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In Defense of S3
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Dec 17th 2007 edited

As I’ve said before on another thread, I will never be able to share the experience many of you had as you watched The Office unfold week-by-week, not knowing how, or even if, the saga was going to end. So this sense of let-down at S3 felt by some of you is one I can’t fully understand. I swallowed all 3 seasons whole in one weekend, already knowing “what happens to JAM”. I’m sure such a radically different experience makes my judgment different. But what I’d like to do here is list a few of the moments that stick in my mind from S3, that are partially responsible for my belief that it’s every bit the equal of the earlier years.

10 Things I Love about S3:

  1. Jim and Michael reconciling in The Convention. “You were a great boss.”

  2. The bird funeral in Grief Counseling

  3. The Jim/Pam phone conversation in The Initiation

  4. Pretty much all of Benihana Christmas, but if I had to pick one moment it would have been Dwight taking Angela’s hand.

  5. Dwight and Pam in Back from Vacation. “Who did this to you?”

  6. Dwight and Jim double-teaming the customer in Traveling Salesmen.

  7. Michael and Pam in Business School. “I’m proud of you.”

  8. The way Michael’s goofy on-the-roof stunt suddenly turned dark and serious in Safety Training.

  9. Pam’s firewalk and confession in Beach Games

10.“I’m sorry – what was the question?” from The Job. In my opinion, the most perfect single moment in the history of American entertainment television.

There were so many other moments that I considered: Dwight and Ryan in The Initiation. Stanley torturing Ryan in Traveling Salesmen. Michael showing us the depth of his love for Dunder Mifflin and his employees in Business School. The women counseling Michael in Women’s Appreciation. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

Any season of any show that contains moments like these - and carries it’s over-arching story to the thoroughly satisfying (for me) conclusion of The Job - is one that has more than earned my happily obsessed fandom.

Now, if they f*ck up the Jim and Pam relationship in a wrongheaded attempt to maintain "tension" in S4 the gloves are comin' off!

Dec 17th 2007

I wanna play.

Drunk Jim in Dwali.

Andy's ode to Willy Wonka "Dwight is now gone which is totally awesome"

Dwight was sent faxes from himself from the future

Angela's apology to Oscar.

There was a freaking bat in the office.

Sitting in my office with a plate of grilled bacon...

Dec 17th 2007

Now, if they f*ck up the Jim and Pam relationship in a wrongheaded attempt to maintain "tension" in S4 the gloves are comin' off!

You mean, like they did in Season 3?

Only at least half-kidding, but I had to go for it.

Dec 17th 2007

Also the tag with Andy singing Rainbow Connection to Pam in falsetto. That scene is my most watched scene of S3, even more than "what was the question". The second most watched scene was the deleted scene of Michael and Stanley eating a pretzel outside on the curb, which included, IMHO, the best TWSS moment in the show.

Dec 17th 2007

You mean, like they did in Season 3?

He shoots, he scores!

but I had to go for it

TWSS (have we lifted the TWSS moratorium since the writer's strike shows no signs of resolution any time soon?).

My favorite S3 moment: Roy going ballistic in the bar, thus solidifying in my mind the fact that his "transformation" was temporary (and a sham) and proving what kind of person he is. Not that I had any doubts, but it was nice to see it on the screen.

Dec 17th 2007

I loved S3, and I still love the show and think it's the best show ever. Just wanted to get that out of the way.

I agree that all the moments mtt, AaTT, and Daoust brought up were fantastic, and that's how I will always think of S3, lots and lots of great little moments, but a lot of the big moments, the story arcs, could have been done better.

Dec 17th 2007

that's how I will always think of S3, lots and lots of great little moments, but a lot of the big moments, the story arcs, could have been done better.

This is an excellent summary of the season, for me as well. Good stuff, AMJ.

Dec 17th 2007 edited

-We belong Ryan

-Dwight wanting to plant his seed in Ryan

-Andy wanting to kill Big Tuna. You don't snipe in Carrington.

-David Wallace hitting on Jim.

-Sorry I annoyed you with my friendship.

-Karen's spot on Jim face to the camera.

-Jim's amusement at finding the bouncy castle. Micheal don't jump on the bouncy castle!

-Phalice and shedding light on the penis.

-Dwight's alliance with Creed to perform sudden violence.

-Creepy Dwight in that kids room in Cocktails.

-Pam's attempt at flirting

-Micheal and Jim in The Convention. So sweet.

-Jim calling the scholastic speakers of america.

-Pam's dancing in Dwali

-Karen applying for her job in a well.

Dec 17th 2007

Karen applying for her job in a well.

and

David Wallace hitting on Jim.

?

