The Office scored its first victory of the year with a humorous tale of responsibility-avoidance, while Archer hit a minor bump in the road after a very strong start to the season. 30 Rock was solid as usual, but that wasn’t enough to take the win last time around.
Who will prevail this week?
This was SitCombat for February 9, 2012:
30 Rock (NBC) – “Hey, Baby, What’s Wrong?”
Tonight’s Episode: Storylines abound as Liz and Criss celebrate their first Valentine’s Day together in this hour-long episode.
Good Stuff: Liz waking up with a Pringles-like cannister on her arm . . . “Why haven’t I seen pictures of you as a baby?” . . . Liz’s Valentine montage . . . The Jessups originally coming to America due to an embarrassing regifting incident . . . “I wouldn’t know anything about being too old for something” . . . Pete’s shrug after announcing his wife was going to dinner with her tennis instructor . . . Billy Ocean is furious . . . “According to your Christmas letter, Avery is in Asia on business” . . . “I wish I died on Iwo Jima and never met you!” . . . “Soooo tense. Just like my mom’s back” . . . “Tomorrow night on America’s Kidz Got Singing, the judge becomes the OPPOSITE of the judge…Come on, guys. A little effort” . . . “New Jersey. I’m just a weirdo” . . . KICKENFUN . . . “I am not a vampire. I’m just a night owl with a terrible garlic allergy” . . . “I’m going to call security. One of the guys has a whistle!” . . . “I’m sorry I was so Italian in there” . . . “Jeter’s thighs in those pants!” (*wince*) . . . “It’s funny: If those teeth were in your vagina, you’d be considered a monster!” . . . “‘SMOKE ON THE WATER’ or ‘DISCO INFERNO’ – we couldn’t make up our minds” . . . Spaceman pushing for a three-way, then announcing that it’s “five o’clock somewhere” and preparing a syringe . . . The Baltimore Philharmonic reduced to a boombox and a guy in a crab costume . . . “When will Congress pass a law to get those bastards out of our country?” . . . I wasn’t into the 80’s Olympic Trial flashback until Costas said, “Someone run into town and find a payphone!” That saved it for me . . . “…and Dollhouse Penis Syndrome” . . . “Yes. For your grave” . . . “Worse than me trying to send a fax” . . . Jack citing Olmec predent as a way to justify sleeping with Avery’s mother . . . “Lemon, PLEASE hang up! I can’t listen to any more of this!” . . . I liked the callback to Pete’s archery skills . . . “I’m Herb. ‘Cause you are what you smoke, right Jackie?!?”
Non-good Stuff: The iguana thing was pretty weird . . . I feel like Hazel Wassername is simultaneously a poor man’s Kenneth Parcell AND a poor man’s Agnes DiPesto . . . Lutz trying on (and buying) a dress . . . Thanks for making me look up “Dollhouse Penis Syndrome,” 30 Rock (It’s not a real thing. I think.) . . . I think we set a record for most plots: Frank and Tracy passing dirtbag knowledge to Lutz, Jack contemplating cheating on Avery with Avery’s mother, Kenneth showing Hazel the ropes, Pete and Jenna dealing with her singing issues, and Liz and Criss sorting through a rough patch on Valentine’s Day. Even for a show as well-written as this one, that’s a lot of plates to spin . . . Rest in peace, Cerie.
Line of the Night: “We’re not going to Chili’s until I hit one!” – Dennis to Liz, at a batting cage on a Valentine’s Day in the indeterminate past.
Overall: A lot of what I love about this show can be boiled down to this anecdote: About twenty minutes after the analogy about Wassername and DiPesto came to mind, Tracy Jordan randomly dropped a Moonlighting reference. This week’s show had a LOT going on, but most of it worked. I don’t recall them ever doing FIVE stories before, and, as a result, it was tougher to make them all overlap at the end. Only the Lutz / Liz plots truly crossed paths, other than a brief phone call between Liz and Jack. The Jenna storyline probably “worked” best, while the Jack storyline had the biggest laughs. Still, I’m not sure what’s going on with Hazel. The Single White Female thing came out of nowhere and may have some potential down the road, but it seemed strange to introduce it in the fifty-third minute or so. Judging an hour-long episode is tricky, because there’s almost always going to be more stuff to love or dislike, simply based on volume. While a few bits and pieces didn’t quite fit (e.g. the same tediousness that lends humor to the IKEA shopping scenario simultaneously undermines it), almost everything was decent to very funny. The anti-UN stuff, the Dr. Spaceman appearance, and the Duffy cameo were all excellent.
The Office (NBC) – “Special Project”
Tonight’s Episode: Pam returns from maternity leave and Dwight puts together a special team for a trip to corporate HQ as the office—you guessed it—celebrates Valentine’s Day.
