Despite finding a lot of individual elements unpleasant, for some reason, I consider Get The Girl to be one of the better episodes this season, which is most certainly damning with faint praise. I don’t know why I didn’t mind it as much as I probably should have. Maybe Nellie’s presence in Scranton provided a novelty like the type that blinded me to the faults of the Florida endeavor at its start. Maybe it was because this episode marked the return of Extended Use Robert California. Maybe it was because a storyline will actually continue for another week. Whatever the case, the whole was slightly greater than the sum of its parts.
Before we get into Scranton, I want to first talk about Andy/Erin, which makes up approximately half of the episode. After learning that Erin decided to stay in Tallahassee, Andy drives non-stop to Florida by following a “heart map” (that takes him 200 miles off course) in an attempt to win her back. Throughout the season, I’ve complained about my overall dislike of Andy and that I’ve been annoyed with how the reason behind Andy not getting together with Erin seems to primarily be a combination of writers’ laziness and Andy’s cowardice. So tonight, I tried to watch the episode through the eyes of an Andin(?) ‘shipper.
Putting aside all the baggage I’ve ranted about over the past few weeks/months, for those invested in this relationship, I presume this episode will work. Andy is still weak (he hasn’t broken up with Jessica), but more a sad, hapless romantic than a silly showman with a smug smile. Erin is Erin, which isn’t a bad thing. And the revelation of feelings, Erin’s original rejection of Andy, and her eventual choice to take him back was treated with actual humanity. For all the flaws in their relationship, I kind of appreciated what the show did tonight. Did it reach the emotional heights of the best of the series? Of course not. But at least they remembered to base it on somewhat believable emotions rather than pure goofiness. And, as an additional benefit, none of the other Dunder Mifflinites were involved in Andy’s mission; it was just him and Erin with no one from back home cheering him on.
Back in Scranton, Nellie, fresh from her catastrophic attempt to create a Sabre Store, arrives in town to take over the Regional Manager position. Despite the job being filled by the absent Andy, she takes over his office and begins ingratiating herself with the crew. Although Jim and Dwight warn against selecting her as the team’s leader, her promise of raises puts most of the staff on her side.
Her plot, which involves a wacky conference room scene and first impression performance reviews, makes her come across as a bizarre mix of Michael Scott and Robert California. Because she possesses some of the latter’s qualities (e.g. how she persuades Pam to take a nap), it is difficult for me to view her as completely boneheaded, despite the evidence to the contrary. Since Tallahassee, I’ve pondered if she’s actually dumb or a smart person playing dumb. Tonight, I started wondering if she has become Robert’s malicious protégé. A lot of what she did tonight felt like a retread of what Robert California did in The List, except with a “happier” ending and more agreeable tormentor. Whether this was the writers cribbing themselves or one of California’s games remains unknown. (Though I will acknowledge that massive odds are it’s the former.) I also liked how Nellie was still in Andy’s office at the end of the episode. Although we know that Andy will probably and unfortunately reclaim his throne next week or the week after, her remaining in charge for at least one more episode will provide some blessed continuity.
Speaking of Robert California, I mentioned at the start of this review that this is his first major episode in several weeks, and his extended screentime definitely serves as a reminder why he’s too good for this series. His refusal to stop Nellie’s coup by explaining, “this is an odd situation, but it’s very interesting how it’s playing out” shows how he is operating on a different- and funnier and more fascinating- level than the rest of the cast. It reminded me of Jennifer Barkley’s (Kathryn Hahn) comment from Parks and Recreation about how she gives tips to the Knope campaign because the Pawnee election is so beneath her that revealing her game plan to her amateurish competitors allows her to play chess against herself. The difference being that we want to see if and how Leslie defeats Bobby Newport in Parks and Recreation, while in The Office, I’m far more interested in watching California use the Scranton branch as pawns in whatever game he’s hatched.
Speaking of people to sacrifice, something about the Scranton segment tonight that really bothered me was Jim and Pam. They started the show as the audience surrogates- people in a miserable job and a miserable life who strive to maintain their common sense and sanity in the midst of madness. Yet somewhere along the line, they’ve turned into the office’s mom and dad. Pam even says tonight “I like working here,” a line that really shows how far she’s fallen. I know this isn’t a new development, and even I have to admit that it grew somewhat organically from them constantly saving Michael from himself, but I still find it a disheartening path for the two characters. If Jim is going to obsessively try to protect intelligent people like Dwight and Andy and participate in Halloween festivities as he did this year, the cool detachment quality that defined him now rings false.
• I don’t think I’ve once commented this season on how far away from “documentary” this show has gotten. I don’t want to break my streak, but I will say that whoever was chosen to stay in Florida with Erin was probably very happy about the gig. For some reason the same style with a similar suspension of disbelief requirement in Parks and Recreation does not bother me at all.
• I liked the opening sequence that featured a balloon that had been trapped in the rafters of the warehouse for years making its final descent. It seemed like a genuine workplace moment.
• Another great California scene: His speech about how Charles Darwin is in charge of every office.
• Unless I missed a scene or line that made this “canon,” I’m sticking with the belief that Irene convinced Erin to forgive Andy because Erin was a terrible maid who was ruining her life.
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