It has been a few weeks since the credits of The Office was boiled down to Jim and Pam kissing one another on the face. It made sense from a practical standpoint, as Andy is basically just a specter hanging over the proceedings at this point, which is a fitting role for him. Once, Andy was a good character, but when they made him boss, and tried to focus on him like they did with Michael, it didn’t work. Now, they can turn their attention to other characters, characters who shoulder the burden better, and it also lets Pete and Erin flirt and such, which at least gives Pete something to do.
However, it also makes sense because it is feeling more and more like this season is about Jim and Pam, at least emotionally. Those two and Dwight are the people left over from season one, but Dwight is too cartoony to really carry things, which was another Andy problem. That’s not the case with Jim and Pam. They’ve come along way, marriage and kids and such, and now Jim is in Philly working on a dream. Of course, it seems quite likely they will get their fairy tale ending. And not one of those endings like the original fairy tales have, like where the wolf actually eats Little Red Riding Hood and the moral is that young women should fear men. If that is going to happen, however, they need to perhaps create some strife first. That arc began tonight with “Customer Loyalty.”
I will dig into Jim and Pam, dig deep into their souls, later. First, let me commend the cold open, which was quite good. Dwight finds a “letter” from Robert Dunder beginning a treasure hunt for the holy grail, or at least a holy grail. It turns out this was an elaborate prank Jim set up years ago, but Dwight has only now found it, and alas Jim isn’t around to enjoy it. Everybody ends up joining along, but when they end up in the warehouse, the end of the quest, they cannot find the grail. It turns out a warehouse guy is using it as a coffee mug. The payoff there is admittedly not strong, but the lead up was funny and well-crafted.
The storyline that led to the title of the episode involved Dwight and Darryl. When Dwight finds out that Darryl is planning on moving on from Dunder-Mifflin to Athlead, much to Dwight’s concern. Dwight is afraid of losing more people from the company he loves, so he goes to work trying to convince Darryl to stay. Thus, a customer loyalty meeting where Dwight brings in a customer who had a minor complaint which Darryl quickly addresses. That’s not enough for Dwight, however, so he makes the guy stick around. It doesn’t really go anywhere, and it mostly serves to dovetail into a part of another storyline. Eventually, Dwight decides he needs to show Darryl how much fun the paper business can be, although to Dwight the joy of selling paper is self-evident.
Dwight’s plan involves taking Darryl out on a paper delivery, replete with toy basketballs and a song by the bang fun., empirically the most fun band ever. Although, I’m somewhat surprised that Dwight is aware of them. Dwight tries to be a merry prankster, throwing a milkshake at a fast food employee, which doesn’t amuse Darryl. Dwight is forced to clean it up, and then he is inexplicably hit by a milkshake. What are the odds? Poor, I imagine. In the tag, Darryl is watching Dwight getting hit by the shake on the internets, and says he will miss the paper business.
On its face, this was a reasonable idea for a storyline. Dwight is super loyal to the company, not as much post-Michael, but nevertheless, so it would make sense he would do this. I also appreciate he didn’t act completely ridiculous. It was within the parameters of the logic of the character, and his motives are clear and reasonable. It didn’t turn out all that funny, unfortunately. The jokes didn’t land, and the beats weren’t that strong. It was alright, however. I could live with it. Like I said, the plot made sense, and had some amusement in it, and I enjoyed watching Dwight and Darryl play off one another. I could have just used a few laughs.
In another storyline, Pete and Erin is a thing that still happens. Based on the charms of Ellie Kemper in the role, and my affection for the character of Erin, I have been able to enjoy some of this arc. Plus, there’s no Andy, which at this point is a plus. Pete is still sort of one-dimensional, but he’s a better character that a lot of other recent ads. Except Kathy, of course. Everybody loves Kathy. Erin and Pete are put in charge of social media for the company, and in their time working together, they are, obviously, getting closer to one another. Erin has a funny talking head about the situation. Erin is funny when she is flustered, and her relationship with Pete flusters her.
