'The Office': Michael Scott, the last honest man

stevecarell_theoffice1119_290.jpgWell now. Thursday's "Office" presented what could be a very interesting direction for the show. Namely: What happens when Michael Scott becomes disillusioned with Dunder Mifflin?

Given his celebratory mood after being able to score the limo for the ride back to Scranton, I don't think it's going to set in just yet. But it has to be coming, because even someone as naive as Michael would have to realize that the people above him A) are full of crap about the company's prospects and B) don't seem to care all that much. These are the same folks who made Ryan a VP, after all.

Whenever this dawns on him, I think it will be kind of great, and I also think the fact that DM Scranton is still profitable combined with Jim's supermarket idea from last week will be what ends up saving at least their branch's bacon. But until then, if the show keeps delivering more episodes like this one, I shall be one happy recapper.

Steve Carell did a spin on vintage tone-deaf Michael in "Shareholders Meeting," but in a rare and rather inspired changeup to the usual formula, he was mostly in the right. Yes, he was talking out of his butt when he told the angry shareholders that things would be OK. And yes, he gave into his burning need to be liked and shouted half-cocked thoughts about a plan to save the company when there was none.

But didn't the spectacle of seeing CEO types (and a former congressman now cashing in with a seat on the board) get booed and jeered just feel kinda good? Maybe the show was laying it on a bit heavy with the tone-deafness of the Dunder Mifflin higher-ups -- the limo sent to pick Michael up, the swanky hospitality suite, the bodyguards -- but I'm OK with that. As a stand-in for every arrogant, bailout-taking, bonus-justifying captain of industry in the real world, it was just satisfying to watch Dunder Mifflin CEO Alan Brand get his.

The show also found the funny in the situation, though, coming mostly from Michael's cluelessness about being used as a pawn in the corporate game. His failure to cover his microphone, the way he riled up the crowd, his inability to see why Oscar wouldn't want to stick his neck out in front of the bigwigs -- all of it clicked. My favorite bit? His voiceover as the camera followed him, Dwight, Oscar and Andy sprinting toward the limo: "The perks? I could take or leave the perks. But limos are for people who make the company money, not lose millions and have no plan. So we're leaving early."

Other notes from "Shareholders Meeting":

  • With as involved (and good) a main story as we had tonight, the B plot didn't have to do much, but Jim's mini-standoff with Ryan worked pretty well. Their sort-of rivalry hasn't surfaced much since Ryan's demotion, but it seems pretty natural that Ryan would be doing little things to undermine Jim -- like sending an e-mail to everyone saying Jim didn't have the same authority as Michael. Jim's not entirely sure he does either, but putting the little d-bag in his place in his new closet/office was a nice little reminder of the pecking order.
  • Loved, loved the entire branch's negative reaction to Michael's twirl: "Lose the twirl ... the twirl sucks ... I hated the twirl ..." capped by Andy, in his P.A.-announcer voice: "Hate the twirl!"
  • Pam, after a late hand-raise in support of Jim having the same amount of managerial power as Michael: "I forgot I have to support him no matter what. Close one."
  • No real Creed moment this week, sadly. His only scene came with Ryan, who was dishing out romantic advice. Ah well.
Does Dunder Mifflin have any kind of future? Are Michael and Jim the company's last, best hope?