The Office Recap: ‘Lotto’

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“Taco air is heavy — it settles at the lowest point.”

Now that Occupy Wall Street is starting to creep into national news headlines, it suddenly feels acceptable to wallow in the thought of our own personal finance problems, and the idea of winning the lottery and quitting work forever sounds great until it happens to the person sitting next to you (or the one signing your checks!). Last night’s Office episode “Lotto” starts with just that – the warehouse crew wins the lottery, quits their jobs, and leaves the rest of the Dundies to drown in their own jackpot pipe dreams. Everyone reacts with a different attitude – for Darryl it’s hopelessness and regret for the past, for Pam it’s renewed excitement for the future, and for Andy it’s stepping up to the plate as a more and more promising manager. It took The Office two underwhelming episodes to get here, but I’m finally feeling the pace and energy I’ve been missing since May.

Everyone finds out that the warehouse crew won the lottery (Darryl says one of them started a strip club on a boat and another invested in “an energy drink for Asian homosexuals”) and spend the day fantasizing: Jim dreams of a canoeing/biking life in Maine while Pam yearns for New York City artist loft life where her husband serves her flavored coffees – and the peeps we get at Pam looking at “NYC Loft Living” websites were sad but good moments her character needs. It reminded me of “Business School” from season two, when only Michael shows up for her art show and buys her watercolor painting of the office; Pam’s at her best when she’s facing her failures with a little hope, and I loved seeing her excited to live in a Soho townhouse she’ll probably never be able to afford. Ryan catches her buying a lottery ticket online and cuts through the daydream before it gets too sappy: “Everybody wants to be rich, but nobody wants to work for it.” “You came in at 10:30 today, right?” Pam asks.

Darryl’s promotion to the office job keeps him out of the $950,000 lottery jackpot (which they won by playing Darryl’s BIRTHDAY numbers!) and, after a call from his ex Justine asking for one of the winners’ phone numbers, sucks all hope and motivation out of him. Andy confronts Darryl about his attitude the way he’s confronted everyone else this season – completely professionally, but also completely awkward, awkward in a way that proves he’s not getting any power-trip pleasure out of his new job at all.

While Andy puts Darryl in charge of hiring a new warehouse crew, Erin, Dwight, Jim, and Kevin volunteer to work on a warehouse delivery so Phyllis doesn’t lose one of her biggest clients. Soon after Dwight drives the forklift into the wall, they end up settling on Kevin’s idea. That’s never a good sign, and this wasn’t a good scene, either. The idea of Kevin’s sisters buttering him up as a baby and sliding him across the linoleum floor was a little too bizarre for me, and seeing that played out in the context of a warehouse floor and boxes of paper is…not interesting. Dwight’s kickboxing/meditation regimen has once again rendered him serene and peripheral.

Darryl breaks down in front of the interviewees and tells them not to take the first job offers they get, that ten years will go by and they’ll still be there, that they’ll miss out on life experiences while wasting their time working some menial job – all the rushing thoughts from someone whose promotion prevented them from hitting it big, both in the lottery and ultimately as Regional Manager, too. Darryl tells Andy to put him out of his misery: “I don’t want to be here anymore. Fire me.” Later, he tells Andy to either fire him or give him the manager position, insisting that he was robbed and deserving of the job. Andy counters him, pointing out that he never took the business classes he promised Deangelo he would take, and after Jo saw potential in Darryl, “You stopped pushing. She noticed.” The epiphany fires Darryl up, and I look forward to what he does with this new self-made destiny outlook.

Then there was the episode’s opening scene in the Dunder Mifflin parking lot, where Oscar finds a dog in a locked car and gets so offended at the idea of an irresponsible pet owner that he smashes in the window in front of Jim and several others, only to fix it up with cardboard after he admits he’s not interested in taking the dog. Oscar’s usually the most logically-inclined of the entire Office crew, but while this act seems a bit out of character, people do crazy things when they think they’re ready to take on their own fantasies, whether that’s saving a dog you don’t want to care for, getting a job you haven’t worked for, or living in a brownstone at the top of a mountain.

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