The Office’s eighth episode, “Murder,” was a great way to dust off last week’s disastrous double date lunch between Michael, Jim, Pam and Pam’s mother, who is tactlessly dumped on her own birthday. Michael swiftly jumps from that role as the temperamental child to this episode’s all-knowing father figure whose mysterious ways pan out in the end. It’s tough to say whether he’s really growing up these days. There’s no telling what he’ll do between now and the end of the season, or even next episode.
“Murder” begins with an email from the corporate office urging all branches to disregard a rumor that sprouted from a Wall Street Journal article earlier that day. After Oscar looks up the piece online, he and his fellow employees discover that the Dunder-Mifflin head honchos were having a meeting to discuss the future of the struggling paper company, and maybe even tossing around the idea of bankruptcy(!). It certainly isn’t the first time we’ve had to consider the company’s mortality, but considering the show’s narrowing direction and how its last season could be fast approaching, this might be serious.
The news boggles the employees to an unproductive disarray. Jim rises to the task of assuaging their fears with a pep-talk meeting— valiant but in vain— which is interrupted by what seems an untimely phone call bearing the bad news of a “murder” in Savannah. This begins Michael’s office-wide, “Belles, Bourbon and Bullets” mystery game, where he assigns everyone to play a character in a “town meeting” to investigate the murder of a fellow citizen. The co-workers, sans Stanley, adapt surprisingly well to their characters, complete with hokey names, abysmal southern accents and props ranging from Angela’s shrunken head to Pam’s white lace gloves. The ensuing scenes brought life into some of the character’s otherwise deadpan (but lovable) roles— the greatest being Oscar’s jumbled and squeaking attempts to update the office on the corporate meeting, after Michael insists he must do so while in character.
Despite its successful distraction, the game’s appeasement doesn’t last. Andy asks out Erin while in character and worries whether he actually scored a date with her in real life. Michael refuses to break out of role and insists there is still another crime to solve (I do declare!). Jim tries to focus on the situation at hand, believing his co-manager has finally cracked before seeing the ulterior motive behind the lunacy— keep the staff’s head in the game and they won’t worry about Dunder-Mifflin’s future, at least for now.
Jim eventually confirms from David Wallace that the company is bleeding money, and then wisely withholds the information from the rest of the branch. The fun and games were nice this week, but the upcoming happenings at Dunder-Mifflin may be a crucial indicator of the show’s lifespan.