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4.07 Survivor Man
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Nov 9th 2007

DftF beat me to it :P

Nov 9th 2007

Here's a thought. We all saw the tag. Right at the very end, Jim and Michael are laughing together, and part of me thought that at that moment, maybe Jim was warming up to the idea of doing what Michael Scott does. Maybe he was realizing that what Michael does is actually challenging, and would provide him with the challenge that working at DM had thus far not provided. He clearly knew that he had just gone through a PR nightmare, and he looked to Michael for guidance. I think in that tag we witness Jims respect for Michael as an employee and a boss increase incrementally. And perhaps we see Jim going through the initial stages of a change of heart about his future relationship with DM.

Nov 9th 2007

I definitely think Jim is seeing Michael more as a fellow human being and not just a walking punchline as time goes by. As mentioned in earlier posts, we can see this change in the scenes that wrapped up "Booze Cruise" and "Benihana Christmas".

Perhaps, as Pam has stood in as a maternal character for Michael, Jim will begin to fill the Ryan gap. Hopefully without the odd sexual tension.

Nov 9th 2007 edited

I think in that tag we witness Jims respect for Michael as an employee and a boss increase incrementally.

I definitely think Jim is seeing Michael more as a fellow human being and not just a walking punchline as time goes by.

Right on! Both of your insights resonated strongly for me, as I felt as though this episode was the first true watershed moment in Jim's personal development. For three seasons we've seen Jim as the funny, smirking, lovelorn, yet confused-about-what-he-wants nice guy. Jim has been known both as everyone's friend, and as someone who can lead troops... Remember how funny yet respectful he was to everyone while organizing the "Deserted Island" games in the parking lot during Season 2's The Fire? That's when I knew this young man has potential.

Fast forward to "Survior Man" (ironic title huh!). Jim seems to welcome his responsibilities as #2 when he begins focusing on improving an inefficient process in the office, the birthday celebrations. However, he reacts by taking the humanity out of what can be considered an extremely personal event, in the name of efficiency. Rather than discussing his idea and welcoming feedback, the "green" (get it!) manager simply makes his decree. The result is his co-workers' behind-his-back mutiny and questioning of his readiness to manage this complex group of people.

Its interesting that the issues of process improvement and leadership have already been addressed this season in the form of our formerly-favorite-temp's efforts to remove the humanity from the sales process by installing the new DM-Infinity culture.. As a result, he has alienated himself from not only Scranton, but from what seems to be all his other regions as well as others in corporate.

This is where I believe these two characters and their common themes have been set up as contrasts and where they are heading...

Ryan:

  • took the corporate job, though probably as Wallace's last choice
  • became all too proud of himself and his early advancement
  • tried to hit a homerun by re-working the business model
  • lost the the qualities that made him human and loved (or just respected) by his Scranton colleagues
  • believes that he has gone too far down this road to humble himself and admit he was wrong

Jim:

  • assumes the responsibility of running the office while Michael is off on his boondoggle
  • takes the job seriously, extremely seriously, in part because he recognizes it as a growth opportunity
  • made a sincere effort to streamline an inefficient office process, not for personal recognition but because at the time it seemed like the right thing to do
  • moved away from the qualities that made him loved by his Scranton colleagues, namely his respect for each one of them as individuals
  • recognizes that he made a mistake, allows the team to keep their traditional process, and even admits his misjudgement to another person

Thus, for me, the beauty of this season's arc and character development is how these two characters have become foils to each other. What we are seeing this year is truly Jim's personal development. Just as Ryan seemed to be given everything he wanted well ahead of his time and without paying his dues, Jim is struggling with himself, what he wants to accomplish, and what it means to become an adult man. Jim's journey and road to personal fulfillment seems to be the anti-thesis of Ryan's self-satisfaction and feelings of bitterness when his success rings empty. Jim is this tortured knight in search of his personal grail. Ryan has become the haughty prince more concerned with how others perceive him. Jim wants to do what he thinks is right. Ryan wants to do what he thinks will make him stand out from the others.

One last thought... notice who the women are in these two characters lives. Jim has Pam, with all her depth, kindness, creativity, humor, self-awareness and down-to-earth intelligence. Ryan, well...... he did date Kelly.

Nov 10th 2007

I've been really surprised at how everyone on here seems to think Jim is now moving towards being the next Regional Manager. I read this episode in the completely opposite direction, probably because I am very much empathising with Jim's plight this season:

Jim is (as I am at the moment too) flailing around, trying to figure out what the hell he is doing with his life - looking for something, anything to grab on to. Michael throws him the bone of temporary Regional Manager duties and he tries to give it a go and take it seriously. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, depending how you look at it), this opportunity doesn't go so well and I think Jim has now come to the essential but painful realisation that this isn't what he wants and he must actively look for Something Else.

