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Episode Recaps: The Office

January 22, 2010

“The Banker”

Last night, on Rainn Wilson’s Twitter account (*cough* you’re welcome, Rainn Wilson *cough*), he reposted to fan tweets, one proclaiming “The Banker” to be The Office’s best episode, the other, calling it the worst. I can understand both points.

It’s only a matter of time before a long-running series airs a clip show, and it took the office five-and-a-half seasons to reach this point. But even though a lot of past moments are rehashed, “The Banker” isn’t your standard “cheater.”

Your average clip show follows one of two formats. Either there’s a half-assed attempt at a story that ties the clips together, or there’s no story and simply a host or two.

They’re cheesy and cheap, and everyone knows it, and sometimes the writers are able to still crank out a stellar episode—“The Simpsons 138th Episode Extravaganza, hosted by Springfield’s own washed-up B-movie actor Troy McClure, wickedly mocked itself and clip shows in general by having McClure answer phony letters, resignedly chain-smoke between commercial breaks, and finish up on a sleazy, sensationalistic note with a series of clips featuring The Simpsons as God made them, “And now let’s end with what we all came here to see: hardcore nudity!” (Though the best line is the one immediately preceding: “Who knows what adventures they’ll have between now and the time the show becomes unprofitable.”)

The short-lived Clerks animated series likewise poked fun at clip shows by having Dante and Randall contrivedly get locked in the Quik-Stop freezer and reminisce on old times…in the second episode, which meant that every clip was from the first, and as yet only broadcast episode.

Seinfeld went a different route and aired a one-hour special hosted by Jerry. Seth MacFarlane did something similar with Family Guy.

But “The Banker” is something different. For one, it doesn’t quite feel like a clip show, as the clips make up only about half of the episode’s running time. The rest of it centers around the Dunder-Mifflin Scranton branch trying to impress an investment banker (really just a self-described glorified fact-checker “Well, actually, I am just a fact-checker.”) Michael, even though he makes his entrance on a sedgeway and claims his phony supercomputer “Computron” can answer any question and make any sale, is pretty toned down. Dwight lacklusterly poses as Toby (who’s in turn distracted by a mystery anthology in the bathroom), and even when Toby does arrive, he doesn’t do much other than stay tight-lipped or timidly deny the Scranton branch’s shenaniganic reputation (which is, of course, contradicted with the bulk of the episode’s clips).

All in all, it’s a pretty weak episode made weaker by the fact that the Internet and DVDs have all but made clip shows obsolete. The clips are chosen well, but it’s not like the old days of…well, five years ago when we didn’t have our favorite moments at our fingertips. We can watch them whenever we want, so we’d rather see something new, and for that, “The Banker” should get credit for using its clips, at least compared to other clip shows, sparingly (thought the “That’s what she said montage was good…and surprisingly not already a YouTube video by now [suppose it were: Would NBC have to pay the creator to use his video of their own show, or could the just take it?]). Much more interesting will be the next few episodes, as we learn that the head offices of Dunder-Mifflin are now empty, leaving Michael as the most senior man in the company. The restructuring will be a new twist to look forward to, so kudos to The Office for taking chances…just not with this episode.



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