In ‘Prince Family Paper’Dwight and Michael go undercover at a rival paper company. It does not live up to The Office’s usual standards of excellence. In fact, only the opening throwaway scene was actually funny.
Dwight is working at his desk when suddenly he noticed that there is a red wire coming from his computer monitor. Jim points out that it’s a computer, they all have wires. But this particular wire is going somewhere completely different from the other wires. Dwight starts following the wire which is duct taped down to the carpet, along the baseboards and out to the parking lot. In an interview, Jim explains that he got 500 feet of red wire at a yard sale for $20. Meanwhile outside the window behind him Dwight is following the red wire up a telephone pole. Jim: ‘He’ll be fine. I made it up there.’
Davis Wallace is on the phone in Michael’s office and he needs help. The regional supervisor position still hasn’t been filled, and he needs Michael to do some of the jobs that person usually handles. Michael looks excited. The assignment is a fact-finding mission on a small company that seems to have all the paper business in one region, and Dunder-Mifflin wants to get into that market.
Stanley and Phyllis are talking about whether or not Hilary Swank is hot. This sparks a debate amongst the whole staff. After a vote they find that half of the office thinks she is beautiful, the other half thinks she’s ‘monstrous.’Although they do all agree she is a great actress.
Dwight and Michael are in the car arguing over which one of them gets to seduce the beautiful hypothetical daughter of the owner of the company they are investigating. Michael calls dibs. They also argue over where they will rendezvous after the mission, since Dwight hates IHOP. Dwight: ‘Socialists!’They go over the plan: Michael is going in as a perspective client to find out about their prices and policies. Dwight will be posing as a paper salesman looking for a job. He will find out about their expenses and salaries.
Before they begin, they sit in the parking lot and play detective. Dwight can tell the small company is not growing because the empty store next to it is still for lease. Also, because they are in the office for lunch, they must not be trying to woo new clients. Michael notes that it’s cloudy, so it might rain, which is bad for business. Dwight: ‘Well, it would if they were altocumulus and not cirrostratus.’Michael: ‘Shut up.’They go over the plan one more time: Michael goes in and Dwight follows ten minutes later. They have to act like they have never met, but in case of danger they practice the signal to bolt, which is this over-exaggeration of the licking of their lips. And, guys, it’s just about the most homoerotic thing they could do. They look like two frogs trying to seduce each other.
Before he goes in, Michael explains to us that the food chain is where a shark eats a littler shark, who eats an even littler shark, and so on down to the single celled shark. If you replace the word ‘˜shark’with ‘˜paper company’then that is all you need to know about business, he claims. In the small office is a woman, an older man, a younger man and a young girl. Mr. Prince, the older man, interviews Michael and ‘learns’that Michael owns a law firm, and that his old paper firm had a lot of clients, making him feel like he wasn’t a priority. Michael asks how many clients they have and is surprised to hear eighty, since they seem so small. He asks how long they’ve been in business, and Mr. Prince tells him he set up shop after he returned from Vietnam. Michael: ‘Oh, Vietnam. I hear it’s lovely!’
Back at the office, the debate over whether or not Hilary Swank is hot rages on. They have taped photos of her to the conference room windows, and as each scene goes on more and more pictures appear. They have allotted each side three minutes apiece for opening statements. The issue isn’t whether she is attractive or beautiful, but HOT. Kevin: ‘A painting may be beautiful, but I don’t want to bang a painting.’Andy: ‘TMI.’
Michael almost blows his cover by asking a way too specific paper question, and when Mr. Prince points out his unusual level of paper knowledge, Michael tries to cover by claiming to be a genius. But only about some things. He charmingly gets the man laughing as he pretends he can’t tell the difference between the stapler and a coffee cup. Michael loves to make people laugh so this is a really great moment for him. Right on cue, Dwight comes in claiming to be looking for a job, and being particularly obnoxious. When told they aren’t hiring he gestures to the younger man and says, ‘Then get rid of this guy.’When told that’s the owner’s son, he says, ‘I’m your son now. You can visit him on holidays.’He introduces himself as the top salesman at Dunder-Mifflin and he is looking for a new challenge. He guesses they have maybe forty clients and Michael interjects ‘Eighty’. Dwight ppthhpt’s because he has ninety clients alone, and they should look out because someone might run them out of business. The sweet old man foreshadows, ‘I hope not.’
Back in the office, Jim is arguing that celebrities often get judged by a different standard then ‘normal’people. Kevin is frustrated because Jim is making too many fancy points when it’s really a gut thing. Jim has him close his eyes and imagine Hilary walking in the room and wanting to make out with him. Is she hot now? Kevin moves over to the Hot side, until he realizes something. Kevin: “The question is ‘˜is she hot’not ‘˜would you do her.’Respect the game.’He returns to the Not Hot side.
