'The Office': Where there's smoke, there's fire (and a printer)

the-office-the-cover-up.jpg "The Office" is all about secrets, be they romantic (watch out, Michael) or corporate (Andy vs. the Sabre printers, and Darryl).

Michael's forbidden love: Michael's relationship with Donna is sailing along nicely -- so much so that he calls a meeting to tell everyone how great it is, and that he's having sex (all together now: shudder). Except that Kelly notices a couple of odd details in his story -- details that make it sound like Donna doesn't want to be seen with Michael around Scranton.

Michael being the suggestible goof that he is, he's immediately willing to believe that (with a big assist from Ryan, who knows the full playbook and has used most of it on Kelly). Worse, he sets Dwight -- who, if you haven't heard, is a licensed private investigator -- to tail her. He, of course, sees only one way to prove she is: Seduce her, have sex with her and then tell Michael about it.

Dwight gets absolutely nowhere, of course, because Donna is not a crazy person, but it does lead to a great bit of physical comedy from Rainn Wilson as Dwight overworks himself and ends up hobbling back to the office like a less agile Gollum. Michael's fears are temporarily assuaged -- until Kelly and Pam notice her wearing cheap heart-shaped earrings and Donna can't recall where she got them. Pam then does some Facebook sleuthing and finds pictures of Donna with another man.

I have to admit -- where this was going didn't dawn on me right away, partly because Pam was unequivocally, 100 percent right when she said Michael tends to self-sabotage when he's in a relationship (someone with that deep a need to be liked can't like himself very much, after all). But it should have: Donna's married, and as Michael puts it at the end of the episode, "I'm the mistress?" Yes, Michael, you are. It explains most of Donna's behavior up to this point, and it's a big, fat dilemma for Michael to face up to in the last couple episodes of the season.

Andy and the smoking gun ... er, printer: A customer complains to Andy that one of Sabre's printers smoked, then caught fire. Andy alerts Corporate Lackey Gabe ("I'll call HQ -- yeah, I guess that's what I'll do today"), but Darryl, still holding a grudge over Andy blaming the warehouse for a lost shipment a couple years ago, decides to have a little fun.

He gets Andy thinking that there's some huge cover-up and that he's going to be targeted (with the help of an awesome Creed moment; see below) if he speaks out. Gabe tries to brush it off, saying all 12 past instances have been attributed to user error, but Andy's so worked up now that he tries to take matters into its own hands, conducting his own printer experiment with Darryl taping it -- and lo and behold, it doe catch fire, sparking a brilliant talking head from Darryl: "I don't want to prank any more. Things get real." Really good stuff.

The printers will also be a continuing story for the remainder of the season. In some sense, this was a setup episode (which is a little odd this late in the season), but I think it worked pretty well nonetheless.

More from "The Cover-Up":

  • Best Creed Bratton Moment of the Week in a good while tonight. He walks by Andy and makes a throat-slash gesture, then talking-heads that "Darnell" paid him $3 to do it. Then: "I've done a lot more for a lot less."
  • Good pre-credits scene this week too, with Jim and Pam teaming up to irritate Dwight after he makes a crack about Pam not having lost all her baby weight yet.
  • Better still, though, was the talking head where Pam explains that women don't buy heart-shaped jewelry for themselves. Puzzled look from Jim: "Sorry -- you like heart-shaped jewelry, right?" Pam: "No -- except for the pendant you got me, I love that." Save, and a beauty!
  • I'm trying to get a handle on Pam's feelings toward Michael these days. Despite the way Michael treated her mom, Pam's protective instinct toward him seem to be stronger of late. I don't know if it's motherhood giving Pam a more maternal feeling generally or what, but it's a pretty quick turnaround from screaming at him that she doesn't give a s*** about his feelings.
  • Pam ends the series of Facebook pictures of Donna kissing her husband with one of Cece -- everybody, "Aawww." Pam: "She's never gonna do anything wrong."
What did you think of the episode? How do you think Michael is going to handle the news that he's the other man?

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Photo credit: NBC