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'The Office' Goes Undercover

January 23rd, 2009 12:42pm EST
The OfficeLet's here it for the non-sequitur, a statement that does not follow what preceded it. And let's here it for the only show on television who knows how to use one to full comic advantage: "The Office." Last week Michael told Andy about the affair between Dwight and Angela now this week it's as if nothing ever happened.

Understandably no one would want to directly address painful things and it seems as if loose ends were tied up as both men simultaneously dumped Angela. Yet bringing up awkward and inappropriate things is a hallmark of this show.

Speaking of non-sequiturs, Dwight notices a red cable coming out the back of his computer. He relays this information to Jim, who acts like it's no big deal and he's much too busy to discuss it any further. Dwight comments that no one else's computer has this mysterious red wire. He pulls at it to find out where it is coming from and what conspiracy might be attached to its existence. He ends up outside climbing an electrical pole as Jim explains to camera that he found a great deal on 500 feet of red cable for only $20 at a local flea market. The camera crew notices Dwight outside on the electrical pole. Jim looks over his shoulder and then back to camera and says, "Oh he'll be fine. I made it up there." Then smirks. Oh Jim, he may have too much free time.

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David Wallace informs Michael that they still have not filled the regional supervisor position and he asks Michael to do some investigating into Prince Paper Company since they are a private company. David says he'll fax over a list of information they're looking for. Michael questions, "Fax? Why not just send it over on dinosaur?" David says, "This is important Michael." Michael answers, "Oh then email it."

Meanwhile the office is busy debating whether Hillary Swank is hot or not. Jim encourages everyone to get back to work by putting Hillary's hotness to a vote. Angela abstains, Jim reminds her no one cares then they vote. The vote is five to five. What to do now?

Michael and Dwight drive to Prince Paper and review their plan to commit corporate espionage. They go over their fake names and cover stories. Michael will pose as a potential customer. Dwight will enter later and act as if he's looking for a job in order to gain knowledge of their employee practices and salaries. Dwight thinks it would be funny if they had to seduce the daughter of the owner in order to get the information they need. Michael says he would do the seducing. Dwight argues it should be him. Michael insists that it be him and that if they fall in love he will expect Dwight's full support. Then they go over the plan again and Michael reminds Dwight that they will be meeting up at IHOP. Dwight fights for Denny's saying he hates IHOP and thinks Michael is a socialist for wanting to eat there. Dwight concedes and says he will have a cup of coffee. Michael says, "You will have pancakes and you will like it."

Dwight thinks that because the sign is positioned directly above the door of the business they must not be expanding. Also it's lunchtime and no one is coming in, another sign of a stagnant business. Michael suggests that there are clouds in the sky and therefore it will rain and rain will be bad for business. Dwight points out that it would mean rain if they were altocumulus and not sirus stratus clouds. Of course Michael becomes annoyed by Dwight's perfectionism and not-it-all attitude but soon becomes excited by the thought of them being sharks about to devour their prey and singing the theme from "Jaws." They also come up with a very strange "signal" if they need to make a quick getaway, they will lick their lips in a pseudo-sexual way. Imagine a porn star trying to get another porn star to get their scene done and you'll have a good idea of where the lip licking was going.

Michael explains to camera that the way the circle of life works is the bigger shark eats the smaller shark and that smaller shark eats an even smaller shark and so on until you get to a single cell shark, now replace sharks with paper companies, "and that is all you need to know about business."

Michael uses a fake last name and poses as a lawyer as he meets the owner of the company. He "confesses" that he wasn't happy with the service he was getting from his last paper supplier. He asks how many clients this company handles. The owner answers about 80. Michael is shocked he can't believe such a tiny company has so many clients. The Prince Paper Company is made up of the Father, his wife and their son. It's a family business, which has been around since 1968. The owner started the business after coming home from Vietnam. Michael comments, "I hear it's lovely." Probably not back in '68.

The OfficeThe debate still rages on back in the office over Hillary Swank's hotness. Andy opens the floor to a formal debate on the subject of her attractiveness. Kevin points out that they are actually debating her hotness. Stanley wants to know what the difference is between beautiful, attractive and hot, he thinks they're all the same. Kevin explains that a painting may be beautiful but he does not want to bang a painting.

Michael grills his prey on his business practices asking, "So even specialty paper say, 94 brightness double bonded, you would put that on the same truck as your conventional stock?" The owner is surprised by Michael's knowledge of paper. Michael says it is because he is a genius but only a genius about certain things about other things he's stupid. Then he picks up a tape dispenser and then a stapler and asks if he can drink out of it. As the owner laughs Michael says, "Laughter is my job, tears are my game, law is my profession." Those are profound words to live by in an uncertain time.

