Tori’s Review: Branch Wars

About 6 months ago, Jim Halpert broke up with Karen Filipelli and left her crying by a fountain in New York. I must say, since then, Karen’s life is looking up. She has a good job at a well respected Dunder Mifflin branch in Utica …

… and Jim is dressed like Earl Hickey, hiding in a PT Cruiser that kind of smells like pee.

Branch Wars started with Karen offering Stanley more money to leave Scranton and go to Utica. While most managers try to keep good employees by offering a raise or more vacation, Michael’s brain just doesn’t work that way.

Michael doesn’t understand why someone would ever want to leave Scranton. To him, DM Scranton is family, his home team, his Apollo Theater, and a place where no one would dare wear a red bow tie.

So he fights back the only way he knows how: Molotov cocktails, grand theft, and bladder incontinence.

While much of this episode was classic Michael mania, the interesting thing to me was that Jim was forced to participate. Usually we watch him watch, horrified from the sidelines, so it was great to see him as the straight man in the mess. Especially with Karen involved. And, it created the opportunity for Michael to tell Jim to “just climb on top of her and think about Stanley,” which is my new favorite line.

I do have one question about where the cameraman was during the idiot road trip to Utica. We’re all pretty forgiving when the show pushes the documentary format. I believed two cameramen hid in the office to catch Jim and Pam’s first kiss, I believed a seasoned cameraman would stay quiet and keep shooting while in the backseat of a sinking car, but what the hell? Was Verne Troyer wedged between the dashboard and windshield?

Eh, I’ll believe this one too just because we got to see Dwight pee in a can, complete with grossed-out close up shots.

I loved the transition from Dwight cutting his penis, to The Finer Things Club tactfully sipping tea (Pam’s teapot!). The club was very funny, but also a little strange to me. I consider Pam, Toby and Oscar to be the “normal” ones. Normal enough to laugh at someone who would wear a babushka on their lunch break.

But, I thought it was a cute take on book clubs and other activities that give office workers the feeling they can break out of the cubicle walls, if only for a short time. I have a feeling, though, if given the chance, Toby would strangle Oscar with his red bow tie to have lunch alone with Pam once a month.

When Michael and Dwight’s plan literally crashed and burned, Jim found himself face-to-face with Karen. There is no doubt in my mind that Jim is totally in love with Pam, but we have seen in the past that Jim isn’t always the perfect guy. He dumped Katy on the booze cruise, and Karen by a fountain.

I like that the writers haven’t made him too perfect. He is real, and real people sometimes don’t know what to do or say, and hurt people when they don’t intend to.

Jim may have looked like a jackass dress liked Earl Hickey in a PT Cruiser that smelled a little bit like pee, but he also finally has the one thing he has wanted for years. While Karen is doing well and (almost) moving on, things are looking up for Jim too.

Hopefully this will make his expulsion from The Finer Things Club a little easier to take.

Tori Weber is a Web Producer and writer for a television news station in Orlando, FL. Writing keeps her sane, and ice cream makes her happy. Dogs are good too. Visit her here.


  1. My impression was that the Scranton cameramen stayed behind with The Finer Things Club, and the Utica cameramen were secretly alerted by the Scranton crew so that they could catch Michael, Dwight and Jim in the parking lot without interfering by making Karen or the Utica employees aware of the prank taking place. If not, why wouldn’t the Utica cameramen be inside the building to catch Michael and Dwight’s ruined revenge?

    I think the better question is whether we’re supposed to believe that cameramen were put in a regular position to watch Karen, just as they followed Jim to Stamford, or if they just happened to show up on the right day to check in.

  2. Well, the camera men had to have put cameras in the Jim/Dwight/Michael car and then also followed them in their own car, because when they get out to look for Jim’s cell phone, mid-trip, they are being filmed.

  3. I only watched the episode once, so i guess i didn’t think that the camera action was weird. I just thought that the lipstick cameras did some of the first shots and a crew of cameras followed them on a car behind the PT Cruiser. I’ve seen that done in the early seasons of the Real World.

    I guess i’d have to watch it again to see if that’s a possibility

  4. About the mid-rise thing, the cell phone was thrown momentarily after they missed the exit for the supposed Staples sales call. By that logic, one would assume they’re still in the Scranton area, and someone from the Scranton branch would be called on to come and film the cell phone search.

    I love defending my theories.

  5. Yeah, I figure that they had lipstick cameras and the cameramen were in a separate car and control the camera with some sort of hand held device like a remote control. i’m not tech savvy but I’m guessing that because it makes the most sense to me. Great review as always.

  6. I justified the 4 different camera angles in the car as that the camera crew set up 4 different cameras. When it went to a different shot, it stayed in one place instead of moving around like not in the car. And the documentary crew probably followed them on the way to Utica, explaining the stop they made..

  7. Loved the little details, like Pam’s green teapot from Jim on the table during the Finer Things Club meeting. And one of MY favorite lines was when Michael was talking to Jim over the walkie-talkie, and things were going horribly wrong inside the Utica branch… Michael says to Jim, “If this is it for me, promise me something. Host the Dundies.”

    And “the eyes are the groin of the head.”

  8. Four mini-cams mounted inside Michael’s car, one for each single person shot, and a wide-angle lens to capture all three. A two-camera crew in a car following the trio and a second unit with a single camera in Utica.

