S8:E17 Last week's episode of The Office featured quite a few developments, which was a welcome change for this season's lack thereof. Almost equally surprising: More of the same tonight! Dwight and Co. are still down in Tallahassee, where Sabre's first-ever merchandise store is set to open with a lot at stake for both Dwight and the company. Back in Scranton, meanwhile, the usual shenanigans with Andy, Pam and the rest of the gang. Only -- the shenanigans are actually pretty funny. Let's have a look ...
"There’s plenty for everyone! No need to stampede!" –Dwight, to a small, perfectly orderly crowd gathered outside Sabre’s store
In recent weeks, we'd seen Todd Packer (returning guest star David Koechner) and Dwight competing over Nellie Bertram (returning guest star Catherine Tate) en route to the vacant position of VP of special operations. But last week, you'll remember, Packer's drink was spiked (thanks to Gabe), and he more or less fell out of the race. This episode, the position is Dwight's to lose, with his big test being the grand opening of the Apple-like Sabre store and the management of the entire team -- including a presentation by Ryan, on which everything is basically hinging. Problem is, Ryan gets cold feet just before he's about to give said presentation -- despite the pretty hilarious role-playing efforts from Jim and Dwight -- leaving Jim, who'd earlier been reprimanded for not using his company-provided Arrowhead (Sabre's triangle-shaped iPhone equivalent) to talk on the phone. After a heartfelt plea from Dwight ("If you don't do this, I don't stand a chance."), Jim steps up to the plate, donning the white suit and eyeliner that Ryan was set to sport and giving a home-run presentation that includes the big unveiling of Sabre's previously seen triangular tablet. After the successful presentation and rapturous, er, audible applause from the few tech bloggers on hand, Nellie shoots Dwight a look of disdain and summons him. Is she actually mad at him? Of course not. Rather, she tells him that he's the new vice president. Next week should be interesting ...
"Hey, I was on the can. What’s this about a black guy in the office?" -Meredith, mistakenly getting excited after overhearing "black eye"
Meanwhile, back in Scranton, business as usual -- only, as mentioned earlier, there's actually funny business going on, instead episode-filling business. Andy walks in trying not let people notice that he has a black eye. Once Kevin calls for his attention, the whole office gets a look at his bruised face, which is when he's forced to explain what happened: He and Pam were arriving for the day, when a gang started hassling Pam, so naturally Andy stepped in, threw a punches and took a few, too. But ... footage of the real incident plays during Andy's explanation, and we viewers see that a few schoolgirls were throwing pine cones at Pam when Andy tried to intervene and just flat-out got beaten up. Of course, the rest of the office doesn't learn of the embarrassing truth until the attacker and her mom enter and the young girl gives a forced apology. The whole thing calls for a Toby-led self-defense meeting, at which he and Kelly wind up fighting (instructionally) and Andy winds up with another black eye after trying to break it up. Two black eyes from two girls in one day for Andy. Silly, but pretty funny nonetheless. And hey, it sure beats another Daryl-Val-relationship episode!
This really might've been the best episode of the season. We've got developments -- not just Dwight landing the VP position (and the potential consequences thereof down the road) but also Erin's pledge to forget her "best friend" Andy and Ryan hopping a bus to go see his mom, which somehow didn't seem temporary -- and probably the best laughs all season: Meredith's aforementioned one-liner; a scene between Meredith and Creed during Toby's self-defense meeting; the role playing from Jim and Dwight to Ryan; and finally, Jim's hilarious appearance as Ryan's last-minute fill-in. It's the best performance, in the true sense of the word, given by John Krasinski since season 2's "Casino Night." Can the writers and actors continue their winning streak next week? Just another reason -- of suddenly several! -- for us to tune in.
S8:E16 Last week's episode of The Office took a step back in the right direction and hinted at some major developments. Tonight we saw those developments -- or at least the shapes they might take -- and perhaps an even stronger episode. Dwight, Jim, Kathy, Erin, Ryan and Stanley are still in Florida, where the most drama transpires (in the romance and job departments), but the goings-on back in Scranton more than hold their own and devote the entire Dunder Mifflin leg of the story to a somewhat underused member of the office.
