Lice (The Office)
|The Office episode|
|Episode no.||Season 9
|Directed by||Rodman Flender|
|Written by||Niki Schwartz-Wright|
|Original air date||January 10, 2013|
|Running time||22 minutes|
"Lice" is the tenth episode of the ninth season of the American comedy television series The Office. The episode was written by Niki Schwartz-Wright and directed by Rodman Flender. It originally aired on the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) on January 10, 2013. The episode guest stars Julius "Dr. J" Erving as himself.
The series depicts the everyday lives of office employees in the Scranton, Pennsylvania branch of the fictional Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. In this episode, Pam Halpert (Jenna Fischer) accidentally brings lice into the office but lets Meredith Palmer (Kate Flannery) take the fall while Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) vows to destroy the parasites. Meanwhile, Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) spends a great day in Philadelphia with a potential business associate (Erving); Nellie Bertram (Catherine Tate), Phyllis Vance (Phyllis Smith), and Kevin Malone (Brian Baumgartner) interfere with Darryl Philbin's (Craig Robinson) love life.
"Lice" received mixed reviews from television critics; many reviewers enjoyed the emphasis the episode placed on Flannery's character, although others felt the story did not work. The episode was also viewed by 4.54 million viewers and received a 2.2/6 percent rating among adults between the ages of 18 and 49, ranking third in its timeslot. The episode ultimately ranked as the highest-rated NBC series of the night.
Pam Halpert (Jenna Fischer) accidentally gets lice from her daughter Cece and brings the infestation to the office. Meredith Palmer (Kate Flannery) is later accused, she shaves her head. Several members of the office, on behalf of advice courtesy of Erin Hannon (Ellie Kemper) cover their head in mayonnaise to suffocate the lice. Everyone in the office teams up to put mayonnaise on each others hair, which allows Pete (Jake Lacy) and Erin to spend time together. Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson), however, over-reacts and dons a hazmat suit but accidentally exposes himself to a hallucinogenic bug bomb that causes him to faint. Eventually, the office learns that Pam was responsible for the lice infestation, much to Meredith's chagrin.
Meanwhile, Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) goes to Philadelphia to meet with a potential investor in his sports marketing company; the investor is none other than Julius "Dr. J" Erving, a personal hero of Jim's. The two play basketball while Pam, still in Scranton, tries to unsuccessfully call her husband. Back at the office, Pam apologizes to Meredith, and the two go out for a beer. While at the bar, Pam tells Meredith—who is a single parent and has two children—how hard she realizes it is to handle children by herself.
After Nellie Bertram (Catherine Tate), Phyllis Vance (Phyllis Smith), and Kevin Malone (Brian Baumgartner) are sent down to the warehouse due to them not having lice, they interfere with Darryl Philbin's (Craig Robinson) love life. Darryl had recently broken up with the warehouse foreman Val (Ameenah Kaplan) because he wanted to have a new start if he moved to Philadelphia if he got a job at Jim's new sports marketing company. However, Nellie, Phyllis, and Kevin convince Val to get back together with Darryl, much to his annoyance.
"Lice" was written by story editor Niki Schwartz-Wright, marking her debut writing credit for the series. It was directed by Rodman Flender. This marked his second directorial effort for the series, after the earlier ninth season entry "The Whale". As mentioned before, the episode guest starred Erving as himself. In addition, "Lice" featured performances by Ameenah Kaplan, who reprised her role as Val; and Linda Purl as Pam's mother, whose voice was heard on the phone. Kate Flannery did not actually shave her head for the episode. According to her Twitter account, make-up artist Ed French was responsible for the bald cap and Kim M. Ferry designed the shaved hair effect. According to the actress, the prosthetics took three hours to apply. Afterwards, she joked that she has "newfound respect for the actors in Planet of the Apes!" This is the third episode to not feature Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) or Clark (Clark Duke). Helms left the show temporarily in the season's sixth episode "The Boat" in order to film The Hangover Part III, whereas Duke left for a few episodes to film Kick-Ass 2.
