So by now, I assume many of you have heard that The Farm, the proposed Dwight-led spinoff of The Office is dead. I can’t say that I’m surprised … or disappointed. The entire concept just sounded like a mistake. While Dwight has consistently shown himself as the best character on the show over these past nine years (Creed excluded), the idea of a series revolving around him running a bed and breakfast with his wacky family seemed like something out of the 1980s. From its announcement, the Internet compared it to an idea from the legendary The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase episode, and as details came out, it was hard to think of a better analogy. Dwight’s siblings should not be genuinely attractive people. Though the casting of Matt Jones (Badger from Breaking Bad) as his cousin was actually an inspired choice for a Schrute. So, unless a Dunder Mifflinite is rescued by a show passing in the night, like Detective John Munch with Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, we are definitely heading towards the extinction of The Officeverse.
So onto tonight where we get “The Boat,” the episode we were supposed to get last week but which was preempted by a The Voice repeat because Superstorm Sandy dared to keep people away from NBC’s biggest show. Like many episodes this season, “The Boat” can be easily divided into multiple storylines, tonight’s being 1) Andy, 2) Oscar/Angela’s Husband (the ongoing storyline); and 3) the funny storyline (Dwight, Jim, others). Because Andy’s storyline gave the episode its title, let’s start there.
Picking up from where we left off two weeks ago, Andy is busy (and competently) taking care of his family’s affairs following the collapse of Bernard Manor. His family is out of money, his brother (Josh Groban) has taken to booze, and his father has run off with a younger woman. Trying to liquidate the family’s remaining assets, Andy hits a snag- the family boat. While selling it can obtain him significant funds, he’s still whiny because his father never let him sail it. So he and Erin check it out, but its current renter refuses to let him captain it because of his lack of insurance and experience. After finding his brother drunk and passed out in the bedroom, they decide to take control of the last remnant of their former wealth and go on a three-week journey.
Oddly enough, this episode could have given Andy the humanity it tried (and failed) to give him last season and just gave up on this year. At the end, he takes off on the boat with his brother for a three-week cruise to Bermuda or the Bahamas, he doesn’t care/know which, and leaves Erin on the dock. A serious scene where he explains to her that the family is going through a severe crisis and that he wants to spend alone time with his alcoholic brother as he tries to help him recover and figure out the direction to take the Bernards would have been important, useful, and not out of place on this series. Instead, the show purposely leaves such a moment out and shows Andy as the goofy ass who becomes excited over a guitar and, as usual, is completely oblivious to Erin’s feelings (or the fact that he has a job). Admittedly, this is the way I always saw Andy, even during the last two seasons as they tried so hard to make him the lovable lead. And while I’m glad it has taken him in this direction, I am disappointed that they’ve rendered his journey, particularly during Season 8, completely moot. Regardless, the show closes with another Pete/Erin flirtation.
Also continuing from last week, Oscar confesses to the cameramen about his and the State Senator’s affair in the cold open. Kevin overhears it and is rendered completely shocked. This drives their storyline for the next half hour, and I like that it’s a plot shared pretty much exclusively by all three accountants. Oscar is understandably concerned that Kevin will spill the beans, and Kevin comes very close on multiple occasions. When the State Senator comes to the office, he is driven to confess everything but ends up forgetting the secret and chanting “USA! USA!” instead. Of all the characters, Kevin has ended up skewing the most towards the cartoony, but he’s surprisingly strong tonight. He’s still the fool, but his glee at the proceedings actually becomes pleasant. Played against the exasperated Oscar, they get a nice odd couple relationship just from solo talking head segments.
Finally, we have the stand-alone comic storyline, which is an extended prank on Dwight played by Nellie (again, I say that their relationship needs a personality of its own); Jim; Pam; and Darryl. After Dwight volunteers to be Dunder Mifflin’s guest on a radio show about local businesses, the show cancels his segment, which leads to the other four putting on a fake radio show and sending him through the ringer. Many of The Office‘s comic storylines fall flat for me, but I thought this one worked particularly well because of how it built up. Most times, the show tends to rely on a “Set Up, Gag 1, Gag 2, Close” format with every piece of the equation pretty much on the same keel and the close lacking any personality. The radio show gag starts slow but crescendos to a panicked Dwight being convinced that David Wallace has taken a mailman hostage because of toxic paper products and that he’s responsible for talking David down. Dwight ends up believing he’s a hero after talking to a confused David over the phone and confesses that he imagined the radio appearance to go that way in the first place. It leaves you with the same sort of “they actually pulled that off” feeling that happens when a Saturday Night Live skit ends with a joke instead of fizzling out.
• During the talking head “exchange” of- Oscar: “I’m in big trouble.” Kevin “Yeah, Oscar’s in big trouble”- was I the only one who wanted another appearance of Darryl’s “his or her predicament” bit from earlier this year?
• Speaking of the differences between Andy Season 8 and Andy Season 9, Pam and Jim express shock at Andy’s competency in dealing with his family’s situation. Jim and Pam were heavily in Andy’s corner for much of last year.
• It has been announced that The Killing might get a season 3 on AMC, so check back here for my thoughts on Linden, Holder, Sweaters, and Rain. Also, read my Revolution recaps.