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October 20, 2006

"When You are Ready for the Sales Office, the Sales Office will Appear." Recap of The Office---"The Initiation." Aired 19 October 2006.


FIRST, SOME OFFICE SPECULATION.  Okay, this is obviously just an educated guess, but based on these first few season 3 episodes and my extensive knowledge of the British series, here's where I think we're headed:  The Stamford branch is going to be downsized and relocated to Scranton, with the Stamford boss, Josh, placed in charge of Scranton as regional manager, with Michael bumped down to second in command.  Jim, Karen, and that other guy (Craig?) will also relocate. 

If these episodes track the British series, corporate will first offer the top dog position to Michael, on the understanding that he'll relocate to Stamford and that a number of the current employees will be down-sized.  He'll provisionally accept the job, to the fury and disgruntlement of his staff, but subsequently, the offer will be withdrawn (in the British series, David Brent's high blood pressure was the reason) and the position will be offered to the Stamford boss.  He'll try to pretend that he turned it down out of loyalty to his employees, but Toby or Stanley will reveal the truth. 

I'm not sure this will happen in the American series, given how fed up Jan is with him; yet they did make the point in this episode that he is able to pull in the big deals in a market where his company is being squeezed out by (Ryan) "consolidation of the competition" and (Dwight) online stores.

The show has made the point more than once that Michael's real strength is in sales.  As a manager, he sucks, but he really is---as he said in one episode ("The Client"?)---a "closer."  We know from "Dwight's Speech" that Michael was Dunder Mifflin's top salesman for two consecutive years and we have seen him do some very effective selling in "The Convention."  Josh told him in that episode, even before he closed his big deal, that he'd heard Michael was a great salesman.   

This is very different from the way David Brent was presented.  A couple of times in the series it's mentioned in passing that he has managed to achieve results at the Slough branch of Wernham-Hogg, and his company does offer him the regional manager position.  But I can't think of any point in the series where the audience ever sees Brent behaving competently.  We have to assume that he is good at managing some of the time, but as he complains in the hour and a half finale, the documentary was a "stitch up" that presented only the cock ups.  But a British season is six episodes, and in the two seasons of The Office, there simply wasn't room to develop the story to the extent we're seeing in the American series. 

"The Initiation." 

In this episode, Dwight reaches out to Ryan and tries rather touchingly (but also extremely Dwightishly) to bond with him.  The tension between Michael and Jan is definitely on the increase and there is an ugly moment when Michael is more of a tool than usual.  During the rest of the episode, Michael is shown doing very little and yet--by the end of the day--clenching a major deal for the company. 

At the end of the episode, Jim and Pam reconnect, and yet it ends awkwardly, because neither one is capable of taking an emotional risk or else neither one likes the other quite enough to put his/her pride on the line.  Either way, it's getting hard to sustain any sympathy for these characters, at least for me.  Maybe they aren't right for each other.  Or maybe that's the only way to sustain the tension between them.  I'm assuming (see previous speculation) that the Stamford branch will sooner or later relocate to Scranton and that Jim will be "torn" between Karen and Pam.  We'll see.

ANYWAY, SAME DISCLAIMERS AS BEFORE.  This is a recap of the INNER OFFICE.  I am interested in subtext.  Maybe it's not even really there; I don't know.  But it's fun to analyze the action of these all-too-realistic fictional characters. 

For NBC's summary (with pictures), go here!  It's concise; mine isn't.

For some great recaps, there are some excellent sites that deal specifically with The Office.  These have other Office-related information and pictures (which you're not going to find here).

"BRAIN TEASERS" [SCRANTON BRANCH].  Dwight is gleefully "challenging" Ryan with some "brain teasers" that were old when I was a kid back in the Seventies.  He is so certain that Ryan won't be able to work them out that you can't help feeling a bit sorry for him when Ryan turns out not only to know all the answers, but also all the questions.  By the third one, he's answering before Dwight gets past the first few words. 

But watching Dwight being temporarily deflated is always more pleasing than not and this vignette provides yet another insight into his strange (and annoying) innocence/nerdiness.  How could he not know that these "brain teasers" are almost as old as he is?  By never talking to anyone normal, that's how.  You can see that he really did not know that these "brain teasers"---by which he intended to put Ryan in his place---haven't been capable for the last twenty years of teasing the brain of anyone over eight because of his groan of defeat and frustration when Ryan "wins" the challenge.


"TELL ME WHAT YOU DID YESTERDAY."  [SCRANTON BRANCH]  Jan is sitting in Michael's office.  It's clear from their voices and body language that things are not going well.  Jan says rather snippily to Michael, "Tell me what you did yesterday." 

