With a title like “Andy’s Ancestry,” I though this episode was going to be the bane of my The Office viewing experience. I’ve expressed my dislike towards the Andy Bernard character several times over the past two seasons. Always a genuinely annoying figure, the show made even worse last year by trying to make him likeable. The office characters loved him and treated him with respect. He was propelled to the hero role by going up against the nefarious Robert California, and we met his evil parents who dared to like his brother better than him. We were meant to root for him, feel bad for him, and feel good when he won Erin back. But he’s really just a spineless attention whore worthy of no one’s sympathy or support.
So onto tonight where, thankfully, we realize that the show has returned Andy Bernard into his original incarnation. “Villain” might be too strong a word, but he’s definitely no longer the lovable lug they tried to thrust upon us last year. He treats his employees poorly; he doesn’t take his job seriously at all; and the show is painting Pete/Erin as a cute couple, which I don’t think they’d do if they wanted us to side with Andy. However, that he has worn a vest since returning from his wilderness adventure is a nice touch.
Tonight, the main story revolves around Nellie being forced to do genealogy research for Andy, so she lies and says he’s related to Michelle Obama, which leads Andy to act grandiose. In practice, it becomes the plot equivalent of a lawnmower that refuses to turn over. The show constantly starts to go somewhere with it, but it dies shortly thereafter. Andy’s acts proud…but there’s only so far they can take that (and it’s not very). Pull the chain again and everyone thinks it’s because Andy’s ancestors were slave owners, which plays nicely into him being a slave driver to Nellie, but this dwindles quickly. Another tug, and Andy does “research” (read: more of Nellie’s lies) into the rest of the office’s family trees. Nellie makes up that Kevin is related to John Wayne Gacy and John Wayne Bobbitt, that Meredith shares a bloodline with Lizzy Borden, and that Jim is related to Richard Nixon (an inside joke between Jim and Pam) and…pffft. Finally, an energy-less Andy asks Darryl what are good lies he can say so that his crew doesn’t think he grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth. And the lawn is left to grow for another day. I’ve often complained about the writers not having any idea what to do, but with Andy’s ancestry (the storyline, not the episode) you really feel them struggling.
Like the previous two episodes, tonight has its share of subplots. Dwight teaches Erin the Dothraki language from Game of Thrones because she wanted to learn a foreign language to impress the Bernards. Not particularly funny, but not horrendous. Nellie wants Pam to teach her how to drive. Again, not particularly funny, but not horrendous and they seem to be keeping with calculating Nellie, which I appreciate. At the end, Darryl, who was recently named Assistant Regional Manager, gets fed up with Andy’s lackadaisical attitude towards work and expresses his desire to abandon Dunder Mifflin to Jim. Jim tells him about his new job opportunity, which probably means Darryl will be yet another character heading towards his happy ending.
We also get to the next stage in the Jim/Pam saga as Jim reveals his plans to leave Dunder Mifflin Scranton and work for the sports marketing firm he agreed to in the first episode of the season. In a talking head, Pam expresses her disappointment that Jim didn’t come to her earlier and, without saying so, seems concerned about the business endeavor- even though, and I could be wrong, Jim hasn’t invested anything into the project except his time and willingness to participate if it takes off. This seems to be the biggest overarching storyline of the season, and I wonder if it’ll take a backseat eventually or if it’ll remain at the forefront until we reach the end.
Speaking of the end…even though “Andy’s Ancestry” was mostly lifeless, I believe it set up the conclusion of the series. Nellie chooses Pam to do a special project where she paints a mural on the warehouse wall. Even though we’re only three episodes in, I’m guessing that the series ends with the unveiling of a mural that contains all of the Dunder Mifflinians from years past with Michael Scott front and center.
• Funniest moment of the night probably came during the opening sequence. Jim and Pam hire an Asian friend of theirs to “be” Jim thus confusing Dwight, who is complemented for his racial blindness. The family portrait of Pam, not-Jim, and their multi-racial children, combined with Dwight’s reaction, made for the funniest part of the episode.
• The opening sequence also mentions that Jim made a sale yesterday, so there goes my quasi-theory about no work taking place this season.
• Another good segment was also tonight’s “this is the final season” moment as Darryl prerecords a talking head of him saying “Woah. That person has really gotten him or herself into quite a predicament.” It gets a nice call back later in the episode, but I would have liked to see it in a future episode as a nod to continuity. Though if they use it again, I will give them credit.
• I also liked the new guys’ scheme to get ahead by feeding into Andy’s desire for enthusiasm by clapping every time he’s around. Surprisingly, I don’t mind Pete or Clark.
• When Pam expressed her concerns about Jim’s secret to Nellie, and she said it’s “always an affair,” I wondered if Kathy was going to come back into play.