"She’s going to give it to me … as I’m giving it to her, tonight." –Todd Packer
There was a LOT to grasp in the Tallahassee/special-projects arc of tonight's story, some of which we might've seen coming with subtle foreshadowing in previous episodes and some of which, well, we knew was coming, because it was promised at the end of last episode. Let's start with the latter: We knew that Packer and Dwight would fight to the death, almost, for the vacant position of vice president of special projects, directly beneath (pun intended in this case) Nellie Bertram (returning guest star Catherine Tate) -- and fight it out they most certainly do. What begins as an unfriendly game of appealing to Nellie's every whim (i.e. simulating a beach setting) ends when Dwight, with an assist from Gabe, spikes Packer's drink, causing him to effectively drop out of the race for the night ... and puke all over Gabe. It sends Nellie, by default, into Dwight's room "one-on-one time," er, sex, but Dwight isn't interested and it looks like we'll have to wait until next episode to see the true outcome. The first of two romantic developments involves the somewhat weird cat-and-mouse thing going on between Ryan and Erin, but it seems to have ended when Erin informs Ryan, presumably, that it might take up to six months for them to have sex. The second of two such developments is a little more consequential. We're talking about Jim and Kathy, who invites herself into Jim's hotel room, clad in only PJs, and not the type you wear to keep warm. Things immediately get too close for comfort, which is when Jim blows the whistle. Kathy promises she's not there for "that," but before long she's in a bathrobe -- after a shower in his room! -- resting up against Jim. Soon thereafter, Jim has had enough and brings in the big guns: Dwight, responding to a bed-bug disturbance. He literally sprays Kathy out of Jim's room, ending any chance for a hookup. But not ending the chance of drama once Jim and the rest of the gang return to Scranton ...
"OK, everybody – 5 o’clock, workday’s over. Put your pencils down … and pick ‘em back up! Because now, the late-night work jam begins." –Andy
As previously promised, Tallahassee wasn't the only place to see a little romantic drama in tonight's episode. That's right -- love is in the air in Scranton, and no, it's not Creed and Meredith. But first, the obligatory boring setup side-story: Andy forces everyone to stay late to service the accounts of their office-mates who went to Florida. Unexciting as usual -- that is, until everyone converges in the conference room, where Daryl and Val are sitting next to each other. Remember, they have a history: In the quasi-Valentine's Day episode two weeks ago, the two of them danced around their apparent interest in one another. All ended well and all seemed well in that episode, as the two acknowledged the attraction. Tonight, though, Val's boyfriend enters the picture, literally, when he drops off some Jamaican food and a threat to Daryl to stay away from Val, claiming to have seen the texts he's sent her. Daryl says the texts were innocent, platonic, but Kelly calls him out when one of the many texts he reads aloud for the group ends in an ellipse ... with two too many dots. Ultimately, the hubbub comes to an end, and Daryl tells Val, "I don't think you and me [as a couple] is ridiculous." To be continued. And nice to See Daryl get an episode to himself!
Overall, this was a great episode, teeming with the developments we've been hoping for -- and teased with -- really all season long. The Jim-and-Kathy (who, it must be said, is slightly "Pam"-y) storyline could be over, but it's more than likely not. Who knows? Jim could fall for her, or she or Dwight could say something to Pam (even though Jim certainly did nothing wrong) when they return to Scranton. The point is, the writers have us, or least me, guessing again and, dare I say, slightly titillated! There were also scenes, primarily between Jim and Dwight, that reminded us of the good ol' days, when there was realistic interplay between the characters, but it was also funny. More of this, please. Please?
S8:E15 Tonight's episode of The Office marked a solid return to form for the show, after a down week (during what has been a very inconsistent season overall). Potentially major developments are alluded to, if not completely in motion, with Dwight and Co. in Tallahassee -- where he and the team he has assembled are working on special projects -- and Andy and Co. back in Scranton. With assists from two returning guest stars, the Florida scenes are funny and reminiscent of previous seasons' episodes spent away from the actual office, while Andy keeps things at least chuckle-worthy back at the workplace. Let's have a look ...
"I had two goals today. First was to make myself a clear candidate for vice president. I achieved that, no thanks to my appendix. The second was to find a memorable souvenir for Philip. For that, I do have to thank my appendix."