Michael, like a sullen teenager:  Nothing.  No professional likes to be micromanaged and Michael, however unprofessional he may be, knows this.  So even though he knows perfectly damn well what she means, he pretends to think it's a personal query. What did he do?  Nothing in particular.  Or nothing he's prepared to tell her.

She doesn't react well to this response.  But she doesn't snap till he adds, "How was your day?"From the intensity of her response, it's clear she senses that he's winding her up. 

Wow.  So much tension.  There's now quite a bit of unprocessed MUCK between them that can't be acknowledged, at least by Jan.  Michael, of course, having no internal appropriateness-compass is going to pretend as soon (as she gives him the opening, which he has pushed her into doing) that she pushed him to the breaking point. 

She snaps.  She says she doesn't care how his day was....but before she can finish explaining that she just wants to know what he did with it, he spitefully busts out the spitefulness: he doesn't care how her day was either, nyaaah nyaaah.  He worked, then he went home to his condo "and Carol came over and we had sex."  Nyaaaah!  Jan looks stunned.

There was a lot going on in the scene.  It's really unclear to me how much Jan is pissed off about Carol (a little or lot, but not not at all, I think) and how much she is pissed off at his continuing to make everything personal and to exploit their past encounter whenever she tries to call him out about his work.  It's unclear to me how much he knows or is pissed off about the fact that she showed interest at the convention in Josh, the Stamford manager.

After Michael's snipe, the camera pans in on Jan's tightly smiling face. She's not in a position to respond to his snipe at all, even by telling him that she doesn't give a rat's ass what he gets up to with Carol (whether true or not).  If she does that, and puts things on a personal level, she really will lose her ascendancy.  But I would want to slap his face. 

On the other hand, she asked him a legitimate question for a boss to ask a subordinate and received an inappropriate, insubordinate response.  Intead of pursuing it, she stomps out of the office and over to Pam's desk.  She tells Pam that she wants her to log Michael's activities for corporate to analyze.  Pam clearly doesn't want this responsibility, but it isn't offered as a choice.  After Jan storms out, Pam remarks to the camera, that whereas Jan used to treat Michael like he is ten, lately she's treating him like he is five.

There's a deleted scene that develops the tension quite a bit further.  When Jan asks Michael for an hour by hour log of how he spends his work time, he says "That's not the way I roll."  Sometimes he's the zone; sometimes he's in the zoning out.  What's "zoning out"? she asks, with really impressive verbal quotation marks. Michael asks her if she wants him to go on Amazon and order her a slang dictionary.  "'Cause I'll do it."  He smirks at the camera in a way that must make all womankind want to slap it off his face.  Jan:  "If you can account for your time, then maybe corporate can justify your salary."  She slams out. Go, Jan!  Michael's mouth falls open, but he pulls himself together sufficiently to tell the camera that she is a woman "spurned."

And I want to pause here and remark that it's unclear how much of Jan's hostility does flow from her sense that Michael has spurned her, though I am assuming that the indignation is mainly because it was Michael who spurned her, which is something he is obviously never going to allow himself to see. 

She---his superior in every respect, as she sees it, and as I do---in a moment of supreme foolishness or loneliness allowed herself in a moment of weakness to be put in a position where Michael Scott could reject her.  Of her never-clarified night with Michael, Pam asked "How do you walk away from that?"  Jane, if there were a Jan, would curse herself first thing every morning for not just walking away.  "Casino Night" was a turning point for Michael and Jan.  It was a shift in the balance of power, which used to be all on her side of the scales.  Now it's shifted.  If she does what she needs to do to be boss, Michael is (a) going to try to blame it on their nonexistent "relationship" and her "sour grapes"; and (b)  continue to defy her, because now he can.  He can because of the whole "sexual harassment"/sleeping-with-a-subordinate thing.

Not to mention the fact that Josh on "Casino Night" was too creeped out by the very thought of a Michael/Jan liaison to accept her invitation to come to her room for a drink.  And while she doesn't technically know this, you can be certain that she fundamentally knows it.  She knows.

So Michael is probably right that she is angry and bitter, though it's not for the reason he thinks.  Or is it?  I refuse to believe it.  Michael must not end up with Jan.  It's against nature.  Let him stay with Carol, who is basically just a cipher.  He's good with kids.

But I'm afraid he might end up with Jan. At some level, she likes him.  Why?  How can she?  How can she have been with him in the first place? It's not that I disbelieve in the possibility because we've all seen amazing women make asses of themselves over amazing in an equal-but-opposite-direction men.

Pam says that the tension between these two is like a fight between mommy and daddy, except here the mommy outranks the daddy.  "And is way scarier," she adds.  Amen. 

