The Office Recap: ‘Inner Circle’

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“Deangelo, tell your whore to leave me alone.”

You can’t ask for a more vulnerable moment in Office history than last night’s episode, which on the outside is about Deangelo assembling his all-male inner circle of favorite employees, but it’s really about how The Office functions without Michael Scott. It’s not like the show didn’t prepare us for the transition — in fact I think they might have prepared us a little too much — but despite the strength of the cast and the help of Will Ferrell, a driving force of the show has vanished, and I’m still stuck in the sadness.

“Inner Circle” follows Deangelo as he starts putting on meetings where only Jim, Kevin, Gabe, and Darryl are invited, which makes everyone (except Dwight) either feel left out or offended by what seems like Deangelo’s sexist behavior. Darryl doesn’t question it because Deangelo gives him an all-paid business night school education, Gabe’s a suck-up, Kevin will follow anyone who suggests doing Ice Cream Thursdays, and then there’s Jim, who ends up getting stuck in the middle of the issue after Pam suggests he confront Deangelo about the way he’s being perceived by those not in his “inner circle.” Jim tries to stick up for those who aren’t getting Deangelo’s preferential treatment and is in turn kicked out of the club.

The plot and humor seemed to saunter around throughout this episode, and between how unstable of a character Will Ferrell makes Deangelo and how weird it feels after last week’s landmark episode, I had a hard time holding onto anything aside from the image of Deangelo dunking a basketball in the warehouse so hard that the whole hoop falls down on him and sends him to the hospital, which goes without saying this was the last of Ferrell’s four-episode arc on the show.

Cody Horn made her first appearance as “Scranton hot” executive assistant Jordan Garfield, and aside from some standing around and holding Deangelo’s jewelry she didn’t do much throughout the episode at all. It was a quiet introduction, and for a first episode Jordan didn’t bring much to the table aside from more proof that Deangelo might be as clueless of a manager as he is sexist. It’ll be interesting to see how memorable Jordan’s character can become in the next two episodes, or if that’s even a possibility when James Spader, Catherine Tate, Ray Romano, Ricky Gervais, Will Arnett, and Jim Carrey are involved.

It seems that as The Office struggles to find its post-Michael balance, it can only give us disconnected moments of hilarity like the basketball dunk scene, or when Deangelo performs his ball-free motivational juggling routine, or when Deangelo yells at Dwight and demands he come to the warehouse to watch the dunking session. The idea of feeling left out was at least something I could share with the episode, but I fear that the characters have been leaning too much on Deangelo for the laughs. Shouldn’t they have learned that lesson last week, or sometime over the past six years?

Megh Wright misses Harrisburg, lives in Brooklyn, and answers phones in Manhattan.