Monday, February 2, 2009

Stress Relief Goes Arwy On Super Bowl "The Office"

The Office: Stress Relief
Season 5 Episode 13

After a very exciting Super Bowl, NBC went with an episode of 'The Office' to wrap up the largest television event of the year. The hour long 'Stress Relief' deals mainly with Michael coping with his subordinates high stress levels while he is in their presence. There are numerous sub-plots involved including the out of place guests stars Cloris Leachman, Jack Black and Jessica Alba.

The episode begins with Dwight securing all the doors and causing a mock fire to prove a point that the office does not take their safety procedures seriously. The chaos that ensues includes Oscar jumping through the ceiling to find safety, Michael smashing a window to scream for help, as well as Kevin resorting to mob rule and breaking the candy machine open. Once Dwight tells everyone it is a farce, Stanley is overtaken with so much stress that he has a heart attack. The cold open is a much longer set up than usual and is one of the funnier openings of this season, bringing all casts members together for a mass panic.

Dwight is brought to the corporate offices and basically given a slap on the wrist (one would assume this is due to the high sales numbers that Dwight and the Scranton branch is putting up as mentioned in previous episodes).

As a punishment Dwight is removed as safety director. Michael then takes over and brings in a Red Cross instructor to teach the group about CPR. During this, we learn that a good rhythm to give chest pumps is to the Bee Gees classic Stayin' Alive. This leads to an awkward duet from Michael and Andy. Dwight then takes over and asks the group how you would then handle a dead body. He takes out a knife and shows how to take care of the organs for donation. He begins to slice up the CPR dummy to the disgust of the trainer and all those in the room. Probably the best joke from the episode is when Dwight takes off the face and places it over his own a'la Silence of the Lambs.

Dwight is then given another slap on the wrist and must give a formal apology to the office and have everyone sign. No one will sign his half-hearted apology and we are treated to Dwight tricking his coworkers to sign the form throughout the rest of the episode.

In an attempt to lower stress in the office after Stanley's heart attack, Michael tries to incorporate some stress relief tactics. He uses meditation and other soothing practices to lower the stress level in the office. Due to Stanley's biometic meter, Michael discovers that he is in fact the cause of the tension within the office.

Michael comes to the conclusion that comedy is the best remedy and plans for the group to roast him and everyone is glowing at the opportunity to basically say what the viewers have been thinking. Michael takes the group into the warehouse and the roasting begins. There is no real surprise at what ensues and though Michael takes the jabs in stride, he is then hurt by the end of the roast. The next day Michael does not shown up for work. Dwight thinks he is either sick, or dead from an icicle pummeling. Michael is shown at a park contemplating why he is at work and where he has gone wrong. He then returns to Dunder Mifflin and returns the pot shots to the roasters which is coldly received until Stanley goes into a laughing fit which eases the tension. Although not a very strong ending, it leaves the viewers somewhat satisfied and still curious where Michael Scott may end up at the conclusion of the season.

Our subplots are somewhat tied together. We learn that Pam's parents are in the process of a split. Her father has temporarily taken up residence with Pam and Jim (though we still have not seen what they have done with the house they recently bought). While talking about some of their problems, they watch an unreleased movie that Andy has bootlegged. The movie stars Cloris Leachman as the grandmother of Jessica Alba who introduces her new boyfriend, Black, to Leachman. The twist of the movie is Black's character then falls for Leachman in a very awkward "The Graduate" homage. I personally felt the only reason for this movie was to get guest stars on the post-Super Bowl episode. A pointless section of the episode that was only there to fill the hour.

We find that Pam's father has talked to Jim and has decided to separate permanently from his wife. Pam questions what part Jim had in causing the rift. We eventually learn what Jim said and we are left with a sappy Jim/Pam moment (just get married already dammit).

The "Stress Relief" episode is a good cherry on top of last night's NBC big moneymaker. It is also a helper to the question which probably won't be answered until the finale. Who will take Ryan's corporate position?

On a side, please catch our podcast pilot Monday, February 9th. It is The Oscar Special 1: Or the Curious Case of "The Dark Knight" Snub.

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