SCRANTON:  "THE DWIGHT ARMY OF CHAMPIONS."  Speaking of treating grown-ups like infants, Dwight is grinning at Ryan as if through the bars of a playpen and asking Ryan if he is excited.  Ryan sort of nods.  Is he very excited?  Will he join the Dwight Army of champions or will he be a slacker-lose- wiseass like Jim?.... Is he extremely excited?  He doesn't say, "Diddums?" or anything; it just sounds sort of that way. 

Ryan's very excited.  Just very excited.

To the camera, Ryan explains that he has now spent a year at the Dunder Mifflin office and must commit or get out.  So he's going on his first sales call today with Dwight.  Though wary, he does seem to be looking forward to it.  He mentions that Dwight is the company's top salesman.

At the NBC site, there's a great deleted scene in which Pam talks to the camera about Dwight's plans for Ryan.  She says if Ryan's body is subsequently found in a heavily wooded area, she will owe Jim $30.  That confused me for a moment because the phone call at the end appears to be their first since he left, but then she says, "It's an old bet."  So I took the Jim reference to be a case of Pam just wanting to say his name as a way of feeling for a second as if they're still connected.  I know the feeling, lady. 

In the same scene, Dwight talks about his plans to train Ryan "with various tasks and trials."  I didn't see Training Day so I didn't really get the references, but it was funny to hear Dwight say, "Ryan is Ethan Hawke; and I....am the African-American." I really don't need to know more to laugh at that. 

When they go to the car, Dwight tells Ryan to get in. Ryan points out that the door is locked and he doesn't have the key.  Dwight says, "Don't you realize...the key is inside you?" and pulls it out of Ryan's ear.  He's so thrilled with his magic trick that he can't stop grinning at the camera.  I love the way Dwight Shrute grin.  It is both deranged and childlike.  He looks like a 10 year old who needs a dose of Ritalin.  It's such a contrast to the deadpan look he cultivates when he is trying to seem stern and impressive.

There's another deleted scene that I really, really wish they'd included because it confirms that Michael's love for Ryan hasn't abated since he's started having sex with with Carol.  Dwight brings Ryan into Michael's office.  "Take a look at this boy," he says.  "I always do," says Michael.  So, um, yeah.  God, Michael, just come out of the closet. 

Then Dwight tells Michael that he will never see "this boy" again.  From between gritted teeth, Michael says, "If you lay a finger on----" in the most menacing tone he's ever used.  But when Dwight, who is talking over Michael, goes on to say that he's going to bring Ryan back a man, Michael gives Ryan a really, really uncomfortable not quite lip-to-lip embrace (remember when he moved in on Oscar in GAY WITCH HUNT?).  He gets pissed off when Dwight tries to join in and make it a happy group hug.  Really, Dwight's affection for Michael is just so tragic, almost as tragic as Michael's for Ryan. 

Back to the show.  We see them in the car, driving somewhere out in the country.  Ryan wants to know where the sales office is.  Dwight:  "When you are ready to see the sales office, the sales office will present itself to you."   He stops the car next to a field.  "Your journey begins now," he announces.  Uh-oh. 

Ryan's as expressionless as usual, but with the wheels turning visibly behind his eyes.  You can see the realization dawning, but the Tao of Ryan is to yield whenever resistance is useless, which in the situations in which we see him it usually is. 

STAMFORD BRANCH:  THE SQUEAKY CHAIR---THE SAGA BEGINS.   Karen says to Jim in her (so far) usual flat tone:  "My chair's squeaking.  You took my chair."  Jim says no; he just took back the chair that she took from him.  She tells him that she is going to take it back as soon as he gets up.  Jim says in that case he won't get up.  He then rolls slowly across the floor to the copier, still seated in his chair.  She smiles at him rather beautifully as he rolls away.  The slow progress of this flirtation is setting my teeth on edge, just like listening to the squeaking of Karen's chair.  I really want to like her, but so far, I really don't see any chemistry between these actors.  I think it's because so far we really haven't seen them together much.  Smiling at one another across the room and so forth, but that's all.  Bring on the effervescence and the sparkles! 

SCRANTON BRANCH:  A COSBY IMPRESSION.    Michael is on the phone to someone called Coselli.  He is doing his Bill Cosby impression.   It isn't a good Cosby impression; he just keeps yelling about Jell-O pudding pops.  Michael's pop culture references all seem not only dated, but also about ten or fifteen years older than he is.  That's something he definitely has in common with David Brent. It's very weird.

