The omniscient camera crew following the beleaguered Dunder Mifflin employees of The Office has long been one of the show’s quieter meta-pleasures. It’s always amusing when one of the characters is captured in a private moment and glances in panic at the filmmakers, who must have the most patient and deep-pocketed financiers in documentary history and just captured everything. But last night, that fictional crew was responsible for one of the most shocking moments in the show’s history. In the season premiere’s second scene, Michael Scott is paying too much attention to the camera in his car and not enough to the road, and then SMACK! The drunken redhead Meredith is splattered across his windshield. Now that’s how you open a season!
Nothing that came afterwards could quite top what happened in the first 25 seconds, but the show certainly tried. Now that the show is no longer struggling and, in fact, now is the linchpin of NBC’s attempted Thursday night revival, it’s willing to spend its capital in surreal, grotesque ways. This episode fearlessly featured:
•A hideous-looking cat being fed antihistamines and locked in a freezer, where it attempted to scratch its way out before freezing to death.
•A LiveStrong bracelet featuring the phrase “Support The Rabid.” (Ready for purchase at NBC.com!)
•Michael’s penis. (Mercifully pixilated.)
•Andy’s bleeding nipples.
•Vomit dribbling off Michael’s chin.
•While it’s 85 degrees in Brooklyn, a commercial for a movie in which Vince Vaughn plays Santa’s brother.
As for the storylines, Pam and Jim are stealthily hooking up and acting awfully syrupy about it, Dwight and Angela are breaking up (frozen cats will do that), Jan has become cartoonishly insane (the writers have not made her transition into a shrill wackjob a smooth one) and, most promisingly, Ryan the temp is arrogant, drunk with power and sporting the beard of a Bond villain. The three major romantic relationships are alternately annoying, unbelievable and, well, over, but the impending Ryan-Michael war of the doomed middle managers is going to be a thing of beauty. Maybe someone will get hit by a car again. –Will Leitch