Afternoon Baseball

Common-sense ruminations on baseball and culture.

It's been mentioned that this was the Season 3 equivalent of "Office Olympics," that charming, heartwarming and multiple-plot-advancing episode that introduced Flonkerton, PamPong and Carol, codename Remax.

It's a relevant comparison, but unfair...

It's an unfair comparison only because "Office Olympics," along with "The Dundies," is perhaps the quintessential "Office" episode. It has JAM, Michael being sympathetic, afraid of being alone yet both rejecting and inviting, Michael's struggles with women, Dwight's pathetic sidekick gig, equal time for all the other office workers, a chill between Angela and Pam, Kevin being a goof, and a day where nothing really happens, yet plenty does.

"Safety Training" falls short because no one edited Darryl and Michael. Their conversations are interminable, circular and not nearly as funny as they should be for the airtime they take up. Now, I remain a Darryl fan. It's the editing that short-circuits the show a bit. Although, with the memory of Michael destroying half the warehouse with the heavy equipment in "Boys and Girls," Darryl's anger is understandable.

So there's that little problem...and not knowing what to do with Andy. A lot of these points are also made here, by the way. The Andy thing doesn't bother me much, but if Karen and Angela, not to mention Meredith and Phyillis, are going to get little-to-no face time, then having him around isn't worth it.

But there's a lot to like. The return of Patrice O'Neal (from waaay back in Season 1's "Basketball," and Season 2's "Boys and Girls," and also T-Bone in S01, E02 of "Arrested Development") was very welcome, especially since he and Darryl actually seem to be friends, unlike the times this year when Roy was portrayed unconvincingly as Darryl's No. 2. Madge, or Pudge, or Andy Capp, is also a great deadpan that makes you forget how much of a stereotype her character is. She's also an "AD" vet -- the woman at "Motherboy XXX" who asks if George Michael is an orphan.

Jim and Pam are at their best as pranksters, or more so, as ralliers. They bring out the fun in Toby, the mischief in Phyillis, utilize the silliness of Kelly for good, the tentative camraderie in Oscar, the fun-loving noncreep in Kevin, and the enjoyable creep in Creed. This dynamic duo, unfortunately, make Karen feel uncomfortable time and time again. Also, broke, since she loses every single bet.

The betting really shows the human side of the office, and finally gives us a break from the melodrama that was bringing this show to "OC" territory, just with less hot people. Jim and Pam, at least superficially, made fixes to the rift made clear last week caused by this.

There's only a couple episodes left. There's been a lot of movement this season, but it's almost been negated by the returns of Jim and Andy, the stability of Jim and Karen, and the continuous troubles of Michael and Jan. What this episode succeeds in doing, perhaps not as well as "Office Olympics," but well enough, is remind us of the core of "The Office": That every office, in some way, is ordinary, mundane and a place where workers must find outlets to cope (betting, faking suicides, etc.) with the terminal drudgery that is the workplace.

While still being funny, of course.


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