The Office: Like a Boss

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Photo: Justin Lubin/NBC

As we’ve said before, as a general rule, the less Michael Scott is a Homer Simpson–esque boob, the better The Office becomes. On a fundamental level, we have to at least respect Michael as a boss, as someone competent enough to keep a branch afloat during difficult times. You have to see how he possibly became a boss in the first place.

But if Michael Scott — Michael Scott — is the lone Dunder Mifflin manager whose branch is making a profit (and it’s not like we’re regularly seeing the rest of the Scranton staff putting its proverbial nose to the grindstone), then it’s no wonder that Dunder Mifflin is being protested by its stockholders. Forget the notion that a regional paper company would have inherent problems: This appears to be the worst-run corporation on earth.

And so, at the stockholder meeting, we find Bumbler Mifflin protesters, and screaming stockholders, and a “former Congressman” flitting ominously around the proceedings: This is a company whose plummeting stock price has drawn media attention in the worst possible way. How desperate does a company have to be to bring Michael onstage with them?

Michael, being Michael, ends up taken aback by all the hostility — he is not a man who handles being booed well — and does everything he can to win the crowd back, ultimately telling them he has a 45-day, 45-point plan to “fix this.” Michael still doesn’t understand what’s wrong, doesn’t understand that Dunder Mifflin doesn’t have a plan at all, and is taken aback when the Dunder Mifflin brass (including the crusty, bullshitting CEO) is angry with him. The shareholders were pissed, and now they’re not, Michael claims — what could I possibly have done wrong?

Amid all this, the show continued to confound expectations in inventive ways. A subplot involves Oscar’s frustration with Dunder Mifflin, and his insistence that he understood the source of the company’s problems. But when Michael calls him up to “explain the numbers thing” to the company CEO and executive board, Oscar clams up and slinks away. A lesser show gives Oscar some big redemptive moment there: The Office plays it much like it would actually play, awkwardly and emptily, with a man afraid to offend the people who pay his salary. And sometimes, no one has the answers anyway.

By the end, while the Dunder Mifflin execs take their public beating, Michael and the gang are sprinting out of the meeting to take their limo ride back to Scranton, the happy proletariat dabbling in rich-guy land before heading home, aware that the party’s almost over. With everything we saw of Dunder Mifflin’s corporate structure, we have no reason to amend our prediction of last week: This company is going down. Soon.

More Recaps:
Alan Sepinwall points out that David Wallace “is clearly not remotely as smart as he and the other characters want to think he is.”
Leonard Pierce at the A.V. Club says the episode “managed to nicely convey how both ends of the Dunder-Mifflin corporate chain — the workers and the managers — are dysfunctional in their own way, which is why nothing seems to get done to put the company back on track.”
Margaret Lyons at EW.com didn’t think the episode “brought out the best, funniest parts of any of our characters.”