Prince Paper: Dwight is asked why he’s leaving DM. Dwight starts to talk about his boss, whose insensitivity borders on the cruel, and does not listen to the needs of his underlings. Michael is hovering nearby listening and is clearly getting agitated. He interrupts them, shouting, ‘Hey!’and continuing with a helpful sounding, ‘Don’t blow it!’Michael asks Linda, the wife, for a picture to remember the trip by but it’s really a ruse to get a photo of a map on the wall marked with their clients. The granddaughter needs help with her math homework and Michael steps in to help. He is so wrong it would take 3 paragraphs to explain the extent of his wrongness. But luckily the grandmother makes sure the girl erases the ‘answer’Michael gave her.
Swank Central: Kevin is talking about Hilary’s role in Boy’s Don’t Cry where she plays a transgendered woman pretending to be a man. Kevin says he was convinced the plot twist would be that Hilary Swank actually was boy. This pisses off Pam and outrages Angela enough where she comes out and takes the side of Hot just to try to end the argument.
Prince Paper: Michael is getting ready to leave and thanking the family for their time when Mr. Prince gives him something wonderful: The names and numbers of their top clients as references. It’s exactly what the head office needs to make a move on this company. Dwight pretends to need a ride and leaves with Michael. They are ridiculously elated and a little paranoid about being watched, so Michael starts up the car and pulls out… over the concrete curb. In a panic he backs up… over the concrete curb.
Swanksville: Toby is now involved and he is in the Not Hot camp, making the score even again. Kelly flips out. ‘She’s hot, ok? Because if you are saying that Hilary Swank is not hot then I am not hot because obviously I am not as hot as Hilary Swank’and runs off crying
Dwight and Michael are inspecting the damage. Half of the front bumper of the PT Cruiser is hanging off. The Prince family all run out to help. Mr. Prince gets his tool box to save Michael the 100 bucks a tow truck would cost. Dwight is still basking in the glow of their impending destruction of the small paper company. Michael is looking the exact opposite.
Swanksylvania: Pam is asking the ladies of the office if they want the Kevin’s of the world to decide anything for them. Pam: “We don’t even give him full internet access.’Kevin: ‘Wait, what?’Oscar now has an overhead projector and has laid out a graph on Hilary’s face, demonstrating the obvious symmetry of the face, and how she stacks up on the scientific scale of the composite average of her features. She may be attractive, he says, but she’s not hot.
Mrs. Prince has brought the boys coffee. Michael: “Oh, coffee. Thats… too… much… nice.’Dwight: ‘Ugh, disgusting. Is this instant?’The Prince’s finish taping up the bumper, refuse payment for the help, and say goodbye. Dwight is practically cackling as he calls them the Sucker family behind their backs. Dwight: “Here you go, shark, let me fix your fin for you and sharpen your teeth while we’re at it.’Michael looks like he wants to vomit.
Michael and Dwight trudge back into Michael’s office. Michael sadly asks what will happen to that family if he gives the info to Wallace. Michael wants to listen to his heart but Dwight reminds him that his heart has made some terrible decisions. Michael: “Thats true. It has gone down the wrong path many, many times. Jan… Ryan…’Dwight tries to convince him to send it because if they don’t destroy that family someone else will, and even worse, someone will come and destroy DM. They cut back to the debates for a moment, and when we return to Michael’s office Dwight is telling the tale of a long war, where many people died. But, Dwight points out, if Frodo hadn’t destroyed the ring, goodness itself would have died. That seems to do the trick. Michael stands and says he is going to send Wallace the list. Then he grabs the list and runs out the door to the parking lot. Then back to the office again to get the keys to his car, and then back outside where Dwight finally overtakes him and snatches the list away.
The office workers are taking a final vote on the resolution ‘Hilary Swank Is Hot.’It is still six to six.
Michael’s office: David is pleased with the info and tells him he is a titan of industry. Dwight says his stock just went up. In an interview, Michael sums up his feelings, and the episode, thusly: ‘I guess this is what they call a bittersweet moment. It’s bitter because I slightly destroyed a wonderful little family. But sweet because David Wallace thought I did a great job. That’s why I hate bittersweet chocolate. What’s the point of that? Why not just sweet? Who are you helping?’
Parting shot: Michael walks past the pictures on the wall and asks who it is. When told it’s Hilary Swank, he says. ‘Oh, she’s hot.’Cheers erupt as the Hot side wins and the debate is finally put to rest.
On a second viewing of this episode I have to say it was kind of awful. I didn’t even enjoy recapping it. I mean, I love Michael Scott and all. Even though he’s a bumbling fool most of the time, he is still ultimately a really sweet guy and I love it when they focus on that part of him. But when they do, the subplot needs to be all the more funny, and the overblown Hot/Not Hot debate, while certainly absurd, didn’t cut it in the laughs department. Also, this episode forced me to type ‘Hilary Swank’way too many times. Someone has to pay for that.