I did not know when this Valentine’s evening began that tonight’s episode of The Office, entitled “Moving On,” was of the one hour variety. My first thought upon hearing this news was, “Why?” Back in the day, I would have welcomed this fact. Even when they started season four with four straight hour long events, I was OK with it. Now, it just feels like a bit much. The show is having trouble sustaining a half hour of television from week to week. Trying to do double that? It’s concerning, and having Jon Favreau directing doesn’t really set my world afire. Love was in the air this week, but at least there wasn’t any Brian. Although, to be honest, I probably would have preferred a full hour devoted to the life of Brian over “Moving On.”
At least the new opening credits were fun, with some new stuff thrown in there, but with Andy returning to the end as opposed to Jim and Pam kissing one another on their respective faces. As this was an hour long episode, there was a lot of story. The main one involved Andy, which isn’t that surprising considering he just return to the shows of Scranton, but I shall get to that last. First, a couple small pieces of housekeeping. There was a dumb little storyline about Toby and the Scranton Strangler. Toby, after the irritated cajoling of Nellie, goes to visit him in prison. This ends with Toby getting strangled. Apparently some guy named the Scranton Strangler gets to just meet with strangers without any safety precautions taken, and the neck collar Toby got afterward didn’t make it any less silly and cartoony. It wasn’t funny at all, and just fell completely flat.
In the tag, Oscar is doing crunches whilst he hangs upside down from a pole with some boots. He can’t get himself off the pole and nobody helps him. Again, not very funny. Nothing original or clever here, and it wasn’t particularly well-executed either. Admittedly, it wasn’t that bad, but by the time the end of the episode rolled around I was already sour on this episode, and this didn’t help. The last thing we see, however, on the internet video Oscar was watching is an ad for a show debuting in May. That show: The Office: An American Workplace. That’s right, the documentary this show is based on is COMING TO TELEVISION WITHIN THE SHOW. Brian must be so proud. This presumably means at some point the folks on the show will watch some of the show we already watched. That is actually kind of interesting.
Now, for the one (sort of) good storyline from this episode. It involved Dwight and Angela. After getting a call from Mose, Dwight finds out that his sickly old Aunt Shirley needs some caretaking, what with her old nurse having been poisoned and with Mose not up to the simple task of leaving out food bowls. Based on this, you may think this was one of the more outlandish and unfortunately cartoony Dwight storylines. Indeed, I had that fear as well, even if they stuck a couple good jokes in there. However, and fortunately, they righted the ship to a degree after Dwight convinces Angela to help him out.
When we first meet Dwight’s Aunt, she is genuinely gross. Like, I found her somewhat unpleasant to espy. She was also quite coarse and brash, but half a liter of homemade Schnapps took care of that, since she doesn’t have the same tolerance she used to. Now that Shirley is full of booze, she’s ready to be bathed, which on Schrute Farms means being strapped into a chair and blasted with a fire hose. Don’t worry, she’s cool with it. Only Angela isn’t, as she wants to treat Shirley like a human being. After an obvious, but kind of funny, bit of business involving Dwight getting hosed down, Angela cleans up Shirley well, as Dwight looks on with a glimmer in his eye. We know where this is going. It’s going to a place where Dwight gives Angela a skunk’s stink sac over dinner while Shirley assumes they are a couple. This leads to a bit of porch kissing, but Angela resists, as she is married. Dwight doesn’t just want a fling, he wants to be with her, but it isn’t enough, and Dwight is willing to accept Angela standing by her man. Surely they will end up together eventually. Of course they will, and don’t call me Shirley. Zing!
Not only was this story the funniest, by which I mean the only funny, storyline of this episode, it also had some emotional resonance. Dwight and Angela are likely to get their moment together after Dwight returns from his backdoor pilot antics on Schrute Farms. Then, we probably won’t see any more Schrute family members after that either. This was a good story arc, despite some struggles to get going, thanks to Dwight being softened into being reasonable and the fact that these two do have some earned history.
Now, onto a storyline that was good at the drama but poor at the comedy. Pam has a job interview at a realty office in Philly. After checking in with Jim, she heads over there, to find Bob Odenkirk as the boss! Would he be a mean jerk and yell? Nope, sorry fans of that Bob Odenkirk archetype. Instead, he’s basically just Michael Scott. He makes bad jokes and is desperate for people to like him and does pop culture impressions and has a poster of The Odd Life of Timothy Green. When I caught that poster in the background, I appreciated it, until it was actually brought up in conversation between Jim and Pam later. Nothing will be left unsaid on The Office these days.
