, I meant it like, 'It's cool, it's kosher, it's all good.'"

Holly: "If it's a neon problem, I can get my neon guy to take a look."

Ryan is up on the latest proposal trends. "Blogs are out, but people are texting each other that animals are out."

Michael thinks he has called a conference room meeting, but has no idea what it is about. "Okay, thank you all for coming today. I would like to talk to you about recycling."

Kevin: "You can't pay a blackmail card and call a proxy meeting in the same turn!"

Jim and Pam try to explain why the spontaneity of Jim's proposal made it great. Michael: "Well, you didn't say the weather was bad. That changes everything."

2. Dinner Party

The Office is all about awkward humor, and this episode gets the awkward humor award. Michael and Jan, both in full-on crazy mode, trick Jim and Pam and Andy and Angela into coming to a dinner party, where they fight in front of their guests. It's an incredibly uncomfortable situation - and then Dwight shows up. So awkward, and so awesome.


Michael sips some wine. "That has sort of an oaky afterbirth."

Jim: "Michael and Jan seem to be playing their own separate game, and it's called, 'let's see how uncomfortable we can make our guests.' And they're both winning. So I am going to make a run for it."

Michael: "That is a 200 dollar plasma TV you've just killed. Good luck paying me back on your zero dollars a month plus benefits salary, babe!"

Michael: "When I said that I wanted to have kids and you said that you wanted me to have a vasectomy, what did I do? And then, when you said that you might want to have kids and I wasn't so sure? Who had the vasectomy reversed? And then when you said you definitely didn't wanna have kids? Who had it reversed back? Snip snap snip snap snip snap! I did! You have no idea the physical toll that three vasectomies have on a person!"

Michael: "You know, honey, that door was extremely clean, and it looked invisible."
Jan: "You are so right. You are SO right! Because before I lived here the glass was always covered with smudges and I moved in and I cleaned it and I guess that makes me the devil!"
Michael: "You are! She is! She is the devil! I'm in hell! I'm burning. Help me."
Angela: "You shouldn't joke about that."

1. The Client 

This episode is amazing because it was the first to display Michael's competence as a salesman. The Steve Carell as David Brent thing they had going on was working, but it was never going to last 9 seasons (just ask Ricky Gervais). Here, when Michael and Jan go to land Lackawanna County as a client, we can see the disaster coming a mile away. Jan is trying to go through the pitch, but Michael keeps getting distracted by the Chili's menu and by Jan's recent divorce. The funny thing is, Tim Meadows' character is eating it up, and Michael ends up landing the sale several hours later. Michael may not be the best manager, but at least we now know how he got his job, and his surprising success leads to a night that he will relish and Jan will regret. Back at the office, Pam gets her hands on a copy of Threat Level Midnight, Michael's secret screenplay, and the employees come together to do a dramatic table read. Finally, Jim and Pam share a night on the roof. It's the episode where The Office grew up, and it doesn't get any better than that.


Michael: "We will have an awesome blossom, extra awesome."

Christian: "We are interested in saving money?"
Jan: "What's the bottom line?"
Michael: "nasogpasvkmacv"
Michael: "That's why I wanted to come up with a code word, so I wouldn't have to shout nonsense. That's her fault."
Jim, as Narrator: "Catherine Zeta-Jones enters."
Phyllis, as Catherine Zeta-Jones: "Sir, you have some messages."
Dwight, as Agent Michael Scarn: "Not now!"
Phyllis: "They're important."
Dwight: "Okay, what are they?"
Phyllis: "The first message is, 'I love you.' That's from me."

Michael: "A gentleman does not kiss and tell, and neither do I."


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