TV RECAP: ‘The Office: Costume Contest’

TV RECAP: ‘The Office: Costume Contest’

I’m always happy to see what the office is going to look like each Halloween: Dwight’s going to be something topical (The Scranton Strangler—check); Angela’s going to be some kind of animal (a penguin—check); Michael’s going to be something hopelessly unfunny (MacGruber—well, you get the idea); and Jim’s going to be apathetic.

The costumes are always fun because they’re great reflections of the characters themselves—Kevin always tries desperately to be cool but never quite succeeds (this year he’s Michael Moore); Creed’s always a step behind the times (Dracula, the Mummy); Pam’s a dork (Olive Oyl—and is it a meta-joke that Jenna Fischer is waaaay too busty to pull off the outfit?), but this year’s standout is the weasely Gabe, who comes dressed, to many a cringe, as Lady Gaga.

On one level I can see him going for the popular choice (never mind the gender differences, or should they matter?) because of his fleeting hope to fit in, but on another, more plausible level, I said it’s because there’s a much darker side to Mr. Lewis.

I haven’t gotten much enjoyment from the season so far, but it was a nice touch to joke around with the characters’ personalities—that’s the kind of humor that made The Office a great show, and it’s either been missing or fallen flat for much of season 7.

But as for the actual episode, the bulk is dedicated to a rising tension between Michael and Darryl, who took an idea to have the warehouse workers/drivers suggest other products when making their deliveries straight to Gabe, bypassing his obligatory running it by Michael first. Michael had previously rejected the idea, and when he finds out that Darryl “Took him from behind” (“Went behind his back”), Michael throws a tantrum and pretty soon has ditched his MacGruber costume to dress up as Darry and ruin the Halloween party by openly mocking him.

Meanwhile, Jim’s trying to juggle his resistance to donning the matching Popeye costume to complement Pam’s Olive Oyl and Pam’s previous relationship with hotshot salesman Danny. If you haven’t been watching, Pam and Danny went on two dates waaaay back when Jim was in Stamford and Danny never called her again, which is a lukewarm mystery the show’s spent the last two weeks trying to unravel.

Things come to a head between Michael and Darryl when the former confronts the latter in his office and demands an apology. Darryl refuses to apologize because he claims Michael always shot down his ideas. They bring Gabe in, and Darryl further points out that he doesn’t owe anything to Michael seeing as how someone else hired him, promoted him, and basically Michael’s never done anything to further Darryl’s career. Michael kind of, sort of sees the error of his ways, and the two end up eventually reconciling.

Jim continues to press Danny for details, and, after several placating attempts, Danny finally reveals that the real reason he never called Pam was because she was too dorky. In the confessional, Jim ponders why anyone would leave that dork, reaches a revelation, and goes home to put on the Popeye outfit.

And in the background is the titular costume contest for $15,000 worth of coupons, which Oscar keeps explaining is different from an actual $15,000. Eventually he gets so fed up he ditches his disco suit to don his regular threads and pose as The Rational Consumer. And wins the contest.

Honestly, if this weren’t a Halloween episode, it wouldn’t be much. But since it is, it’s very funny. Not only do we see Gabe in the aforementioned Lady Gaga costume, but also we finally get the triumphant return of David Koechner as traveling salesman Todd Packer, still as crude and offensive as ever, “Has anyone started calling you ‘Gaybe-Wad’ yet?” “Not here.”

In all, the best laughs come from the costumes—including Angela’s jaw-droppingly stunning turn as the sexy nurse—though, as usual, Creed gets the best line.

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