California Literary Review

The Office Recap: After Hours (Season 8, Episode 16)

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February 24th, 2012 at 12:16 am

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Photo by: Byron Cohen/NBC

Tonight’s episode of The Office isn’t as good as the previous one, but it’s still better than the majority of the season. For that, I once again have to credit the Florida Team because, although the plot wasn’t that strong (or even mostly there), some of the character moments down south made up for the rest of it.

As we left off last week, Dwight and Packer are still at each other’s throats for the job of Vice President of Special Projects. Nellie invites everyone for a bar night, which will give both of them ample time to impress the boss. This means that Dwight once again takes center stage for the half hour, which isn’t a problem for me. The show lacks a lead and the ensemble element is clearly faltering, so it’s better to let the strongest character climb to the top of the mountain and take charge. However, this entire Florida excursion and the increased focus on Dwight over the past few episodes makes me wonder if the show realized around mid-season that handing the reigns to Ed Helms for the first half wasn’t working. I know I’m hard on Helms because of how much I dislike Andy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is what happened. Feel free to disagree because I am basing this on nothing but my own observations.

Eventually, Dwight needs to help Jim (more below) and enlists Gabe to keep Packer away from Nellie, which he does by poisoning Todd’s drink and forcing him to vomit. I’ve grown to like Gabe a bit more this season, after the show decided to creep him up. Between Trivia and tonight’s episode, I think the Dwight/Gabe relationship definitely has potential with Gabe in the lackey role. It could be a successful version of the failed Dwight/Ryan “Take Down Jim” partnership from several seasons back.

At the end, they make Dwight play “the boss wants to sleep with me but that’s not the way I work!” standard. I normally hate this cliché for many reasons, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it here. I’d like to believe Dwight did it out of his insane Schrute pride instead of lame conventional reasons that include “morality.” But his subsequent “Win at all costs, don’t respect women, these are the tenets I was brought up with and they have served me well…but my ancestors never worked in corporate America” speech came across as though the writers had a problem rationalizing Dwight’s decision, as if they suddenly had an issue with him doing “right” things for the “wrong” reasons. Sure, they throw in jokes about his ancestors being time travelers, but the entire rant seemed like a distraction, a rambling speech of zaniness so they didn’t need to delve into Dwight’s motivations. Or maybe I’m just reading too much into it.

Photo by: Byron Cohen/NBC

In another subplot, Erin reveals to Ryan that she plans to move to Florida, and Ryan is convinced that she revealed this to him so that they could have a crazy fling. I’ve always liked Ryan, and his sleazy charm is in full force tonight. Yet the two of them hiding in the kitchen because Erin wanted a Hotel Waffle was kind of cute, even if Ryan was just doing it to sleep with her. (He eventually backs down after she tells him about her minimum six-month waiting period.) This entire sequence also made me wonder: are the writers particularly good at writing for Erin or is Ellie Kemper particularly good at rising above the material? In this season alone, Erin has exhibited a decent, almost personal chemistry with Dwight, Kevin, and now Ryan- three of the show’s biggest punchline characters.

Finally in Florida, Cathy makes her move on Jim. Jim doesn’t sleep with her and uses Dwight to ruin her advances by saying that he saw bedbugs. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I hate this subplot. I hate this subplot a lot. It’s pointless filler both with screentime and with Cathy. There is no reason for Cathy to exist other than to futilely try to sleep with Jim, and that means she’s not worth having on the show. If she accuses Jim of sexual harassment or makes threats to his wife, there’s no suspense since we know Jim is in the right and that Cathy is just a villain who will be caught/ousted/punished. Moreover, this is the type of comedy that wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) waste time on some silly Bunny Boiler storyline. We’ve had enough love triangles on this show already…..

Speaking of which, tonight in Scranton we returned to the Val/Darryl storyline. Val’s boyfriend Brandon is upset over Darryl sending innocent texts to his girlfriend. Basically, it comes down to Darryl telling Val that if she and Brandon ever break up, he’s ready for her. Although Val’s not as malicious as Cathy, she is essentially the same sort of time waster. There’s nothing more to her character than being a love interest, which means there’s nothing to her character. She also brings up another major issue – the show cannot figure out anything for Darryl to do either. I like Craig Robinson as an actor, but if the best the writers can come up with for him is “love triangle,” then maybe he should go back to the warehouse.

Additional Thoughts:
• My DVR didn’t pick up the cold open, so if I missed anything of importance there, please let me know.
• I like that Dwight is weird/oblivious around women again. The Dwight Schrute: Ladie’s Man arc from a couple of seasons back always seemed off to me.
• I’ve complimented the douchiness of Ryan before, and I particularly liked him tonight ordering the hotel’s “oakiest chardonnay.”
• Good Gabe whine after Packer vomits on him: “They don’t make these cords in boot cut anymore!”
• The Dwight/Jim discussion about bedbug behavior was decent.
• REMINDER: Community returns March 15 at 8 EST

  • Dave

    Michael Scott is not coming back. The sooner you come to terms with this and attempt to appreciate the show for the ensemble that it always has been, the sooner your recaps may become readable.

    i don’t know why this comes up first when i google for a recap. truly horrible every week.

  • Sarah

    Then why do you bother to read it every week, Dave? Sounds like your problem, not ours. What a whiner.

    I actually appreciated your review/recap, so thank you! ;)

  • Katie

    I agree with Sarah! I for one like your reviews. You say exactly what is wrong and what is (rarely) right with this season of The Office. I find you’re much more insightful than others critics, and if anything you are too nice. Kudos on expressing your opinions regarding these lackluster episodes much more eloquently than I do…(I usually just shout obscenities at the screen until my boyfriend reminds me it’s just a show.)

  • Katie

    I agree with Sarah! I for one like your reviews. You say exactly what is wrong and what is (rarely) right with this season of The Office. I find you’re much more insightful than other critics, and if anything you are too nice. Kudos on expressing your opinions regarding these lackluster episodes much more eloquently than I do…(I usually just shout obscenities at the screen until my boyfriend reminds me it’s just a show.)

  • Katie

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to post that twice.

  • http://bobtheblob.com Bob

    This recap blows and the show is good.
    I hope you get ants.

  • Hydro Fluoric

    Jim and Kathy need to hook up and have a soft p0rn scene. That would make the ratings skyrocket. Lindsey Broad is so effn hot.

  • Jb

    The cold open was actually one of the better ones this season. A good example of observational humor about workplace behavior that the show does well but doesn’t do enough of.

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