Dec 17th 2007 edited

I was kidding with the David Wallace thing. Someone in office verse put that out there and I thought it was funny. I didn't see it though. In that scene where he ask Jim to play basket ball.

In beach games Karen said she'd like to apply for the corporate position "in well". Jim mentions to her that if that job is in a well he doesn't want it. It was stupid, but I'm five and get giggly over Dwight and Jim putting the post notes on each other. Also, when Micheal calls Ryan and does impressions, I'm Micheal Jackson or Ima a donkey. I lack sophistication.

Dec 17th 2007

Jim's "Yes" in The Return.

Dec 17th 2007 edited
  • Pam as Dwight’s Secret Assistant to the Regional Manager
  • “Absolutely you should” and “Absolutely I do”.
  • Tuuuuna! Are you kidding me?!
  • Angela praying on the floor when the bat is flying around
  • Dwight got a hooker!
  • Your dentist’s name is Krentist?
  • Pam's bird eulogy and her singing. I just love how Jim and Pam take care of Michael.
  • Hey, hey, hey…with the jello. I loved this episode from Ryan at the beet farm and then the whole “They did not like me.” And Dwight’s response “No, but they didn’t have to tell you to your face”. And as mentioned before, the phone call. I am 27 years old but right after the show was over, my best friend and I were on the phone talking about it like giddy little girls.
  • In the Merger when Jim first walks in, Pam’s look to the camera and smile as she’s fixing her hair was adorable.

There’s a lot more from me, but I actually have to get some work done today.

Dec 17th 2007

Season 3 of The Office had funny moments, for sure. So did episodes of How I Met Your Mother and Scrubs and even Two and a Half Men. But the funny moments in The Office were clouded by my expectations for more and better - which is not unfair, I don't think. When I'm grading papers, I don't think, "You know, this student wrote a fantastic paper last time, but I can't really expect high-quality work from her every time; therefore, it's OK if this paper is sub-par, and because she's handed in such great work in the past I'm going to give her an A on this paper even though it's only B-quality work, at best."

Dec 17th 2007

"You know, this student wrote a fantastic paper last time, but I can't really expect high-quality work from her every time; therefore, it's OK if this paper is sub-par, and because she's handed in such great work in the past I'm going to give her an A on this paper even though it's only B-quality work, at best."

The thing for me is that I don't think it was sub-par. Let me take that back. I do think season 2 was better, that doesn't mean that season three still can't be an "A" for me. Like mentioned before it's just a matter of taste and this tastes good...to me.

Dec 17th 2007

I was acutally suprised after finishing the Season 2 DVD's, that when I started watching Season 3 the momentum for the show didn't fall. I was so surprised that they were able to keep it entertaining and interesting.

Dec 17th 2007

Dwight got a hooker!

Jim thought Dwight got a hooker. But you do know, of course, that that "hooker" was Angela? Who else calls Dwight "D"?

Dec 17th 2007

Also liked this scene, which I am paraphrasing, probably:

"What time is it there?"

"What time is it? We're in the same time zone. How far away did you think I was?"

"I don't know. It felt far."

Subtle, beautiful, heart wrenching, dramatic pause

Question: How well do you think the writers handled the 'absence makes the heart grow fonder' stuff with Jim and Pam in Season three? First of all, do you think that was even something that the writers were going for? I know that the big reason for their separation was so that Pam could become fancy and new. But as that was happening we the viewers were watching Pam and Jim really miss each other and further realize that they were in love with each other. So I wonder, as a whole, do you think the writers did a good job with that arc? Do you wish that Jim and Pam would have interacted more in the first half of S3? I do. I still think the idea of Jim and Pam apart was a good idea and had potential, I just think that if the writers had written that crucial plotline better, (ie. had more JAM interaction maybe, somehow?) that S3 as a whole could have been a lot better. Again, I'm not saying that they should have avoided the Jim in Stamford plotline. I'm not even saying they shouldn't have introduced a Karen figure. I just think they could have done a better job with it.

Annnnnnnnnd I'm just now saying stuff that you guys have been saying for all of last season.

Dec 17th 2007

Oh D. Oh D.

See more than that. This is what happens when I post, and why I should remain silent. I end up like Andy Bernard talking about cutting Phyliss' head off with a chainsaw. I post less saving myself the embarrassment.

Dec 17th 2007

Dwight got a hooker!

Jim thought Dwight got a hooker. But you do know, of course, that that "hooker" was Angela? Who else calls Dwight "D"?

