I like the dynamic Todd Packer brings to The Office. Among the group of miserable souls who have their own beefs with each other and whose allegiance depends on whatever the week’s plot requires, Packer was always a fun wrench to toss into the cogs and, somehow, make them work better.
Basically, in his earlier appearances, Packer became the one thing towards which every petty person at Dunder-Mifflin could put aside personal differences and rally against. There’s something heartwarming in that solidarity. I also love David Koechner.
Of course, Packer has only made a handful of those appearances (four? five maybe?), but they’ve all been memorable thanks to Koechner, who finds the relishing humor in school-yard insults such as “Michael Snot!” and adolescent put-downs regarding Jim’s sexuality. He’s the missing link in the evolution of the 1st-grade-bully-to-frat-boy-to-?-to-child-molesting-Uncle-John. Naturally an episode devoted entirely to him wouldn’t work.
But The Office does a smart thing in focusing less on Packer and more on the micro-cultural of the office itself. Packer is simply the outside factor that threatens to disrupt whatever balance they’ve made for themselves. Would it really be any worse sitting next to Todd Packer than Dwight Schrute? Packer seems much more likely to crumble under the very monotony of the desk that Dwight embraces.
But it’s his desk, and he’s comfortable there, dammit. And having some foreigner encroach on his territory is akin to being invaded by a neighboring country. And, naturally, when faced with a foreign invader, the rest of the office takes their gripe to/gangs up on the other outsider, Holly. And Holly, despite having no first-hand experience with Packer’s evil-icity, immediately throws him under the bus following the rest of the office’s confrontation.
Finally, it’s the mutual hatred they have for Packer that brings Jim and Dwight together to decide on a killer prank (from a list of several hundred that include eating something –og-based, “frog,””dog,” “braog,” etc.). They end up using a prank phone call from corporate to reassign Packer to Florida, which goes well with his love of alligators and boobs, but Michael catches them in the act, Michael being the lone holdout (save for Kevin, early on in the episode) for keeping Packer on. But even he has his limits once Holly has her say.
It’s a neat theme and ties in well to the subplot of Pam performing an act of charity to Erin. Naturally again, Pam feels a kinship with Erin because she used to have her job and knows first-hand what a pain-in-the-backside it is to work with the clunky reception computer. Likewise, when Andy complains about having an equally clunky computer, Pam outs her allegiance to Reception rather than the Sales force.
And in turn, it makes sense for Ellie to give the computer to her former lover Andy. The divisions in rank of allegiance apparently go: 1. Self. 2. Lovers 3. Former position 4. Current position 5. The rest of the office.
Lest I be accused of writing something more akin to a lame college-esque dissertation on Occupational Organization The Office, the pettiness and in-fighting among everyone is what I took away from this episode. There’s a few good lines in there (“Slowest computer in Africa”; “Something good happening to Stanley is crazy”), but when the humor’s a bit sparse, seeing the characters bounce back and forth on and off each other is a decent substitute.
“I gotta couple of love bumps on my ding-dong.”
“If you’re not going to take the ants over, I should do it myself.”