'The Office': Everybody run, the acting manager's got a gun

office-dwight-manager-320.jpgIn theory, producing a few episodes of "The Office" after Steve Carell left was a good idea, signaling to fans that life goes on after Michael leaves. In practice, though? The experiment hasn't really lived up to what the show is capable of doing.

That's not to say that Thursday's (May 12) episode, "Dwight K. Schrute, Acting Manager," wasn't enjoyable. By focusing on the regular cast, the episode felt more in line with the show's normal scale (and gave us a one-week respite before the guest star-packed finale). It was certainly a sizable improvement on last week's all-over-the-place episode.

And, any episode that ends with the out-of-nowhere twist of Creed as acting branch manager gets a few bonus points. But it's hard to escape the feeling that "The Office" is kind of marking time until it figures out its plan for next season and/or gets a new actor under contract.

Still, there are worse ways to spin the wheels than watching Dwight Schrute go on a power trip. Yes, we've seen it before -- pretty much anytime Michael left the office or gave Dwight a significant task to perform -- but the show found some fresh touches in "Acting Manager": the desk copied from Uday Hussein, the piranha ("It's a rescue"), the portrait in reception.

And, oh yeah, the almost killing Andy. The episode pulled a Chekhov's gun by showing us the pistol on Dwight's desk early -- and when he got a holster, well, it was only a matter of who and when, not if. The shot missed, fortunately, but Andy still needed a trip to the hospital to treat his hearing loss. It in turn leads to a couple good bits of physical comedy from Rainn Wilson -- the jazz hands and the back rub for Kevin in particular -- and a brief and poor attempt to be a Michael-esque friendly boss before he outs himself to Jo and loses the post.

That, in turn, sets up next week's finale, with Jim, Toby and Gabe forming the search committee for a new boss (though the preview for next week also shows Kelly sitting in) and ending on Creed (Creed!), the most senior employee in the branch, moving into Michael's office for the time being. And by the end of that episode, maybe we'll know who's in charge and maybe we won't -- but at least we're used to killing time in the summer while the show's in reruns.

A few other notes from "Acting Manager":

  • Zach Woods is a funny guy, and watching him be reduced to a puddle over Erin has had its moments. But enough with the Gabe-Erin-Andy love triangle. It's not really working.
  • One more nice touch: Toby's obvious excitement at getting to use some new HR forms. The guy really likes his job.
  • Kathy Bates' return as Jo was pitched just about right, from her ignoring the way Dwight was climbing up Kevin's back to her reaction to the shooting: "A Beaumont-Adams is a girl's gun. That just makes it plain stupid."

What did you think of "The Office" this week?
Photo/Video credit: NBC