When your guest stars don't even make it to set, that's when you know your show might be running a little dry.
It was announced in September that The Office's final Halloween episode would be wrangling Stephen Colbert to play the often referenced but never seen Broccoli Rob: an old Cornell college buddy and fellow a cappellian of Andy Bernard. What the reports didn't reveal was that Colbert (Ed Helms' old Daily Show co-correspondent) wouldn't actually be appearing on the episode in the flesh — each of his scenes with Andy took place in the form of online video chat sessions.
The Office has pulled this kind of antic before, slating Jack Black, Jessica Alba, and Cloris Leachman as guest stars on a post-Super Bowl episode in the fifth season — the trio ended up only appearing as characters in a movie that Jim, Pam, and Andy watched on Andy's laptop. But for some reason (call it a greater will to forgive The Office for any and all of its flaws back in those days), that endeavor seemed a bit less "deceitful." There was a concrete reason why Black, Alba, and Leachman would, in the reality of the series, only be seen on a monitor screen. But Colbert's Broccoli Rob interacted with Andy throughout the episode, filling the latter with an envious rage that has padded their friendship for years. This time around, it feels as though The Office simply couldn't get Colbert to come to set, perhaps due to scheduling conflicts.
The story involving Andy and Broccoli Rob was an odd one in itself. When Andy gives a Dunder Mifflin invite to the present members of his old Cornell a cappella group, Here Comes Treble, he learns that his own legacy has barely carried on at his alma mater. Broccoli Rob, who lives near the school and spends a lot of time relishing his younger years, has usurped Andy's alleged position as the group's golden-era hero. And Andy can't handle the idea of his glory-days reputation slipping away.
When The Office first introduced Andy Bernard in Season 3, he was a brutish, insensitive, self-unaware jackass who'd do anything to get ahead in the business world. Ever since, Andy has been redeemed. Through his unfortunate relationship with Angela, his camaraderie with coworkers Kevin and Oscar, his budding friendship with Darryl, his romantic relationship with Erin, and his eventual rise to well-meaning but incompetent regional manager, Andy has become the nice guy. The underdog. The hapless loser for whom we root. But then, Season 9 began, and someone decided to hit the reset button. Since the beginning of the season, Andy has exhibited ruthlessness (especially toward the increasingly sympathetic Nellie), and even insensitivity toward his once beloved Erin. All throughout Thursday night's Halloween episode, Andy obsesses over returning to his stature as Cornell University's a cappella hero, forgoing the wants or needs of his girlfriend (to whom he was once shown to be incredibly attentive). And as she reveals in a talking-head, Erin is beginning to lose respect for Andy... just in time to plant the seeds for a relationship with the attractive, young new guy, Pete. Justice prevails?
Also being torn asunder is the relationship between Jim and Pam... although The Office wouldn't dare split them up; this is just to spice up the final season. Earlier this season, we've seen Pam take issue with Jim getting in on the ground floor of a budding sports marketing company without telling her. And this week, she blows up at him for investing $10,000 without consulting her first. It's understandable that they make the final season for Jim and Pam an exciting one. And the only way to do that, really, is to test their relationship. But they're the perfect couple, soul mates who'll stay together eternally... unless producers are opting for some mind-melting downer ending that'll split them up and have them go their separate ways. But that's not in The Office's blood. It's a show that has exhibited a compassion for its characters... which is what makes Andy's transformation so surprising. Odds are that Jim and Pam will work this out by midseason, that Erin will take up with Pete somewhere down the line, that Dwight will find a new peace of mind upon returning to his farm full-time (we already have that ending on lockdown), and for some degree of dysfunctional happiness to land in the Angela-Oscar-Angela's gay husband love triangle. And hopefully, some actual guest appearances.
[Photo Credit: NBC]
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