However, when Nellie realizes how close they are getting, she blames herself for giving them a reason to spend time together, and Nellie doesn’t want Andy to get angry at her if Erin and Pete end up together, so now she wants to put an end to things. As such, she brings it up during the loyalty meeting, and then everybody starts talking about Erin and Pete flirting, much to their dismay. Also, apparently Phyllis assumes Pete is into some freaky stuff. This light shone on their relationship leads to them not wanting to work together anymore, but then after a conversation with Toby, Nellie then feels bad about that. Nellie just feels bad. So, she “forces” them to work together, much to their happiness. Erin and Pete are the new Jim and Pam, if everything was made easy for them. Also, Nellie remember she kissed Toby, who is quite awkwardly handsy with her. Good old somewhat creepy Toby.
Still, because I like the character of Erin, pretty much anything involving her I enjoy, especially since unlike other characters I enjoy, like Dwight, she doesn’t really get cartoony. I mean, if, by which I mean when, these two get together, good for them as characters. I’m fine with that, since they are both likable. However, Pete is mostly just “not Andy” at this point. But, by virtue of not being Andy, I prefer having him on my TV. Plus, there was some funny stuff in this storyline, and they brought this relationship to the fore, which brings me to Jim and Pam.
Jim and Pam. Those two lovebirds. Things sure have been great for them. They will be great in the end. However, if they are going to make that resonate at all, they had to create some trouble, genuine trouble, for this relationship. Was that something this show could do at this point? Would they be able to manage?
Jim is planning to head to Scranton for CeCe’s ballet recital, and he’s quite excited. Then, a major financier for Athlead wants to pull out, so it’s all hands on deck, so Jim can’t make it. This is, obviously, a bummer, and Pam is disappointed. Jim asks Pam to record it with her phone. The only issue? Pam isn’t good with her phone, so she screws up when filming it because she took a phone call about a mural she’s been commissioned to paint, which makes her quite happy. She can’t wait to tell Jim, and she has to wait a long time for him to call. When he does, he’s bummed because they lost the money man. He really wants to see the CeCe video, but of course Pam doesn’t have it.
Thus, Jim snaps in frustration, and an argument begins about responsibility and Jim’s new job and being there for one another until they hang up without Pam telling him her big news, and they don’t say “I love you” or anything either.
This was the more dramatic the show has been in a long time. They haven’t really tried to much, and when they have they have oft failed, or at best been mediocre. However, this involved two actors who have been playing these characters for years, and John Krasinki and Jenna Fischer are both quite talented. Indeed, they were excellent with this opportunity, really hitting the emotional beats well. This worked well. I was wondering when they would get to this, the so far “big” dramatic moment for these two. It may get worse from here, at least a bit. They built up to it a bit, such as in the episode with the lice, and they let it play out quite nicely here. So far, they have handled this well, and this storyline was the best part of this episode. It didn’t have a lot of jokes, sure, but it was the most engaging, most interesting, and most entertaining thing that happened.
I would be remiss to not mention what happened after this. Pam starts crying, and I actually started thinking about the documentary aspect of the show. Then, Pam talks to the boom mike operator, a guy named Brian. Brian and a camerawoman then appear ON THE SHOW, and Brian actually goes to comfort Pam, and he even says for them to cut the camera.
This was… very interesting. I am still pondering it, to be truthful. In this the final season, the crew shooting this show have been more involved, and particularly when it comes to Jim and Pam. It was a very bold move for The Office to try and pull this off. I am not sure why they did it, other than intellectual curiosity or an itch they wanted to scratch. However, I am OK with it. I mean, they shouldn’t do it a lot, but it definitely got me thinking. It got me thinking about the nature of this show and the style in which it is shot and such. Of course, it also got me thinking about how a lot of this show would be a logistical nightmare for an actual documentary crew, but that’s probably not what they wanted.
“Customer Loyalty” was a really good episode of television, on what was a great night for NBC. It wasn’t super funny. However, all the storylines were really well done. They were all plotted out well, and the dramatic moments were the strongest the show has had in quite some time. Dwight and Darryl’s stuff was so-so, but Erin and Pete’s storyline and, mostly notably, Jim and Pam’s story arc, were more satisfactory. Plus, the cold open, which was quite good. I am intrigued with what The Office is going to do with its last few episodes. With this episode, they managed to get me wondering about what will happen with Jim and Pam, which is a success.