The scenes at the end of the episode take place at The Bog; this is an actual bar in Scranton. In addition, the exterior shots were all actually filmed in Scranton. In order to secure permission, the series' production staff phoned the bar's co-owner, Brian Craig, and requested that the bar be featured on the show. Reportedly, parts of the scenes were filmed with an iPhone.
Jim compares spending a day with Julius Erving to a hypothetical situation wherein Pam would spend the day with John Stamos. Pam and Meredith bond over karaoke, and the two sing the song "Girls Just Want to Have Fun", which was made famous by Cyndi Lauper in 1983.
Broadcast and reception
"Lice" originally aired on NBC on January 10, 2013. In its original American broadcast, the episode was viewed by 4.54 million viewers and received a 2.2 rating/6 percent share among adults between the ages of 18 and 49. This means that it was seen by 2.2 percent of all 18- to 49-year-olds, and 6 percent of all 18- to 49-year-olds watching television at the time of the broadcast. The Office ranked third in its timeslot, being beaten by an episode of the CBS series Person of Interest which received a 2.9/8 percent rating, and an entry of the ABC series Grey's Anatomy which received a 3.2/8 percent rating. In addition, The Office was the highest-rated NBC television program on the night it aired. The episode was the twenty-fourth most-watched episode of television for the week it aired in the 18–49 demographic, with 2.772 million viewers in the age group.
USA Today writer Whitney Matheson called the episode "the funniest ep [sic] this season" and that "it also ranks as one of the best since Steve Carell's departure in 2011". Furthermore, she lauded Flannery's performance, writing that "the actress has never made me laugh harder than on last night's episode". Mark Trammell of TV Equals wrote positively of the episode called it "excellent"; he was particularly pleased with the episode's humor. Michael Tedder of Vulture awarded the episode four out of five stars and noted that it allowed Meredith, who until the episode had been "a mostly one-dimensional source of promiscuity jokes" to have "two dimensions for once". He also applauded the performance of Fischer, writing that her performance in the episode "would make for a terrific Emmy submission episode".
Farihah Zaman of The A.V. Club awarded the episode a "B" and criticized the episode's excessive narrative threads. She felt that Pam and Jim's separation brought "out the worst in them", but that "the same situations that force Jim and Pam to confront their flaws reveal the overlooked strengths of a couple of less prominent characters". She also wrote that the ending was "touching" because it humanized Meredith and made her out as a "badass". Cindy White of IGN awarded the episode a score of 7.8 out of 10, denoting a "good" episode. She felt that the final scenes with Pam and Meredith singing were "a nice callback to the show's glory days" and made the ending feel "layered and grounded". White also applauded the short sequence that showed many of the office staff mundanely going about their day—albeit with mayonnaise on their heads—noting that the pacing was reminiscent of the first season when the episode "had room to breathe". White, however, did feel that Jim's storyline was too reminiscent of the story arc in the fifth season when Pam went to art school.
Nick Campbell of TV.com wrote an extremely negative review of the episode and called it "terrible". He felt that Pam's behavior due to Jim being gone was uncalled for. Furthermore, he felt that Dwight "swung too far into the territory that is known as 'annoying caricature'". Campbell did, however, write highly of Ellie Kemper, saying that "she's played [her character] funnily and warmly as anyone else". Several reviewers argued that the episode functioned as a filler episode. Brett Davinger of The California Literary Review called it the "epitome of filler". ScreenCrush reviewer Damon Houx wrote that "if everyone were in the same location this would be a bottle episode". Furthermore, Darryl's subplot was mostly criticized. Tedder noted that while "it's fine to have a story line where someone pursues something and then realizes it wasn't what it was cracked up to be" he wished that the show had actually developed Val as a character. White wrote that she did not enjoy seeing "this manipulative version of Darryl" because it contrasted with his earlier characterization in episodes like "The Deposition". Zaman called the subplot "surprising".
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