With all the upheaval going on in The Office over the last few weeks, the dramatic shift in the Michael-Dwight dynamic has been hinted at but barely explored, beyond a telling scene in which Michael and Dwight, supposedly professionally inseparable, subtly try to talk each other out of teaming up at Michael’s new company. Michael was supposedly Dwight’s mentor all this time; when was the split going to lead to a reckoning? Well, last night’s episode was it: Michael and Dwight have gone to war.
The Office is always a better show when Michael is a more competent salesman than Homer Simpson, which is why, when he told Dwight, “I am going to steal all your clients and then I am going to kill them in front of you,” we almost believed him. After Charles Minor — who, Dwight aside, seems to be chafing the rest of the staff a little more each episode — compliments Dwight’s “focus,” Dwight turns Michael in for trying to steal Dunder Mifflin clients, and Michael, who is loyal above (beneath?) all else, takes this as an excuse to go corporate ballistic. Considering the Michael Scott Paper Company seems to only have one client at the beginning of this episode — and spends most of its day playing games with cheese balls — it’s probably a bit overdue.
And, we are reminded, Michael is an excellent salesman; as Ryan puts it, “Look at that old dude and his Rolodex go.” (We’re not sure this Ryan Howard bears much resemblance to any other version of Ryan Howard on this show, but B.J. Novak is hilarious in this incarnation anyway.) By the end of the episode, Michael has stolen Dwight’s best client from HarperCollins — it seems to say something about Scranton’s economy that the biggest account in town is in book publishing — and the Michael Scott Paper Company seems to be on its way. And Dwight rends garments and gnashes his teeth in the background. (This might have been the funniest Rainn Wilson has been in a episode all season, and that’s saying something.)
It’s still not clear how The Office is going to resolve all of this: There are only four episodes left this season, and it would seem, at some point, that the two companies are going to have to merge. (Maybe Amy Ryan’s return as Holly Flax in the final episode will do the trick.) But Michael has been reestablished as a force with which to be reckoned. Even if he has to kill all your clients in front of you.