Um, yeah obviously. I was referring to the way Jim said it and the look on his face. mtt, maybe next time you will estimate me :op

Dec 17th 2007

This:

Do you wish that Jim and Pam would have interacted more in the first half of S3?

and this:

I was referring to the way Jim said it and the look on his face.

make me think of a good point: that Jim obviously wanted to call Pam and tell her that Dwight had a hooker but knew (or thought) that he couldn't was a great beat. I think they could have done more stuff like that to underscore what was going on. But perhaps that would make the little moments like that less special. I don't know.

Dec 17th 2007

I'm loving these lists and definitely feeling inspired to rethink my earlier sentiments that I'm over this show. I'm definitely feeling over it lately, but maybe it's just the strike-hiatus. Season 3 was marred by the abominable plot-turn in Gay Witch Hunt, with all its unanswered questions and that stupid flashback, and the stretch of episodes from Phyllis's Wedding through Product Recall were especially frustrating plot-wise. But clearly there was much awesomeness throughout.

Dec 17th 2007

Jim obviously wanted to call Pam and tell her that Dwight had a hooker but knew (or thought) that he couldn't was a great beat. I think they could have done more stuff like that to underscore what was going on.

You agreed with me upthread, now I will agree with you. I was fine with Jim & Pam not contacting each other in the first part of S3, I totally understood that it didn't happen because of hurt feelings, stubbornness and confusion. What I didn't understand is why the camera crew, who was so obviously invested in the two, didn't ask them what was going on. In The Convention, after Michael asks Pam if she has anything to say to Jim, would have been a perfect time for a Pam talking head where the implied question was why Jim left and if she missed him. The episode after Initiation would have been a perfect time for a Jim talking head where the implied question was if he and Pam would start communicating again. Of course, they both would have mumbled and beat around the bush and lied their asses off, but it would have been an acknowledgment of what was missing. There also would have been the subtext that the camera crew need about the confession/kiss, but Jim/Pam didn't know that they knew.

Dec 17th 2007 edited

I kicked off the discussion with my Top 10 list because that was the easiest and most enjoyable part to write. But I also claimed that S3 is more than a collection of gem-like moments; that it is, in fact, an extremely well-constructed and dramatically satisfying Grand Narrative. And I know that this is the claim that a significant portion of NAers think is a load of crap. So let me tell you what I see happening, here.

The writers had left themselves with a huge dramatic challenge when they decided to have the aftermath of Casino Night turn out the way it did. They completely blew up the Jim/Pam relationship and, in the process, ripped the guts right out of Jim. Now how were they going to put it back together? Would any of you have believed it if, after just a few weeks, they had shown Jim and Pam re-bonding and going right back to where they were before The Kiss? I know I would have thought it totally unrealistic. There was too much pain and too much fear in play for them to get back together easily. It was going to take time. It was going to take work. And it was going to involve angst. You can see how the writers were taking a real chance on alienating their audience, with a season like that planned. I’m amazed that they risked it.

But risk it they did. They showed us that Jim and Pam still loved each other and longed for each other, but they also showed us that neither was willing to risk getting hurt again – especially Jim. So the move to Stamford, Roy and Karen, and the somewhat cooler, more distant relationship after The Merger were all the inevitable result of them trying to protect themselves from more rejection and pain. Until one of them found the strength and courage to take the plunge they were going to remain estranged.

That, I think, was the purpose behind Fancy New Beesley. She knew she wanted him back. But she also came to realize that he wasn’t going to do another Casino Night, so she’d have to. She needed to get to a place where she could risk telling him, “Go ahead. Try again. My answer will be different this time.” And this she did in the beach-flashback in The Job. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I think that was the crisis point in the entire S3 story-arc.

Here’s the dialogue. Jim says, “I just feel like I’ve never really come back.” And Pam responds, “Well, I wish you would.” Come back? Come back where? I don’t think she meant back to being fully engaged with life in the Scranton office. I don’t even think she meant back to their close friendship. I think she meant back to that darkened office where he had put it all on the line one last time, and where she had shot him down because of her own fear. And sitting in David Wallace’s office he reflects on that conversation, gets the message, and acts on it. Happy ending!

Anyway, that’s how I read the season. Even if you don’t agree with my interpretation, I hope you’ll understand why I find S3 such a thoroughly satisfying, unified work of drama.

Dec 17th 2007

AmJ: Having the camera crew get involved in the action every once in a while for comic effect (like spying on Dwight and Angela or getting Jim busted by Karen) is ok. But if they were going to start playing the role of deus ex machina to push forward essential plot development I would start accusing the writers of lazy, sloppy story-telling.

I think it's great that JAM are outed to the rest iof the office not by the camera crew but by Toby seeing them smooch in the litchen.

Dec 17th 2007

"Bars, beers: buzzed. Wings, shots: drunk. Waitressess -- hot! Football: Cornell / Hofstra: slaughter."

"I don't want to do any of those things."

