Broke (The Office)
"Broke" is the 25th episode of the fifth season of the television series The Office, and the 97th overall episode of the series. It originally aired on NBC in the United States on April 23, 2009. In this episode, Michael learns his paper company is broke, and tries to keep this fact a secret when Dunder Mifflin offers to buy out the Michael Scott Paper Company since the company has stolen most of Dunder Mifflin Scranton's core clients.
|The Office episode|
|Episode no.||Season 5|
|Directed by||Steve Carell|
|Written by||Charlie Grandy|
|Cinematography by||Randall Einhorn|
|Editing by||David Rogers|
|Original air date||April 23, 2009|
The episode was written by Charlie Grandy and directed by Steve Carell, marking his directorial debut. "Broke" was the last of a six-episode arc involving Michael quitting to start the Michael Scott Paper Company; it was also the last of six episodes to prominently feature Idris Elba as Dunder Mifflin V.P. Charles Miner. According to Nielsen ratings, it was watched by 7.21 million viewers, and received the season's lowest rating in the 18–49 age group during its regular timeslot to that point in the season.
Michael (Steve Carell), Pam (Jenna Fischer) and Ryan (B. J. Novak) make early morning paper deliveries in a used van. The van has Korean writing on it which translates to "Hallelujah Church of Scranton." This routine, in addition to their regular duties at the Michael Scott Paper Company, takes such a toll on the group that they decide to look into hiring a delivery person. They are told by their accountant that because of their low prices and fixed-cost pricing model, they not only cannot afford a delivery person, but will be completely bankrupt in another month. Pam reveals to her coworkers that she has committed a great deal of money to her upcoming wedding and has had no response to the weekend part-time job applications she's submitted. Ryan responds by confessing that he actually went to Fort Lauderdale instead of Thailand.
At Dunder Mifflin, Charles Miner (Idris Elba) announces that the Scranton branch, previously the company's most profitable office, has lost ten major clients to Michael's company. Chief Financial Officer David Wallace (Andy Buckley) visits Scranton to see what can be done to stem the losses. In a blatant about-face from his no-nonsense persona, Charles sucks up to David, which Jim notices. David calls a meeting with Charles and Jim (John Krasinski), but Charles insists Dwight (Rainn Wilson) also be present because he had been Charles's right-hand man. However, during the meeting, Dwight embarrasses Charles with outlandish suggestions, such as unleashing a hive of bees into Michael's office.
David decides the cheapest option is for Dunder Mifflin to buy out the Michael Scott Paper Company. Jim has learned the company's financial situation from Pam but feigns uncertainty when asked if Michael is likely to be interested in a buyout. At David and Charles's orders, Jim brings the idea of a buyout to Michael, reassuring Michael that Dunder Mifflin is unaware of his company's financial situation. Dwight learns from a past client that Michael has been begging customers for more money and informs Charles, but Charles refuses to listen, having been embarrassed by Dwight's earlier ideas.
Michael, Pam and Ryan come in to discuss the terms of the buyout. After Michael rejects an initial offer of $12,000 to buy the company, David suggests that he is bluffing, saying he knows that his company's prices are too low to be sustainable. Michael keeps his cool and rebuts that Dunder Mifflin's best branch is "bleeding" and David could be replaced during an upcoming major stockholder meeting as a result. David gives a second offer of $60,000, which is strongly considered, but Michael rejects this offer at the last second and demands the company give him his old job back and hire Ryan and Pam as salespeople. David is reluctant to hire three people with full benefits, especially given Ryan's disastrous history with the company, and likens it to "a multimillion-dollar buyout". Michael refuses to back down, and David reluctantly agrees to his demands.
As Charles leaves Scranton, returning to corporate, Michael does not allow him to have any final words, mirroring Charles's earlier treatment of Michael when he quit.
