“There is one person in charge of every office in America, and that person is Charles Darwin.”
Andy left for Florida on his quest to win back Erin last week, and now that he’s there, he’s not in the Scranton office to see that Nellie’s arrived to snag his job. Instead of taking charge after Andy calls in “sick,” Robert sits back while Nellie occupies Andy’s office. “I have one simple philosophy in business,” Nellie tells the camera. “If the seat is open, the job is open. It’s how I came to briefly race a Formula One car.” She decides to give all the employees performance reviews based on first impressions, and Jim calls Andy’s cell phone over and over trying to give him a heads-up, but Andy’s too busy shaving on the beach (and later, confessing his love to Erin) to pick up the call.
With Andy out of the picture and Nellie there leading the storm of confused employees with her mix of mysterious British wit (“Do you call that a King James breakfast pie?!”) and her unpredictable but confident and cheerful managerial style (her first task is raising almost everyone’s salary), I think The Office may have finally found the best way to anchor itself. This is confirmed when Dwight, after his initial staunch disapproval (“She stinks of failure. I should know, I’m in an identical situation”) comes to appreciate the way she marches right into Andy’s office, mentions it’s 10:00AM and he’s not there, then briskly declares herself Regional Manager. The day’s not even over and Nellie has wooed all of Dunder Mifflin except – surprise surprise – Jim Halpert, who’s so stuck in preserving Andy’s honor that he doesn’t notice he has a new boss who comes to work on time and encourages his wife to take more naps. Jenna Fischer killed it in the nap scene with Catherine Tate, making a seamless and hilarious transition from professionally offended to accepting that yes, Pam needs naps badly. I was glad to see her get a chance to bring in some laughs.
With no one left on his side, Jim doesn’t let up on his desperate need to remain anti-Nellie and tells Robert she’s handing out raises, even after Jim gets ahold of Andy, who says he’s not returning to PA unless he’s with Erin. Harping on his theme back from last year’s “Search Committee,” Robert tells Jim “Sometimes the flowers arrange themselves, Jim,” and later: “All life is sex. All sex is competition. And there are no rules to that game.” Nellie ends up pressuring Jim into accepting her when she likens herself to Tinkerbell, announcing that she’ll only exist if everyone believes in her – a much better way of using Kevin than the Girl Scout cookie competition last week. Watching him yell “Come on Jim, you’re KILLING HER!” with sincere tears in his eyes while everyone else claps…well that’s just about perfect if you ask me.
Then there was the Andy/Erin arc, which at first seemed promising enough when Erin rejects him after he pops out of a cardboard box in front of Old Lady’s house (Does she have a name?), but then Andy just sort of… hangs around at Old Lady’s house with Old Lady, Erin, and Creepy Grandson Who Smokes On The Roof. And while I do love the way Old Lady seems to know more about technology than her younger peers (like when she told Erin how to set up her videochat last week and, this week, tells Andy how to turn his phone on silent: “Just go to Preferences and click…”), the idle energy during these scenes made me just want to go back to Scranton where things felt genuinely exciting. Defeated, Andy starts to drive away, but instead we get a cliché scene of Erin running after his car, professing her love, and sharing a kiss with him (before her cute but scary admission that she’s never owned a toothbrush: “There’s always one around”) before embarking on what I guess is Andy and Erin’s new life together in Florida. Or Scranton?
Along with Robert, Erin has been my favorite character this season, but to see this sweet reunion with Andy bummed me out. Andy deserved to have his smug presumptions about the rightness of his drive to Florida (before even breaking up with his girlfriend) on a whim, but I think Erin’s questionable levels of intelligence and sanity can sometimes be forgotten due to, for example, how adorable she is as Hipster Erin dancing in front of a crowd of homeless men. Plus, if she’s really going to get back with a guy who broke her heart “more recently and more often,” then I guess I overestimated her resolve last week – and in that case, these two are perfect for each other and will probably break each other’s hearts into eternity. As much as I love Erin, I’d rather keep the overdone love drama in Florida.
Earlier this week, Kurp fleshed out some of The Office’s problems this season, from the dud that is would-be homewrecker Cathy to the tiring focus on Erin and Andy’s relationship to the overall contrived vibe the Tallahassee arc brought to viewers too distracted by, say, what an awful idea the Sabre store was and why Dwight would get behind it with not much aside from one slightly amusing trip to the hospital during his time in Florida. While “Get the Girl” did confirm a lot of these creeping concerns (see the title of the episode), it also won me over, and it’s all thanks to Nellie Bertram. Now that it’s clear she’s sticking around – next week’s episode is called “Welcome Party” – maybe there’s still yet hope for The Office? Maybe it’ll be amazing if we really all believe in it? God forbid Nellie goes away and Andy comes back to continue his mealy-mouthed non-managing. These employees have become so unproductive and listless that they drop everything to gather around to watch a mylar balloon sink from the warehouse ceiling. They deserve (and need!) a real leader, one who finally approaches the manic insanity and delusional self-confidence of a Michael Scott.
Megh Wright misses Harrisburg, lives in Brooklyn, and answers phones in Manhattan.