One of the ongoing subplots — arguably the central plot — of The Office is how Michael, lacking a family of his own, attempts to turn Dunder Mifflin into his surrogate family. Ordinarily, this leads to frustration and awkwardness with the staff, but, ultimately, acceptance and even appreciation. Then again, Michael is their boss; they have no choice. Last night, Michael discovered what happens when someone superior to him treats a job like an actual job and not a way to fill in the gaps in one’s life. And this time, he might have really learned something.
Kathy Bates’s Jo, the visiting CEO of the Sabre Corporation that has purchased Dunder Mifflin, is devoted to her job, to the point that she makes her employees work to 8:30 p.m. on St. Patrick’s Day. But with her, it’s all about the work; she’s not keeping everyone jailed in the office with her because it’s her surrogate clubhouse, she knows where to draw the line between professionalism and camaraderie. But Michael has no idea such a line exists, which is why when Jo, being fake office polite, offhandedly says he’s welcome to stay with her next time he’s in Tallahassee, he not only takes her up on it, he buys plane tickets. When Joe puts him in his place, he’s at first hurt and confused: His infantile viewpoint on office politics can’t keep him from imagining a fun playland with his new work pal. But when the whole office is desperate to go out drinking for St. Paddy’s, Michael realizes it’s time to be an actual manager and advocate for his employees, not a buddy with the new boss. After he mans up and tells Jo that he’s setting everyone free, she smiles, and you wonder if that was her plan all along. It’s a grand moment for Michael: The more professional he is, the more you sympathize with him. And the more believable he is.
Still: It’s Michael, the guy who says St. Patrick’s Day is “the closest the Irish will ever get to Christmas.” Don’t change too much.
Elsewhere, Erin and Andy have their first date canceled because of Erin’s cold, but he pops by her place anyway and meets her “foster brother,” a creepy fellow who is clearly taking advantage of Erin’s sweet naïvete. This is an extremely promising plotline: It places Erin in the real world — where she’d be easy prey for scam artists and users — and will eventually force Andy to take charge of the situation and stick up for her. Now that they’re an active, forward-moving couple (their good night “kiss” was lovely), their relationship has serious potential. And it can provide the heart and romantic thrust that has been missing from the show for a couple of seasons now. It certainly beats Pam and Jim’s “ironic baby.”
And at the very least, we got an appearance from David Koechner’s Todd Packer character. What has two thumbs and laughed every minute he was onscreen? This guy.
Kelly West at Cinemablend enjoyed the subplot of Darryl being briefly promoted … and then wanting to immediately head back to the warehouse.
The Examiner enjoyed that the show mostly concentrated on being funny this week.
The AV Club’s Todd VanDerWerff thinks “the Sabre arc has been a bit of a misfire.”