This week, one half hour before photographer Whitney Cummings finds new ways to be a terrible girlfriend (is this what the entire show is going to be like? Watch as her boyfriend commits a minor misstep and she psychologically torments him for 30 minutes?) on Whitney, we have The Office.
For the second week in a row, I thought The Office wasn’t bad, and this episode was one of its funnier offerings in a while. The main plot involves newly anointed regional branch manager Andy throwing a garden party (hence the episode’s title) at Schrute Farm to seemingly impress new CEO Robert California, which explains why the entire office attends. But really, it is to earn the respect of his derisive father, Walter Sr. (Stephen Collins, also known as the biological father of Dennis and Deandra Reynolds in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the guy who was eaten by a giant space vagina in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and the dad from 7th Heaven who forced a man in the middle of a nervous breakdown to adopt a child purely for sadistic reasons. That show was a lot weirder than most people give it credit for).
All throughout the episode, I was waiting for the shoe to drop. You know, the super happy ending. The moment when Andy stands up for himself, or his father says that he has always been proud of him, or the office sticks up for him, or some giant “You’re awesome Andy! We love you!” banner is written across the sky. Thankfully, it never comes. Darryl throwing him a beer works better than the sing-along at the end of Andy’s Play and the cheers from The Incentive.
After a relatively solid cold open involving people defacing Dunder-Mifflin billboards featuring Andy’s face on them, we learn about garden parties. As Andy explains, they’re better than a barbecue because they are “dignified, quieter, there are rules.” Earlier, his rich preppie family threw a promotion party for his brother Walter Jr. (Josh Groban), and now Andy is throwing one for himself.
The party goes off mostly well, especially compared to how other Office (and television) parties turn out. However, a toast Andy tries to start in an attempt to get someone (anyone) to praise him, ends up with everyone thanking California, except for Ryan (who praises the troops from both sides) and California (who thanks every worker but Andy, likening managers to crying babies who produce nothing). With the Bernards, Andy fails at winning their affections. His parents want to leave early because they have theater tickets (to Moneyball). Andy coaxes his father into a sing-along (like the one he performed with Walt Jr. at the previous promotion party), and both brother and father steal the spotlight from him. And, accidentally due to a baby monitor, everyone hears Andy’s father call him a loser who should grow up and stop being so desperate for his father’s love. Walt Sr. isn’t wrong.
In the B-plot, Jim plays a prank on Dwight. Because Dwight wants to be an excellent host, Jim writes a fake book entitled “Throwing a Garden Party” (by James Trickington), which Dwight buys on e-bay. Throughout the episode we see some of Jim’s suggestions for the host, including loudly announcing each entrant’s name, being a Dance Master with one of the wait staff (we don’t find out if Handel’s Passacaglia being played on a harp was Dwight’s idea or Jim’s), and performing a fire stick-laden closing ceremony. It’s a very first season style gag, which is a good thing.
Because that is really all there is, the episode allows lesser characters to get screen time and focus more on jokes. Gabe, whom we haven’t heard from since probably before the season premiere, has several lines, mostly condemning himself for not “being on his game.” (He realizes too late that he should have been the first to throw a garden party for and make a toast to California. Considering what a corporate lackey Gabe is, he and California should have more of a relationship than the nothing the show has provided). These brief moments also make you realize that he might have potential as a Ryan/Creed “quick hit” type character.
Dwight’s memorable cousin Mose also has several good scenes.
• I normally dislike “outside the office” episodes, but this one didn’t bother me that much. It was not as good as Dinner Party, but yards beyond Andy’s Play or The Christening.
• When Robert brought the basil plant instead of the marmalade, that was a test for Andy to stand up for himself. I am interested to see the first character who tries to play Robert California’s game.
• Kevin’s wig returns.
• Josh Groban makes too little of an impression to be bad.
• Meredith doing a Melissa McCarthy-from-Bridesmaids impression over Josh Groban feels forced.
• I enjoyed the Darryl/Oscar argument about Citizen Kane and the true meaning of ‘rosebud.’
• Both Angela and Pam are naming their babies Philip after one’s favorite cat and one’s grandfather, respectively.
• Decent episode or not, the names Walter Sr. and Walter Jr. have too much value to just throw out there.
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