Last time out, we watched Dwight assemble his dream, er, nightmare team to take for a three-week trip to Sabre-land in Tallahassee, Florida, where he was to "develop and launch a chain of Sabre stores." Tonight we saw the gang in Florida, but it wasn't exactly smooth sailing for Dwight. It starts out predictable enough: make sure everyone (Jim, Erin, Ryan, Stanley and Kathy) is up and at 'em bright and early. Jim is used to getting up early thanks to his paternal duties, and the time to spare at the hotel enables him to pull off perhaps his greatest prank ever on Dwight: an elaborate murder scene in his room. The rest, though, need Dwight's alarm-clock skills (for Stanley, that means temporary suffocation). Once they're all in the Sabre conference room, we're reintroduced to two former guest stars: the great Todd Packer (David Koechner), Michael Scott's foulmouthed and always inappropriate friend, and Nellie Bertram (Catherine Tate), who appeared on the show late last season as a candidate to replace Michael. She didn't get that job, but she wind up landing the position of president of special projects, while Packer landed in Tallahassee -- and is now Dwight's archenemy, since there is an opening for VICE president of special projects, for which both Dwight and Packer are desperately vying. The early advantage goes to Packer, since Dwight comes down with a case of appendicitis, and if it were anyone else, that would seem to end the competition. But Dwight, unsurprisingly, leaves his hospital bed -- surgical wound still open and IV still attached -- to return to the conference room, where he interrupts Packer in the middle of his presentation. Much to, well, really no one's surprise, Dwight, although struggling mightily, gives his own presentation, which doesn't make much sense but wins the respect of Nellie for his courage alone. Both Packer and Dwight win an exclusive meeting with Nellie following their efforts. To be continued ...
"Dunder Mifflin, how can I help you save money on paper? This is Andrew" –Andy, answering the phone at the office
Meanwhile, back at the Scranton office, where Andy, Pam, Creed, Oscar and the others are supposed to be working ... well, nothing is happening. Literally. In fact, it recalls the Michael Scott days of yore, only much quieter since much of the office is missing. That quiet ends, though (so too does Creed's burst of productivity; he was "able to write 12 plays" thanks to the quiet), when the whole office realizes that Erin set the phone to go straight to voicemail. Andy quickly fixes it, but that creates a new dilemma: Someone actually has to answer the phones! Andy suggests that Pam, having been the office's receptionist for a while, do it, but she refuses. That's when Andy steps up to the plate -- and quickly comes to love the position (despite Daryl's insistence that he not grow too attached). That's pretty much all that happens during the Scranton arc of tonight's episode: boredom, Andy quelling it, repeat. One interesting development does arise, though, while Andy is manning reception: He looks at a photo of Erin and announces that he misses her. So there's that; he's not over her.
Overall, tonight represented a significant step back in the right direction -- and hope that maybe the series still has hope. There were the aforementioned developments, which, although minor, carry potential major implications. And hey, we'll take any developments we can get this season, regardless of their size; after all, for a while it seemed as though there was no continuity and the episodes were a series of one-offs. More promisingly, the humor was top-notch, funnily similar to the effortless comedy of early seasons and refreshingly dissimilar to the forced, uncharacteristic stuff that has pervaded season 8. Some examples not mentioned above: "I want to get a souvenir for my son, but his mother doesn’t acknowledge my paternity. Do you have anything for that?" courtesy of Dwight at the hotel gift shop, recalling Angela's birth of their monster-sized child; and drunk Stanley! We've never seen him so unhinged (at least in a happy way) as in this episode, during which he's pretty much always drunk (and thrilled to be away from his family), and he seems -- as he often has -- like an untapped resource for laughs. It's also worth noting that guest star and British comedienne Tate is pretty hilarious and adds a little bit of David Brent to tonight's episode. Luckily this wasn't her last episode; hopefully we can say the same for the comedy.
S07E25/26: The Office usually manages to pull off incredible season finales. Jim rushing in to kiss Pam at the end of season two. Jim bursting in to ask Pam out at the end of season three. Actually the fourth season wasn’t that good. Five was decent with their pregnancy. And season six? Nope. So basically, what we’ve learned in this opening paragraph is that if The Office doesn’t have some big story involving Jim and Pam in its season finale, it’s not a great finale. And this season is a perfect example.