With Andy clearly moving away from being a poor man’s Michael Scott, and this episode furthered that, I guess the show felt they needed some sort of ersatz Michael, so they brought in Odenkirk to do it. The problem is they stuck about five episodes worth of Michael’s goofy shenanigans into, like, 10 minutes, and it became grating. It ended up being repetitive and it dragged on. Plus, it was only a one-dimensional version of Michael. It had no substance to it. Still, Pam seems a bit nostalgic for Michael when dealing with this guy, and she might actually get the job even with her index card sized resume. However, when she finds out that it is a receptionist job, a step down, and that she likes her life in Scranton, she decides not to take it.
This is when this plot went from mediocre comedy to solid drama. Pam and Jim have some Chinese food in his office late at night, and it’s like the good old days at first with the jokes and the laughing. Then, Pam drops the fact that she’s not sure she wants a life in Philly. She likes her life in Scranton. This, obviously, is a bit of an issue. It’s also genuine tension that works, as opposed to, say, bringing in a boom mic operator as a potential romantic rival. Obviously, this season is in part about these two getting their final happy ending, but there has to be turmoil first. I prefer problems like this, which actually make sense and feel earned.
Lastly, on to the ugly business of Andy. In the prior episode, he gets dumped by Erin, who we find out has taken up with Pete pretty much right away, but also David Wallace finds out about his three months away. However, Wallace won’t fire him, since his logic says that he only owns the company due to Andy. Apparently Andy made him those billions of dollars he used to buy it. This is a stretch, but there have been countless times that folks would have been fired on this show were it real life, so I am willing to accept it.
Anyway, Andy is sad, but Erin is not, and that makes Andy suspicious. He looks through her phone and finds out she’s been texting with some guy named Pete. This would be an issue, if Andy remembered that Pete’s name was Pete and not “Plop.” However, conveniently he looks in the fridge for some reason and finds a bag featuring Pete’s name, and then he puts it together. Pete tries to reason with Andy, after Andy tries to feign having picked up an STD from Erin, but Andy just tries to fire him because he’s a jerk and a buffoon. This doesn’t work, Toby steps in before getting strangled, and Pete and Erin try and get Andy to move on.
Instead, Andy turns into a mustache twirling villain. He hires one of Pete’s ex-girlfriends, played by a woman who looks like a combination of Allison Pill and Rikki Lindholme but isn’t either, and also he brings Gabe, Erin’s ex-boyfriend, back. He does this just to make things awkward, and he succeeds, and he is happy about it as Gabe and Erin argue and so do Pete and his former lover.
Oh man, was this storyline obnoxious. Oh, how it irked me. I have no problem with Andy being villainous. In fact, I prefer it to him just being a warmed over Michael desperate for everybody’s love. I know it doesn’t wash, but Andy at this point is like Marta on Arrested Development. They could just make a joke out of how often he’s changed if they were that kind of show. Which The Office might be now, honestly. What kind of show is this anymore? The issue is when the villain isn’t funny, is genuinely annoying to watch, as opposed to just annoying the character around him, and he succeeds. It’s like when the jerks on It’s Always Sunny end up on the right side of things when an episode ends. It’s jarring, and a little disheartening. Why couldn’t Andy get some kind of comeuppance? He gets to keep his job and find happiness in the misery of others. Where’s the fun in that.
It also didn’t help that Pete’s ex-girlfriend was also just basically a shrill harpy. Gabe got to have some funny lines at least, but this all just devolved into ugly chaos. I don’t really care about Erin and Pete, although Erin is my favorite character these days and Pete’s alright as a poor man’s Jim, but they deserve better than this. More importantly, the viewer at home, who has stayed with this show for so long, deserve better than this.
Not only was this the longest episode of the final season of The Office thus far, it’s also the worst. It wasn’t even pretty good. At best I can call it decent. The main storyline was unpleasant and poorly conceived. The Toby stuff and the Oscar bit weren’t funny. Odenkirk’s guest role was irritating. “Moving On” was not all that funny, and it failed in terms of storytelling. Only the dramatic portion of Jim and Pam’s plot and the Dwight and Angela stuff kept it from being a failure. This was a miss. I don’t know why they felt they needed to make this an hour long. They made me miss Brian. At least he doesn’t actively irritate me. If the show wants to make Andy the villain of this piece, he needs to fail in all his schemes, at least to some degree. His plots also need to be funnier, more interesting, and not unpleasant to watch. That would help. Hopefully The Office can bounce back next episode. There are so few left. I hate to seem them wasted like this.