12
Jan
2012
The Office: Season 8, Episode 11
Trivia
Michael Richardson
The Office Review
Trivia
Season 8, Episode 11


Internet denizens, it is hard being an Internet writer sometimes. When The Office left us for a month over the holidays, I have to admit that I was a bit happy for a break. This season has beaten me down, and what was once comfort food has quickly transformed into the bane of my Thursday nights. How I wished to abandon my post and run away forever, and leave The Office to rummage around in the trash heap of television. Even as my beloved 30 Rock retuned, and Parks and Recreation continues its winning streak, the half-hour of my reckoning was to come.

And then they go and give us the best episode of the season.

I have pointed out a lot of flaws in this season, but I've always maintained that the show can be fixed. That they can still produce quality episodes. I was beginning to lose hope about that though. But this episode, comparatively, hit it out of the park. The main plot is good enough: Andy is worried because he's 800 dollars short of his goal for the quarter, while Oscar is participating in a trivia contest with 1000 dollars on the line. Soon enough, the gang carts themselves off to a Philadelphia gay bar to compete alongside teams with names like "The Queerstein Bears."

It's a nice, clean plot, only a bit contrived but driven by real motivation we know the characters exhibit. Only Andy, with his crippling self-doubt, would buy up excess paper or worry about 800 dollars, what Oscar calls a "rounding-error." And of course Oscar is going to go to a trivia championship (and also apparently believes that the trivia at gay bars is tougher). And Jim and Darryl will encourage anything to get out of work. What follows are simply equally great character moments. Kelly answers a sports question through her knowledge of Kardashian television, Kevin isn't mentally handicapped for an episode, Kelly doesn't know bell strategy but gets an answer about flying jibs.

In the B Story, Dwight goes to see Robert California about an open manager position. This was already bad news. Dwight has been the weakest part of the show this season, and James Spader hasn't really distinguished himself as a particularly important asset to the show. And also, Gabe's there. I had low expectations. But each character subdued their most obnoxious elements, portraying the kind of story that is, at the very least, believable. There weren't a lot of laughs, but it was pleasant enough to not hurt the show in any way. And that's all we could ask for.

It's not a wholly original story, and there have been many shows that have done the "Trivia questions that happen to line up with the participants limited knowledge" before and better, but doing something totally competently is now a struggle for The Office. That's what made this main story such a joy: it was simple, character based, consistent, and based in some kind of reality. And it happens to be very funny.

Grade: A-

Miscellaneous:

This week's cold open: A silent contest that's been going on for 14 whole minutes. Mediocre, until everybody gets a chance to let out what they wanted to say the entire time. Erin: "Does anybody have a first aid kit?"

Gabe: "You're wish is my command."
Robert: "It's a command"


Tags: The Office
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