Monday, November 21, 2011

Case Study No. 0077: Gettysburg Archivist

The Truth about The Battle of Schrute Farms (Season 8)
Oscar finds out the truth to Dwight's false story.

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[while Dwight is looking over some photographs in the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum, Oscar enters the scene with an older gentleman]
OSCAR: Dwight, this is one of the archivists here. I thought maybe we can consult him.
DWIGHT: Really?
OSCAR: Yeah.
DWIGHT: Well, anyone employed by the Gettysburg industrial complex is certainly gonna wanna keep quiet about the Battle of Schrute Farms.
ARCHIVIST: Schrute Farms, did you say? That is a fascinating little chapter of the Civil War.
OSCAR: [surprised] You've heard about it?
DWIGHT: Yes! Ha! Prepare to be refuted ... [to the archivist] Go on. Come on.
[cut to the archivist starting up a documentary film on his laptop computer]
ARCHIVIST: There you go.
[footage of Civil War era photographs is shown on the screen]
NARRATOR: Families and sweethearts back home waited desperately for letters from the front.
RE-ENACTOR: Dearest mother, I'm sorry it has been so long since my last letter. It is three months since I arrived at Schrute Farms, and I fear I may never leave this place alive. Melvin Fifer Garris.
DWIGHT: Hallowed ground ...
NARRATOR: But the battle at Schrute Farms was no battle at all. It was a code used by pacifists from both North and South, who turned the Pennsylvania farmhouse into an artistic community and a refuge from the war.
[Dwight has a puzzled look on his face, as the footage changes to a woman ("Amanda Fields-Shad, Poet and Historian") directly addressing the camera]
AMANDA: You have to understand ... Poets, artists, dancers. These kinds of men preferred peace to war.
[photos of Civil War era men are shown, doing various non-war activities (like playing the accordion and drawing other men naked)]
AMANDA: These delicate lovely men found a place of refuge amongst the Schrutes at Schrute Farm. Amidst the macho brutality of war, this was a place where dandies and dreamers could put on plays, sing tender ballads, and dance in the moonlight.
[Oscar looks on in bemusement, as Dwight stares at the screen in horror]
AMANDA: I like to think of Schrute Farm as the Underground Railroad for the sensitive and ... well, fabulous.
OSCAR: Wow, this is so much better than the story you made up.
[the archivist smiles, as Dwight gets up and storms out of his office]
DWIGHT: I've seen enough!
OSCAR: [yelling after him] You're right, there should be a monument to this!



The Office: "Gettysburg" | Episode 08 | Aired Nov 17, 2011

A trip or change of scenery can inspire brand-new life-changing adventures. Or, at the very least, it's a way to kill a workday.

I hoped you recently brushed up on your Civil War history, because last night Andy felt morale was low, and also, he wanted to be an inspiring leader. Solution? Field trip to Gettysburg (home of the northern-most battle of the Civil War), conveniently located in good ol' PA, same as Dunder Mifflin. He rented a bus (much like Michael did in "Beach Games") and they were off to see some history -- complete with matching neon pink hats that read: "DM does GB," which Jim was pretty sure meant something sexual. Oh, and Andy brought free low-sugar lunches!

The bus trip to Gettysburg was pretty funny. Andy wanted to talk strategy -- "a little foreplay before we do it" -- but Darryl had a Limitless DVD, which everyone was much more enthusiastic about. (A joke that made me laugh way more than it should. Excellent timing, Office scribes: How did you know Bradley Cooper would be named People's Sexiest Man Alive this week?)

Once they arrived at the Gettysburg site, Andy shunned the traditional tour for his own backwoods version, which allowed Dwight plenty of time to try and sell Erin on the fact that Schrute Farms was actually the home to the Northern-most battle of the Civil War -- not Gettysburg. "It makes the battle of Gettysburg sound like a bunch of school girls wrestling over a hair brush," he explained. Oscar, backed by history books, came along and tried to give Erin some more accurate information about actual Civil War battles. Commenter discussion: Erin: Charmingly naïve or disturbingly dumb?

Naturally, the gang on the trip (Jim, Darryl, Phyllis, Erin, Dwight, Oscar) get tired of Andy's tour, and just wanted to lie in the grass and/or go back to work. Andy got upset and stormed off -- sound familiar?

My main problem with this episode was the main plot felt like a rehash of several classic episodes, all kind of stuck together. I realize this show is in its eighth season, which can sometimes feel like four score and seven years in TV time. (See what I did there?) But besides the general boss over-enthusiasm for a dumb idea, there was the local field trip element that we'd seen before in both "Beach Games," "Booze Cruise," and when Michael took the ladies to the Steamtown mall for some girl talk. Dwight once again wanted to out-history someone, like he did when stripper Ben Franklin came by the office. Obviously, some plot elements are going to be recurring -- especially hit jokes -- but for this plot, the laughs weren't big enough for me to overlook the recycling.

The episode did end funnier than it began, with a great revelation. We learned Dwight wasn't entirely wrong about The Battle at Schrute Farms. He just wasn't accurate about the battle part. Turns out, Schrute farms (helped along by the Schrutes) was an artistic community full of "peaceful delicate, lovely men" that was a refuge from all the fighting. Oscar was fascinated, but upon learning that the Schrutes were not always the warriors Dwight had envisioned, Dwight stormed out of the room, his trip, and possibly year, ruined.



Oscar has found an archivist to shoot down Dwight, who preemptively dismisses the member of "the Gettysburg-industrial complex." But the old guy has heard of the Battle of Schrute Farms. He sits them down in front of a video about that very subject, which, as it turns out, was not the bloody, savage meat grinder Dwight's been claiming it was, but a code name for an artistic retreat for sissy-mary nancy-boy pacifists. There are even daguerreotypes of men putting on plays, having drum circles and hanging out together naked. At least one of the guys in the photos looks distinctly Schrute-like. "Wow, this is so much better than the story you made up," Oscar tells Dwight, who storms out.

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