Just getting to that point is something so many of us don't ever achieve as we continue our daily grind and end up being 40, in a job we don't care for and never having achieved anything we really wanted. Jim needed this episode's experience to get there - and I'm happy to be along for the ride. Hope we both figure it out.

Nov 10th 2007

Gould_V Wow. That was amazing. I loved it. Great Jim/Ryan comparison, and the whole post was just excellent.

Nov 10th 2007

Yeah - forgot to say: props to Gould_V!

Nov 10th 2007

I felt as though this episode was the first true watershed moment in Jim's personal development

You didn't get that from Casino Night?

lost the the qualities that made him human and loved by his Scranton colleagues

Ryan? loved?

Nitpicks aside, great analysis.

I've been really surprised at how everyone on here seems to think Jim is now moving towards being the next Regional Manager. I read this episode in the completely opposite direction,

I thought we got him at the crossroads of both, seeing the virtues and pitfalls of following Michael down that path. I think that decision making process is what we'll get to see -- strike permitting -- as the season unfolds.

Nov 10th 2007

lost the the qualities that made him human and loved by his Scranton colleagues

Ryan? loved?

That was my thought too, Brian. But I also have a lingering hate-on for Ryan anyway, dating all the way back to Email Surveillance. "So can I call her?"...asshat.

Nov 10th 2007 edited

Ryan does love his Blackberry... And yes, Jim is still quite green

Nov 10th 2007

Wow Gould Vibrations, reading your analysis just now gave me goose bumps.

I am now most definitely in love with self-discovery Jim, the "tortured knight in search of his personal grail".... I have always been interested in the guys that have room to grow.

Nov 10th 2007

I have always been interested in the guys that have room to grow.

That's not usually what she says, but 'short' men everywhere applaud you.

Nov 10th 2007

MLD, that's how I saw it as well. Good post!

Gould_V - what everyone else said. Nice!

Nov 10th 2007 edited

Agree with everyone that GV's post was a good read. Also agree with those that stated that Ryan was never loved. GV also said "or at least respected", and I believe that not only was Ryan not loved by the rest of the Scrantonites, he was not respected, and that is even more important in a business setting. A good manager must have the respect of his workers, and I can't imagine he will ever have that from the folks in Scranton.

Also, Branch Wars briefly hit on something that hadn't been mentioned much previously - people talk. Receptionists talk to other receptionists, salespeople talk to other salespeople, etc., word gets around on what people are really like. If someone from Buffalo contacts someone from Scranton to get the lowdown on Ryan, they'll probably get an unfiltered version. That spreads and now Ryan has a poor reputation before he even gets started. Then he acts like an ass on top it and makes it even worse for himself.

I thought we got him at the crossroads of both, seeing the virtues and pitfalls of following Michael down that path.

Agree with Brian's comment regarding Jim, he could go either way, decide being a DM manager isn't too bad, or look to get the hell out. I made this comment a couple pages back but it got buried so I want to bring it up again:

I used to be of the belief that Jim would be a good DM Scranton manager, but I'm starting to waver in that belief. I now think the rest of the Scranton crew is "on to him" more I had realized, and although they like him as a person, they also know he's a goof-off and a bit shiftless. I still think he'd be a good manager at another branch or company, but not necessarily at Scranton.

Nov 10th 2007 edited

In his role as the temp, then in S3 as a junior sales associate, Ryan seems to have been tolerated by the lifers.... okay, maybe not loved (except for by Michael & Kelly), but at least looked upon as one of the gang. Although he does seem to be treated as someone's little brother, son or nephew... at least he was one of the family.

One of the most telling moments thus far this season for me is when Ryan arrogantly waltzes in to Scranton sporting his beard scruffle, Blackberry in hand, putting off Pam, ego on his sleeve and chip on his shoulder. He's immediately welcomed home, congratulated on his new role, and shown a certain degree of love through noogies and hair tossling. Its his handling of this, and his public snip at Michael in front of the branch, that demonstrates his unpreparedness to manage people and lack of professional seasoning. Had he handled the situation differently, and treated the office with the respect that they require rather than acting like a wannabe badass, he might have been able to maintain his relationship with Scranton and develop into their corporate leader... With no meaningful leadership experience, Ryan is simply unqualified to manage.

Nov 10th 2007

I just felt that new corporate Ryan was doing that to distance himself from old Ryan. He couldn't have them not taking him seriously now that he was in a position of authority. Yeah, it made him look arrogant, but sometimes people have to do that to get a message across. He had to cut his 'temp' ties with Scranton. With the other branches, he probably wouldn't have had to do that because they didn't know him like those at Scranton did. Like I say, it came across as arrogant, and it makes us as the viewers dislike him because of what he had to do, but I think just that; that he had to do it.

