Prince Family Paper
|"Prince Family Paper"|
|The Office episode|
|Directed by||Asaad Kelada|
|Written by||B. J. Novak|
|Original air date||January 22, 2009|
"Prince Family Paper" is the thirteenth episode of the fifth season of the American comedy television series The Office, and the show's 85th overall episode. It originally aired on NBC in the United States on January 22, 2009. In the episode, Michael and Dwight go undercover to seek information on a family-owned business competitor, and Michael has a crisis of conscience when they turn out to be very nice people. Meanwhile, the others in the office passionately debate whether actress Hilary Swank can be considered "hot".
The episode was directed by Asaad Kelada and written by B. J. Novak, who also plays Ryan on the show. The script addresses the Darwinistic nature of capitalism in its portrayal of the larger corporation Dunder Mifflin threatening a small mom-and-pop business, as well as societal definitions of beauty in the differing arguments regarding Swank's attractiveness. Dan Bakkedahl, a comedian best known as a correspondent on the comedy program The Daily Show, makes a guest appearance as the business owner's son.
The episode received generally mixed reviews, and was the lowest ranked episode of the season in a poll by The Office fansite OfficeTally. According to Nielsen Media Research, "Prince Family Paper" was seen by 8.74 million viewers, a slight increase from the previous week's episode, "The Duel".
During the cold open, Jim (John Krasinski) runs 500 feet of red wire from Dwight's desk to the top of a telephone pole as a prank, and Dwight (Rainn Wilson) follows it all the way to the top of the pole. Meanwhile, Dunder Mifflin CFO David Wallace (Andy Buckley) enlists Michael (Steve Carell) to report on the success of a small family-owned local paper competitor named Prince Paper, which works in an area where Dunder Mifflin has never successfully acquired clients. Michael brings Dwight along on his field work to help gather information. Michael visits business owner Roger Prince (Dan Desmond) posing as a potential customer named "Michael Scarn", while Dwight enters and pretends to request a job. The kind and overly trusting Roger Prince gives Michael the company's customer list to use as a reference, and Michael and Dwight leave triumphantly.
However, Michael damages his car while exiting the parking space, which catches the attention of the Prince family. They come out to help fix the car as much as they can as Michael watches. Michael is visibly moved by their kindness and has a change of heart regarding giving the customer list to Wallace, but Dwight remains unmoved. Back at the office, Dwight tries to convince Michael he can't let his heart get in the way of business. Michael agrees to send the list and his information to Wallace, but then tries to escape and get rid of the list. Dwight chases Michael down and takes the list from him, causing Michael to finally give in. David Wallace calls Michael to congratulate him on getting the list. Michael then explains he is feeling a "bittersweet" moment over what he did to Prince Paper, bitter because he potentially ruined a decent family, but sweet because he satisfied Wallace.
Meanwhile, the rest of the office get into a heated debate over whether actress Hilary Swank can be considered "hot". Kevin (Brian Baumgartner) leads the group voting she is not hot, claiming she looks like a "monster". Jim temporarily convinces Kevin to switch sides by having him imagine Hilary kissing him, only for Kevin to switch back, saying the debate is whether she is hot, not whether he would have sex with her. Angela (Angela Kinsey) resists the debate, but eventually votes "hot" after getting offended by Kevin's crude remarks. Kelly (Mindy Kaling), who believes herself less attractive than Swank, gets emotional when Toby (Paul Lieberstein) defends his "not hot" vote. Pam (Jenna Fischer) argues they should not let the Kevins of the world decide who is hot, or decide anything at all. Oscar (Oscar Nuñez) gives a detailed overhead presentation about the structure of Swank's facial features, concluding she is "attractive...not hot." An uncharacteristically uplifting Stanley (Leslie David Baker) votes hot, claiming pointing out flaws is no way to live life. At the end of the debate, the sides are still tied until Michael, oblivious of their debate, passes by the pictures on the wall and casually calls her hot.
"Prince Family Paper" was directed by Asaad Kelada and written by B. J. Novak, who also plays Ryan Howard on the show. The episode portrays capitalism as Darwinistic in nature, particularly through its portrayal of the larger corporation Dunder Mifflin threatening the small mom-and-pop business Prince Family Paper, as well as societal definitions of beauty in the differing arguments regarding the hotness of Hilary Swank.
