Tonight, The Office gives us an hour-long episode. Not like two weeks ago when two half-hour episodes were aired side-by-side, but a genuine, 60-minute installment. As with most 30-minute episodes, “Moving On” focuses on three main plotlines. However, as with the last hour-long Office adventure, this one features another Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! alum- Bob Odenkirk, in what is supposed to be the most memorable segment of the episode.
His portion takes place in Philadelphia as we continue the travails of The Office: Athlead. As Jim is spending increasingly more time in the land where it’s always sunny, Pam is considering relocating the entire Halpert clan down there. Looking for a job herself, she applies for a secretarial position at a real estate firm led by Mr. Show with Bob and David‘s Odenkirk, who is Mark- a “carbon copy” of Michael Scott. Disappointingly, Pam doesn’t trust the audience to pick that up from his awful jokes, outdated references, and racial insensitivity so she tells us in a talking head segment. Thankfully, the actor behind “Better Call Saul” Goodman does not merely mimic Steve Carell. Though they share similar traits, he provides his own spin on the character. He lacks the likability of the show’s former lead and plays the role somewhat closer to Ricky Gervais’ original boss, David Brent. While I felt that Scott had a good, if misguided heart, underneath, both Brent and Odenkirk’s character have something of a mean streak running through them. Not exactly malicious, but more cockily self-centered and ignorantly abusive rather than annoyingly playful.
All this leads to Pam and Jim having dinner at the Athlead office where she talks about her horrible job interview. Although Jim tells her she’ll do better at the next go around, she admits being conflicted and not wanting to leave their home in Scranton. This is shocking to Jim who presumably and understandably supported and expected the family to move to Philadelphia. This revelation also brings up one of the more interesting angles of the show. Because we don’t really know about their personal lives, it’s hard to identify with her desire to stay in Scranton. They’ve complained about their lack of a social life, and it’s been implied that they don’t have many friends. Pam preferring Scranton to Philly because of her oft talked about city art project comes across as a poor rationale at best. If she chooses the home of Dunder Mifflin, it will appear like settling and provide a depressing ending to her character. One where she willingly gives up hope for a better, more interesting life in exchange for an eternity of monotony, which she actually complained about in the first episode of this season.
However, surprisingly, the best segment tonight concentrates on Andy. Condemned by David Wallace for his three-month boat tour (though not fired because Wallace feels loyal to Andy for convincing him to buy the company), disrespected by his employees who leave when they feel like it, and dumped by Erin, Andy is down in the dumps and sobs uncontrollably in his office throughout the day. After discovering that Erin is dating someone else, someone named Pete, it takes him a while to realize it’s office Pete, since he forgot the new guy’s name having called him “Plop” for so long. Toby refuses to let him fire Pete, which turns Andy into a whiny brat- more so than usual. To get his revenge, he hires Pete’s college flame as a marketing professional and Erin’s ex-beau Gabe as a management consultant. As he sends both former pairings into arguments in a conference room scene, he smiles malevolently (now there’s the maliciousness missing from Mark, Michael, and David) as he gleefully presides over his carefully orchestrated trouble in paradise.
I felt this piece was strong enough for its own episode. Actually, with the amount of time spent on it over the hour, it could very well take up the length of a conventional episode. But what makes it successful is that it’s multi-faceted. At the start, the show actually makes Andy somewhat sympathetic- not enough to make me want to see him win back Erin or the hearts and mind of his staff, but enough to remind me that he’s a real person with real feelings. Erin, Pete, and Andy all do nice character work, and there’s something grounded and in-character about the way they react and interact. Gabe’s return was welcome, and it made me wish they did more with Woods while he was on the cast. Nevertheless, I’m still glad that they didn’t keep him on once his character outlived his usefulness or point. And it ends with Andy as the bad guy, a role that may suit him better than anything else they’ve made him become.
In the third major plot, Dwight enlists Angela to come with him and take care of his ill aunt. It’s another installment of Those Crazy Schrutes, but it ends with Dwight attempting to kiss Angela. While it started as a take-it-or-leave-it segment, it reminded me of how good the Dwight/Angela chemistry is. Hopefully, the show gives us more of them alone together as it reaches its end.
In an even less important storyline, Toby visits the prison where the Scranton Strangler is being held to impress Nellie…or something. Harboring doubts over the conviction, he goes to get the true story/apologize and ends up strangled (not to death) by the Strangler. Even though it takes place over probably less than three minutes of screentime, it’s better done and more intense than The Paperboy, which I saw this weekend and was surprised by how truly horrid it was. With the man in custody officially labeled the Scranton Strangler now (though maybe his attack was his anger at Toby for not voting with his beliefs), I guess that should put to rest theories that Toby, Creed, and/or Gabe were the true perpetrators. I love when fan theories die. All that wasted time and effort looking for clues made for naught with a throwaway line.
Finally, although we don’t get a return of Brian the Creepy Mic Guy, we do get one more tantalizing tidbit about the direction of the show. During a closing segment that could have worked as an opening one, we see an online ad for “Coming This May: The Office: An American Workplace– Ten years in the making, a look at the lives and loves of an average American small business office.” What this means- whether this Office will be an Internet series, an actual show, a movie, or something else- remains up in the air. (After all, the network television season doesn’t begin until around September and I can’t picture this as a summer series.) But in May, around the time of the series finale, we should learn what this is all leading to. Of course, if it’s just the regular run of the series in the showniverse, it’s hard to imagine anyone caring about stuff that happened a decade ago that only really covers current events at Halloween. Additionally, it brings up the interesting question of whether anyone would want to spend a decade following these people, particularly if they were real. Would it be seen with the same derision as a Kardashian show or would it obtain some legitimate interest from viewers? Maybe one of the benefits of The Farm would have been to see the aftermath of becoming a quasi-celebrity.
• Revolution returns March 25. I’ll be going back to recapping that show. Let’s hope it’s improved and acquired some level of memorability.
• I liked Mark looking at and commenting on the cameras. It’s rare that people do that on this series, especially people like clients who should be somewhat thrown by the sudden appearance of a camera and a lecherous boom mic guy.
• I haven’t done any research on this, but I wonder if Odenkirk was initially considered for Michael Scott.
• The name of the Scranton Strangler is George Howard Scub. As Darryl puts it, “a devil’s name.”
• Gabe still pines for Erin and he tries to win her back by bragging about how he can use chopsticks, a talent Pete lacks.