Litigation Value: From Dunder Mifflin’s corporate perspective, likely $0, though it might find itself having to defend claims that it should be liable for Michael’s tuition promise. Michael on the other hand . . . but you can’t get blood from a turnip, right?
Just how long has Michael Scott been wreaking havoc on the greater Scranton area? From this episode of The Office, Scott’s Tots, we learn that he’s been at it for at least 10 years, when he promised a group of third graders — Scott’s Tots — that he would pay their college tuition should they graduate from high school. Oh those heady days of 1999, when Michael thought he’d be a millionaire by age 30, 40 at the latest. Well, it’s 2009 now and the chickens have come home to roost. In a series of cringe-inducing scenes, Michael tries to avoid facing the music at all, then reluctantly comes clean, but only after letting the kids sing his praises.
It is clearly wrong to promise children that you’ll pay their college tuition when you don’t have the means to do so — though, as Erin pointed out, Scott’s Tots had a much higher graduation rate than their fellow students, so the promise may have had some benefit to them after all. It wouldn’t be particularly shocking if some of the families sued under a breach of contract/detrimental reliance theory, and that they might try to go after the deep (relatively speaking, but better hurry) pocket of Dunder Mifflin. However, from what we learned about Michael’s commitment — such as the newspaper article talking about a “local businessman’s” promise, the name “Scott’s Tots” — it appears that this was his idea, not the corporation’s. Dunder Mifflin, therefore, should be able to avoid any liability for Michael’s tuition promise.
The second story line involves the continuation of Dwight Schrute’s “Diabolical Plan” to unseat co-manager Jim Halpert. This week’s effort is complicated and convoluted, involving putting Andy Bernard up to give Jim the idea for an Employee of the Month award, then rigging the process so that Jim — and then wife Pam — will win, followed by Dwight imitating all of the Office denizens’ voices in calls to corporate expressing their outrage about the whole shooting match. It all goes according to plan, except that Dwight overestimates what corporate’s reaction will be. Although I could see claims that Jim — and perhaps the other Office mates — could bring against Dwight personally for these shenanigans, Dwight isn’t a management employee, and thus Dunder Mifflin should not have any potential liability itself. It does make good TV though — and it only gets more intriguing with Dwight apparently gaining Ryan as a partner in crime.
Finally, a word about the cold open, in which Michael summons Andy into his office to discuss Andy’s use of baby talk. A predilection toward replacing Rs with Ws — at least one that isn’t the result of a disability of some sort — is not a protected characteristic (yet). Thus, Michael and Dunder Mifflin can “wewax” — there’s no problem telling Andy to grow up in his use of language.