Friday, January 18, 2013

Beating a Dead Workforce

Funny F*ckin' Friday

When an employee drops dead from being overworked, Veronica tries to parlay the tragedy into a method of motivation to convince the rest of her staff to meet an important deadline.

Previous: The Great Repression

Veronica's (Portia de Rossi) cold-blooded determination to succeed has made her an incredible tool for Veridian Dynamics, and one of her greatest assets is to spin anything in her own favor. While the tragic death of one of her employees, caused by over exhaustion from working too hard, is likely to incite riot under anyone else's supervision, Veronica instead paints the employee's death as a sacrifice for the greater good of the company, one man's determination to help Veridian succeed where others refuse, and in doing so she manages to convince her employees that anything less than everything they've got is disrespectful to the dead employee's memory.

At first seeing the death of Jenkins (Warren Sweeney) as nothing more than an annoyance, Veronica is made to use his loss as a tool to motivate the rest of her staff as "the company feels that if [they] ease up because someone died, it will only encourage others to die," and that would drive productivity into the ground. Chosen to be the final speaker at Jenkins' memorial service, Veronica rouses the crowd into thinking that they need to work harder in order to finish the project in his memory, stating privately to Ted (Jay Harrington) that "the company didn't think 'sad' was the way to go," letting her employees think that they're creating a legacy for Jenkins in completing the project he worked so hard on.

Lem (Malcolm Barrett) uses his 'close friendship' with Jenkins to get in with the cool accountants from upstairs, being invited to smoke with them and stating that "[he] do[esn't] smoke, but [he]'d love to watch [them] smoke." Soon Lem is making up elaborate stories about he and Jenkins on fishing trips and other adventures that, in reality, are extreme elaborations of things that happened to he and Phil (Jonathan Slavin). Eventually Phil feels as though he's been replaced as Lem's best friend by a dead man, and the situation is so ridiculous that it should be sad, but it's just hilarious.

Ted states that Jenkins had been at his desk when he left at night, and was back at his desk before Ted got to work the next day, and gathers a group of employees to bring him a cake as a reward. Naturally, they find him dead in his office, and the setup here is just so incredibly obvious that it was seen coming from the moment Ted started talking. A little misdirection would have been nice here.

Initially upset that his final interaction with Jenkins involved throwing coffee at him, Lem is quick to exploit his reputation as Jenkins' friend in order to make a name for himself. Soon Jenkins becomes something of a messiah to the office dwellers, with the eight people who found his body being referred to as "the finders," and at no point does Lem take notice that what he's doing is actually disrespectful to the man he's so concerned about having wronged. It gets to the point that the company gives Lem Jenkins' ashes, because the two were such close friends and Jenkins has no remaining family, but it would have been nice for Lem to have shown some kind of remorse for his actions through this story.

De Rossi absolutely knocks it out of the park in this episode, stealing every scene she's in and really bringing the material to life. Her chemistry with Andrea Anders (as Linda) is fantastic here, and, as always, it's a pleasure to see Merrin Dungey return to the role of Sheila. The rest of the cast is great in their roles, too, creating a very well-rounded energy that brings out the best in everyone involved.

There are a lot of little things in Marc Buckland's direction here that add up to make an incredibly entertaining episode, one of the funniest being Phil's incapability to break open Jenkins' urn and Linda's numerous attempts to live in the moment and appreciate her life. The people speaking at Jenkins' memorial without knowing a single thing about him is genius, as is the video about Jenkins playing in the elevator, accompanied by Veronica's cover of Rick Astley's 'Never Gonna Give You Up.'

Ingrid Escajeda writes this episode with a focus on how detrimental extended work hours can be to both morale and productivity, showing that the mood of the office takes a huge dip the longer everyone is made to stay and the employees quickly grow more aggressive with one another. In order to alleviate the tension Veronica suggests that they fire the most productive employee in order to scare the rest into doing their jobs, while Ted counters by suggesting that they instead reward the hardest working employee in order to motivate the rest. Overall this is a huge improvement over a number of episodes within the second season, and a return to form of the first year of this series.

Despite the minor rift that grows between Phil and Lem during the course of this episode, the two end up bonding closer than ever due to Lem's admittance of truth to everyone about his lack of familiarity with Jenkins. The employee's appreciation for the company is also short-lived, after realizing that they had been manipulated into doing massive amounts of work, though it's likely to have had no effect on them in later stories.

Next: Change We Can't Believe In


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