“I’d rather she be alone than with somebody. Is that love?”
I was glad when Jesse posted his “Don’t Re-Boo an Office Reboot” piece earlier this week, and as one commenter rightfully pointed out, what would a true Office fan rather have next year – a braindead continuation of the same tired characters, or the terrifying (to me) prospect of a completely new NBC show? Maybe if the news of 30 Rock’s approaching end hadn’t come out this week I wouldn’t feel so defensive about a show that, by way of its own structure, has transformed into more of a comedy actor institution à la SNL and The Daily Show than a sitcom you can just pull the plug on (seriously, if 30 Rock and The Office both go at once I’ll suffer from withdrawal). The third option of an Office reboot only confirms those feelings, and why not? We got past the Michael Scott era, and this week, we finally get past Andy! And there’s a woman in charge who is even more magnificently manipulative than Robert California, and she leads her employees with prowess and gives conference room presentations on impotence!
I was not looking forward to Andy and Erin returning to Scranton after their weird lovefest road trip – I was hoping we’d just have to sacrifice Erin to get rid of the Nard Dog completely, but we got something even better: Andy is fired. It doesn’t come without a domination showdown between him and Nellie where he’s reduced to the status of a misbehaving child and everyone in the office finds out that he has impotence problems (or as Erin so lovingly puts it, “Penile Softeosis”), but when he explodes with pure rage, shatters a framed photo of Nellie, and rams his fist through the wall (prefaced with a few clips of anger management-era Andy from season three), there’s no going back – not even in the logically bizarre world of The Office. I mean, Tobey flat-out admits his powerlessness as HR during Nellie’s completely inappropriate impotence meeting after Robert, the highest man on the Dunder totem pole, tells everyone to talk about their best erection. And Robert even still offers Andy his old sales job after he thrashes the office and calls Robert names as if to delay what we hope is coming – mealy mouth “softie” (in every way except fist strength) Andy’s exeunt.
Even though we’re approaching the season finale, “Angry Andy” spread itself a little too thin. There was just so much to keep track of between Andy’s fight to win his job back or Ryan’s fight to win Kelly back or Pam’s fight to keep Kelly from going back to Ryan, but bouncing back between each minidrama at least helped some of the episode’s many great one-liners shine. The cold open with Phyllis’$2 12 clichés about raining was one of my favorite opening scenes this season, like when she coos “Ooh! The plants are gonna love this” with her adorable rosy-cheeked excitement. Meanwhile, Pam tries to hook Kelly up with her pediatrician (played by Heroes’ Sendhil Ramamurthy, who got maybe a few seconds of screen time) and Ryan is overtaken with jealousy: “Her new boyfriend seems awesome…if you’re into Indian people. I’m not.” His handwritten love poem for Kelly, which brings Jim and Pam to legitimate tears at the very end of the episode, added a touch of humanity to Ryan’s sultan-like doucheyness, like when he tells Kelly he’ll propose to her “maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but probably” while astride an Arabian stallion in full pasha regalia.
Most of the recent fan frustration seems to boil down to Michael Scott comparisons, and if the constant news updates and shakeups taught me anything this season, it’s that The Office is now best enjoyed while completely in the present. Andy’s not Michael Scott, Robert’s not Michael Scott, and even though Nellie shares much of Michael’s love for the inappropriate, even she can’t fill the void that’s made The Office such a frustrating show for some – every recent attempt at a character has become too divisive among fans (Nellie, Robert) or been introduced then abandoned too soon for us to care (Val, Cathy, Nate, Jessica). When Tobey throws his hands up in the air in the middle of the erection conversation, “Angry Andy” twists into something that’s maybe a little too bittersweetly meta for me to handle, and maybe not the response I was hoping for after sticking it out through this circus of a season. I don’t want The Office to die, but I think some hangups need to be erased for a successful reboot to be possible next season, and firing Andy is a great start. Sure, Nellie waltzing in, plucking his job, then firing him doesn’t make a whole lot of logical sense in the real world, and I suspect that as the show approaches its season finale we’ll only get more plot line nonsense and cast member departure announcements. But reboot or not, at least we can leave this whole thing knowing Phyllis had a two-year orgasm. Where’s her spin-off?
What may save The Office is that finally there’s a manager with balls enough to win even Dwight’s admiration. Nard Dog’s chilly reception was much warranted – after all, he jetted off without telling anyone on a dumb romantic whim, ignored threats to return home or at least call in, and meandered back to work like he just took a month of sick leave (he did not). When Robert announces post-wall punch “Andy, we’re going with Nellie” I felt a sigh of relief deep in my heart. Andy has been all nervous goofball smarm and none of the reckless ballsy kamikaze gunfighter guts that Nellie possesses, and she’s even handicapped the usually-dominant Robert California into a ball of turned-on weakness. Some fans might hate Nellie for having that level of abrasive power, but perhaps she’ll use it to clear out the old and help bring about a whole new Office era? I say bring it on.
Megh Wright misses Harrisburg, lives in Brooklyn, and answers phones in Manhattan.