If you exclude the clip show from two weeks ago, The Office hasn’t had a new episode in almost two months, so you can be forgiven if you've forgotten all the major plotlines still hanging. We found out during “Secret Santa” back on December 10 that Dunder Mifflin was being sold, but the branches themselves, including the inexplicably successful Scranton arm, would be allowed to stay open. Last night, we saw the ramifications of that decision, and what new ownership really means.
First off: It means guest stars! The company, Sabre (pronounced SABE-ER, as Andy and Erin learn after they wrote a song welcoming the new owners), introduces itself through a corporate video hosted by Christian Slater, in which he pronounces, “Have you ever tasted a rainbow? At Sabre, you will.” We meet the company’s CEO, played by Kathy Bates in what will be a recurring role, presumably as yet another boss who pushes around Michael but ultimately warms up to him (or, in the case of Charles Minor, simply loses to him). And perhaps most promising, Zach Woods, the slimy, hilarious American political aide Chad from In the Loop, joins as “the new Jan.” If you’ve seen In the Loop, you know no one does passive-aggressive undermining like Woods: We imagine epic face-offs between him and Dwight.
As for the actual plot, we’re getting a bit of a reset. The new owners are more corporate and traditional than Dunder Mifflin, blocking sites like YouTube and Twitter, requiring every employee drink out of metal water bottles (to help the environment, apparently), and focusing on the selling of printers, rather than paper. That won’t do for Michael, who rebels by visiting David Wallace for advice. Unfortunately, Wallace has lost all meaning in his life, post–Dunder Mifflin, growing a beard, playing in a band with his son, and trying to sell a vacuum called “Suck It” (it picks up children’s toys). After being berated by CEO Bates via teleconference, Michael bites his lip and tries to make it work with the new owners. He’s a resilient guy; we bet he figures out a way.
The other major news of the night? Ed Helms is finally a full, above-the-credits cast member. Props to the Nard Dog!
Nathan Rabin from the AV Club pointed out how Kathy Bates’s brief time on-screen was “semi-terrifying.”
Margaret Lyons of EW.com isn’t crazy about the burgeoning Jim-Pam-baby plotline.
Joel Keller of TV Squad thinks this whole season has been off-kilter.