  9. I am pretty sure they split up the camera crew. We know they use up to 5 cameras at times, so it’s totally plausible that one cameraman tailed Jim/Michael/Dwight, and the rest stayed in Scranton. Oddly enough, this is the one episode that I thought they did a better job at completing the documentary style. There are no Utica cameramen, the documentary is only about the Scranton branch and the people involved. The scene that threw me off was that part of the crew was already in Utica filming Karen make her very first call to Stanley…how did they know she was going to call? If anyone can explain that one, please do.

  10. Your review is (yet again) top notch and portrays exactly what I feel about the episode, down to the noticing of the “tea pot.”

    This show never ceases to amaze me.

  11. The doc crew probably found out about Stanley’s decision to leave and combined it with interest in a follow-up on Karen to justify a one-day trip to Utica. Watch closely and you’ll notice Karen wears the same purple shirt the entire episode which signifies that all the Utica stuff (cold open call with Stanley, reaction shot of call with Michael, confrontation with Jim) happened on a single day.

  12. When Karen first picks up the phone, she says, “Hey, we finally connected.” That means that the call was expected. I assumed that the camera crew probably got a heads up from Stanley (whether he told them outright or they noticed him corresponding with the Utica branch), and sent a camera to Utica to wait for the call and film Karen’s side of it.

    As for the documentary style in this episode, I personally loved when Jim and the cameraman were hiding. The camera slowly lifted up, Karen saw it, and then it ducked right back down. Jim looked back at the camera, realized what happened, and gave the cameraman a kind of, “What the hell, man?” look. Perfection!

  13. Also, this camera stuff is just like it was in Woman’s Appreciation when they followed Micael and the girls to the mall and then they got a flat tire.
    I like to assume that the camera crew follows in their own car (like in Fun Run when Pam picks Jim up) in addition to the lipstick cameras in the cars.

  14. Also, this camera stuff is just like it was in Woman’s Appreciation when they followed Michael and the girls to the mall and then they got a flat tire.
    I like to assume that the camera crew follows in their own car (like in Fun Run when Pam picks Jim up) in addition to the lipstick cameras in the cars.

  15. This time, two things were not well played/thought. Dwight is in Michael’s office when he heards that Stanley is going to leave Scranton. But 1 minute later you see him surprised to hear the news from Michael. Why? He already knows it. He (Rainn) should have thought about that before.
    Or when he’s in the car and he throws Jim’s mobile phone out of the car. He’s laughing and BEFORE Jim could say that he had in his mobile phone his brother’s son’s photos, Dwight was allready looking serious and guilty because of doing that. How could he know that Jim was going to say that?
    I hope you could understand what I wanted to say.
    greez dani

  16. Didn’t Karen say something at the beginning like “we’re finally connecting?” Maybe Stanley had told the camera crew that Karen had left him a message but she wouldn’t say about what, so they went up to Utica to check it out. And I also thought they had cameras mounted in the car and then a camera man drove behind them. Just more documentary type thoughts.

  17. You know what I loved about this episode? Even though Karen has a respectable job and was trying to act like she was above Scranton, she completely stepped down 10 levels once Jim was in her office. She started screeching and fuming like a crazy person.. so immature and bitter! She is definitely not above anyone. Anyone who pretended to ignore the whole Jim/Pam chemistry for as long as she did had that one coming. Hope she has fun with the next guy that uses her to get over their past love.

  18. Re: Camera crew issues. In my head, I thought that the mockumentary was of Dunder Mifflin in general, that every branch and corporate had its own crew all the time. We just got to see only the Scranton crew unless one of the Scranton people went to another branch and got filmed by that crew. Except that this time both crews were in Utica.

  19. I think my favorite line was from Oscar “Aside my sleeping with men, The Finer Things Club is the gayest thing I have ever done.”

    Other things I loved…Phyllis having to push 20 buttons to make popcorn, Kevin beating up the candy machine and rustling the noisy chips, the whole copier machine stealing scene was made so much better by hearing it over the Walkie Talkie and I definitely LOVED when Michael asked Jim to host the Dundies. I had to rewind a few times to catch that because I was distracted by Karen coming over to the car and being worried that she was catching Jim in the act.

  20. Was it me, or do you think Andy might have paid Phyllis and Keven to make all that noise for some reason, maybe for payback?

  21. #17 LL,
    I totally agree with everything you said. Let’s not forget that, in the beginning of the episode, Stanley calls Karen (or at least returns a message). So the camera crew could have very well been given a heads up and went to Utica to catch the phone conversation. I also loved the interaction between Jim and the cameraman when they were hiding from Karen in the car.

  22. Just about the camera placement in the car. Remember in Cocktails on both drives with Michael and Dwight and then Michael, Dwight, and Jan…the camera was placed really funnilly at the front of the car on the driver’s side. So…it’s happened before.
    It doesn’t bother me at all.

  23. Hey, why do people care where the Cameras are, enjoy the show for what it is, not what it strove to be.

  24. Like phyllis*farm said, they have lipstick cams on the dashboard of the cars when they use them.

  25. Regarding the cameras… No decent documentary producer would ever EVER rely solely on lipstick cameras in a car. I’m quite sure there would be a production van following the car to capture all of the other action. To let the subjects of your film leave on such an interesting trip and not be prepared for full coverage would make for a pretty dull film/series. Trust me, this documentary team always has cameras at the ready to film Mr. Michael Scott.

  26. SnavenShake – The camera crew is another character on the show even though we never see them. Also, the show is always seen through the camera’s POV. We only see what they want us to see and that’s why it’s important for the continuity of the show. It’s supposed to feel like an authentic documentary.

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