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"The Office": It's the Ensemble, Stupid

By admin Published: May 1, 2009

"The Office" showed its skill in a couple of ways in the "Casual Friday" episode last night. ....

The general way was its acknowledging that the return of Michael, Pam and Ryan would not be greeted with delight by everyone. Alliances would form, resentments old and new would simmer and boil, and even Michael would eventually figure out that he was in a no-win situation. He still is, in fact, since Pam is still in sales, which puts her on a collision course not only with Jim but with Phyllis. And Phyllis, as we know, has history with Pam.

Beyond the story arc, though, last night's episode was a joy because it let us see in a significant way the DM folks who have been elbowed aside a bit by the Michael-Charles drama. To be sure, Phyllis (Phyllis Smith) had a great moment a week ago when she put the office's problems back on David Wallace. But she got even more last night, in both her dealing with Pam and her explaining her basic unhappiness to Michael.

Nor was Phyllis the only one on display. And I should rethink that description, since I am thinking now of Meredith (Kate Flannery) and her idea of what constitutes Casual Friday. Very funny, and Flannery's particular knack is playing Meredith in a direct, unadorned way even when she is at her most outrageous. Kevin (Brian Baumgartner) had the chili opening -- a little funny in his desperate search for things to clean up with, but still sad because it was going so wrong for him. (It worked better for me than Liz with the water cooler in "30 Rock.") Creed (Creed Bratton) showed another side in his superior gameplaying -- and if you want to see Creed playing another kind of game, look for the funny "Blackmail" webisodes beginning May 7 on NBC.com.

Good to have them all back together.

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