How many episodes of The Office this season have advanced the idea that Jim is turning into Michael? Several, I think. In the episode where he screwed up and trapped everybody in the parking lot, and his co-workers turned against him, it was clear that he was surprised to realize that he, not Michael, had become the guy who ruined everything for everybody. And in last night’s episode, as he tried for the first time in his life to actually expend some real effort on his job (for Pam’s sake), we got a glimpse of how a Michael Scott is created: if you want to succeed at this job, you have to be obnoxious, persistent and always “on,” the way Jim became by the end of the golf match.
When Michael’s spirits were lifted by the realization that Jim, whom he really admires, “chooses” to work at the office, the irony was not only his delusional belief that Jim does this job because he loves it, but our realization, left hanging in the air, that Jim might actually be Michael someday if he continues to sacrifice his self-respect for the sake of his job.
Last night’s episode went to some dark places for what seemed like a relatively lightweight plot, not only in the Jim subplot and Michael’s self-doubt, but Pam’s pained realization that she’s not qualified to move up from the job she has. (There’s some argument online about whether she’s actually thinking of leaving for New York or Philadelphia; I’m guessing that they are setting up at least the possibility of that.) With the Ryan-on-drugs plot and the Michael/Jan stuff, this season has been a pretty dark one in general, which is par for the course for a Greg Daniels production: King of the Hill got very dark when it had gone to around this number of episodes, too.