‘The Office’ Recap: Oh, Nellie!

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.