Meanwhile, the Cosby thing is loud enough for everyone to hear through the glass.  Pam holds up her log.  It has one thing written on it:  COSBY IMPRESSION.

DWIGHT'S BEET FARM:  THE CEREMONY BEGINS.    Ryan's worked out that he is at Dwight's beet farm.  Dwight says:  "I hold in my hand a beet seed.  Take it."  Ryan, having clearly decided that the fastest way out is straight through, snatches it out of Dwight's hand. 

STAMFORD BRANCH:  ACTING HIS HEART OUT.   The jerky guy, Andy, says to Jim (he's still calling him "Big Tuna") if he can speak to him for a minute.  When Jim says yes, but doesn't budge from his chair, he asks Jim to stand up and talk to him.  Karen asks him if that was the best he could come up with.  He says, sounding wounded, "I'm acting my heart out over here,”  Poor Andy.  Maybe he's not such a jerk, after all.  He's just a big old grizzly bear.   

SCRANTON BRANCH: ONE THING IN MICHAEL’S BRAIN.   A voice announces over the P.A. that there are complementary pretzels available in the lobby until 4 pm.  We see Stanley hurry past, eyes shining.  I love Stanley. 

Pam explains that the pretzel people once a year bring over a little cart and give out free pretzels.  "It's not a big deal," she says.  Then she says, "To some people it is."

Cut to Michael, also on his way to the pretzels.  How can he be productive if he has "this one little thing in my brain?"  Funny he should ask.  But that isn't what he means, of course;  what he means is that he can't get "a soft pretzel" out of his brain.  In the lobby, the pretzel man is apparently making each pretzel singly by hand.  People are lined up, and clearly have been lined up for quite some time.  One man yawns. 

BEET FARM:  "I AM GOING TO PLANT MY SEED IN YOU."  "Just as you have planted your seed in the ground," says Dwight, "I am going to plant my seed in you."  Ryan, stolidly grubbing about in the field, glances up apprehensively at this, as anyone would. Something smells terrible.  Dwight says:  "It's called bull-crap and a client can smell it from a mile away." 

Then he does what you knew he would.  Ryan---who really ought to wake up and smell the hazing as well as the bull crap----accepts this tamely. 

He watches Dwight haring off to the car without apparent suspicion.  He actually seems a bit surprised when Dwight drives off without him.  As his situation sinks in, he looks fed up rather than alarmed (which is how I'd feel if someone stranded me among the beets).

In a deleted scene, we see him trudging alongside the beet field.  Whenever he thinks he's hit rock bottom in his job, he tells the camera, "the floor opens up like a carnival ride."

SCRANTON BRANCH:  PRETZEL DAY.   Stanley's road is a tough one, he explains to the camera.  He sends his daughter to a school that's too expensive and he goes to a job for which he gets paid too little.  But then there's pretzel day.  Pretzel day makes it all seem worthwhile.  "I like pretzel day."  He nods and beams sweetly, which we don't get to see him do very often. 

We see Michael standing downstairs in the pretzel  line.  Kelly is immediately behind him, jabbering about something or other.  He's distracted from the problem of how to shut her down by the sight of Phyllis kissing Bob Vance, who is standing near the head of the line.  Stanley is in front of him.  Both of them are pissed off that Bob Vance is letting her break in line.   Both of them boo her for cutting in line---overriding Vance’s jovial protests---and complain loudly till she goes rather sulkily to the back of the line. 

At which point Stanley and Michael high five one another.  The decencies of Pretzel Day will not not mocked!  We won’t be seeing that again, I bet.  Though their differences may be unbridgeable, soft pretzels evidently narrow the gap. 

Bob Vance calls them “a pair of Marys."  Being weirdly dated seems to fit Bob Vance as much as it does Michael. 

Stanley stares with his best implacable take-no-prisoners-stare: “This is PRETZEL DAY,” he tells us.   On Pretzel Day, on this day of all days, there is no cutting in line.  Stanley’s road is a tough one, Phyllis.  No cutting in front of Stanley!

There's a cute deleted scene in which Stanley and Michael discuss why pretzels are so good as they pleasurably devour theirs.

BEET FARM:  “CONGRATULATIONS, RESOURCEFUL SALESMAN.”  Ryan is walking through the field toward a dilapidated barn, talking to himself.  “….I’ll abandon you in a beet field…That sounds great, Dwight; thank you so much…”  He bangs on the barn door and Dwight opens it.  “Congratulations, resourceful salesman.  Welcome to Shrute Farm.”  And if Ryan thinks the "tests and trials" part of the day is over, he is in for a rude awakening.  I was sort of hoping so, since it seemed to go on a bit longer than I really cared to see. 

