The Office: "Manager and Salesman" Review

What do you think about "Manager and Salesman"?

The poll was created at 16:05 on February 13, 2010, and so far 13 people voted.

The new boss turns Dunder Mifflin on its head. There's a new sheriff in town, and she's surprisingly competent.

Kathy Bates officially makes her presence felt as Sabre CEO Jo Bennett for the first time in "Manager and Salesman," stopping by the Scranton branch to introduce herself, poke around and check on her latest investment. Although definitely eccentric and full of sass, Bates' Bennett is hardly the iron-fisted tyrant I expected after last week's "Sabre." Even with her two crotch-loving Great Danes and endless supply of colorful southern sayings, the character still manages to be somewhat restrained thanks to Bates' performance. In the end, Bennett comes across as a cartoonish yet smart boss – one capable of putting Dunder Mifflin back on track after a season full of turbulence.

Bates' turn as Bennett has a lot in common with the entirety of the episode, mainly in that they both at first push the series to exciting and dramatically rich territory before ultimately easing back. The way "Manager and Salesman" flirts with a bold new status quo for the series is equal parts thrilling and maddening, which is the main reason why I have such mixed feelings about it.

The episode's title of course refers to its central conflict. After being told by their new boss that she has use for only one manager, Michael and Jim struggle to first win the job and then decide if either of them actually wants it – you know, the exact opposite of how normal people would do it. This set-up delivers a lot of funny pay-offs, particularly when Michael's victorious moment is interrupted when he discovers that Jim only surrendered his managerial post because he could make considerably more money as a salesman under Sabre's new rules for commission. Once again, Steve Carell gets a big laugh with just a facial expression. Combine that understated punch line with his delivery of the laugh-out-loud explanation regarding Joe Camel, cigarettes and penises, and you get a crystal clear reminder of why he's such a gifted comedic actor.

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