Out of ‘Office:’ Stale jokes plague lame-duck series

Annie Bruce, Writer

The end is near. And it’s a good thing because “The Office” has clearly lost its magic. With the series finale looming ahead in May, “Lice,” this week’s episode, was lackluster to say the least.

Jim is spending a few days a week in Philadelphia for work, and Pam is stuck taking care of the children by herself. After a particularly stressful night, Pam comes to the office looking upset and frazzled. Turns out, her daughter has lice and it’s spread to the offices of Dunder Mifflin. Apparently the presence of lice was supposed to be the big punch line because, aside from that, the jokes were few and far between.

Leading the office-wide freak-out, Dwight performs antics throughout the episode that are pretty typical for his character, but by season nine, they just felt old and overdone. He accidentally cuts a hole in his haz-mat suit, flees to an empty office and locks the door. After warning the rest of the workers he will set off an “insect bomb” in 10 seconds, he accidentally drops it in the enclosed space and passes out. To make matters worse, the writers decided the joke was so funny it had to be done twice — Dwight later drops the bomb accidentally in his car. It wasn’t funny the first time, and the second time was overkill.

Meanwhile Jim tells Pam he has a stressful business meeting, when he’s really riding in a limo and playing basketball with one of his idols, Julius Erving. Jim and Pam’s relationship is one of my favorite parts of “The Office,” but even that dynamic felt off in this episode. In a frustrating back and forth, Pam tries to pretend everything is fine when she calls Jim, and Jim doesn’t want Pam to know he’s playing basketball. A further testament to the uneven writing that plagued the episode: There was no conclusion to the Pam and Jim storyline. It just ended.

The standout moment of the episode was a quiet one between Meredith and Pam. The two bonded over beers, with Meredith appreciating her newly bald head (she promptly shaved it after the whole lice thing) and Pam marveling at Meredith’s ability to raise kids on her own.

There was a subplot during the episode involving Daryl, Kevin, Phyllis and Nellie, but it was truly forgettable, along with the rest of “Lice.” If this episode was any indication, the final months of “The Office” will be filled with stale jokes and boring plot lines. It’s sad a previously hilarious and inventive show will end on such a low note.