Nov 10th 2007

I just felt that new corporate Ryan was doing that to distance himself from old Ryan.

That would make sense if that was why he was acting that way. But he was just getting revenge for the last three years, which is immature and makes him ill-qualified to recommend himself to Scranton. (That was a semi-quote for all you Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth fans out there)

Nov 10th 2007

But he was just getting revenge for the last three years, which is immature and makes him ill-qualified to recommend himself to Scranton.

For more evidence of this, see the deleted scene in which Ryan forces Michael to go get him water in front of everyone.
I think he was trying to distance himself, but more because he thinks he's more important than they are, not because he feels he needs to distance himself. Ego run amok.

Nov 10th 2007 edited

I just felt that new corporate Ryan was doing that to distance himself from old Ryan.

That would make sense if that was why he was acting that way. But he was just getting revenge for the last three years, which is immature and makes him ill- qualified to recommend himself to Scranton.

I think both things are happening. There's part of him that feels like he's trying to distance himself from Temp Ryan, with the idea that people won't be able to respect him until he does. Unfortunately, he doesn't really have any concept of how to do this politely -- and that, combined with the massive chip on his shoulder, has torpedoed the whole project.

I was thinking about The Office the other day, and the way it relates to Seinfeld. In many ways, it's the anti-Seinfeld: There are all kinds of lessons, at least for the characters, which was the biggest taboo of Seinfeld, and it seeks (or at least once sought) realism, which Seinfeld never really did. But it has in common with Seinfeld that it asks us to loathe some of its characters, but still enjoy the show. And we're not asked to loathe them in that old "love-to-hate" kind of way, or to see them as bad guys, except perhaps for Roy. There's a reason to dislike pretty much everybody on this show other than Pam and Jim, and some of them -- Angela, Ryan, Jan, Kelly, to some extent Dwight and Michael -- we're expected not to like. Michael and Dwight are both, to some extent, the plush-toy version of this: loathesome but slightly huggable. Angela, on the other hand, is just cold and judgemental; Ryan is smug, self-satisfied and incompetent; Jan is shallow and domineering; Kelly stupid and loud. I find it so interesting that we're not expected to like so many of the people on this show.

Nov 10th 2007 edited

Are you a trial attorney Gould_Vibrations? As a bench judge and former District Attorney, I can spot the courtroom closing arguement in your Jim/Ryan ("tortured knight" vs "haughty prince") analysis a mile away.

Well done!

Nov 11th 2007

Taking off from the Seinfeld comparison, as much as I love Seinfeld, Seinfeld had a very dark tone to it. With The Office, I see more of a darkness and light to it. The first season was almost completely dark. The way that it established a cynical generic atmosphere of an office. Then in Season 2, you saw more of the contrasts. More of the light. But even in dark seasons like Season 3, you still saw some light. You don't always like the characters, other than Jim or Pam, but then they show some humanity behind their exteriors. At the same time, Jim and Pam can show their dark sides as well. But all the characters grow. They get fleshed out. Though, as far as Ryan goes, I haven't really seen that human side, or the right kind of growth..

Nov 11th 2007

Ryan is a nice example of "absolute power corrupts absolutely", but maybe also Jim's first-season quip about Dwight and the scheduling board ("that's the smallest amount of power I've ever seen go to someone's head"). He's no longer the peon, he's the peon-er, and he's not about to let anyone forget it. But in his case, he's headed for a fall simply because he doesn't have that network of support to cushion a fall or help him out when he stumbles. Provided the writer's strike ends soon enough, we could see that this season.

Quick thought: wouldn't it be karmic justice if Ryan gets bumped down to his old sales position at the end of the season? ;-)

Nov 11th 2007 edited

Quick thought: wouldn't it be karmic justice if Ryan gets bumped down to his old sales position at the end of the season? ;-)

I was thinking it would be funny if he ended up in a HR position, but the conflict between Michael's hatred of HR people and love of Ryan would probably make Michael's brain explode.

Nov 11th 2007

Personally, I do not believe Ryan can survive at DM. His arrogance and exclusionary tactics (such as the DM-I NYC Launch party and his limited invitations to the wilderness retreat) will do nothing but tick off enough key people to seal his fate... This is where his lack of experience becomes exposed. I agree with Two-Hole Punch Jim's assertion:

...in his case, he's headed for a fall simply because he doesn't have that network of support to cushion a fall or help him out when he stumbles.

