The Office recap: Branch Wars

by guest contributor Jasmine

In the time that we have come to know and love Stanley Hudson as one of the beleaguered employees on “The Office”, we have seen the myriad offensive ovations suffered at the hands of his boss, Michael Scott. Stanley is recruited by Michael for a pick-up basketball game because he is Black. Stanley, though, always seems to prevail, confounding Michael’s racist presumptions with hilarious consequences. The problem, though, is that Michael never learns. He never learns that it’s wrong to assume that Stanley is a good basketball player because he is Black. He doesn’t understand why he can’t drop the n-word when impersonating Chris Rock. He finds it hard to believe that the White woman with Stanley at the Dundies is actually his wife. He’s surprised to learn that Stanley and his family don’t celebrate Kwanzaa. You know what I don’t understand? I don’t know how Stanley held out so long, and for so little.

Stanley finally gets his due, though, when he gets an offer to join the Utica branch, for more money and presumably a better boss: Karen, formerly of Stamford and Scranton, the girl Jim dated before he finally broke it off and started dating Pam. The Utica branch appears like an oasis in comparison to the dysfunctional drudgery of Scranton. Who can blame Stanley for wanting to leave? Apparently, Michael can: in a fit of exasperation, he announces Stanley’s leaving to the office. Unexpectedly, Stanley’s fellow employees applaud. Michael is beside himself: “You cannot take the hilarious Black guy from the office.” Going on, he lists Stanley’s assets: “bluesy wisdom, sassy remarks, crossword puzzles, his smile… those big, watery red eyes.” He pauses, then continues: “I don’t know how George Bush did it when Colin Powell left.” Stanley insists that the reason he’s leaving is money, and anyway, it’s probably his sales record that got him the job. I don’t see Karen running an want ad for “bluesy wise older Black gentleman”. Michael, still, is incredulous: “Mo’ money, mo’ problems, you of all people should know that.” Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh! Again, I’m wondering why nobody calls Michael on his ignorance, but then I remember that Michel, not being smart, would never get it. But does that make it any less reasonable to try? How do you reason with the unreasonable?

Elsewhere in the office, Pam, Toby, and Oscar have started The Finer Things Club. Oscar says that, apart from having sex with men, it’s the gayest thing about him. Way to embrace the stereotype! Mainly, though, the Club discusses a book over a lunch tied to the book. E.M. Forster’s “A Room With A View” with tea and sandwiches. “Memoirs Of A Geisha” with sushi. Andy tries to join, but is unsuccessful. Jim’s eventual admission seems short-lived, as he may not have actually read “Angela’s Ashes”.

Eventually, the episode wanders from Stanley’s narrative to Michael who, if he cannot keep Stanley, will exact revenge on the Utica branch by sneaking into their office to steal their industrial copier. An interrogation from Karen, and Michael returns defeated to Scranton. He gets Pam started on a want ad: “Wanted, middle aged black man with sass, big butt, bigger heart.” Fortunately, we don’t hear any more of the ad, as Stanley surrenders. He’s staying — in fact, he never meant to leave. He just wanted to see if Michael would counter Karen’s offer of more money, and was surprised to see Michael calling his bluff. Which makes Stanley wonder if perhaps Michael is a secret genius after all. I doubt it. I’m disappointed in Stanley — he could have moved into a more diverse office with a boss who isn’t a racist for more money, but he stayed. I’m sure he has his reasons. What they might be, I can only hope to figure out.

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Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at team@racialicious.com.

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