I forgot to mention something about the last episode, but it’s been bothering me for the past week. We never got any indication from the rest of the office whom they’d prefer as their head- Nellie or Andy. Obviously, Robert wants Nellie because he likes to be an agent of chaos. Angela preferred Andy, but she’s not the most trustworthy source. And Dwight always worms his way into second in command. But what about everyone else? We never learn about Nellie’s leadership abilities. Did the welcome party make her less dreadful to the staff? While she might never be as much of a friend to everyone else as Andy, does she get similar or even better results? No one got Andy’s back when he returned from Florida, which may or may not mean something. I also didn’t think her “tragic” backstory from Welcome Party was tragic enough to warrant her being so awful. Her boyfriend left her; it wasn’t really a “forgive all her trespasses” tale. But, I do need to come up with an opinion about Nellie. Now that she’s apparently here to stay until at least the end of the season, I can’t just brush her off as a guest star who’ll be gone after three episodes.
But before I get to that, let’s talk about tonight’s episode- Fundraiser. The Office has regularly left the office before, more so in recent years. I’ve complained about it, but at the very least, all those stories, as pointless as they were, felt like they were directly connected to people in the office (Andy’s play was for Andy, Cici’s Christening was for Jim and Pam, the Glee viewing party was for Gabe, etc.), even if it made no sense why everyone (especially Stanley) was there. But tonight, the show took it to a new a new level by making the sojourn to State Senator Rob Lipton’s fundraiser for a local animal shelter. While Lipton is Angela’s husband and Robert California bought two tables so that everyone could come to the event, it seemed on the level of everyone going to Stanley’s daughter’s recital. And even though the episode was slightly better than most editions of The Office: Field Trips, it was hampered because of how weak the reason to get everyone out of the office was.
Of the several plotlines running concurrently in this episode, the weakest was Andy Bernard’s. (Don’t worry, I get to Nellie.) As Erin is invited as part of the office, she takes the still-unemployed Andy along as her date, thus giving a semi-logical reason for Helms to show up tonight. Unemployment isn’t suiting him well, but he isn’t as ill composed as I think they intended for him to be. At least give the man stubble.
During his week without a job, Andy has started writing a rock opera featuring a villain named Thomas Oregon (clearly modeled after Robert California) who wants to kill music. Apparently, he’s also spent his week off watching Forgetting Sarah Marshall. While the rock opera would be fine as a throwaway line, I fear that it will come up again. It’s been awhile since they let Ed Helms indulge himself, and I wouldn’t put it past the producers to let the The Hangover star show off in an attempt to keep him on staff. To outdo Robert, he ends up adopting 12 dogs in need of constant care, but most of them end up re-adopted by fellow people from the office.
Most of the other stories are somewhat better. Oscar’s quest to prove that State Senator Lipton came onto him was okay. Kevin had some good moments, especially when he called everyone out on saying that Andy seemed fine. And Dwight confusing a silent auction for a guess the price game was silly, but worked well enough. More tiny plots like these could serve the show better, regardless of whether everyone’s at Dunder Mifflin or not. Speaking of the Dunder Mifflin crew, is Cathy off the show? I can’t remember the last time we even saw her. I’m glad she’s gone, but I can’t help but wonder what the point of that character was. A temptation plotline doesn’t work if the temptee isn’t tempted by the temptor.
However, the second biggest storyline involved Nellie and Darryl, and it’s still difficult for me to form an actual opinion on her. I don’t hate her, I don’t like her, but mostly, I find her perplexing because I think the show is still struggling to get a handle on her character.
In her scenes tonight, Nellie has actually seemed to calm down from her initial appearances so maybe the welcome party did soften her rough edges. Or maybe the writers realized that if she was sticking around for the long haul, they needed make her meeker and less grating. Nevertheless, she still seems pretty naïve and stupid … and not in an entertaining way.
Her main goal tonight was to get Darryl to treat her with less disdain. I don’t know why she was so taken with Darryl. I didn’t see Darryl treating her with any more sly condescension than he does anyone else. And does that mean that everyone else in the office treats her well? Although the show didn’t say her thoughts about him were sexual (sometime a cigar …), I can’t be the only one who thought that Nellie was interested in him in that way.
To buddy up to him, Nellie expressed her desire to act more American by eating hamburgers or tacos instead of stuffy fancy affair food. So Darryl buys her tacos, and Nellie has no clue how to eat them. It’s not funny, and it’s just somewhat confusing. Are tacos really that exotic a food to non-Americans (and by Americans I mean continental America(s))? Was it trying to make Nellie more endearing? Was it supposed to be humorous? Was this a bit Tate did on her TV show? At the very least, Darryl does have more chemistry with her than he does with that warehouse worker whose name I already forgot.
• Again, I have to give the show credit for another strong cold open. Ryan, taken in by a death hoax regarding Smokey Robinson, pretends to be his biggest fan and’ “mourns” his death despite knowing very little about him. It was small, subtle, and somewhat realistic- everything the bulk of The Office stopped being.
• I seriously have to wonder if more time this season has been spent out of the office/industrial park than inside it.
• Jim and Pam watch Downtown Abbey. Of course they do.
• Moment of the Night (other than the cold open): Dwight taking his “gym bag” up to the roof after learning that Andy’s waiting in the parking lot.
• David Wallace made a surprising and not unwelcome return tonight. He’s doing well. The government bought the patent for his Suck It toy vacuum cleaner for $20 million.
• The ending bothered me. I guess it was nice that Kevin’s dog wasn’t dead, but it seemed weird filming inside his house. It was sacrificing the format of the show for a joke that wasn’t particularly good. Though I guess even documentary producers would like a happy ending. I was also very surprised at how clean his place seemed.
• After a quick Google search, I found several places in England that sell tacos. In 2010, Taco Bell opened its first “restaurant” there. While I know Taco Bell isn’t authentic, I’m just using it to show that some form of the taco does exist overseas.