David Wallace gives Michael a new assignment – travel to a small family business called Prince Paper to gather intel on their numbers so that they can put them out of business.  He takes Dwight with him but once he gets there finds following through with his plan more difficult.  Oh yeah, and also the entire office has a vote on whether or not Hillary Swank is hot.   It’s all after the jump.

Episode 12: Prince Family Paper
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Dynamic Duo
Michael is ecstatic when Wallace calls him up to inform him that because they have still not found a replacement for Ryan the supervisor, Michael needs to do some of the fieldwork that would normally go to that position.  His assignment – to travel to a smaller business called Prince Paper to collect information that will allow Dunder-Mifflin to put the family-run company out of business.  Well, at least it’s looking like Michael’s trip to New York last week wasn’t as filler as I thought it was – this episode continues a kind of streak this season that has the company getting more successful right and left.  Anyways, Michael brings along trusty old Dwight, and the two go over their secret identities in the car - Michael is a lawyer, Michael Scarn, and Dwight will be a job applicant.  "Scarn" goes goes in to butter up the guy, posing as Michael Scarn, a lawyer, to find out how many clients the dude has and all their contact numbers.  Dwight  then comes in, posing as a jobseeker, and  demands an interview on the spot.  As the boss of the company interviews Dwight, Michael traipses awkwardly around, discovering as he does that the company that Dunder-Mifflin wants to put out of business is actually made up of a very nice family.  When it’s time to head out, the two are giddy over their reconnaissance mission, as Dwight urges Michael to peel out, Michael accidentally goes forward over onto the island, then pulls back over it and hears  the engine die.  Out come the small business owners to offer repair and even coffee, making Michael feel more and more guilty.

Bittersweet victory
On their way back to the office Michael is morose and Dwight is cluelessly happy.  In his office, behind his desk, Michael asks Dwight what will happen to the family that runs the business – Dwight says calmly, “It’s simple, Wallace will use the information…to destroy them.”  Michael says he feels it in his heart that it’s not the right thing to do, calling David Wallace with this information, and Dwight tries to convince him otherwise, telling him his heart has led him wrong before, and Michael agrees, citing both Jan and Ryan as examples. Finally it looks like Dwight has convinced Michael, until the bumbling manager dashes out of the office, the information collected clutched tight in his hands. Dwight chases him around the building and back through the office a couple of times, before he catches him and snatches the paper back, telling him that it has to be this way.  When Michael calls Wallace, he’s obviously saddened by his win, but Wallace is quite pleased, praising Michael as a “titan of industry.” Michael comments to the camera later that it was a bittersweet victory, but that he hates bittersweet chocolate, and why would anyone make that stuff?

Hot or Not?
A random conflict shows up this season: the entire office starts taking sides over whether or not they think Hillary Swank is a hot actress, sparked by Kevin asserting that no, she is not, with Jim being the side that she is. In an effort to resolve this, Jim calls for a vote – and finds out that the office is equally split between the two sides.  They set up an entire little game out of it to resolve it and try to convince people to change sides, and Jim almost convinces Kevin by telling him a scenario wherein Hillary Swank would swish right into the office and demand to make out with Kevin.  As Kevin puts it, though, the question is “is she hot,” not “would you do her?”  The rest of the office gets in on the fun too.  Even Stanley stands up in front of everybody and gives a moving speech about how they need to enjoy life and see what a “strong, sexy, hot” woman Hillary Swank is.  Oscar analyzes her face, drawing up a chart dividing her visage into four sections, and proclaiming that she doesn’t follow the classic standards of beauty, so therefore, she is not hot.  Meanwhile, this whole time Kelly has been looking rather on the verge of tears, which she falls over into and screams out, “I’m obviously not as hot as Hillary Swank!  If you say she’s not hot then I’m not hot!”  By the end of the episode nobody has yet resolved the issue, until Michael comes in and sees the papers set up on the wall, various ones of Hillary Swank, and says, “Wow, she’s hot.”  When he goes into his office an closes the door, Jim’s team claps triumphantly as they all shout yes and point fingers at the other team.

At first, it may seem like this episode had the reverse problem of the last – whereas Michael’s part of the story felt like filler then, the office comes off feeling like the filler this week.  And though it does look a bit this like this episode may have filler-itis, it works because it feels like one of those episodes back in the day, like the office Olympics, where Michael and Dwight leave for a few hours and the office engages in unrelated shenanigans.  It wasn’t tied too deeply into Michael’s side of the story, though, and the end result is that it feels like we’re watching a really funny extended deleted scene.  There are some priceless moments, like when Stanley gives his speech, but you can’t help but feel the whole thing is a tad tacked on.  Michael and Dwight’s part of the story is good because it continues to build up the idea that this branch is growing more successful, and Michael is impressing his bosses (however accidentally sometimes) more and more.  It’s also good, though, because of how much we know Michael is really into the idea of personal business, and at one point Dwight shouts at him that, “It’s not personal, it’s business!”  It’ll be interesting to see what will happen next week to put the branch higher in David Wallace’s eyes, because I think we’re about due for an episode that affects the entire office, and who knows what that may look like?  Hunches might lead us to believe that Michael could be transferred (that seems the most likely option – Wallace has been dropping a couple of hints in the last few episodes), but I guess we’ll have to wait to find out.

-Thomas Anderson
aka Movie Buzz Review Dude. Check out his movie/media/pop culture blog here.