I just can't believe in any sort of Dwight/Ryan extended interaction, not to mention any sort of alliance.  They're like guns and butter, chalk and cheese, portobello mushrooms and an off-brand peanut butter cup.  They just don't match in any way.

STAMFORD BRANCH:  “THIS IS NOT A PROPORTIONATE RESPONSE.”  Karen is pointedly squeaking her chair.  Jim begins to sing along with the squeaking in a rather impressive falsetto.  I have no idea what the song is; sorry.  Karen:  “This is not a proportionate response.”  She tells him to stop---“This is not fair”---but Jim carries on with his high-pitched singing. 

The camera cuts to Andy, looking into the camera singing the same song and doing it quite a lot more tunefully than Jim.  This made me like him.   “Whatever happened to those guys?” he asks.  Well, we know from what Andy said in GAY WITCH HUNT that he used to sing "Here Comes Treble" in his acapello group at Cornell.  I'm his friend forever after this demonstration.

SCRANTON:  PRETZEL LINE.  Michael is still waiting in line for his delicious free hand-made pretzel.  He has the peevish expression of someone who has been standing in line waiting for a pretzel for much too long; he is rubbing his forehead.   Pam says, “Michael?”  Michael: “NO CUTS.” 

Then he sees it’s Pam, who tells him, in the tone of a receptionist who has to log her boss’s hours that she thought he could use the time to authorize some checks.  Ignoring this, he tells her to stand in line to hold his place while he goes to the restroom.  She asks him---again with much weighty emphasis---why he doesn’t go upstairs where he could “get some work done and I’ll bring you a pretzel.”

But no; Michael likes his pretzels a certain way.  If she didn’t get it right, all his waiting would have been for naught (or something).  Pam tells him that she thinks it’s important for him to be productive.  But for Michael, productivity evidently  begins with pretzels.

BEET FARM:  READY FOR THE FINAL TEST.   Dwight asks Ryan if he is ready for “the final test.”

“You have planted the beet seed,” he says.  He has also walked the "long lonely walk of loneliness."  Ryan, by now looking as fed up as Ryan ever looks tells Dwight that he was in a frat, so he understands what Dwight is doing.  He’s clearly had enough.  But  Dwight shouts that the reason Ryan hasn’t made any sales is because he thinks he already knows everything. 

There's a funny deleted scene between Dwight and Ryan where Dwight talks a bit about his family ("My grandfather was a good man who did some very bad things") and stumble on some kids who are using the farm for illicit purposes.  They are indeed lucky that Dwight doesn't have his crossbow.  And Ryan gets to see the compost heap!

We wonder with Dwight why Ryan can’t just listen and trust.  Because we the viewers know we're going to see what Dwight has in store for Ryan, whether we like it or not, or whether Ryan does.  The wheels of Dwight grind slowly and their grist is surpassing strange.  As Ryan well knows.

So get ready for that final test, Ryan.  Let's do this thing so we can move on.

SCRANTON BRANCH:  THE WORKS.   Michael, finally at the head of the line, says hollowly to the pretzel guy to please tell him he has a sweet pretzel left.

But Michael sounds genuinely weary.  It's been a long vigil. Will he achieve the grail?  Does the pretzel guy have what Michael needs and has waited so patiently to get?

He does.  He does!  And it comes with various sugary and gooey toppings.  What toppings would Michael like?  The guy runs through a long and nauseating list of candy and creamy or syrupy goo that really doesn’t belong on pretzels.  If you put it on a pretzel, the thing you end up with is no longer a pretzel, my friends.  It is a cookie.

Michael asks if it’s possible to have them all.  “The works?”  Yes.  One giant soft pretzel with the works, coming right up. 

DWIGHT’S BARN:  “PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE SPIRITS THAT HAUNT THIS HALLOWED GROUND.”  Dwight asks Ryan to sit in a chair in the middle of the barn.  A man wearing a sweatshirt with FEAR printed across the front dashes by.    Dwight booms, in the manner of the Great and Terrible Oz, “PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE SPIRTS THAT HAUNT THIS HALLOWED GROUND!”  Ryan realizes that the man must be Dwight’s cousin, Mose.

Cut to Dwight talking into the camera.  He says that Mose is his cousin who lives on the farm with him.  Mose will always be Dwight’s best friend unless Ryan becomes Dwight’s best friend.  In that case, Dwight probably won’t be hanging out with Mose so much anymore.  Like so much of what Dwight says and does, this little cameralogue is simulataneously rather touching----Dwight wants Ryan to be his BFF!---and repulsively self-serving.  After all, poor Mose:  he is obviously even more socially backward than Dwight and is clearly Dwight’s bitch, the way Dwight is/has been/used to be (?) Michael Scott’s.

