I’m not sure what exactly is happening in the writer’s rooms at “The Office,” but whatever it is, let’s hope they keep it up—“The Cover Up” was the latest in an increasingly long string of great, coulda-been-in-Season-Two episodes from the six-year old program, containing a nearly seamless blend of absurdity, office doldrums, and painful, awkward pathos.
Things between Michael and bar/nightclub owner Donna are ratcheted into high gear when Michael becomes suspicious that she may be cheating on him, letting his paranoia spiral out of control throughout the office and hiring Dwight to investigate (and disturbingly seduce) her. In the episode’s B-story, Darryl plots to destroy Andy by convincing him that the Sabre printers Andy has been selling are defective and dangerous, a plan that almost works—until Andy’s printer actually does catch on fire. (Warning: major plot spoilers ahead)
- Director: Rainn Wilson
- Writers: Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky
- Honorable Mentions: Greg Daniels (Developer), Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant (Creators)
- Cast: Steve Carell, Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, B.J. Novak, Ed Helms, David Denman, Leslie David Baker, Brian Baumgartner, Creed Bratton, Kate Flannery, Mindy Kaling, Ellie Kemper, Angela Kinsey, Paul Lieberstein, Oscar Nuñez, Craig Robinson, Phyllis Smith, Amy Pietz
“The Office” is a mockumentary following the mundane, yet hilarious, lives of employees of the paper company, Dunder-Mifflin, in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Title of this Week’s Episode: “The Cover Up” Season 6: Episode 24
“The Cover Up” begins with Michael bragging to his co-workers about how sexually dynamic his relationship with the painfully hot Donna is, and how she wackily loves to eat at restaurants several towns away from Scranton—prompting his office mates (Ryan, specifically, with a hilariously detailed list of knowing cheating behavior) to suggest that she may be cheating on him by insisting that they only meet out of town. Michael, of course, falls into a self-destructive spiral of paranoia, hiring Dwight to investigate. Dwight’s method? Convince Donna to cheat on Michael with him, thereby proving that she’s a cheater.
Meanwhile, Darryl seeks revenge on Andy for a disagreement two years prior, and steadily begins to convince the office nerd that the printers he sells are catching on fire and are a public hazard, and that Sabre, their parent corporation, is planning to fire Andy before he can blow the whistle. And, in a cleverly structured mirror of Michael’s plotline, Andy suffers a near-complete breakdown under the weight of a possible cover up.
The Good (Spoilers ahead!):
- Michael/ Donna: Once again, the Michael/ Donna relationship continued to pay off, fully the mining the heart, humor, and excruciating awkwardness that the show used to so easily emanate. And the payoff—that Donna is actually married, and that Michael is, in reality, “the other man,” was a surprise that actually felt like one, rather than a contrived twist.
- Dwight/ Pam: Again, it’s as if “The Office” writers had a late-in-the-season meeting to discuss everything that had gone wrong with the long-running show lately and immediately attempted to course-correct. Two characters who have remained fairly creatively rudderless in the sixth season—Dwight and Pam (yeah, yeah, I know she had both a marriage and a birth episode, but both of those were more Very Special Episode cheese rather than sharp and enjoyable entertainment—were both put to effective use as their doubts began to grow about Donna. Dwight’s attempts at seducing Michael’s lady were both laugh-out-loud funny and more than a little disturbing, while Pam’s intuition about Donna actually allowed the character to show off her intellect, instead of her constant ‘consternated straight-woman’ expression.
- Timing/ Pacing: Am I the only one that felt this episode was too, well, epic for a simple 22-minute timeslot? By the end of the episode, it felt as if I had watched a two-parter that had been edited down to fill out a half-hour slot. I suppose that one really short, great episode is better than an hour-long just-ok one, but the pacing and timing felt breathlessly rushed to reach the 22-minute finish line.
That’s What He/ She Said:
- Michael: Things are going great with me and Donna. Things are just clicking—emotionally, sexually, and orally.
- Michael: (two minutes after finding out that Donna may be cheating on him) Ever since I found out that Donna might be cheating on me, I haven’t eaten or slept.
- Dwight: All cases are solved with logic. The logical way to find out if Donna is a cheater is to seduce her, bring her to orgasm, then call Michael and tell him the sad news.
- Stanley: My doctor told me to cut out hot dogs. We all got problems.
- Dwight: (seducing Donna) Hey, you know what exercise for two people uses the whole body? Tractor pull. Too bad there’s not a tractor here.
- Michael: (about Donna’s potential ‘other man’) That guy is the lowest of the low. Just one notch below Toby.
- Dwight: (seducing Donna) One thing you need to know about me: I don’t quit until something tears or pops.
- Michael: I’m the mistress?
This episode would have been in the solid 9 to 10 range (thanks to its old-school “The Office” blend of pathos, hilarity, and daily office boredom and the madness it generates) had it not been for what felt like deeply rushed editing, or a last-minute attempt to crunch an hour-long special episode into 20-some minutes. Regardless, if this season has taught us anything, it’s to take our treasures where we can find them, and in that regard, “The Cover Up” was a veritable goldmine.