There were plenty of funny moments in the hour-long episode but from a narrative standpoint it was inconclusive in the worst way. Take the second season-ender; Jim rushes in to kiss Pam, they pull back and BOOM: end of the season. That’s inconclusive, but it also leaves you wanting more. This season, sure we didn’t find out who the new boss is, but we didn’t care. No one appeared competent enough nor was there obvious competition between anyone. So with no tension or conclusion drawn, the episode pretty much failed as a whole.
"As a gay man, I’m horrified. As a friend of Angela’s, horrified. As a lover of elegant weddings, I’m a little excited. But overall, horrified." - Oscar
The episode failed and so did all the guest stars. I know NBC had to advertise them because they weren’t confident anyone would be paying attention after Steve Carell’s exit, but they completely ruined it. Ricky Gervais didn’t even appear in the office, he sent in a video CV. Why? We’d already seen him on the show earlier this year, his interview added nothing, and it wasn’t funny or interesting. What about Jim Carrey? He was barely in it until the very end and we had already seen the punch line about his voice (also he seemed like he was on a green screen; did anyone else notice that or was that just me?). Even though there were rumors about Catherine Tate getting the job, her character wasn’t that interesting nor competent. Buffet was fairly funny as a penny pincher, but really only if you knew it was Warren Buffet. The only guest star that managed to save grace? James Spader. Holy hell was he funny. So intense and creepy. I have no idea if he would work on the show but he was the only guest that made me laugh.
But they weren’t the only ones applying for the job, some internal candidates applied as well. I know I've been saying Darryl would be the one getting the job but dammit, he disappointed me. He got in his own head and thought he could ride on being chummy with the committee. I was genuinely disappointed in him, especially when he brought in his own daughter to try and play the cute card. Andy tried but didn’t really try and somehow managed to come out as the best candidate? Dwight went so far as to bribe everyone and nearly had it despite Jim’s complete abject disagreement. And Kelly showed a lot of balls though she isn’t the most qualified. So yeah, the season ends with Jim having a pool of incredibly unqualified candidates with no hope in sight. Again, it's not the best way to end the season.
And then there was all that stuff with Erin. Actually wait, great news first! Fucking Gabe is going back to Florida! Yay! Jo finally realizes that he got too involved with the people in Scranton for him to function properly so she’s shipping him back off to Florida! Yay! The open puss wound of the office is finally leaving! Hooray! Unfortunately, this doesn’t immediately solve everything for Erin and Andy though since Andy “moved on.” It’s quite obvious they still want to be together but whether the writers can keep up a decent will they, won’t they plotline remains to be seen. Especially since we’ve already gone through that before with them. I just want them to be happy together, I mean, if Erin is willing to give an impromptu puppet performance for him, you've gotta respect that. However, I will say the bit about Kevin not knowing the alphabet is the classic case of extending something too far into unbelievability. I’m willing to believe he’s the biggest idiot in the world, but to not know the alphabet? C’mon.
"Bread is the paper of the food industry. You write your sandwich on it." - Dwight
Also, someone really called Phyllis and Erin thinking they’re birth mother and daughter separated. Making the move of Phyllis not being Erin’s mom was the absolute right move. For starters, had they actually been mother-daughter it would’ve made the show way too soapy. By having Phyllis let Erin believe there is a chance for a bit longer is not only much sweeter, it forces them to create a situation where Phyllis has to tell Erin. I don’t know how it will go but it’ll be very emotional and despite all the flaws of this episode, I still think The Office knows how to deliver some emotionally awkward situations.
Having said all of that, the absolute BEST thing about this episode (and definitely in the top ten moments of the season) was Creed running the place. Oh my God. Just, everything about it was the absolute pinnacle of absurdist humor. Amazing, amazing, amazing, amazing. And then we see Pam stepping in to save everything by having him compare two identical photos and pretending to be the various clients in a long charade. It was genius, perfect, and it almost saved the entire episode from being a complete disaster. Just go watch the beginning again; it’s that good.
So we’ve reached an important turning point for The Office. Next year is going to make or break the show. Either it will find its voice again and the show will continue on or it will fail spectacularly and be canceled. Honestly, I want to see it keep going. I really like these characters and there are plenty of stories left to be told. We’re no closer to knowing what happens next season, especially who will take over as manager, but while this episode shook my confidence a bit I still have the faith. It wasn’t the best episode, but next season is a whole new year. Let’s see what happens.