Dan Bakkedahl, a comedian best known as a correspondent from the Comedy Central comedy program The Daily Show, made a guest appearance as Robert Prince, Jr., the son of the Prince Paper owner. When Michael infiltrates Prince Family Paper, he identifies himself as Michael Scarn. This is a reference to the second season episode "The Client", in which Pam discovers an action film screenplay starring a character based on himself named Agent Michael Scarn. In a later episode of season 5 (episode 21, "Two Weeks") it is revealed that Prince Family Paper went bankrupt. This is probably due to the actions of Michael.
Robert Prince tells Michael he started his business after Vietnam, a reference to the Vietnam War, but Michael mistakes it for a reference to the country itself and says he has heard it is a nice place. During one scene, Michael said to David Wallace, "What'chu talking 'bout, Wallace?" in the style of Gary Coleman's catchphrase "What'chu talking 'bout, Willis?" from the sitcom Diff'rent Strokes. While discussing Hilary Swank, Kevin said he finds her so unattractive that he expected her to have a real penis in Boys Don't Cry, the 1999 drama film in which Swank played a transgender man. When Angela votes that Hilary Swank is hot, she declares her "a female Boris Becker", a reference to the German professional tennis player. Michael plans to meet Dwight at the IHOP pancake eatery after they visit Prince Family Paper, but Dwight insists IHOP is "socialist" and prefers the American restaurant chain Denny's.
In its original American broadcast on January 22, 2009, "Prince Family Paper" was watched by 8.74 million overall viewers, about a five percent increase in viewership over the previous episode, "The Duel". "Prince Family Paper" received a 5.3 rating/14 share among viewers aged between 18 and 34, and a 4.6 rating/11 share among viewers between 18 and 49. It was outperformed by CSI: Crime Scene Investigation on CBS, which was seen by 17.53 million households, and Grey's Anatomy on ABC, which was seen by 14.25 million households, although commentators said The Office still fared well against the tough competition. "Prince Family Paper" earned higher ratings than the Fox series Bones, which moved to Thursday for the first time and drew 7.5 million viewers.
"Prince Family Paper" received generally mixed reviews. Travis Fickett of IGN called it one of the show's better Michael-and-Dwight centric episodes, and called the chase between them "a classic scene and perfectly executed". Fickett also praised several character moments, like Kelly's breakdown over whether Hilary Swank is hot, but said the Swank subplot was less interesting than the main story. Brian Howard of The Journal News said he appreciated that the script had Michael follow through on betraying the Princes, rather than deciding to spare them, because he felt it was more realistic. Howard said, "They didn’t let Michael off the hook. Instead the writers took a dark and dirty turn toward the truly tragic, in the literal sense of the word." He also praised the Hilary Swank subplot as funny and a realistic conversation topic among officemates, although he admitted it was "relegated to almost buffer status" to the main plot. Alan Sepinwall, television columnist with The Star-Ledger, said Michael's conflicted feelings about betraying the Prince family came up too late and resolved too abruptly to work well, and that the chase between Michael and Dwight was a poorly constructed "misfire". However, he called the subplot about Hilary Swank "genius with a capital G".
TV Squad writer Jay Black praised the main plot, and wrote, "I was delighted that the trip to the Prince Family Paper Company became a test of Michael's morals rather than the usual exercise in his stupidity." Black said Dwight's attempts to get Michael to give up the client list were among the best set of scenes for the season. However, Black said the Hilary Swank subplot suffered in comparison, and felt like a vain attempt to find something for the supporting cast to do. The A.V. Club writer Nathan Rabin was disappointed with "Prince Family Paper", calling it overly dependent on throwaway gags and describing it as "about as inconsequential as The Office gets". Rabin complimented the opening gag with Jim and Dwight, but said it "felt like the kind of gag the show has pulled off dozens, if not hundreds of times, before". Alynda Wheat of Entertainment Weekly said it was not one of the strongest Office episodes, and that the script took a particularly mean tone with the Prince Family Paper subplot. But Wheat said it included some enjoyable moments, like Jim's prank against Dwight in the opening scene. Will Leitch of New York magazine was very critical of the episode, especially the Hilary Swank subplot, which he said "sounded like a conversation B. J. Novak had with himself at a party and submitted as a backup script". Leitch also pointed out the episode had nothing to do with the show's ongoing plotlines: "It's the definition of filler. Which would have been fine, had it been funnier." "Prince Family Paper" was voted the lowest-rated episode out of 26 from the fifth season, according to an episode poll at the fansite OfficeTally, where the episode was rated 6.98 out of 10.
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