Hitting a strangely comfortable stride in the second episode of "The Office" since our beloved buffoonish leader Michael Scott (Steve Carell) rode off into the sunset with his soul mate, we find the Scranton staff stranely
With Deangelo's injurious exit at the end of last week's episode, the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin is operating without a leader – and things are actually working out just fine. Unfortunately, because of the corporate structure of their parent company (as well as the necessity for plot progression after Steve Carell's departure), Sabre CEO Jo Bennett (Kathy Bates) is looking for a new acting manager.
Jim, her first choice, likes things as they are and turns down her offer for the management position… but immediately regrets his decision when, seconds later, Dwight's phone rings. He is her next choice, and being that it's been his ultimate dream since beginning at Dunder Mifflin, he accepts the job immediately. Words fail to describe the man's mind-shattering bliss at the news of the promotion, as the rest of the office looks on in horror. As he explains, he is both happier than he's ever been and happier than he ever will be ("I will be at my maximum happiness for the rest of my life"). He immediately fills his new office with a variety of weaponry, a desk modeled after Uday Hussein's, and a "rescued" piranha.
In only one short week (three months, according to a frazzled Jim), Dwight has completely transformed the office for ultimate efficiency – and much as the staff may hate him for it, his tactics are working. An old, dangerous time clock is put to use ("With a slot just big enough for a finger," said Jim), and new comically large, demeaning business cards list everyone as “junior employees”; their lunch breaks are now staggered through the day, and everyone has to recite the pledge of allegiance every morning.
In the first five seasons of the show, this entire episode would likely have been about Dwight's tyrannical reign and Jim's psychological torture via his would-be revolutionary "social group" that just happened to be called "The Fist." The show has evolved considerably beyond the obvious plot path in recent years, however, as evidenced by the strangely awesome turn of events that follow.
Dwight appears at work with a holstered gun on his hip, the conversation-piece weapon he think will impress Jo when she comes in to visit for a meet and greet. When he inevitably/accidentally fires the gun in the office (into the floor), blowing out Andy's eardrum, the power tables immediately flip. Worried that the staff will tell Jo of his wildly dangerous use of a weapon in the office, Dwight does whatever the staff asks of him: he gets rid of his piranha for Pam (flushing it down the toilet – but based on Kevin's reaction when he enters the bathroom moments later, it survived the one-flush dump. He brings back Pet Day for Angela, returns the food to the vending machine (except the fruit, at Kevin's insistence), and agrees to say “shagadelic, baby!” and do jazz hands on cue during his meeting with Jo for Jim.
Just prior to reaching his breaking point after being blackmailed into the ground by the staff, it's a delight to watch Kevin forcing his new boss to massage his back, climbing halfway up the wall for leverage on a body overly moist with obesity sweat. Unable to take the indignity any further, he comes clean to Jo about the gun incident. He begs for mercy, telling her that being manager is his dream job and he can handle the duties, but Jo is a steely woman with sensible convictions. This isn't going to fly, and she tells the deflated tyrant that his days in charge are over. She then organizes a search committee – Jim, Gabe and Toby – to find a new manager. Until then, the employee with the highest level of seniority is to be the acting manager. Now who might that be?
That's right: Creed. Needless to say, that's not going to last.
My theory that Gabe is a wildly unstable individual and, perhaps, the Scranton Strangler is further concreted by his actions in this episode. After witnessing Andy and Erin laughing together, he tearfully confronts Andy, demanding that he back off and promise never to date Erin again. Gabe needs her back, he can't stand being alone, and is rapidly going off the rails on the stability train.
If nothing else, this episode gave Dwight his long-overdue shot at the top spot in the office, and showcased the considerably potential the show has without Steve Carell, despite the odds. There's a blizzard of special guests for next week's season final to keep us guessing, from Ray Romano to Jim Carrey to Ricky Gervais and beyond, but there's only one man this maniac Dunder Mifflin fan is truly rooting for to take over for Michael Scott:
That's right – Gob Bluth himself, Will Arnett.
We'll find out next week!