The Office: Beauty is in the Eye of the Boss

NBC’s The Office
“Business School”
Episode 3017 | Season 3 | 02/15/2007

Abridged Synopsis: Roy stops by Pam’s desk to let her know how excited he is to see her art show. She reminds him that it’s just a small show being put on by her art class. Pam later admits she’s very happy to be back together with Roy because it shows maturity. Jim feigns indifference to the reconciliation.

Ryan discovers that he can get bumped a whole letter grade if he brings his boss in to speak to the class. Michael makes a fool of himself in front of Ryan’s class by taking a student’s textbook and ripping the pages out to make a point, a la Dead Poet’s Society. Michael further humiliates himself in front of Ryan’s peers by tossing candy bars at them during his speech.

Michael is then shocked to hear from one of the students that Ryan was harshly criticizing Dunder-Mifflin just minutes before he arrived. Michael tries his hardest to defend the company, then derides Ryan’s failure at sales, before ending his speech by telling the class that Ryan didn’t know anything, and neither did they!

Pam is excited to show off her artwork at the show, but a little disappointed when nobody seems to care. That changes when Roy showed up and brings his brother, Kenny. However, Roy unwittingly rubs salt in Pam’s wounds when he brings up the fact that nobody from work bothered to show up. Later, Oscar and his boyfriend to stop by to discuss Pam’s art, not noticing that she is standing behind them. Oscar does his best to say encouraging things, but his boyfriend is hopelessly critical.

After moving Ryan’s desk to the annex to work next to Kelly, Michael goes to Pam’s art show. She is already fragile after overhearing Oscar’s boyfriend criticize her artwork, But Michael had nothing but praise for Pam’s work. He is so impressed, particularly with her painting of Dunder-Mifflin’s building, that he buys it to display at the office.

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This is another one of those beautiful little Office episodes that could easily slip by as a touching, Michael-gets-it-right-for-a-change scenario. But once again, there is a very deep social message here that I’m sure is often missed.

Oscar’s boyfriend, Gil, represents the artistic establishment. When Oscar reminds him that Pam is only a beginner, Gil compares her to Van Gogh, in his not-so-humble beginnings. According to the establishment, the artistic community if you will, greatness is always the goal. And greatness can only be achieved with impeccable skill, and unparalleled imagination and ingenuity.

This goes for music, too… and dance and drama and literature. To be accepted in the eyes of the elite, one must break the mold and constantly chart new artistic territory. Many an album has been lauded, and many a film critically acclaimed which was fresh, original, imaginative… and bad. Unentertaining, unrealistic, and unable to connect with anyone’s actual emotions or experiences. Gil had unfortunately lost the ability to interact with art on a human level, and Pam’s confidence suffered the blow.

She was about to give up when Michael arrived. He paid a few modest compliments and began to brighten Pam’s outlook, but when he saw the painting of Dunder-Mifflin’s building, he gushed. “That’s my window! And my car! And there’s your car! Wow…” he said slowly, “this is our buiding. You nailed it, Pam. You nailed it.”

Certainly the aftertaste of Business School had not left his mouth… his favorite employee attacking his company, his loyalty, his livelihood. Michael’s pride had surged as he vehemently defended Dunder-Mifflin as a personal place. A relational place that offers something the big box stores never can. And the pride that surged into shouting and name-calling in the lecture hall, surged again now in a quieter way.

“Pam…” Michael intoned with sincerity, “I am really proud of you.” Michael and Pam connect in a way they never have before, and probably never will again. And both their needs are met.

For every one thing that Michael gets, there are 99 things that he misses. This is a one-percent moment, but it’s a big one. Not only does he see that the value of art is in those who are moved by it, those who can connect with it, he knows the most important thing of all is simply showing up.

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