the office 9x11Rating: ★★★★☆

“Suit Warehouse” is definitely among the better episodes of season nine that tempered its comedy, which was tight and well executed all around, with just enough pathos to lend it some weight without dragging it through the mud. This emotional core was once again anchored by Pam’s unrelentingly failing optimism at the prospect of Jim’s long-distance enterprise in Philadelphia, the apparent wedge in the season’s ongoing effort to raise the stakes of the series’ golden couple. Meanwhile, Dwight and Dwight Jr. Clark went on a sales call and the rest of the staff had a lot of espresso and resembled what their ‘80s counterparts must’ve looked like most of the time (according to Michael anyway).

Usually when an Office episode corrals the other cast members into a separate single plot it comes off as rushed or forced but this time around I thought it worked well. I’m one of those viewers who tend to get a big kick out of seeing favorite characters in inebriated states; Parks and Recreation’s “The Fight” and Workaholics’ “Business Trip” are the first to come to mind. Seeing everyone sweat and yell unnecessarily while ripping up strips of carpet may sound shallow but I enjoyed pretty much every minute of it, especially Creed stealing Phyllis’ ring and Kevin denying Oscar his, “YOLO.”

As I mentioned last week, I’m glad the writers are putting some real effort into making audiences actually care about Jim and Pam again. What worked best about this plot, however, was that the whole, “Look, Pam’s sad,” thing took a graceful backseat to the more immediate action of Daryl’s job interview which was funny and heart-warming in its own right while still reflecting Pam’s dilemma of potential relocation without ever becoming overbearing. I thought Jim’s associates were as genuinely aw-inducing as their expressions at Daryl’s ill-conceived free throw were pitch-perfect. The commendably restrained moments of Pam’s realization that the better Jim’s start-up does the more likely it is she may have to uproot herself and her children shone brightest when Athlead’s secretary mentioned how he can’t wait for Pam to move there. It was a small moment but it still spoke volumes and I hope future Office directors take note of how much their cast members can do with so little. Often I’ll scold the writers for overcrowding their episodes with too many disparate plots, but this is a great example of two working very well together in part because of their close proximity instead of in spite of it.

The Pam/Daryl story wasn’t the only one which gracefully conveyed a seasonal arc inside a self-contained one within a single plot. Reminding us that Andy’s continued absence not only allowed Pam to abscond with Daryl to Philadelphia, but has allowed for Erin and Pete to become aware of each other’s mutual attraction, Erin addresses the issue directly saying something to the effect that she can’t think about Pete right now because she’s so cracked out on espresso that the responsibility of securing the pen shipment which Pam delegated to her is occupying her full attention. Watching anyone else stress over something so innocuous as a box of pens showing up could easily be quite obnoxious, but when Erin does it I swoon. Again, usually when an episode of The Office packs five separate plots into just 22 minutes I can’t roll my eyes enough, but because both Pam and Erin’s respective seasonal arcs were so restrained and carefully folded into other stories they really worked.

Finally there was the eponymous plot of Dwight’s sales call. I loved everything about this story. From the episode’s cold-open of Dwight seeing that a family business is ripe for a pitch from the Schrubert brothers (something which may contradict “Prince Family Paper”, but I’ll let it slide because seeing Dwight and Jim’s dedication to their characters’ costumes and backstories was hilarious) to Dwight and Clark walking off into the sunset with their new Italian suits as Dwight explained to Clark why cat feces are like unique snowflakes, the story simply worked. Plus, just as Daryl’s interview allowed for Pam’s story to take place, and the staff’s espresso party added an extra layer to Erin’s story, Clark’s triumphant return from his time with Jan (as the piece de la resistance in the deal to secure Jan’s business) brought the espresso machine. I don’t know about you guys, but I think Clark Duke is a seriously underrated comedic actor. The man has a real talent for timing and delivery and his comments about having sex with Jan should be more than enough evidence of that, but if they aren’t then pretty much everything during the sale with the Stones should be.

“Suit Warehouse” was an efficient and effective episode of The Office because its many plots worked together seamlessly and they each served clear purposes. Daryl found his self-confidence in getting the job at Jim’s company which in turn contributed to Pam confronting her fears; in Jim’s absence Dwight learned some humility and Clark seized an opportunity to prove himself; even the branch’s espresso excursion, which was mostly just a really entertaining excuse to set up the gag where Pam and Daryl return to the branch to find it literally tore up and Erin blames Pam for leaving her in charge of the pens, allowed the writers to remind audiences that the Erin/Pete romance is still a thing without dwelling too heavily on it. Let’s hope the rest of the ninth season is as well balanced.

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This article was first posted on January 20, 2013