What a letdown. Ricky Gervais — savior of award ceremonies, target of Judd Apatow’s bogus ire — had only the briefest of walk-ons last night, one that served no greater purpose than to underscore Michael’s kinship with his forebear, David Brent. Gervais, along with Stephen Merchant, essentially birthed this show and, over the course of two BBC seasons and a Christmas episode, his darker David surpassed Michael in every uncomfortable, brilliantly executed way. We expected something much more fantastically awkward from the reprisal of this role than a mutual appreciation for racist humor and a “that’s what she said” joke. If, as David said, “Comedy is a place where the mind goes to tickle itself,” this episode left us un-giggly.
So, out of nowhere, the Nard Dog is the runt of the Dunder Mifflin litter and his job is now in jeopardy. A quest for new customers led him to host a seminar called “How to Grow Your Business,” but he had trouble recruiting his co-workers: Jim bailed for reasons that remained unknown until later, and Dwight, Phyllis, and Stanley weren’t impressed with the prospective clients. Dwight quit with this effective point: “We’re no more a team than the people staying in the same hotel are a team!” In their stead, a desperate Andy appealed to Creed, Ryan, and Kevin, only Ryan doesn’t like committing to things, so Kelly took his place in order to test-drive one of her several brands, the Business Bitch. (Other ideas include the Diet Bitch and the Etiquette Bitch — Mindy Kaling can’t fail and the seminar could have used even more of her.) Kevin lost his lunch while trying to give an uneasy “dream big” speech owing to a pregame warm-up that included running around the room to “Crazy Train.” And then Creed — well, naturally, he wasn’t going to make any sense. “Two eyes, two ears, ten fingers, two nipples, a butt, two kneecaps, a penis. I have just described to you the Loch Ness Monster. And the reward for its capture? All the riches in Scotland. So I have one question for you: Why are you here?” Creed’s randomness, like Kelly’s obnoxiousness, is never unwelcome, but the Loch Ness Monster actually gets a fair amount of play as a sitcom punch line these days and How I Met Your Mother’s treatment is far more consistent and funny.
When Dwight got wind that Andy’s plan might be working, he wanted back in, but Darryl cautioned Andy against it, rightly pointing out that if there were renewed interest, it meant he was doing well enough on his own. The friendship between Darryl and Andy has been one of the more consistent plotlines this year. Darryl’s offered Andy some romantic advice, joined his band, and even gotten frustrated with him for his gratuitous texts. So it was nice to see him getting Andy’s back here. Too bad he was otherwise absent.
In the midst of this, Michael was pursuing a newly single Holly by conspiring with her to be the plants in Andy’s seminar. And, for some reason, they had to be Greek, which allowed Holly and Michael to do stupid, Muppet-y voices. Much as Amy Ryan is a treasure, none of this felt necessary. It worked only if you’re into the Michael and Holly shtick, which, while it suits the characters, can be really irritating. Under the auspices of keeping in character, Michael (Mykonos) tried to kiss her, but he was denied, though her feelings are sure to soon change.
The big reveal that explains Jim’s quick exit from the office lacked a little zing, too: His childhood friend, Tom, was at the seminar and Jim couldn’t face him. Once, his mom had encouraged little Jim to make friends with people in his own reading group but Tom was in another, so Jim told him, “My mom thinks you’re too dumb to hang out with.” A backstory that’s pretty realistic for being also dull. The only good line to come out of their eventual run-in belonged to Tom: “Where’s your jetpack, Zuckerberg?” Reading more into the situation, though: Jim must experience serious pangs of regret when contrasting the intellectual promise he displayed as a kid with the mediocrity he has now settled for.
Last night, it was the minor subplot that was most rewarding. Erin’s been playing Scrabble with Gabe and the stakes are reasonable: Winner gets to pick the movie. Except poor, dingbat Erin is terrible at Scrabble, so she’s been subjected to Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining, and The Ring when all she wants to do is win so she can see Wall-E. Enter Oscar, who pointed out that Erin could have gone for “mood” instead of “moo,” which she mistook to be the past tense for “moo,” or “moon” (Erin: “like a cow jumped over the moon”). A funny little moment occurred between Pam and Oscar when he says, “She’s stuck on that one thing,” while Pam notes, “It doesn’t just have to be cow stuff, right?” Oscar lent a hand (bet that “q” was for a game-winning “qua”) leaving Gabe confused as to how Erin could be doing so well “unless she is living out some Slumdog Millionaire scenario where every word she’s playing has a connection to her orphan past.” Gabe, unmasked, is kind of a condescending, controlling jerk. Andy, though, loaned Erin Shrek 2. Based just on their film taste, we are on Team Gabe. Rent Frozen, Gabe.
Dwight gave Andy his due credit at the end: “I didn’t know you had it in you.” Andy: “I guess when you looked in me, you forgot about my balls. They’re on the outside. I don’t know how you missed them.” Triumphant words for a less than triumphant episode. In retrospect, we can be satisfied with the meta-meaning of the David and Michael run-in, the acknowledgement of a torch passed and the premonition that Steve Carell, like Gervais before him, will soon abandon what will likely be his most iconic role. David’s return assures us that perhaps these bumbling figures will still exist out there, after their departure, living life while awaiting a cameo.