How well do you think the writers handled the 'absence makes the heart grow fonder' stuff with Jim and Pam in Season three?

A lot better than the rest of the Jim & Pam storyline. I agree with AMJ that it was kind of mysterious why they never even addressed this issue in talking heads -- I guess maybe the crew was still pretending like they hadn't caught the late events of "Casino Night" on tape -- but a lot of it was more simply and elegantly told than what came after, with no turgid melodrama or Idiot Plots. Pretty much up through the end of the parking lot conversation in "The Merger", the storyline had been handled, on the whole, very well. They stumbled in their handling of it shortly thereafter, and crashed and burned somewhere around the time of "Phyllis' Wedding", when they unleashed the Ill-Considered Roy Reunion on the world, in a holocaust of storytelling and personal progress on the altar of Casting Desperately About for Something for Pam to Do.

Other things I really enjoyed:

  • When Dwight & Michael sing "ain't no party like a Scranton party" in "The Convention".
  • Pretty much any time Andy sings, but particularly his variation on the "Oompah-Loompah's Song".
  • Pam's outfit in "Beach Games".
  • Pam's outfit in "Benihana Christmas".
  • Pam's fashion show at lunch.
  • Dwight's arrival in "Benihana Christmas".
  • Jim's Validity Committee in "The Return".
  • Pam in a sombrero in the same episode.
  • Pretty much anytime Pam is happy, so, like, most of "The Return", "Beach Games" & "The Job", and that's kind of it on that front.
Dec 17th 2007

The writers had left themselves with a huge dramatic challenge when they decided to have the aftermath of Casino Night turn out the way it did. They completely blew up the Jim/Pam relationship and, in the process, ripped the guts right out of Jim. Now how were they going to put it back together?

I think a better question would have been, Why did they have to blow things up the way they did so ham-handedly. The clumsy flashback was clearly an afterthought, a complete creative departure to everything that made the show great up to that point. And ultimately, it was unrecoverable. All the analysis in the world of why things had to happen they way they did after that is moot if they don't bungle the post-Casino Night action.

Dec 17th 2007

Would any of you had believed it if, after just a few weeks, they had shown Jim and Pam re-bonding and going right back to where they were before The Kiss?

No. They should have just progressed in the relationship and actually brought them together instead of making up reasons for why they "couldn't" be together for an entire season. That would have been risky.

But she also came to realize that he wasn’t going to do another Casino Night, so she’d have to.

In my opinion, what Pam said to Jim after her fire walk wasn't nearly the equivalent of what Jim told her on Casino Night. She was still dancing around what she really meant. Jim said, "I'm in love with you." That's a much, much bigger deal to me than Pam telling Jim she wished he'd come back, which could be interpreted any number of different ways. What said said was brave, for her. What Jim did carried much more weight, in my eyes.

I don't want to piss on your enjoyment of season 3. I really don't. But I think the major ongoing storyline was handled in such a poor way that it colored everything else about the season for me. I didn't see continuity or purpose or story arcs or any other such elements in season 3. It was, as CZJ mentioned, "meh."

Dec 17th 2007

AmJ: Having the camera crew get involved in the action every once in a while for comic effect (like spying on Dwight and Angela or getting Jim busted by Karen) is ok. But if they were going to start playing the role of deus ex machina to push forward essential plot development I would start accusing the writers of lazy, sloppy story-telling.

I don't see it that way at all. From what I understand, deus ex machina is introducing something to a story that wasn't already there in order to solve a problem. The camera crew has been there the whole time. And I didn't look at my proposed talking heads as a way to push forward plot development, but more of an acknowledgement of the most important story line in S2.

I think it's great that JAM are outed to the rest iof the office not by the camera crew but by Toby seeing them smooch in the litchen.

But they were outed to the audience by the camera crew so I don't see that as a valid comparison.

Dec 17th 2007

But Brian, they always start the new season in Real Time - three or four months after the action of the previous season. So either they'd have to have shown the post-kiss dialogue at the end of Casino Night (and thus no cliffhanger - but perhaps you don't care for cliffhangers) or they'd have to do it the way they did.

It didn't bother me as much as you (obviously). I'm ok with them starting S3 in media res, with Jim already gone and Pam still single, and then telling us how we got there. It was fine when Homer did it in The Odyssey and it's fine in The Office.

This pretentious literary moment is brought to you by....

Dec 17th 2007

But Brian, they always start the new season in Real Time - three or four months after the action of the previous season.

Not true at the time of S3 starting, the only between seasons was between S1 and S2 and the time concept was nebulouse there.

Now I'm just being a contration, I don't disagree with the decision to skip ahead and start S3 in real time, but the flashback was a horrible, horrible idea.

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