It’s been four months since the last episode of The Office, and in last night’s season premiere “The List” we learn that Pam is pregnant, Angela is pregnant (with The Senator’s child, allegedly), Andy Bernard is the new Regional Manager, and Robert California managed to talk Jo into giving him her job as C.E.O. of Sabre. Aside from the very-pregnant Pam’s hormonal freak-outs, the only conflict of this episode revolves around one page of Robert’s notebook dividing the Dunder Mifflin employees into two unlabeled lists. Will one list be fired? Does he not like one list? Is one list the better workers? The Office was smart to begin this season with the kind of uncertainty only Robert California can provide.
Robert takes one of his lists out to lunch (Jim, Dwight, Angela, Darryl, Kevin, Toby, Phyllis, and Oscar) and tells them “I just think you’re winners, and I wanted to have lunch with you.” When the winners return to the office, they all rub it in the losers’ faces, and Andy demonstrates why he might turn out to be a great manager: He gets pizza for all the employees who Robert didn’t invite to lunch. He tells Robert why Stanley should be on the winner list (high sales numbers!). He tells Robert why Pam should be on the winner list (creative and kind). He tells Robert why Erin should be on the winner list (“a winner if there ever was one”). He also tells Robert he agrees that Gabe should stay on the losers list — even though Andy’s on that list too — which I couldn’t agree with more. Andy also wins what he assumes to be a valiant fight for a half-day more of Columbus Day vacation only to learn from Stanley that they got that every year from Michael. Was it no fight at all, or one of the many battles Andy will fight and never be appreciated for as the new lonely boss?
Among the disappointments of this episode were the office’s interest in planking, Jim’s cheesy list for Pam (“Pam/Cece/New Baby” VS “Everything Else”), and Dwight’s toned-down screen presence which he credits to a strict martial arts/kickboxing/meditation regime, but Spader as Robert California filled up all that emptiness with some great one-liners: “Ours is a cultural ghetto, wouldn’t you agree?” His presence alone keeps everyone on edge the way any productive boss does, while Andy resorts to sticking up for the loser list even though the whole thing is just a test masterminded by Mr. California. The Office has a great opportunity to transform into something completely new right now — I just hope these losers prove me right.
Megh Wright misses Harrisburg, lives in Brooklyn, and answers phones in Manhattan.