"The Seminar" is the fourteenth episode of the seventh season of the American television comedy series The Office and the 140th episode overall. It was written by Steve Hely and directed by B.J. Novak. It originally aired on January 27, 2011. It was viewed by 7.93 million people.

Cold open

In the cold open, Michael bumps into David Brent outside an elevator. After realizing David is English, Michael tells him about a character he came up with and they immediately begin to share with each other racist jokes about British and Chinese people. When David points out the politically-incorrect nature of their joking, Michael corrects him saying it's just comedy and David agrees, saying, "Comedy is a place where the mind goes to tickle itself", then adding Michael's favorite catch phrase "That's what she said." Michael then gives David a hug, and David asks if Dunder Mifflin is hiring. Michael says "not right now" and David asks him to drop a line if they do have any openings.

Synopsis

In order to improve his worst-in-office sales totals, Andy decides to hold a seminar on starting a small business as a means to lure potential clients. He originally enlists Jim to be one of the guest speakers, but Jim abruptly pulls out when he sees one of the audience members and quickly leaves. Seeing Jim leave and thinking the idea has failed, the other speakers (Dwight, Phyllis and Stanley) also pull out leaving Andy to replace them with Kevin, Creed and Ryan. Kevin's speech goes badly when he gets ill from running around the room and vomits in front of the audience. Kelly, who replaces Ryan, makes things slightly better when she calls up an old professor from her management training time at Yale (whom she may have slept with) to talk business lessons, but Creed ruins it when he goes into a speech about the Loch Ness Monster.

In an attempt to help Andy with his seminar, Michael has taken a Greek persona of "Mykonos". After noting that he sounds more Italian than Greek, Holly spends the day helping Michael develop his character. While trying out his character on Hank, Holly creates her own persona as "Necropolis", "Mykonos's" wife. The two attend the seminar in character as husband and wife, and in a talking head, until Michael professes his love for her while in character and she decides to go back to work.

Meanwhile, Erin is trying to beat Gabe in a game of Scrabble. Unfortunately, she's not very good, and the winner of their Scrabble games always picks the movie they watch. Since Gabe has already subjected her to numerous horror movies such as The Shining, Rosemary's Baby and The Ring, Erin desperately needs a win. With the help of Oscar and Pam, she almost beats Gabe but loses on the last turn, because she doesn't realize Oscar is trying to feed her a winning word ("apoplexy") and instead puts in the word "ape".

After Jim spends all day outside of the office, Pam forces him to tell the camera crew why he's avoiding the guy (Tom Witochkin) he saw at the seminar. He and the man were friends in third-grade who were placed in separate reading groups in school (Jim was in the higher-level one). After his mother told him to hang out with his "smart" friends, Jim told Tom that "mom says you're too dumb to hang out with." Jim eventually bumps into him in the break room, and tries to laugh off their history, but Tom mocks Jim for not being as successful as his superior intellect would have indicated, and snarks "Where's your jet pack, Zuckerberg?"

Back at Andy's seminar, Dwight talks to one of the attendees, a man who owns a golf supply business, and realizes that this could actually be a good opportunity for the sales team. He, along with Phyllis and Stanley, try to rejoin Andy, who refuses at Darryl's prompting. At the end of the seminar, Andy is able to sell three packages, thanks to the advice of Michael.

At the end of the day, Gabe shows Erin the movie they'll be watching that night, Hardware, which involves a killer robot (calling it a compromise because Erin wanted to watch WALL-E). As he is leaving, a confident Andy, who is still trying to win Erin back, hands her a copy of Shrek 2 to her delight.

