The Office: "Threat Level Midnight"
    Michael Scott steps into his long-awaited role of Michael Scarn in ‘Threat Level Midnight.’ Photo by Chris Haston, courtesy of NBC.

    I could tell going into this episode of The Office that it was going to be a great one. The title was “Threat Level Midnight”. How could it possibly be bad? And lo and behold, I was right.

    Michael Scarn (Michael Scott, as we know him), retired secret agent for the FBI, is on a mission to save stadium concession workers and prevent a ticking time bomb from exploding during the NHL All-Star Game. He is forced out of his remission (brought on by a series of mishaps and the death of his wife) and thrown back into a world of defeating crime and earning glory. His nemesis, Goldenface (Jim) is planning an evil victory over Scarn not only through destruction and murder, but also necrophilia?

    Wait…this doesn’t sound like an episode of The Office, does it? Am I sure I was watching the right show? Yes, yes I am.

    This is what we’ve all been waiting for. A plot from The Office that is fresh, clever and ultimately perfect. Michael’s dream of becoming a writer/actor/director/producer/whatever else has been unveiled with a film he’s been working on for 11 years, and the office employees are all on board for watching themselves in various roles.

    If the winning plot of Michael’s 11 years in the making unintended-comedy/thriller wasn’t enough to make this the most laughter-inducing Office in years, the dialogue would surely make up for any holes.

    “Hey, Goldenface! Go puck yourself,” said Scarn to his arch-nemesis, Goldenface. If that doesn’t deserve a Razzie for Worst Screenplay, then there is no respect in this world for a good, clean pun.

    “Threat Level Midnight” was not only so terrifically Office, it was so terrifically Michael Scott. Excuse me, I mean Michael Scarn. I could not have asked for a better going away present from Steve Carell than this episode. I can only hope that before he leaves permanently, The Office will remain at this level of totally amazing hilarity.

    In past episodes, The Office has stayed consistently fragmented. Every show seemed like an attempt to throw every character in with their own subplot. Michael’s movie proved that fragmenting is not only a less funny method, but also a step below the quality of an episode like this. After all, the best thing about The Office is the character interactions, and that gets lost in the middle of several different story segments.

    Even more great was how they brought Jan, Karen and even Packer (who I’ll admit I’m not all too fond of ordinarily) back for the episode. It’s astounding how many great characters have gone in and out of The Office over the years, but this quick nostalgic look back was a good reminder.

    After watching “Threat Level Midnight,” I began to wonder what the recipe to a quality episode of The Office really is. And I think, at least for myself, I’ve discovered the secret ingredient.

    I believe that The Office is great when it appeals to everyone’s inner high school student. In other words, when it tickles our fancy for silliness and still quenches our desire for quick wit, then it’s great. When it tries too hard, it loses greatness.

    The way I see it, a good episode of The Office is somewhat akin to a high school video project. If you’ve ever filmed a video project for a class, you know how sometimes the most bland scenes can turn funny. And when the video becomes a joke to those behind the camera, usually the entire class audience is quick to catch on.

    When The Office lets go of plot-advancing, deep character-involving stories, and instead moves over into the high school video project randomness realm, it really tastes success.

    This is The Office that needs to be on every week. If the last few episodes made me lose sight of why I ever loved this show, it took “Threat Level Midnight” to remind me of the reason. Thank you, Scarn.


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