Let’s just get it out there: Last night’s episode was the first official dud of the season. It resorted to both plot devices commonly used to shake things up — an office seminar, an extracurricular activity — but each one failed.
In the opening scene, Pam struggles to teach hygiene to the staff. Dwight refutes the science of hand sanitizers by arguing that exposure to germs builds better immunity so cue a montage of people sneezing in his face and his food.
Skipping ahead to Baby CeCe’s christening: First of all, Jim and Pam, who pick godparents that they only just met in daycare? In that scenario, Michael almost would have been the better choice. But his Godfather impersonation prompts Jim to say, “That is really funny and everything, but you know that can be confusing at a christening because you are not the godfather.”
It seems like church should have been a funnier setting for the staff than it was. The only good moments came when Ryan complains about the lack of Wi-Fi (“For all their generosity of spirit, they password protect their wireless!” Kelly: “Try Jesus.”). And then Toby, who’s been struggling to walk through the doors, finally enters and plainly whines, “Why you always gotta be so mean to me?” That’s actually sort of touching because it took him all day to summon the courage to ask this, the most reasonable question, of the Almighty. Poor Toby.
The writers do nail the off-putting giddiness of the truly devout. In the presence of some do-gooder youth ministry folks, Michael briefly feels at home, mainly because he confuses their excitement over a mission for the thrill of a party bus bound for Mexico. He hops on, against the advice of his employees, and Andy joins him. This kind of unbelievable buffoonery makes us less sad to see the end of Michael Scott. There’s nowhere left for his character to go — except to Mexico, apparently. “There’s no off season when it comes to printer sales,” cautions Gabe. Michael argues that he’s never felt more confident about a decision, and Darryl’s dead-on response — “I agree, it’s superb” — says everything. His sarcasm was probably directed as much at this subplot as it was at Michael.
The christening after-party, meanwhile, has become a free-for-all, with guests showing up uninvited due to an error on the part of the minister. All anyone can talk about is the shortage of food, prompting Angela to snap, “Jesus is not your caterer.” Jim deals with a dirty diaper but then briefly loses CeCe. The dirty diaper might be an oft-revisited joke of the genre but at least it reflects a common experience. The misplaced baby, though — when does that happen? She can’t even walk. And if he’s so concerned about her being kidnapped, why leave her with a senile grandmother? Logic doesn’t always have to triumph in a sitcom but stupidity never succeeds.
Once on the road, Michael and Andy find themselves losing their charitable high pretty quickly. When everybody falls asleep 45 minutes into their two-day bus ride, reality — and the bus odor — sets in. “Do you smell, like, a weird, warm cheese?” asks Andy. Panicked, the two demand to get off. The missionaries try to persuade them to consider their selfishness, but Michael says, “We could go back and forth all day.” Mercifully, they don’t.
So yes, this was a forgettable episode, but there were bound to be some, and now, at least, we got one over with.