Ryan will stumble. He has alienated whatever network he might of had there at Scranton, and as several of you have pointed out, the word gets around. What he fails to recognize, or at least refuses to recognize, is that someone as seemingly clueless as Michael (and Dwight for that matter) has survived by delivering on what is most important to a business: maintaining a revenue base and generating new sales... How he seems to have done this is through his sincere and humble dealings with customers. In this way Michael is also an "anti-Ryan" when it comes to the sales cycle. Michael is all about human interaction. Ryan is attempting to eliminate all humanity from the sales process and implement an internet-driven sales culture. Which if implemented properly, could be hugely successful... but one should not put all their eggs in one basket and cut off the bread and butter of the business, which for DM seems to be customer service and the customer experience.

At this point, I'd say that Ryan's fall seems to be inevitable... There's no changing how he's perceived by the majority... In this episode Oscar said something quite prophetic, though it was about Jim while the group was comiserating in the breakroom: "Seems like he's let power go to his head"... This is a critical theme to this season. Power - how its given, how its earned, and how its exercised.

I'd love see either Ryan get canned or leave to start his own company, which would be set up as a competitor to DM... This would be good for the show and future story arcs as this competitor could perhaps be the anti-DM. Instead of Michael and gang complaining about Staples and Office Depot, this Ryan start-up could ignite everyone's competitive and creative fires... This would give the writers a lot to work with in terms of storylines exploring potential opportunities internal and external to the day-to-day office chatter amongst the co-workers.... I personally would love to see Michael, Dwight and Jim pulling together in the competitive spirit. Jim, Pam, Dwight and even Andy would have plenty of opportunites for personal development and the writers would certainly have fun taking us along with each one of their personal challenges and discoveries... Competition can be great like that ;-)

Nov 11th 2007

Wow.. in addition to the goosebumps, I'm speechless Gould V.

You should call up Mindy, BJ & Paul when this damn strike is over.

Nov 11th 2007

Normally, I'd argue that because he's such a tool, Ryan would actually get rewarded for his efforts by Corporate (nothing like mediocrity rising to the top, as I've often seen). But I get the feeling that Wallace will realize what a twerp he is, and Ryan won't have a cushion of success to fall back on. Maybe then he'll shave that facial-growth (reminds me of the time Beavis and Butt-head grew "beards" but gluing bits of their hair to their face)

Nov 11th 2007

Maybe then he'll shave that facial-growth (reminds me of the time Beavis and Butt-head grew "beards" but gluing bits of their hair to their face)

Thanks for that, Two-Hole Punch Jim. I think it's the first time I've laughed this hard since Thursday night. Yeah, Ryan's gonna score!

Nov 11th 2007

Yeah, that really takes me back.

Ryan's ascent fits perfectly with the show's ethos as a mirror for the real work world, where talent goes unrewarded and initiative is punished while sycophants, incompetents and son-in-laws climb the ladder. His downfall is no doubt inevitable for the many reasons spelled out here, but I don't think it works. Why should he get his comeuppance in a world where almost no one gets what they deserve, at least not professionally. This is a world where Michael Scott is a regional manager and Jan can flake off for two years before getting the axe. If anything, he should screw up royally and get promoted for it. I think Ryan is playing the role to a T, with the combined chip on his shoulder and earnest desire to distance himself from people's conception of him as the temp. But if he gets knocked down a few pegs, literally, it'll annoy me. The "give the people what they want" approach is appreciated and long overdue when it comes to Jim and Pam, but I hope the writers don't cave to that mindset in all areas.

Nov 11th 2007

I haven't seen a lot of demotions in the private sector. If Ryan screws up that badly, he'd just be fired.

Nov 11th 2007

I just don't think we'll be seeing Ryan back in Scranton, partially for the practical reasons that we've all read about (BJ Novak just can't be on screen as much as he was for the first three seasons and retain his sanity), but also because this show isn't as invested in either stasis or pleasing its viewer with neat symmetries and reward-punishment structures as a lot of television shows are. In short, at the end of every episode, not everything is the same as at the beginning. It also understands that people like Ryan are not neccessarily -- and in fact are rarely -- punished for their sins. The company it portrays is anything but a meritocracy.

This show is at least partially about the injustices of corporate life. Sending Ryan back to Scranton is not only impractical on a staffing level, but runs counter to the message of the show: That the Powers that Be are weak of mind and strong of fist, and the only victory to be had is the small one -- screwing off, conducting romances, playing pranks. I, personally, would be deeply disappointed if Ryan was busted back to salesman (a demotion he wouldn't accept, anyway), and I don't see it happening. I think a purposeful structural shakeup was implemented after the third season, and to change Ryan's power relationship with Michael and the other people at the office undoes a large part of that -- and it's also boring. We've already seen that. Ryan as temp and Ryan as Salesman lacked contours; he was a one-note character. Put him in a position of power and he becomes more than the disaffected a-hole in the corner. Take him back out again, and you lose what you've gained. I just don't see it.

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