S8:E18 Tonight’s episode of The Office was an up-and-down one, initially a departure from the overall progress made by the two episodes before it, without much of anything going on and the silliness that pervaded — and partially ruined — much of the earlier part of this season. But a couple of developments toward the end of tonight’s episode (primarily one that only those who returned after the final commercial break witnessed) might’ve salvaged things and definitely hinted at at least the immediate future for one storyline …
“Everyone stop what you’re doing. I have terrible news: Dwight is no longer with us.” –Andy
As anyone who has tuned in for any of the past several episodes knows, Dwight, Jim, Kathy, Stanley and Erin have been in Tallahassee to help out with “special projects” — which turned into the opening of Sabre’s first retail store, which turned into a whole new position for Dwight: VP of Sabre Retail. The above quote is Andy (using the wrong words, sure) announcing Dwight’s position to those in Scranton, and telling his former office-mates that Dwight will be staying in Florida. Of course, that seems to us viewers like quite the big development — and we can’t rule it out, as this show has in the past separated main characters while keeping them on the show — but, well, not so fast. As Dwight is playing a celebratory round of golf with Nellie (returning guest star Catherine Tate), Robert California (returning guest star James Spader) and Jim, Robert breaks the news to Jim he will likely be firing Dwight soon and the whole retail venture was only Robert’s way of appeasing head honcho Jo Bennett (former guest star Kathy Bates). Let’s ignore the peculiar concept of Robert revealing this top-secret info to Jim and skip right to Jim’s many efforts to tell Dwight about Robert’s plans. But Dwight doesn’t make it easy at all: He’s naturally let the power and his superiority to Jim go straight to his head, and every time Jim tries to deliver the news, he’s met with Dwight’s insults and belittling jokes. Finally, Jim gives up trying — and decides to tackle Dwight to keep him from walking in to a big presentation where he is to be axed by Robert. And where, with Dwight MIA, Todd Packer (returning guest star David Koechner) has gladly stepped in to fill Dwight’s position. That’s when, just as Dwight quietly enters the room unnoticed, Robert fires Packer. So … bullet dodged for Dwight. Maybe. He looks quite dejected as he returns with the others to the Scranton office. Perhaps a sign of something else brewing.
“Irene hired me as her live-in helper. We met at the store launch, I told her I was moving here and I needed a place, and it just sort of made sense.” –Erin
Meanwhile, back in Scranton … time killing, pretty much. Much of this arc revolves around Girl Scout cookies and Daryl and Toby fighting over potential clientele. There’s a somewhat bit — that goes on for quite a while — during which the two guys, both selling cookies for their daughters, fight over the most important buyer, Kevin. Naturally. It turns into them being at Kevin’s mercy, trying to appeal to him for a change, but they both call it quits when Kevin tries to turn them into his “horsey.” But there’s actually something more going on here, and it starts in Tallahassee but bleeds over into the Scranton arc: Erin has decided to remain in Florida, where she is living with and helping an elderly lady named Irene (whom last episode’s viewers will remember as the woman who told Erin to forget about Andy). She breaks the news, rather nonchalantly, to Andy via Webchat. Naturally, Andy is internally devastated — and it seems as though that’ll be the extent of his heartbreak until the very end of the episode, when Andy announces to the camera (with an uncharacteristic boldness reminiscent of, say, Jim’s uncharacteristic boldness many seasons ago when it came to Pam) that he’s “going to Florida to get Erin.” So, yeah … that’ll teach us all to watch the show to the very end!
Overall, this wasn’t a great episode until that very end. In fact, both the Tallahassee and Scranton storylines had very silly components to them, which had been hurting the season as a whole until its recent stretch of a few good episodes. In Tallahassee, the Jim-Dwight thing … I mean, how many times have we all been down this road? And when they’re wrestling in the hall for what feels like (but we know probably isn’t) five whole minutes out of an essentially 22-minute show, it’s disappointing, and it almost smacks of a show actually struggling to fill time any way it can. And back in Scranton, well, let’s just say it’s a good thing that everyone seems to be back together in one place, because the Scranton antics were getting old. Of course, Andy and Erin aren’t at the Scranton office, and it’s half intriguing, half mildly uninteresting — as though the writers are trying to replicate a Jim-and-Pam love affair. But maybe they’ll very pleasantly surprise us next episode. It wouldn’t be the first time.