It’s an interesting development.  Does it reflect that Dwight is becoming further estranged from Michael following THE COUP, and is therefore trying to co-opt Ryan, the object of Michael’s man-crush?  Does it mean that he has returned to his previous goal of trying to be Michael, and is therefore trying to co-opt Ryan, the object of Michael’s man-crush?  Or does he secretly miss his old enemy, the slacker-loser-wiseass, Jim?

Anyway, so he is making  Ryan answer a series of questions---a sort of catechism of Dunder Mifflin knowledge, except that all the answers are wrong. What is the greatest danger to Dunder Mifflin?  “Outsourcing and consolidation of the competition,” says business school-attending Ryan.  No!  It is high-water floods.  And so it goes…

SCRANTON BRANCH:  “HE’S JUST INDIVIDUALISTIC.”   Kelly and Angela are in the kithen.  Kelly is fretting over Ryan.  Where is he?  He’s been gone for hours.  He’s been gone longer, she feels, than a sales call could explain.

This is one of the brief moments when Angela seems well-nigh human.  Sitting across from Kelly, she looks---temporarily---gentle and concerned, whereas normally her face is as coldly motionless as the marble angel she most definitely resembles.  She assures Kelly that Dwight will "protect" Ryan.

But Kelly doesn’t find this consoling and doesn’t even address the obvious issue of whether Dwight is really capable of protecting a fellow human being from anything short of an alien attack or enemy spies or being spied on by ninjas through a microchip implanted in the skin, much less from himself. 

Kelly just thinks Dwight’s weird.  In fact, a freak. 

Even here, Angela keeps her cool when you might not expect it.  With what I thought was a semi-indulgent look, she says that Dwight is not weird.  No, he’s ‘just individualistic.” 

But Kelly repeats that he's a freak.  You can see she thinks she's just stating the obvious.   

But Angela has reframed Dwight in her mind and she isn't having this.  She goes into full-on righteous wrath avenging-Angela mode and spits, “NO, YOU’RE A FREAK!”  She leaps up from her chair and storms out of the room.  This episode has more than the usual number of stomp-aways.  It's a good thing that Angela wasn't privy to Pam's remark(in the deleted scene) about finding Ryan's body in a densely wooded area.  Dwight does give off that serial-killer vibe some of the time. 

Anyway, so Angela feels that strongly about Dwight.  Interesting.

BEET FARM:  THE FINAL STAGE.   Speaking of Dwight, he has now reached the “final question, young Ryan Howard.”  He is standing behind Ryan’s chair. Ryan’s generally unreadable face registers a mixture of apprehensiveness, boredom, and curiosity.  Or maybe that’s just me projecting. 

He asks Ryan what Michael Scott's greatest fear is. 

Ryan knows.  “Loneliness,” he says, “….maybe women.”

Dwight does not know.  The correct answer was:  Michael Scott is not afraid of anything.  Of course he's not.  But Dwight "would have accepted snakes.”  What?  I'm leaving that one alone. 

But  now it’s time for the next challenge:  vanquishing fear.  A person "undergoing fear" cannot sell.   So Ryan must wrestle fear to the ground.  To be specific, he must wrestle Dwight’s cousin Mose, who is wearing a sweatshirt with FEAR stamped on it. 

But now Ryan really has had enough.  There is another stomp-away. He's done.  He tells Dwight he's a freak, proving that he and Kelly actually do have something in common.  Mose stares wistfully after him.  “He seemed nice,”  he says.  I love Mose.

Dwight is driving alongside Ryan, who is striding angrily along the drive or highway. He tells Ryan he's sorry, while looking sorry.

Dwight tells Ryan that Mose is also sorry (for what?).  Moe is so sorry! He even sent presents!  They are:  eggs, fatback bacon, and something he whittled.  He holds up Moe’s work product:  what looks like a perfectly rendered palm-sized Venus of Willendorf, one of those bulbous prehistoric statues of a very pregnant fat woman.  What great presents. How could anyone refuse presents from Mose?  But Ryan looks mildly repulsed, and keeps walking. 

STAMFORD BRANCH.  PROBLEM SOLVED. Andy sits down in his chair.  It creaks.  He verifies that he now has the squeaky chair by rocking back and forth in it.  Over his shoulder, Kelly is watching him.  He doesn’t say anything.   However dorky he may be, he’s evidently learned to recognize a game he isn’t going to win. 

THE BEET FARM:  "NOT I WANTED."  Dwight anxiously asks Ryan if he’s still mad?  He explains, touchingly again, that he and Jim didn’t get along.  Dwight didn’t want to be that way with Ryan.  He wanted the two of them to be a team.  “An unstoppable team.”

