On Thursday's episode of The Office, when the Wall Street Journal publishes an article that claims that Dunder Mifflin is going to declare bankruptcy, Michael distracts the staff by making them play a murder-mystery role-playing game. Meanwhile, Andy attempts to ask out Erin on a date.
Hey folks, Mickey O'Connor filling in for Michael Anthony, who is off at some fantastic party where they're probably serving something better than the saltines, Miracle Whip and scented-candle fumes I'm calling "dinner" tonight.
"Murder" begins with a different kind of violence: Dwight gives his coworkers a martial-arts seminar, which is, naturally, ridiculous. When Jim suggests that only Dwight could be a worthy enough opponent for Dwight, Dwight agrees and sneak-attacks himself with a sucker punch to the groin.
Am I the only one who is tempted to visit (and not just drive through) Scranton, Penn., when they hear this show's charming theme song and see the quaint imagery of the opening credits?
The Wall Street Journal, or "the Wall," according to Michael, says that Dunder Mifflin is going belly up. A not-so-reassuring email from David Wallace says the story is all conjecture, and that there's nothing to worry about — which we all know is code for "commence emptying your Rolodex and sacking away nice résumé paper." Dwight reassures his coworkers that they can all have jobs as human scarecrows at Schrute Farms, as long as they don't unionize.
Belles, Bourbon and Bullets
The whole office is depressed by the news. Michael demonstrates his state of mind by playing Shawn Mullins' hellacious "Lullaby" (here's a reminder — if you must) at full volume.
But he quickly snaps out of it, ordering everyone into the conference room to play Belles, Bourbon and Bullets, the aforementioned game. There's been a murder in Savannah, you see, and Jim is powerless to stop Michael since Jim owes him. Why? Because in a flashback we see that Jim wouldn't let Michael set up Tube City, a series of Habitrails Michael wanted to install in the office through which hamsters could entertain the troops as they worked. (A fantastic idea, by the way!)
Everyone gets their character cards: Erin is a naughty socialite, Nellie Nutmeg, and Andy is... her brother, Nathaniel. Heh. Angela is scared of the game because she has to play a voodoo priestess. As the staff settles into character — Andy says the Savannah accent is "like molasses spillin' out of yo' mouth" and Kevin says "y'all" — Creed arrives. When Michael tells him he's a suspect in a murder, he quietly excuses himself and then beats feet for his car and screeches away.
Dwight explains that it's never the most- or least-suspected person, which is why he thinks Phyllis, the person he "medium-suspects," did it. Erin embraces her slutty character and invites Meredith and Kevin to join her in a threesome, which makes Andy wince.
Before we can get to the big reveal, though, Oscar interrupts to say that he got an email from corporate asking accounting to stop payment to all vendors. Uh-oh. Michael insists on continuing the game, and though Oscar tries to deliver the news in a hilarious Savannah accent, the murder-mystery spell is broken. Michael plays the game's tape and Phyllis is revealed to be the murderer, just as Dwight suspected.
Everyone goes back to work, save Michael and Dwight, who continue the game, off-script, in the kitchen. He insists that they need this "stupid little game" to keep their mind off the news.
We cut to Jim's office, where Pam is fretting about both of them losing their jobs, which is a topical touch to an otherwise ridiculous scenario. Jim attempts to reassure her, but soon after, he gets a call from David Wallace. He tells Jim that the company will basically be insolvent by the end of the year. Ever the company man, Jim greets that news by saying he's working on a big proposal for a supermarket (foreshadowing?), but Wallace can't talk about it now and cuts the call short.
Good Manager, Bad Manager
After the call, Jim lies and tells the staff there's no news yet. There is some bad news though: "There has been another murder!" he says. A portion of the crew reconvenes in the conference room to dream up a CSI-inspired murder scene. Characteristically, Angela, Phyllis and Stanley stay behind.
"Today is the hardest I have worked in a long, long time," Michael tells the camera in a closing interview, revealing that part of Michael Scott that always sneaks up on us. In the most perverse of ways, he's actually good at his job.
The Ballad of Nellie and Nathaniel Nutmeg
Andy tells the camera that he likes Erin. While they're role-playing, Andy/Nathaniel asks out Erin/Nellie (his sister in the game, by the way!), but when she says yes, he can't tell if it was for real. Later, he woos her as Pam looks on, surely reminiscent of that simpler time when all she longed for was for Jim to fold his lanky frame over her desk so they could plan a prank together. But Jim never used a Weekend at Bernie's impression to make Pam giggle. There's no denying that Nard Dog has a certain style.
Andy attempts to determine if Erin or Nellie said yes to Andy's proposal, but it remains confusing. When Erin finally catches on and asks if Andy was asking for real, Andy panics and says no.
It's then that we get a real surprise, as Erin tells the camera that she thought it was for real, and is bummed that it isn't. Aw, you crazy kids! How many episodes before this sweet love story finally works?
In the episode coda, Michael, Dwight and Andy are in a three-way standoff, à la Reservoir Dogs. The choreography is funny, none more so than when we discover that Pam, surely looking for a distraction, has joined the group to make it a four-way. "Really?" Jim asks.
"It wasn't me; I'm not going down for this," Pam says with realistic terror as she backs slowly from the conference room, fake pistols raised. You have to think that Jenna Fischer must be so relieved to finally be able to turn up the volume a bit in her previously muted portrayal of Pam. She's doing really great work.
After Pam darts from the office, the remaining trio shoots each other and writhes on the floor, pantomiming awesome death throes.
What did you think of "Murder"? And what do you think will come of Dunder Mifflin? I do declare: Sound off in the comments section below.
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