“The Office” Recap: Branch Wars

Karen Filipelli is back. And she’s the regional manager of Dunder Mifflin Utica. And she’s offered Stanley more money to leave Scranton and transfer to her branch. Once Michael finishes fiddling with his Ferris Bueller-inspired dummy of himself long enough to grasp the situation, he decides that he can’t afford to lose Stanley. He wouldn’t mind losing Toby, though, and he calls Karen to suggest she take him instead — despite the fact that Toby’s not a salesman and that Michael admits that he thinks “Toby is the worst.”

At least two people would miss Toby if he were gone: Pam and Oscar, who are his fellow members in Dunder Mifflin Scranton’s Finer Things Club. It’s an exclusive group whose members discuss literature and art, and according to Oscar it’s the second gayest thing about him.

Michael decides that if Karen is going to take one of his men, he is going to take one of hers. He even goes so far as to tell her that on the phone, then not so slyly ask: “Could you transfer me to one our your sales people? The best one.” That, of course, doesn’t work but Pam manages to get Utica’s top salesman on the phone anyway, and Michael delivers a sales pitch that includes magic, moving to Scranton and the threat of being fired. Somehow the guy passes on the offer.

Thankfully, Michael’s not out of bad ideas yet, and he and Dwight — feeling the need to make the Scranton branch less lame and more like Animal House — trick Jim into joining them on a “panty raid” of the Utica branch. Strangely, their idea of a panty raid involves silly string, warehouse uniforms, fake mustaches … and bombs? To keep Jim from calling Karen to warn her, Dwight throws Jim’s cellphone — complete with pictures of his brother’s newborn baby — out the window. But that’s not the worst indignity Jim suffers on the trip, since Michael feels the need to discuss Jim’s breakup with Karen and theorize that it couldn’t have been because of the sex because he just can’t imagine it being bad. Good to know. The ride just keeps getting better, as moments later Michael hears a noise that he thinks is the air conditioner leaking. It’s not, as Jim rightly points out, because that’s not possible. It is however Dwight relieving himself into an empty can in the backseat. Everybody freaks out — rightfully so — which causes chaos and, well, let’s describe it in Dwight’s own words: “You’re making me spray! I think I cut my penis on the lip!”

Back in Scranton, Andy is aware of the Finer Things Club and he wants in. Who wouldn’t? It’s the most exclusive club in the office, ahead of his backup choice (the party-planning committee) and his safety (Kevin’s band Scrantonicity II). But the FT Club is exclusive for a reason, and Andy is not invited.

Michael, Dwight and a very reluctant Jim finally arrive at the Utica branch, and as Jim waits in the car, Michael and Dwight set their plan into motion. Well, actually, they don’t have much of a plan, except that Dwight knows he really wants to do something to the security guard’s eyes. But they go inside anyway. Long story short: an industrial copier gets broken, the guys get caught by Karen, and Dwight and Michael are both determined to “burn Utica to the ground.” Jim is left to explain himself to Karen, who thinks he came to see her. He insists that, ultimately, he came for the copier. So awkward, yet so enjoyable.

Upon his return to Scranton, Michael finally accepts the fact that Stanley is leaving, and he sets out to find a replacement. He has Pam help him draft a newspaper ad, which reads “Wanted: middle-aged black man with sass; big butt, bigger heart.” That’s when Stanley comes into Michael’s office and agrees to stay in Scranton. Apparently he never intended to leave. He just wanted a pay raise and thinks Michael called his bluff. “Is he some kind of secret genius?” Um, no.

It goes without saying that this episode was awesome. At half the length, it packed more laughs than any of the four hourlong episodes that began the season. And it taught an important lesson: If you’re going to pee into a can, always beware the lip.

But wait, there’s more:

Mike says

Best Moment: When Michael sees Toby wearing a bow tie and holding a stack of tea cups while preparing for a Finer Things Club meeting and blames him for making people leave the Scranton branch. It was a nearly perfect moment that summed up Michael’s completely unwarranted disgust for Toby in the span of five seconds. As Michael said, “I have no words.”

Best Quote: “Jim, if this is it for me, promise me something. Host the Dundies.” — Michael’s last request


“Besides having sex with men, I would say the Finer Things Club is the gayest thing about me.” — Oscar

Employee of the Week: I’m going to go with Toby — not so much for what he did, but for what was done to him, mostly by Michael. No one wears indignity better than Toby Flenderson.

Ryan says

Best Moment: Lots to choose from. But I’ll go with Michael trying to get Karen to take “his best man” Toby instead of Stanley. Toby’s very smart and charming … Agh, Toby is the worst! That was a bluff.

Best Quote: “We are going to make Karen wish that she’d never been dumped by you. Utica! Utica! Utica!” — Michael, trying to get Jim pumped up for the big prank on the Utica office

Employee of the Week: Dwight. Might be too obvious, but I’m going with D. His idea of a prank on Utica is a Molotov cocktail. He brought rubber and gasoline along to make stink bombs … or regular bombs. He pees in an empty soda can in the backseat, and may have cut himself in the process. He wants to stab the security guard in the eyes (the groin of the head) with jumbo chalk, or at least grind up the chalk and blow it in the guard’s eyes. And he wants to burn Utica to the ground.

johnnysweeptheleg says

Best Moment: The final scene between Jim and Karen had me equally laughing and squirming. Jim did more backpedaling in two minutes than I’ve seen in all of the previous seasons, combined. I particularly enjoyed Karen calling Jim out on wanting to hear more about how happy he and Pam are. Then Jim stands up and goes from metaphorically backpedaling to literally backpedaling as he backs away from Karen and excuses himself for traffic reasons. All while dressed in a women’s warehouse uniform.

Best Quote:
Dwight: “I could see the security guard’s eyes.”
Jim: “No. No. Don’t do anything to them.”
Dwight: “I have to do something to his eyes. (cut to the office) The eyes are the groin of the head.”

Employee of the Week: Jim. Big Tuna earned his paycheck this week. From convincing Dwight to do nothing with the eyes, to his facial expressions as he resembles a child sitting in the principal’s office with Karen, to his additions to the Finer Things Club at the end, Jim ran the gamut of reactions. His juxtaposition of fear and anger at any given moment was the emotional game of Frogger we’ve come to know and love on the show.