"Broke" was written by Charlie Grandy and directed by Steve Carell, who made his directorial debut with the episode. It was the last of a six-episode story arc involving Idris Elba's character Charles Miner, although Elba has indicated the character would return in future episodes: "Mr. Charles doesn't leave the picture. [...] My storyline has come to an end, but there is a good indication that the writers see my character coming back." Elba made an appearance in "Company Picnic", the fifth season finale. Elba said he did not watch "Broke" after it aired because "I'm hypercritical about my work, so I try not to torture myself."
The official website for The Office included three cut scenes from "Broke". In the first 90-second clip, Michael is running late because he overslept, and he instinctively runs into the Dunder Mifflin office by accident instead of his Michael Scott Paper Company office. In the second one-minute clip, Andy is angry that he cannot find his personalized coffee mug with his face on it, and he and the others around the office complain about losing their clients to Michael's new company. In the final 80-second clip, stress drives Ryan to the breaking point and he begins trashing the Michael Scott Paper Company Office, for which he quickly recovers and apologizes.
In its original American broadcast on April 23, 2009, "Broke" was watched by 7.21 million viewers, according to Nielsen ratings. The episode received a 3.7 rating/10 share among viewers aged 18–49, the lowest rating in that age group for the season during its regular timeslot. It received a 4.0 rating/12 share among viewers 18–34.
The episode received highly positive reviews. Alan Sepinwall of The Star-Ledger called "Broke" a "great, great" episode, although he said he wished the Michael Scott Paper Company arc could have lasted longer. Sepinwall praised touches such as the Korean women who were constantly getting into the sales van, and Michael's moment of nervousness on the elevator, and said the ending when Michael came through was particularly satisfying. Will Leitch of New York magazine described "Broke" as "a rousing, exuberant episode that continues one of The Office's best runs in history". Leitch said the negotiations during the latter half of the episode had genuine tension, and that all the storylines of the Michael Scott Paper Company arc were wrapped up perfectly. Travis Fickett of IGN said the episode was strong enough that it could have served as the season finale. He said the episode had lots of good throw-away moments, like Charles brown-nosing to David and realizing Dwight is eccentric, as well as several clever twists, like Jim's actions in tricking Dwight and helping the Michael Scott Paper Company get bought out. Eric Rezsnyak of the City Newspaper said the episode was a strong finale to the Michael Scott Paper Company arc, which was "probably the best thing to happen to the show in the last two seasons". Rezsnyak praised Michael's impressive actions in the episode and said he was curious to see how Michael's relationship with several of the supporting characters would be recast as a result of this episode.
Margaret Lyons of Entertainment Weekly said, "'Broke' was an incredibly brisk episode that covered a lot of ground, so it worked as a good capstone on the whole Michael-leaving-the-company plot." She also said although the plot arc was a good one, she looked forward to future episodes focusing more on the Dunder Mifflin supporting cast. Rick Porter of Zap2it praised the episode, but expressed concern that the show would grow more stale now that Michael, Pam and Ryan were back to their old jobs at Dunder Mifflin; Porter particularly complimented the new aspects of the Charles Miner character presented in "Broke", including his interaction with David and his exasperation with Dwight. Dan Hopper of Best Week Ever praised the episode and Michael's shrewdness, but also expressed worry that the quality of future episodes would dip now that Dunder Mifflin was back to normal. Nathan Rabin of The A.V. Club said of the episode, "Elba's stint on The Office went out on a high note. I'll miss his joyless scold of a middle manager but it's nice to have the gang reunited." Rabin also said the moment when Charles fails to listen when Dwight learns Michael's company is broke "rang a little false", but praised the episode as a whole. Meghan Carlson of BuddyTV said she enjoyed seeing Michael so victorious at the end, and said, "as far as ends getting tied off cleanly, 'Broke' was an inspired episode, full of tension, suspense, and yes, humor."
"Broke" was voted the highest-rated episode out of 26 from the fifth season, according to an episode poll at the fansite OfficeTally; the episode was rated 9.17 out of 10. For his work on this episode, Charlie Grandy was nominated for a Writers Guild of America Award for Best Screenplay – Episodic Comedy. Steve Carell submitted this episode when he was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, which he lost to Alec Baldwin.
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