A couple of weeks ago, I complained about The Office spending too much time away from the office. How was I to know that taking a trip to Tallahassee would produce probably the best episode of the season and maybe one of the best episodes of the past couple of seasons? And it was the Tallahassee segments that made the episode shine, starting with the cold open where Dwight factors in the time it take Ryan to do his “morning ecstasy” and Jim’s prank involving “The Alcohol Club.”
One major reason I think it worked so well was the cast. The Florida Corporate segments featured most of the strongest players in the Dunder Mifflin family (plus the still useless Cathy). The interplay between the show’s overall best character Dwight, the ever-loyal sidekick Erin, the dreadfully underused Ryan, the foil Jim (who gets to be somewhat fun again), and the checked out Stanley makes you wonder if The Office wouldn’t be best served by trimming a lot of the fat hanging around Scranton. I’m not saying that everyone left behind needs to go (we wouldn’t want to lose Creed), but there was a liveliness to the characters that is generally missing back home.
Also part of the special project is Todd Packer (David Koechner), who is still seeking vengeance against Dwight and Jim for trying to get him fired. His return was surprisingly welcome because I forgot how nice it was having a character on the show whom all the other characters could hate. Dunder Mifflin is way too genial these days, and an outsider like Packer shows the necessity of not having a show populated exclusively by besties.
Sabre President of Special Projects Nellie Bertrum (Catherine “Even More Guilt!” Tate) also proves herself as a good addition. I’ve complained about the weakness of Andy Bernard in the past, but Nellie really highlights how Andy is not a leader. Her opening speech alone showed a dominance of character, confidence, and screen presence missing from the current head of the Scranton branch. Additionally, unlike her first appearance in last season’s finale, I found her to be a bit more calculating than flighty this go around. Not Robert California brilliant, but definitely smarter and more observant than the crew we’re used to.
Another reason this episode worked is business. The Office was originally about how people operate in a corporate environment, but along the way, that element got lost. By keeping the episode primarily focused on the original meeting for the Sabre Store, it felt a bit like a more professional Conference Room scene, which I mean as a compliment. Yes, it wasn’t the most realistic meeting. Yes, it lacked the cutting, bitter edge that made the British series (especially) and the first few seasons of this show (to a lesser extent) so memorable. Yes, I still don’t know how the Sabre Pyramid is still on the market. But I overall enjoyed the refreshing atmosphere of these scenes. Or maybe I just liked the different color scheme.
Even Dwight muscling through appendicitis (and his post-appendicitis surgery) in order to wow Nellie and obtain the coveted VP spot felt right for his character, though maybe that’s just the years of the show adopting a more fantastical attitude towards life messing with me. Nevertheless, I believe he’d fight through the pain for Assistant Regional Manager, and I believe he’d do it for Vice President. It also helped me realize that another huge problem of this season was that Dwight spent most of it complacent. He’s a character who works best when he has something to fight for and we get to watch him fight for it. It’s nice to have this trait reintroduced to the character both with the Sabre Stores and with his bastard child Phillip.
Overall, Florida Corporate (the title for my imagined spin-off starring James Spader as Robert California) seems to work as a show, at least in our first visit to that land (second if you want to count the B-plot in Trivia). Luckily, we didn’t have to deal with Erin wanting to move to Florida permanently because she couldn’t date Andy or Cathy’s scheme to sleep with Jim. And I’d be more than satisfied if neither of those things were ever referenced again.
We do occasionally cut away to Scranton, where nothing much of interest happens. I actually got a bit disappointed every time we returned to the familiar set, but thankfully, the scenes weren’t long. In this subplot, Andy takes a particular liking to the reception desk after Pam refuses to answer the phone. Maybe this is the set-up for the show finally getting a new boss. Maybe it’ll be Nellie. Maybe it’ll be Packer. I was hoping Darryl would take the initiative and take over Andy’s duties when he mentioned not wanting to leave the reception desk, but this was not to be. Anyway, hopefully, something will happen that will get Andy out of the office in the office on The Office.
• Normally I use this section to complain (especially about Andy’s mail song), but tonight I want to use it to reference some good lines.
• Dwight to a doctor: “It can’t be appendicitis; I eat more than enough bacon.”
• Some guy (maybe Packer) in a human pyramid: “Dude, don’t you yak on me, this shirt is Van Heusen.”
• Dwight: “Don’t remember me like this, remember me as the man who pulled down the screen.” It seemed very classic Simpsons-y for some reason.
• Dwight on a recorder to his son: “You must do one thing. Kill Mose before he kills you.”
• Dwight’s misinterpretation of the word ‘cyclical’ in his presentation.
• Creed’s writing of 12 plays in one morning.