“Fundraiser” is another episode where we are asked to believe that the entire office goes to every single social event together. This is fine, of course, as different backdrops and scenarios are necessary in a long-running show. But it is amusing that no one ever has something better to do — like hang out with their children — than go to whatever garden party/trivia night/sex mansion they get invited to.
The bulk of this episode took place at a fund-raiser Angela and her husband are throwing for some awfully cute puppies. (“Our love for them confounds reasons,” Robert California states correctly.) This set-up mainly seems to exist to get Andy and the rest of his former co-workers, along with the who’s who of District 26, in the same room long enough to witness his breakdown.
Robbed of the sense of importance and sense of not being the loser his parents think he is and feeling betrayed by Robert California, Andy has started losing his shit. Now, we’d love to see his rock opera about the dystopian future where all guitars have been destroyed, but we bet Styx would be displeased. To compensate for his slighted manhood, and after misunderstanding the advice from the always-welcome David Wallace, Andy buys his own table at the fund-raiser and then demands to adopt all the former service dogs to teach Robert a lesson about loyalty and to show everyone how sane and happy he is. Lots of great work by Ed Helms here, who played Andy as even more keyed-up than normal and has found new modulations on that desperate, barely-holding-it-together look Andy always has in his eyes.
This show has a frustrating tendency to play fast and loose with its characters internal makeup if it will aid a joke, and we got plenty of that in this episode. Erin is probably the show’s funniest character these days, but snarky she is not. Wide-eyed and naïve, yes. Dry-witted, no. So, as funny as her deadpan “Twelve dogs. This is my life now, I’m a dog nurse” was, it still rang untrue and out of character. Elsewhere, it felt like the writers were putting a lampshade on this tendency by having Kevin, whose intelligence tends to fluctuate given the needs of the plot, be the only character who was willing to be honest with Andy (“this is the worst thing that’s ever happened to you, not the best”). But while this felt like a stretch of a character that gets stretched constantly as it is, it was undeniably amusing to watch Kevin become increasingly frustrated as he felt he was the only person picking up on Andy’s problems. Of course, everyone else did notice as well and volunteered to take some of the dogs off Andy’s hands … leading to one of the darkest ending tags this show has ever done. Which, given the dark opener, gave the episode a strange set of bookends — a dead Smokey Robinson fake-out on the way in and a dead dog fake-out on the way out.
There were a few other character issues in this episode. First, there is simply no way that Dwight, a man of maniacal conviction who values his bloodline above all else, would not have gotten some DNA several episodes ago to prove that Angela’s baby is a little Schrute. At the very least, when in the same room as The Senator, it feels deeply out of character that he wouldn’t make some snide remark to him, rather than spend his time trying to master the rules of the silent auction. As great as Dwight’s deflecting speech was when he realized he had lost the auction game to the tune of $34,000 (“How many courses did we have tonight? Two? Three if you chose the pudding.”), it still feels frustrating that the show has apparently dropped the Dwight baby plotline altogether (or at least until the season finale) when it’s an idea that could potentially open up new character shadings for Dwight and Angela. Granted, said Senator (Jack Coleman, playing it just skeezy enough) was busy flirting with Oscar, who was overjoyed that he still has it but was really excited that he was, yet again, right about something. (“I feel so bad for Angela,” he said with a beaming smile, just moments after a lingering arm grab.)
This was a packed episode, but it featured one of the show’s smallest plots, at the expense of character. Nellie has decided she wants to be friends with Daryl, for some reason. (“The only thing standing in our way is the contempt he seems to feel for me.”). Why Nellie would want to be his friend is unclear, as she has demonstrated little need for anyone’s approval previously (though her plea that Todd Packer’s soul not be canceled did demonstrate some level of morality), and there’s no indication that she views Daryl and his warehouse crew as any kind of threat to her position. Heck, she doesn’t even know where the warehouse is. But Daryl is not fooled by her attempts to win him over. (And speaking of dropped plots, what’s up with Val anyway? Her character didn’t have much to her but it was fun to watch Craig Robinson play nervous and mooney-eyed.)
Perhaps showing loyalty to his friend and perhaps just being his usual mischievous self, Daryl takes Nellie up on her desire to have real American food and gets them tacos for the reasonable price of $30. This leads to the absurd revelation that Nellie has never eaten a taco and has no idea what it is. (“Please God don’t let them have eyes.”) Now, we should perhaps not over think a subplot that seemingly only exists because Catherine Tate has been signed up for a certain amount of episodes so she has to be given something to do. But it’s been established that before she was a cut-throat corporate raider without the common touch, she was dirt-poor. And there’s Taco Bells everywhere. I mean, come on. But maybe none of that matters, because the sight of Nellie pushing the filling in to her mouth with one finger while steadying the shell with the other hand was so absurd that perhaps it renders all concerns about character consistency temporarily moot.
For now anyway. But we better get some movement on this Schrute Baby thing soon.