Following the holiday break, NBC's The Office returned this week with another subpar episode.
The main thrust of the storyline was that Pam had been left alone to look after the kids and the household while Jim was in Philadelphia tending to his new sports business, including a meeting with basketball icon Julius "Dr. J" Erving. Unfortunately, daughter Cece had contracted head lice and Pam ended up bringing it into the office, unleashing a full-blown lice infestation that led to Erin inspecting the various heads of the staff members for the tiny critters. Since he regularly washes his hair with lice shampoo, Dwight was the only office worker determined to be free of the pestilence and donned a hazmat suit that he just happened to have in his car. The beauty of the Dwight character is that an absurd idea, like carrying around a hazmat suit in his car, is actually completely believable, but this whole episode overall was pretty silly.
While Dwight shouted through a megaphone at his coworkers, the remaining staff members paired up and slathered mayonnaise in each other's hair to smother the lice, which is a real home remedy to get rid of head lice. This was a great opportunity to develop the relationship between Erin and Pete, as Andy's absence went unnoticed this week. I didn't even realize that he was missing until Dwight retreated to the empty boss's office when his hazmat suit was compromised. To avoid working with Creed, Erin paired up with Pete and I have to admit – they make a good couple. If Andy returns as the unlikable douche bag he was when he left, the audience should have no problem with Erin and Pete ending up together.
Paired up with the man who slept with her husband, Angela continued her passive aggressive attacks against Oscar, "waterboarding" him in the sink when she was supposed to be rinsing the mayonnaise out of his hair. Although Pam was the source of the lice, she kept quiet while the other office workers assumed that Meredith was the culprit due to her slovenly and promiscuous behavior; even she theorized that the creepy crawlies "migrated from down south." Actress Kate Flannery had the honor of modeling the most realistic looking bald cap ever, as a nonplussed Meredith decided to just shave all of her hair off.
Finally, Pam was overcome by guilt and admitted that it was her fault, but only after the rest of the office overheard a call she took on speakerphone from her mother who mentioned Cece's bout with head lice. In the end, Pam and Meredith went out for a beer and did a terrible karaoke rendition of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" at the bar, and Pam was right when she noted that Meredith totally rocked the bald look. Again, I want to draw attention to this bald cap because I was sure that the actress had actually shaved her head, but according to Flannery's Twitter account, the cap was created by makeup effects guru Ed French. Considering this is the final season, it was appropriate to end on a friendly note of camaraderie between Pam and Meredith, but the episode was a snoozer and the show seems to be aimlessly floating along.
The episode also touched on the breakup between Darryl and warehouse worker Val, as Nelly, Phyllis, and Kevin chose to meddle in their affairs and talked Val into giving Darryl another chance. Little did they know that Darryl didn't want to reunite with Val and in fact had engineered the breakup by "getting fat," reasoning that he needs to be a free man when he moves to Philadelphia to work for Jim's new company. While it was good to see Darryl get a side plot devoted to him, it only served to make his character more unlikable. That seems like a strange tactic to take in the final season.
Instead of 24 episodes, NBC should have granted The Office approximately half that number, following the lead of acclaimed cable comedies such as FX's Louie and It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, rather than padding the season with so much filler. A smaller season order might have meant less episodes to sell in syndication, but it would have ensured a strong conclusion for one of the best television comedies of the new millennium. With so much time to kill before the series finale airs in May, The Office is stumbling and limping to the finish line.
FINAL GRADE: D