The Chicago Syndicate: The Mafia Episode on "The Office"
The Mission Impossible Backpack

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Mafia Episode on "The Office"

It seems there are two types of The Office episodes: the story-based type that takes a plot progression and sprinkles comedic jokes throughout, and then the joke-based type that uses a wafer-thin story to hold up its nonstop array of irreverent gags. "Mafia" definitely falls into the latter category. The episode delivers rapid fire doses of buffoonery from start to finish, resulting in a number of genuine laugh-out-loud moments. And on the heels of the saccharine sweet wedding special, this type of ridiculousness is just what the doctor ordered.

"Mafia" begins with probably the weakest of this season's cold openings, but there's still a giant laugh to be had out of hearing Meredith describe her son's latest disgusting prank. From there, the episode dives into its main dilemma: Michael is visited by a pushy Italian-American insurance salesman (the always enjoyable Mike Starr), and Dwight and Andy immediately convince him he has just been shook down by the mafia. Although he's typically slow to catch on, Michael eventually becomes concerned and turns to his two moronic lieutenants for advice. Andy's is simple – give in and pay the Mafioso whatever he wants. Dwight urges Michael to stand up to the mob.

With Jim and Pam off on their honeymoon, Oscar is left as the office's sole voice of reason. Or, as he puts it, "the coalition of reason is extremely weak." Not sure how to save Michael from himself and his two idiotic advisers, he calls Jim in Puerto Rico and asks how to handle the situation. Part of the fun of the episode is seeing different characters each call Jim for advice at different times, reaffirming that he's the glue that keeps the dysfunctional office together. Being on his honeymoon, he's of course not thrilled by the interruptions.

The episode's subplot also delivers some hilarious moments. With Jim away, Kevin begins sneaking into his office to break wind, and then decides to stick around and set up shop there full-time. His plan runs into a speed bump when Jim's credit card company calls and asks about all the unusual spending going on in Puerto Rico. Watching the dimwitted Kevin try to handle the situation – Brian Baughgartner's deadpan delivery is always a treat – is hysterical, and it only gets funnier when Oscar warns him of the consequences of identity fraud. In short, Kevin remarks that he wouldn't have as much fun in prison as Oscar would.

But the highpoint of the episode comes from watching Dwight, Andy and Michael try to deal with their mob problem at a sit down with the insurance salesman. For reasons I won't get into here, Andy attends the meeting dressed as a mechanic, and his attempt at deception doesn't so much blow up in his face as it does the face of an innocent mother. And Michael trying to order "gabagool" had me in stitches.

"Mafia" isn't one of the show's greatest episodes, but it is a highly enjoyable one. By the time Dwight and Andy convinced Michael to finally stand up to the pushy salesman, I realized I had been giggling practically nonstop since the episode started. It's one of those episodes that's just too silly not to love.

Thanks to Dan Phillips

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