Ryan says coldly that this was not what he wanted.  Ryan just wanted to go on a sales call.   

Dwight hears the rejection this time, I guess, because he loses it; and in the four-wheeled equivalent of a storm-away lays down some rubber peeling out of there.  If a sales call is what Ryan wants, Dwight’s by God  going to take him to a sales call.

SCRANTON BRANCH:  THE BUILD UP.    Michael’s bopping in his office to that song from the full Monty that they stripped to in the warehouse right before the police barged in.   He’s dancing round his office, evidently psyching himself up for a sales call.

The music is REALLY LOUD.  Toby looks up at Michael dancing  in his glass cage, but says nothing.  Kevin---hi, Kevin!---walks past snapping his fingers.  Nobody says anything to Michael. 

Michael makes the call.  He greets the client, Coselli, in one of his "comic" voices.  Deal?  Is there a deal?  Deal or no deal? 

We have seen before that this is the way Michael works:  he spins his wheels,  tells jokes,  talks around the point, and then moves in for the kill.

ON THE WAY TO SALES CALL:  GOOD ADVICE CAN HURT.   Dwight, sounding a bit agitated, is giving Ryan some advice.  He tells Ryan that he loses his sales calls because he says “please”  too much.  Dwight’s mentor taught him a simple anagram:  K-I-S-S.  Michael told Dwight it means, “Keep it simple, stupid.”  (Nick, who used to be in sales, told me it means “Keep it short and sweet,” though I prefer the Dwight version). 

Dwight says that “keep it simple, stupid” is great advice, but that it hurts his feelings every time.  <Sniff.>  Stop making me, um, like you, Dwight!

Some bonding must have happened on the way to the sales call, because we see Ryan and Dwight striding together toward a glassy monolith of a building.  Ryan, rather excitedly, is telling Dwight his strategy.  He will keep his pitch in terms of real dollars.  He will ask questions that have only positive answers.  He will be confident but not cocky. 

Aw, good luck, young Skywalker!  Dwight doesn’t say this but he looks at Ryan with an expression that's more than usual evocative of Yoda.  Even his ears look pointier.  You can tell he's one proud mentor. 

SCRANTON BRANCH:  SUGAR RUSH.  Having finished his sales call, Michael runs out of the office.  He is talking at an amazing rate while everyone boggles at him.  Michael has decided that he is going to streamline the efficiency of the efficiency!   Also the accountability!  Stanley and Phyllis should switch desks!  Everyone looks perturbed.  Michael demands:  “Are you with me or are you not?”

Did he have a lot of sugar today?  We all know the answer to that.  Those of us who have followed the show closely will remember Jim telling us about Michael's sugar sensitivity in MICHAEL’S BIRTHDAY:  When Michael eats cake, he gets all hyper from the sugar rush and rushes around till he finally falls asleep.  And that's when the rest of them get their work done. 

SALES CALL:  “NOT EVERYTHING IS A LESSON.”  Ryan and Dwight are walking back to Dwight’s car.  Ryan remarks dejectedly that they didn’t like him.  Dwight agrees that they didn’t.  “But they didn’t have to say it to your face.”  Wow, harsh!  And who wouldn’t like Ryan?  It's just hard to believe, you know? I needed to see that particular debacle.  What would a sales pitch by Ryan, mentored by Dwight, be like? 

And why, why did they not like Ryan?  Did he smell of beets or "bull crap", which would not be his fault?  This is the part I can't get my head around:  a client objecting to Ryan.   

Ryan doesn’t get what he did wrong.  He's pretty downcast.  Dwight---briefly sounding as wise as the version of himself he has in his head---tells Ryan that not everything is a lesson.  Again wisely, he tells Ryan that sometimes you just fail.  He points out that the online competition is changing their whole business.  Then he says that the competitors will be screwed once "the internet fad" is over.  Wisdom over. 

But Ryan has a whole day's stored-up frustration to vent.  Ryan runs to the car, grabs one of Mose’s eggs, and throws an egg at the sign.  Dwight is both aghast and delighted.  Whooping, he throws an egg too.  They run to the car, yelling, as the security guards approach. 

SCRANTON BRANCH:  SUGAR CRASH.  Pam is talking on the phone to Jan.  She tells her that Michael---sound asleep in his office with his head on his desk---is on a sales call. 

