Kathy Bates, as Jolene Bennett, CEO of Sabre Corporation, the new owners of Dunder Mifflin, is the next in a long line of intelligent, competent human beings who stumble across the Scranton branch and are befuddled by the extent of the incompetence. Each of them, from David Wallace to Charles Minor to even poor Jan, ultimately succumbs to Michael’s charms/talents/inevitability. But we suspect Jolene Bennett is going to be a tougher nut to crack. As she puts it: “I’m a breast-cancer survivor, close personal friends with Nancy Pelosi, and Truman Capote and I slept with three of the same guys.” She brings two large dogs with her everywhere, hates pointless meetings, and just doesn’t seem to give a damn one way or another. That is to say: She’s Kathy Bates.
Her reorganization of the Scranton branch made up the general plot of last night’s episode, but the takeaway was just how massive a presence Bates is on the show. It can almost be overwhelming, too incongruous — like having Conan O’Brien drop in through the ceiling. When it’s working, it’s fun to watch her cut through Jim and Michael’s stammering. But there’s still a fear this is going to be like the Harlem Globetrotters landing on Gilligan’s Island.
For a brief moment, it appears that Jim is going to be the new manager of Sabre-owned Dunder Mifflin, thanks to Michael’s discovery that salespeople can make more money, but that’s a transition that would be too much for the show to take. It’s definitely too much for Michael: He’s too far removed from working with the rank and file to be anything but a boss again. For a moment, we thought it might take the show in a daring new direction to have Michael working under Jim, but ultimately, one senses it would make us like each of them less. On the whole, the episode worked to transition from the old Dunder Mifflin to the new one — that is to say, slightly altered, but not really.
The star of the show, once again, was Ed Helms as the Nard Dog, who provided every laugh of the episode. (Save, perhaps, for Michael calling Florida a “colorful, lawless swamp.”) As part of his ongoing inert attempts to woo Erin, Andy gives everyone in the office Valentine’s Day cards, including Kelly, who immediately believes he’s in love with her. This makes Erin sad, which leads to the classic moment of Erin saying, “Andy Bernard is a playboy, and why shouldn’t he be?” as two dalmatians furiously sniff his crotch.