March 12, 2010 - In general I much prefer to watch an episode of The Office meander from one comedic set-up to the next than try to tell a more straight forward narrative, a task it recently has struggled with rather mightily. Which is why I quite enjoyed "St. Patrick's Day." The episode uses one simple plot device to prop up a number of amusing bits, with the presence of the workaholic new CEO Jo compelling Michael and the staff to work later than they'd like on St. Patrick's Day. The loose structure allows the writers and characters the opportunity to deliver the type of day-in-the-life episode that's worked so well for the series in the past, and the episode makes the most of the opportunity. Plus it features David Koechner's Todd Packer in a small cameo, which is never a bad thing.
Kathy Bates' character has been a pleasant surprise. I expected her to act as a similar sort of foil as Idris Elba's Charles Miner. Instead, Bates and the writers have made her a sweet, sassy lady who's level-headed despite her eccentricities. Her calm presence doesn't bring much to the table in terms of cartoonish laughs, but it does allow the rest of the characters the room to shine. In a way, she is a foil; just not quite the over-the-top villainous type I expected. It was fun to see Michael try and fail spectacularly at exchanging pleasantries with her, and even funnier to see her reaction to Michael overstepping his boundaries by booking a trip to Tallahassee.
It was also nice to see Jim and Dwight return to their old combative antics, with Dwight trying to make Jim guilty about being an absentee dad in order to reclaim his ridiculous "Megadesk." This set-up delivered a few brief but classic moments, like when Jim took to knocking Dwight's stuff off his desk, or the hilarious closing scene. I likewise loved the way Jim was able to turn the table on Dwight's efforts to skip out of work early. As a rule, the show would do well to keep this adversarial relationship, which has always been such a vital part of the show's comedy, front and center moving forward.