SALES CALL:  BEER.  Dwight and Ryan are in a bar.  Ryan is chugging down a pint of beer while Dwight cheers him on.  “Temp!  Temp!  Temp!”  he yells, then switches to “RyUHN!  RyUHN!”  So…a bond of sorts has been formed?  Dwight seems to think so.  He says to Ryan that the temp agency could have sent him anywhere…in which case, he doesn’t say, Ryan wouldn’t now be here with him in this bar. 

Ryan gazes at this statement as if at a beautiful vision.  “I think about that all the time,” he says with a bright, faraway look.  He doesn't mean it the way Dwight thinks.   Oh, Ryan.  The saddest words in the language are “It might have been.”

SCRANTON BRANCH:  A HUGE SALE.  Michael lurches blearily out of the office.  He stumblingly asks Pam what time it is.  Pam tells him it’s 5:20. AM or PM?  PM.  I love that he's so out of it he actually thinks it might be 5:20 AM.  Would Pam have had to wait till then if he hadn't come out, I wonder?

She shows him a contract that came for him from Coselli.  She says it's a huge sale.  You can tell that she's starting to rethink the whole Michael-goofing-off aspects of the day.

Michael couldn’t, at this moment, care less; he's got that sickly, sticky sugar-shocked look.  He mumbles, "yes right good" or something. 

It’s yet another demonstration of how Michael, underneath his surface incompetence, and the real incompetence underneath that, has one real talent and it’s one that the company must take seriously. In a world where intelligent soft-spoken Ryan can lose a sale and be hated on by the potential client, Michael’s weird ability to hypnotize people into placing big orders has to be taken seriously, even if he spends most of the day eating pretzels and dancing.   

Pam is gathering herself together to leave when the phone rings.  It’s Jim.  He’s taken aback at finding her there.  He asks her what she’s doing working late and she tells him about her job logging Michael’s activities.  He asks if she could send him a copy.  She says, “Totally.”  There is an awkward silence and then one of those long, tentative, feeling-each-other-out conversations begins.  She tells him that things are the same in Scranton…but “a little different.” 

Then she asks him what time it is in Stamford.  He reminds her that Pennsylania and Connecticut are in the same time zone. But that’s how far away Pam feels that he is and you can see he’s processing this.

The remainder of the conversation is absolutely true to life and interesting to watch, but not to recap.  They’re not talking about what they’re talking about.  They’re starting---nervously but happily---to reconstruct their bond.  It’s a delicate process.  Most of us have been there, so we know how delicate.

At the same time, you can’t help wishing that the two of them---or even one of the two---would grow up.  Take a risk!  Put your feelings on the line!  How could rejection be worse or hurt worse than distance?  GAAAAA.   I am really at the point when I’m out of patience.  I adore both characters---how can anyone not?---but it's hard to believe that your average emotionally functional adult wouldn't eventually break through the gossamer threads that bind them and forge a REAL connection.  One that could survive an inadvertent interruption, for example.   

Which is what's about to happen.  They get around to talking about her new one bedroom apartment.  Lots of subtext there.  They’re giggling, still a bit tentative, but getting to the relaxed stage.

But then Ryan comes in, looking dazed and out of it.  Pam---and this is a mistake that will be making her wake up screaming for many  weeks to come---breaks off to speak to him, while Jim hangs on saying, “Pam?”  She says “Bye.”  That's all it takes to derail the whole reconnecting process for these two all-too-gentle people. 

She’s speaking to Ryan, but Jim thinks she’s ending the call to him.  Hurt, he says he should go.  Hurt, she says he doesn’t have to go.  But he should go.  So she should go.  It's a competition to see which one can be the one who needed to end the call first.  What are they, 16?

Both of them get into one of those awkward back and forth deals where each is pretending that he/she had to go anyway.  It’s so stupid.  Why doesn’t Pam ask him to call her at home?  Why doesn’t he ask for her number?   Why doesn’t she ask him for his?  Ugh.  I’m so tired of it.

They hang up.  Both look sad.  In addition, Jim looks fed up; he thinks that Pam was brusquely ending the call.  They both stare mournfully off into space.  Then Pam, in Scranton, gets her things together, looking as if she is on the point of tears.  Jim, in Stamford, gets his things together.  JESUS.

I understand that the show can’t really continue once they get together (or can it?).  But Jim and Pam are really starting to look as if they really shouldn’t be together.  People who dance around every issue to avoid getting hurt need partners who aren’t like that.    How would they ever deal with the really hard issues in a relationship, such as whether to have a kid or who gets to drive the new car?   

STANLEY.  The final scene, though brief, is so poignant.  Stanley, sighing, looks sadly into the camera.  It's 364 more days till the next Pretzel Day.  If Stanley were real, I'd send him a free pretzel every single day between one pretzel day and the next.

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