Thanks to the writers strike, this might be the last new episode of The Office we see for a while. Let’s hope it’s a good one …
The episode begins with Pam explaining that Michael prefers to get phone messages via Post-It Notes when he’s in a meeting. Pam did it for him once and he liked it, so now he insists on it every time. The only problem is, he doesn’t get a lot of phone calls, so Pam walks into a lot of meetings with Post-Its that simply say “good morning” or have a smiley face on them. It keeps Michael happy and makes him feel important — at least until she brings him one with a drawing of a hot dog saying “Hi ya, buddy” while he’s in a meeting with Ryan, who makes him take the call from “a very important client.” Michael, once again showing that all of that time he’s spent in improv classes has been wasted, picks up the phone and can only say sheepishly, “Hi ya, buddy.” And we’re off to a nice start.
After the commercial break, we join Jan and Michael on their way to Michael’s deposition in Jan’s wrongful termination lawsuit against Dunder Mifflin. Jan stands to win a judgment of $4 million if she can prove that the company fired her, as Michael puts it, “for having the courage to augment her boobs.” With that much money at stake, Jan has gone to great lengths to prepare Michael so that nothing is left up to chance — or Michael’s judgment. Probably not a bad idea, since the first thing Michael does after they arrive is make a lawyer joke to Jan’s lawyer:
Michael: “What do you call a buttload of lawyers driving off a cliff?”
Lawyer: “A good start. And I believe it’s ‘busload.'”
Michael: “Yeah, a bunch of rich lawyers took the bus. [To Jan] Where’d you find this guy?”
Back at the office, there’s not much work going on, as is usually the case when Michael’s gone — or even when he’s there. We’ll just let Pam explain: “The warehouse got a ping-pong table last week. Now Jim comes down and plays with Darryl. Sometimes I bring him juice. … My boyfriend is 12.” Unfortunately for Pam, Kelly also comes down to cheer on her boyfriend and seems to enjoy Jim’s failure even more than Darryl’s success. She talks a lot a smack — not trash, which is only hypothetical — saying things such as, “What has two skinny chicken legs and sucks at ping-pong?” and “Your boyfriend is so weak, he needs steroids just to watch baseball” and “Jim couldn’t hit a ping-pong ball if it was the size of the moon” and “Were Jim’s parents first cousins who were also bad at ping-pong?” and … well, you get the picture. Pam has three options: She can sit there and take it, she can fight smack with smack (either literally or figuratively), or she can try to make Jim a better ping-pong player. Unfortunately for her – and for viewers who are into catfights — she picks the last option, converting the conference room table into a makeshift ping-pong table for Jim to practice on.
Back at the deposition, Michael gets off to a good start, reciting Jan’s line that Dunder Mifflin “displayed a pattern of disrespect and inappropriate behaviors” in terminating her. Then Jan’s lawyer asks Michael if he was directly under Jan the entire time he worked with her at Dunder Mifflin, and anyone who knows anything about Michael Scott can guess what his response was. After some “that’s what who said?” confusion, things get progressively worse until the photo of Michael and a topless Jan from their vacation in Jamaica is entered into evidence. Feeling her case and her $4 million slipping away, Jan allows her lawyer to submit Michael’s personal diary as evidence that she defined their relationship with him at that point as strictly professional. It also becomes evidence that Michael finds Ryan to be “just as hot as Jan but in a different way.”
At the office, Jim is having trouble finding a worthy ping-pong practice opponent — until Dwight discovers what’s going on and Jim convinces him that he’s practicing to play against an important client. As it turns out, all of Dwight’s heroes are table tennis players: Zoran Primorac, Jan-Ove Waldner, Wang Tao, Jorg Rosskopf and, of course, Ashraf Helmy. He even has a life-sized poster of Hugo Hoyama on his wall. The first time he left Pennsylvania was to attend the Hall of Fame induction ceremony of Andrzej Grubba. [We believe Grubba is the first former Polish Sportspersonality of the Year winner to be mentioned on The Office, but we’d have to go back and check. We seem to remember 1930s track-and-field star Stanislawa Walasiewicz coming up a time or two.] Unfortunately, none of that helps. Either Dwight is no Mr. Miyagi or Jim is no Ralph Macchio, because Jim still gets his butt kicked by Darryl at ping-pong. Pam decides to take matters into her own hands and challenge Kelly to a game of ping-pong. They both suck far worse than Jim, pretty much eliminating the chance of any more smack talk.
Despite the fact that it’s revealed he was never a serious contender for Jan’s job, Michael eventually sides with the company during the deposition, refusing to characterize Dunder Mifflin’s behavior as inappropriate. He and Jan are left to endure one hell of an awkward car ride home.
But, wait, there’s more:
Best quote: “You expect to get screwed by your company, but you never expect to get screwed by your girlfriend.” — Michael on Jan allowing his diary to become evidence.
Best moment: Kelly’s version of “Girlfriend” with the lyrics rewritten about Jim’s lack of ping-pong ability. Hey, if Avril can steal the song from The Rubinoos, Kelly can certainly borrow it for a little smack talk.
Employee of the Week: The court stenographer. She might not have Michael’s comedic delivery, but her readings of Michael’s testimony might be the funniest deadpan found outside of a Stephen Wright routine.
Best quote: “He’s just going to tell the truth. The truth is very, you know, complicated, so we went over it carefully so we wouldn’t leave anything up to chance or Michael’s judgment.” — Jan on preparing Michael to speak at the deposition
Best moment: There were some great cringe-worthy moments in the deposition, but for me, the best moment came at the very end as we see Dwight and Cousin Mose engaged in a furious game of table tennis after hours in the warehouse. Really, for me, Cousin Mose moments are hard to beat.
Employee of the Week: Kelly. Sorry to be Captain Obvious here, but there was some outstanding Kelly in this episode. She loves to talk trash smack to Pam about Jim’s poor table tennis abilities, but it is some of the weakest, least imaginative smack I’ve ever heard. And thanks to Kelly, I now know the difference between talking trash and talking smack. That’s good, because here I thought I’ve been talking smack all my life, when in actuality I’ve been talking trash. Silly me!
Court Reporter (monotone): “Mr. Schneider: And you were directly under her the entire time. Mr. Scott: That’s what she said.”
Michael: “Delivery’s all wrong. She’s butchering it.”
— Michael’s response, after the Court Reporter reads back his “That’s what she said” joke.
Best moment: While everybody is reading through Michael’s diary, Toby — who has been ridiculed and harassed by Michael at every opportunity — sees that Michael is at an emotional low and tells him a personal story about the divorce of his own parents. Michael’s response is to shove Toby’s lunch tray and belongings off of the table.
Employee of the Week: Michael. Even though he’s a clueless man-child, you have to feel sorry for him, here. Everybody uses him for their own personal gains, without a care as to how it will hurt Michael. You get the sense that he even realizes this, but is so desperate for the few-and-far-between pats on the head, that he’s willing to take the shrapnel just for those rare bouts of positive affirmation. Come on. The poor fella’s personal diary was made public. His boss/girlfriend’s negative reviews were read out loud. He found out he wasn’t even in the Top 5 for the promotion, after all. All of this in one episode. How many times can one person get screwed? That’s what she said …