Just then Dwight busts in and announces that he is there to apply for a job. The owner says they are not hiring at the moment. Dwight suggests, "Why don't you just get rid of this guy." The "guy" happens to be the owner's son, Dwight says, " I'm your son now, you can visit him on Holidays." Dwight introduces himself as Dwight Schrute a man who works for Dunder Mifflin, a second tier paper company. He assumes that this small operation only has about 40 clients. Michael chimes in, "Try 80." Dwight scoffs, "80, that's nothing. I've got 90 myself. You better watch out or someone might run you out of business." The owner replies, "I sure hope not."

Jim tries to apply logic and compassion to the debate. He argues that people forget to view celebrities as real people, that we see them as mythical figures and therefore we don't judge them as real people. Kevin wants Jim to just show a picture or something cause it's a gut thing. Jim asks Kevin to close his eyes. He leans in close and whispers, "If Hillary walked in to the office right now and said Kevin I've seen your online profile and I want to do you right now, would you?" Kevin opens his eyes, nods an affirmative, gets up and switches sides. Jim's side cheers. Jim asks, "Does this end the debate?" Suddenly Kevin gets up again and walks back over to his previous side. He turns and says, "It's 'is she hot' not 'would you do her', respect the game."

Dwight digs into Michael as a bad boss while Michael takes a picture of the wife while she stands in front of their customer board, which marks the location of all of their clients. Michael tries to help the granddaughter with her algebra homework, try being the operative word. Grandma intercedes to avoid a failing grade.

The debate rages on as Kevin pleads his case, in which he was waiting for another plot twist to reveal that she really was a dude in "Boys Don't Cry." Angela is so disgusted she weighs in and decides that Kevin deserves to lose for what he said. She thinks Hillary is hot, "she's the female Boris Becker."

Michael thanks the owner for his time and says it'll be a tough decision. Before Michael can leave the owner hands him a list of his top clients with phone numbers so Michael can call and just ask how happy they are with his company. This causes Michael and Dwight to freak out and use their weird sexual lip-licking signal. Dwight asks Michael for a ride because he took the bus. Michael says yes to a supposed stranger and these people think it's all perfectly normal. Once in the car they celebrate their victory. Then they get nervous. They think someone from the family business is looking at them through the window. Michael tries to peel out but runs over a cement curb instead then he backs up over it again and rips his bumper off. The family comes out to help them. The father and son tape his bumper back on as the wife brings them coffee. Michael starts to feel guilty over the whole episode while Dwight makes nasty comments about the coffee tasting horrible.

Toby weighs in on the debate and decides that Hillary is not hot. This upsets Kelly because if Hillary isn't hot and she's a celebrity then that means she's not hot because she's not a celebrity. Pam tries to appeal to the women asking them if they should trust this decision to Kevin, they don't even give him full internet access. Oscar dissects Hillary's face in a scientific way trying to prove the symmetry and attractiveness and thus negating her hotness. They're just becoming more entrenched in their own side's point of view the more they debate.

Once Michael and Dwight are back in the office Michael confesses to having second thoughts and not wanting to give David the information they retrieved. Michael says his heart says that he shouldn't do it. Dwight argues that his heart makes horrible decisions and that he should only listen to his brain. Michael agrees saying that his heart chose Jan and Ryan. Dwight reminds Michael that if Frodo had not destroyed the ring then goodness itself may have been destroyed, therefore they must give David the information. Michael's response is to take the client list and run away to try and take it to a place, "where it can't hurt anyone." Apparently Mordor is just down the street from Scranton, who knew?

Dwight and might wins out in the end when he is able to grab the client list from Michael and play keep away until Michael concedes and admits he is not a shark after all. Michael is praised by David for the information. After Michael hangs up Dwight says, "Your stock just went up golden boy." He always knows just what to say.

Michael decides this is a bittersweet moment. It's bitter because he, "slightly destroyed a wonderful little family but sweet because David Wallace thinks," he did a good job. And that is why he hates bittersweet chocolate because, "who needs the bitter, who are you helping?"

In the closing bit Michael looks at a photo of Hillary Swank and asks under his breath, "What's this?" He looks at Hillary for a moment and then says, "She's hot." Then Michael and Dwight walk into Michael's office and close the door. Leaving the "hot" team stunned for a moment before they begin to cheer, enjoy their victory and rub it in the "not hot" team's face. We will all be able to sleep better at night knowing this debate is over and that this episode leaves nothing to the imagination about what was going on last week in the writing room of "The Office."

The Office stars: Steve Carell / John Krasinski / Jenna Fischer / Rainn Wilson / B.J. Novak / Melora Hardin / Mindy Kaling / Brian Baumgartner / Leslie David Baker / Kate Flannery / Ed Helms / Angela Kinsey / Phyllis Smith

Erin MacMillan-Ramirez
Story by Erin MacMillan-Ramirez

Starpulse contributing writer