The question I have to ask after tonight’s installment of The Office is…are we supposed to cheer on incompetence?
In Doomsday, Robert California complains to Andy about his “error prone office” whose sloppiness had caused a client to receive a free order one week prior. Instead of discussing the situation, Andy smiles nervously and tries to change the subject to anything but the matter at hand. All Robert wants is for Andy to fix the problem. Andy then turns to his number 2, Dwight, who installs an “Accountability Booster” (described by Jim as a “Doomsday Device”). If the office makes five mistakes in one day, the program will send an e-mail to Robert at 5:00 pm containing a consultant’s report from last year that said the branch should be closed (Dwight is probably not referring to that clip show episode from two years ago, but that was the most recent on-screen consultant I can think of) and every negative e-mail that the group had ever written about him. After being convinced that the program is real, the office mates work, try to hack into Dwight’s computer to turn off the device, and scream at him when they make their inevitable five mistakes.
The problem with this storyline is that Robert California is right. I complained about this concept in my recap of the season premiere where the show painted him to be the bad guy because he said some people were winners and some people were losers. In this case, his concerns are valid and he has the documentation to prove it. If the office screws up, someone should be held accountable. If the boss refuses to even listen to valid complaints about how he’s running his ship, then he’s not a good leader. Constantly burying one’s head in the sand does not make a hero. When the gang is huddled by a computer trying to crack Dwight’s password, and Dwight says that if they put this amount of effort into their real jobs they wouldn’t need to worry about the program, he makes a valid point.
Now, I’m not saying that everyone on the show should be perfect little worker bees, but this episode made it incredibly difficult to side with the lazy failures that make up Dunder Mifflin, Scranton. I would have no problem if they were bad at their job or didn’t care about how they performed if they at least owned up to it, as Jim formerly did. But acting like the bad guys are the people who want the company to run properly is ridiculous. They aren’t expected to score 100%, but they shouldn’t get offended when someone gets mad at them for carelessness.
Another element brought up by this episode is that Dwight is a better character and leader than Andy. Yes, he might rule via fear and tyranny, but at least that’s some leadership style instead of Andy’s meekness. Andy asking Robert his favorite Iron Chef instead of listening to information about accounting errors does not make him cute, it makes him a bad leader. If the show is trying to push Andy as the lead of the series, which I believe it is (and has been for several years), he needs to have more to him than super likeability and being uncomfortably pleasant.
Back to the story, Dwight goes home so Andy enlists Jim to find Robert California (who is playing squash), stick by him, and delete the e-mail. It’s a scheme that seems too zany for Jim to go along with, and it is made even more unrealistic with Jim taking Robert’s cell phone out of his bag in plain sight (he is so obvious that Robert even comments on Jim playing with his phone).
Kevin, Andy, Erin, and Pam go to Shrute Farm where they act chummy with Dwight to butter him up and convince him not to send the e-mail. Dwight relents and ends the episode with an “I can’t believe I have to continue working with these guys (but I really love them, so don’t tell anyone, okay?)” voiceover.
Elsewhere, Gabe attends a warehouse safety-training seminar because he has a crush on a warehouse worker. Turns out, she won’t date him because she refuses to date the people with whom she works. What is the point of Gabe? Technically, he is the corporate liaison, but I don’t think he’s personally interacted with Robert California once. In the show’s universe, someone should have gotten him away from his aimless flirtation to try to handle the situation with Dwight. I’ve never thought Gabe was a bad character, but he’s an utterly pointless one.
• Robert California’s “And you can’t have a favorite Iron Chef, it depends entirely on the secret ingredient. Sometimes I feel you don’t know food at all” before shaking his head in disgust and walking away reminds me why he’s the only character worth watching.
• In the cold open, we learn that Andy is desperate to start an end-of-the-day tradition so he cranks up Semisonic’s Closing Time and sings along with it at 5 every night. Even though this is the first time we’ve seen it, apparently Andy has done it at the conclusion of all 105 days he’s been branch manager. If it’s meant to be a constant, it should have been brought up on the show already, and I could swear we’ve seen the Andy-led office close down without this routine before. At least it happened in the premiere episode.
• Additionally, this means that without a major time jump between the last episode and this one, Andy has freaked out over Robert California’s visits for 1/3 of the year.
• The show has done the “fear of a branch closing” storyline before, and to much better success.
• I also should note that Patrice O’Neal, who played one of the warehouse workers in the first seasons, recently suffered a stroke. He’s an incredibly funny comic, and your time would be much better served watching his footage on YouTube or Netflix Instant.