Good Stuff: Angela showing up Pam in such an over-the-top way. . . Kevin fighting through his extreme walnut allergy . . . “Just to be clear, there is a second definition, ‘Perfect pork anus,” which I don’t mean” . . . Erin taking “gag gift” literally . . . Dwight’s selection montage . . . I loved Dwight not knowing Cathy’s (Kathy’s?) name. Neither did (do?) I . . . Dwight using a chain with three weak links to tie up his (former) Arctic wolf . . . “Why do you need a pen?” “Back off. I have my reasons” . . . “I use the word ‘guys’ a lot when I’m nervous…guys” . . . “You need one of us there.” “Or both?” “Not both. Just one” . . . Dwight’s reaction to Kevin’s speech, and Kevin’s insistence that he’s overcome his gambling addiction “unless there’s a huge mismatch” at the dog track.
Non-good Stuff: Daryl giving the gift to Nate was unrealistic in a way that exceeded the suspension of disbelief quota for this kind of show . . . The interview process for the Florida trip felt like the boss interview episode of last year rehashed at a lower rung on the corporate ladder . . . I wasn’t invested in Jim and Pam’s painstaking deliberation over what to text back to Robert California. He’s already been established as such a weirdo that there’s no point to caring that much about phrasing . . . I realized as I was watching this that I’ve lost track of what Kelly and Ryan’s current relationship status is.
Line(s) of the Night: “I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to clear your head any more than it has been already.” – Dwight, to Erin, after she made the case that a trip to Florida would be a great chance to clear her head.
Overall: This was a decent episode, but we may have some big problems on the horizon. I don’t know whether it’s a simple creative choice, or it’s a sign of desperation, but this show is poised to become much more soap-y than it’s ever been. Let’s look at what we’ve got: Val has a boyfriend, but is making it clear that she’s open for business as far as Daryl goes; Erin is planning on never coming back to Scranton thanks to her heartbreak over Andy; Angela’s baby is probably Dwight’s child; and, worst of all, Kathy (who has BARELY SPOKEN since she’s been on the show) is going to go after Jim, based on her obviously incorrect conclusion that his marriage is rocky. Not to mention the fact that the cast is possibly being divided as a way to “shake things up.” Taking the show on the road has theoretical potential, but, as I’ve said over and over, the best episodes are the ones that keep things simple and relatable. The Office works best as a “small” show. I worry that things are now moving in the wrong direction. As for this episode, it was fine (and Ryan always cracks me up in small doses), but it was a step down from last week’s show.
Archer (FX) – “Drift Problem”
Tonight’s Episode: Archer gets an amazing birthday present that he loses just as quickly.
Good Stuff: Archer smashing the VHS (!) security tape . . . I liked that they reiterated the idea that ISIS is more than just the six or seven people we normally see during field missions . . . “OW! I think” . . . Archer talking dirty to the car . . . Fred getting shot. Again . . . “It makes the Mach 5 look like a vagina!” . . . “CORINTH IS FAMOUS FOR ITS LEATHER!” . . . The various simultaneous reactions to Archer, uh, not being able to hug his mother . . . “Not as much as you’d think” . . . Archer using the anti-pursuit countermeasures on the cops . . . Archer using a grappling hook to get a parking spot . . . “Was that even a twist-off?” “No.” “Yikes” . . . “Ya got another one in ya?” . . . Pam’s Japanese nickname meaning “The White Pumpkin” . . . “THAT WAS FOR PEARL HARBOR!”
Non-good Stuff: Woodhouse should have foreseen the breakfast problem . . . The product placement was about as funny as it possibly could have been, but still not funny, if you follow me . . . Mallory being the bicycle thief and the car thief was pretty predictable.
Line of the Night: “SHOTGUN!” / “Meeee too!” – Pam and Krieger’s simultaneous reactions, respectively, to Archer’s tumescence.
Overall: This one had some nice moments, a good use of the ensemble, and a heavy dose of Archer’s borderline-sociopathic behavior. There was a lot of good. Unfortunately, it had two problems. First, the Dodge product placement. As I said above, they did as much with it as they probably could under the circumstances, but it was still distracting. I didn’t know what to do with a lot of it. Do I love or hate the on-screen disclaimer about drinking and driving? Not sure. Secondly, the pacing of the episode was odd. The ending felt like it sneaked up on me. Still, this was a good episode that was a step up from last week. Without the product placement being so blatant (i.e. even if Archer’s car had been identifiably Dodge) and minor pacing issues, this was probably close to being an “A” episode. Very good effort with some great lines.
Final Thoughts: If the ending hadn’t been a little odd and the Dodge involvement hadn’t been so blatant, Archer probably could have eked out a victory over 30 Rock. As it is, the hour-long edition of NBC’s 8:00 sitcom carries the day. We also got a decent edition of The Office this week. So, while no show had its absolute best episode, there were no stinkers, either. This might be the highest “GPA” of the year so far. I say “might” because I have no intention of doing the math. Anyway, I’ll be most interested to see how The Office fares the next few weeks as that show seems to be trying some new things. For now, 30 Rock is the champ.
WINNER: 30 Rock (new champion)