Yikes. I mean, I know The Office is dark and all, but: yikes. Last night's episode, "Scott's Tots," was grueling. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that is was penned by the writing team of Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, who also wrote the fourth season's "Dinner Party," the bleakest and most soul-crushing half-hour of the series so far. But there just wasn't much to enjoy last night. At all.
The cold open was the most enjoyable bit, with Michael scolding Andy for using that weird baby talk voice around the office, only to be calmed down when Andy compliment Michael's own equally terrible Elvis impersonation. Funny, quirky, relatable. But kiss all that goodbye, because the other 22 minutes were just a grind.
The main plot dealt with Scott's Tots, a group of kids about to graduate from an inner-city high school who had been promised full college tuition by Michael a decade ago. He made the promise because he liked to see them happy, but of course he doesn't have the money, so he spends the first chunk of the episode sweating it and lashing out at Erin to compensate for it. Dude! She's sweet and tiny. But he took her with him anyway when he went to visit the school, which was just as painful an experience as I feared it would be. The seniors greeted him with applause and did some awkward rap and step performance, but the whole time my teeth were on edge. Sure enough, Michael had to stand in front of them and tell them he didn't have the money. It was like watching a man being tortured. It wasn't awkward-funny, or uncomfortable-funny, or even tragic-funny. It just hurt. It reminded me of how my old roommate and I used to stop episodes halfway through to take a breather from the pain. This was like that.
Meanwhile, back at the office, Jim had to deal with another attempted coup from Dwight, which I guess makes sense but come on, I get it. Dwight engineered an employee of the month program and had Jim rate employees that had been assigned random numbers by Dwight, which meant the whole thing was rigged. So when Jim announced the winner, it turned out to be himself, which caused a small riot among the rest of the office, who are I swear just fucking regressing intellectually. How can they be six years in and still not realize Jim's not a dick and that Dwight just might be up to something? He tries to give it to the No. 2 spot, but it's rigged to be Pam, which makes everybody poop even more.
It would have been fun to see Jim fight back or at least keep his wits, the way he did with Ryan last time, but he just bent over and took it this week. Dwight's smugness didn't help much, either. (Though his repeated phone calls to David Wallace where he pretended to be other people were pretty great, especially his slow, slobbery impression of Kevin.) Wallace called to bitch Jim out, which Dwight taped on with a pen microphone, only to find out when he listened to it that Wallace got over his anger and was still pleased with Jim's performance. So, yay? Victory? Whatevs.
They tried to pull up a little at the end when Erin cheered Michael up by pointing out that some of Scott's Tots might never have graduated without his incentive, phony though it was, and he softened and said he likes her and that she's got a good future at Dunder Mifflin. But blah blah meh blah eh blerg. It didn't feel earned, but tacked on. And the coda had Ryan joining forces with Dwight to take Jim down. Just: Guys! I get it! Do something else for now. Like, be funny. Please?