Cultural references

  • Andy calls Jim "Tuna Turner", this is a play of words combining Andy's nickname for Jim (Big Tuna) and the singer Tina Turner. He also calls Jim "simply the best", like in Turner's hit song "The Best".
  • Amuse-bouche is a single, bite-sized first course meal.
  • Erin lists the movies Gabe has picked for them to watch: The Shining, Rosemary's Baby and The Ring, all horror movies.
  • Mykonos calls the musical Grease "home", most likely because it sounds like "Greece", even though there's nothing Greek about the story of it.
  • Creed describes something he believes to be the Loch Ness Monster.
  • Gabe wants to watch Suspiria, another horror film, while Erin's film of choice is the computer-animated romantic sci-fi WALL-E.
  • Gabe thinks Erin is living out some sort of Slumdog Millionaire situation. This is reference to the movie where the main character plays "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" and surprisingly answers all the questions correctly because they all related to his childhood and upbringing. This movie was also referenced in "Company Picnic", as the skit Michael and Holly performed was a Dunder Mifflin-themed parody of the movie.
  • Tom calls Jim Zuckerberg, the inventor of Facebook who was a billionaire by the age of 23.

Connections to previous episodes

  • Michael tells David about his character Ping who is first seen in "The Dundies".
  • Jim outsells Dwight in November, December, and January, even though Dwight is often regarded as the best salesman in the company. This may be partly explained by the "hot sales streak" Jim was on in "WUPHF.com", which aired in November.

Trivia

  • This episode is rich in people's different characters/brands:
    1. Kelly's are "the business bitch, the diet bitch, the shopping bitch, the etiquette bitch";
    2. Michael mentions Ping and Reginald Poofter, then spends his day as Mykonos;
    3. Holly does a foreign impression;
    4. David Brent does his Chinese character, much to Michael's joy.
  • Both Michael and David have an offensive Chinese character.
  • Michael meets David Brent, his counterpart from the original UK series The Office.
  • David asks Michael if Dunder Mifflin-Sabre had any jobs going, and later in the season David does a web interview for an opening.
  • Stanley does not appear on Andy's flier for his business seminar, however he is one of the speakers who eventually backs out.
  • Gabe has a Macbook Pro on his desk instead of a normal PC like all the other desks in the office have.
  • The flyer Andy creates for his business seminar reads as:
    • How To Grow Your Small Business
      • Hosted by Andy Bernard
      • Introduction by Jim Halpert
      • Small Business Expert Phyllis Vance
      • Special Guest Speaker Dwight Schrute
    • Improve Sales, Increase Customer Retention, Harness The Power of the Internet Search Engine Revolution to take Your Small Business Global! Use Local Radio To Reach New Customers
  • The sales numbers for the Scranton branch salesmen and deliverymen for November, December and January are:
    • Jim: 31,702/ 24,604/ 11,504
    • Dwight: 28,605/ 23,801/ 10,702
    • Phyllis: 23,608/ 18,605/ 8,471
    • Stanley:20,206/ 15,972/ 7,605
    • Madge: 9,208/ 8,021/ 3,004
    • Glenn: 8,731/ 7,615/ 2,892
    • Hidetoshi: 8,460/ 7,208/ 2,681
    • Andy: 7,462/ 5,216/ 2,387

Amusing details

  • Andy is outsold by warehouse delivery drivers Madge, Hidetoshi, and Glenn.
  • Judging by the way that he answers the phone, it suggests Kelly had a relationship with the professor while at Yale.
  • When Oscar gives Erin the phone to put in the final word to beat Gabe, he says he will have "apoplexy" if she doesn't win. Apoplexy is unconsciousness from a stroke, and Oscar is also hinting that this is the word she must put in.
  • Erin's choice of words are associated with animals, first choosing cow related words and "ape" as her last word in the game.
  • Kelly hugs Ryan sympathetically when he appears to have a dilemma on whether to help Andy with his seminar.
  • Gabe thought Erin wanted to watch WALL-E because she liked robots, and so chooses a horror movie about an evil robot.

Quotes

see The Seminar Quotes

Cast

Main Cast

Supporting Cast

Recurring Cast

Guest Cast

  • Greg Tuculescu as Tom
  • Michael Tuba Heatherton as Seminar Attendee
  • Janet Hoskins as Seminar Attendee
  • Kim Kim as Seminar Attendee
  • Christopher Nicholas Smith as Seminar Attendee
  • Janet Song as Seminar Attendee
  • Charles C. Stevenson Jr. as Seminar Attendee
  • Ricky Gervais as David Brent (Uncredited)
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