First off, good news from NBC front. It's really no surprise, but still comforting nonetheless to know that the network has picked up The Office for season six and 30 Rock for season four . Another year of Dunder Mifflin antics and Liz Lemon foot issues. Yay!
Now on to last night's Office episode, The Duel:
It was worth the wait. The Angela-Dwight-Andy bizarre love triangle went down in a ball of flames in last night's Office episode known around these parts as The Duel. It was a showdown between two lovable lunkheads. One Andrew Bernard: clueless and prone to major anger issues. And the other - Dwight Schrute: a ruthless farmer who can still sing his Nazi/Amish farm family rules one by one, and also believes he's a bad ass super hero who has cuckolded his nemesis since season three - one Mr. Andrew Bernard.
The office is sitting on very crunchy, razor sharp eggshells. Seventeen days have passed, and the audacity of Angela and Dwight's torrid love making on chairs and desks around DM Scranton is known to all except love smitten Andy. It is taking on a feverish pitch. Everyone is waiting for the other shoe to drop. Angela is almost psychotic in her denial, allowing the situation to develop because we know how she loves to get off on men fighting. Dwight is like a proud rooster, who is as annoying as he is cocky. Andy - absolutely clueless to why everyone is not RSVPing for the wedding, is feeling "shunned".
Meanwhile Michael has been called to New York by David Wallace. Uh oh. What could it be? Now we're all freaking out a bit. Could Michael be in trouble? Is the branch facing another brush with closure? Insert musical sting here.
Fed up with this little secret that is so big it's the biggest elephant that ever roamed the planet, Michael does an Aaron Sorkin to Andy on his way out, "Andy? Walk with me". Yet, the fast talking turns into humming, hawing, stunted words and sentences. Hmmm...who does he remind me of? The deer in the head lights. The "I haven't got a single thought in my head" vibe. Could it be? A Sarah Palin moment?
He drops the bomb to the Nard Dog as he drives away, and it is here where we once again realize that Steve Carell is a genius in subtlety and perfect verbal timing. Andy is understandably stunned. Well played by Ed Helms. This is where the old Office heart comes in. It was a moment of heartbreak.
It's always great to see David Wallace. He's the sane connection from the corporate world that holds the strings to the sales branches out in the field. But why did he call Michael in? Well, the economy is in the toilet, and Dunder Mifflin is in danger of being flushed. Utica, Nashua, Albany - sales offices are really sucking in reaching their numbers; whereas, Michael's bunch is knocking it out of the ballpark. Wallace wants to know how Michael does it, even if he has to sit through unfinished, Sarah Palin-like meandering sentences. It's also nice to see the writers use the current economic downturn in this storyline. It will play a valuable role in the storyline down the road.
The beauty of all this? With Michael away, it provided another opportunity for Jim to test his manager mettle - this time amidst a potential violent altercation.
Jim handled it with Halpert calm, knowing where Dwight keeps his weapons, and making sure that any duel should be handled out of the office. Even Pam stepped up to the plate (I enjoy baseball metaphors), shouting to Angela "You have to make this stop!". I'm loving Pam here. That's my new confident girl - because someone had to say it.
The duel itself culminated in a parking lot brawl with a decoy note by Andy and a quiet Prius. Pinned to a very lefty hedge, Schrute and Bernard honk and yell, whip and shriek as Jim rushed to make sure no bones are broken. It is revealed that Angela and Andy finally had sex - twice, even though Angela told Dwight Andy sex never occurred. Dwight is now betrayed. Both men see the light. Andy calls off the wedding cake. Dwight throws his beloved bobble head in a bin. Angela is rightfully dumped by two men. The office whore now stands alone.
The Duel was a solid episode, with great ensemble interaction. Jim showed us that he's taking charge, claiming a new level of maturity that was needed to be seen. Pam laid low, but when she's not trying to ramp her new confidence ways down our gullet, she usually shines. Michael, hero of Dunder Mifflin corporate, whose humanity, which tends to come off cartoon-ish, was in full swing when he put his foot down and decided, in his own Michael way, to tell Andy the truth. The end result between Dwight and Andy was righteous, and Angela's end was satisfying.
One gripe: It's getting very difficult to place this show in Scranton, PA when, in the dead of January winter, we see green bushes and blossoms in outdoor scenes such as the very funny cold open. The cast can pretend to huddle up and shiver all they want, but viewing lovely pink flowers growing through a fence when in reality it should be a mass of brown dead branches, takes us out of the Scranton reality, into the outskirts of the Van Nuys studios. Please Office people, remember when you put snow in the parking lot in season two and three during the winter episodes? Do that again.
Also, in Michael's "exterior" scene, you can tell he's so not in New York, but in front of a green screen. Ok, I'll give them that one. They even key in shots of Rockefeller Plaza on 30 Rock, but that show is a silly romp. The Office is supposed to be a documentary. Maybe they could have ditched the exterior shot and had Michael speak from the lobby of the building.
Finally, it's time for more Jim and Pam. I'm missing this.
Next week's episode: Prince Family Paper. The Office airs on NBC at 9:00pm ET/8:00 CT.