What’s the worst thing Michael Scott has ever done? Not the most embarrassing, dumbest, most offensive, or most self-defeating action. We mean the cruelest, most selfish, most venal thing he’s ever done. It’d be easier to come up with a list of David Brent’s most monstrous moments. Michael has always been vain and deluded, but we’ve never been asked to think of him as truly bad. But this episode comes awfully close to doing that.
Michael’s (actually quite clever, for him anyway) idea is to hide five Willy Wonka–style “Golden Tickets” in various shipments of paper, guaranteeing the companies that discover them 10 percent off their paper costs. Unfortunately, all five tickets go to Dunder Mifflin’s biggest client, and because he didn’t slap a “limit one” label on them, the company plans to combine the tickets and essentially eviscerate a huge swath of Dunder Mifflin’s revenue. It is, in this economy or any other, a fireable offense, so Michael tries to get Dwight to take the fall for him, persuading him that he “wasn’t right for this job anyway.” It’s so severe an act that even Jim defends Dwight.
Of course, it all turns out for the best — the twist being that the idea ultimately brings in more business, and Dwight and Michael suddenly fight for credit — but that doesn’t hide that this is probably the worst thing we’ve ever seen Michael do. (We’d go with either the time he interrupted Phyllis’s wedding because he was being ignored or anything he’s ever done to Toby as second place.) Whether you find this a welcome dark touch or are bothered by it probably depends on which version of The Office you prefer: the more acerbic British forerunner or the warmer, more optimistic American update. For our money, it seems a bit too much for Michael. Usually, when he’s about to do something over-the-top (like plant drugs on Toby), he backs off at the last second. This time, he’s willing to go all the way and sell out Dwight, his most loyal friend. It’s a little jarring.
Fortunately, this is one of the funnier recent episodes, and offset by some sweetness involving Kevin and his soon-to-be girlfriend. We think Dwight’s “Horse Boat” idea is begging for a patent, Michael’s chain of “Shoe-La-La” stores (“a fancy men’s shoe store, men’s shoes for special occasions, like weddings or lying around the house”) could save our financial system, and the “Who’s there? KGB! [slap]” gag is the greatest of all possible knock-knock jokes. We look forward to using it on our nieces and nephews.