The Office Recap: Pretty Hardest

Photo: Ron Tom/NBC

Dwight reacted to last week’s promotion to vice-president of the Sabre Store Initiative with all of the grace and humility we would expect from our favorite beet master. “You’re excited? You should feel my nipples!” In between lots of shots of white people and the hilarious clothes they play to wear golf and some prime Nellie Betram nonsense (we can only assume what the Goat of Dover could possibly be), Jim tries to congratulate Dwight and tell him he’ll miss his favorite victim when everybody else goes back to Florida. Dwight’s response is in keeping with the modesty with which he’s taken the promotion (“We haven’t always gotten along, and at times I’ve hated your guts. Bye bye”), and Jim can barely contain his sadness at the prospect of life without his friend. (“Not bittersweet … it’s sweet.”)

It turns out that Dwight might be celebrating too soon. After Robert California creepily helps Nellie with her swing, he confesses to Jim that he hates the entire Sabre Store Initiative (he prefers the company take a more fly by night, traveling carnival approach to their “cheap and unintuitive” products), and plans to cancel it and fire Dwight.

Jim’s initial attempts to warn Dwight go about as well as his good-bye. He didn’t even say “please” when he asked Jim to mail him his cell-phone charger and go to hell. This is not good enough for Pam, who like her husband cares more about that totalitarian dork than she lets on. She asks Jim over the phone if he “tried my hardest or my pretty hardest” to warn Dwight. And since Stanley, distraught from having to leave the land of hotties and hotel bars that is Florida, is already reverting back to grump mode and is uninterested in helping, Jim turns around in the middle of his trip to the airport to stop Dwight mere minutes before giving a career-ending presentation. The only way that setup could be even more Romantic Comedy 101 is if Jim and Dwight made out in the rain at the end of the episode while a song from Andy’s brother plays on the soundtrack. (I neither condone nor condemn, slash-fic writers.)

But as is often enough the case on this show (and to be fair, plenty of great shows), a knowingly shop-warn premise was saved through committed, near-manic performances; Dwight’s jumping off a wall to tackle Jim was a particularly snappy piece of work from Rainn Wilson, MVP of the back half of the season. (“It’s like he was bitten by a radioactive Dwight.”) The ensuing fight lasts long enough, and includes enough saliva (“I think about pie and my salivary glands did the rest” was one of the best lines Dwight has done in a while, but would it have killed Jim to call him a horse’s ass after he licked his hand?) to keep Dwight from making the Store presentation, prompting Nellie to promote Todd Packer to take over his place.

Dwight comes in just as Packer takes the fall and Nellie pleads with Robert to realize he can fire the man but he “may not cancel his soul.” (Robert graciously concedes. “That was never on the table.”) Over the years, the relationship between Dwight and Jim has gone from pure antagonism to a form of antagonism out of boredom and affection. It would more or less ruin the show if these two ever hugged and admitted that they’re pretty much best friends (unless Krasinski is leaving to go make another whale movie or something), but the look of recognition in Dwight’s eyes as Packer got it and him helping Jim back up was an eloquent way of summarizing how far the relationship between these two has grown.

Back in Scranton, everyone is still spinning their wheels until the main plot comes back to involve them. Both Toby (whose glasses this episode are entirely too hip) and Daryl (who doesn’t get a follow-up to his putting it out there to Val just yet, we guess) are hustling Girl Scout cookies so their daughters can be good abortion-loving homosexuals. Toby quickly realizes that Daryl let him have the half of the office that doesn’t include Kevin, who orders more cookies than everyone else combined. Kevin realizes his power, and floating the possibility of a triple-digit order, demands tribute in the form of Michigan J. Frog–honoring song and dance, among other humiliations. (Though Kevin doubts that Toby “understands the wants and needs of the thick man,” he can’t deny his dancing reveals that indescribable quality that makes a star.) This leads to typical but likable don’t-think-too-hard B-story silliness, finally culminating in Toby and Daryl refusing to give Kevin a pony ride. (“I refuse to be another man’s horsey.”)

We learn this episode that Erin has gotten a job serving boiled Gatorade for the lady who complimented her bazonngas last week. But before Irene can introduce her new caregiver to her swimming-champ grandson (“shallow end, deep end, he does it all”), she has to tell Andy via Skype that she’s not coming back to Scranton. Cue some passive-aggressive throwing of stuffed animals into a box and Ryan pointing out that Andy would have known this sooner if only he checked his Tumblr account.

At the end of the episode, the Florida group returns, and when Andy sees Jim and Pam’s reunion embrace, something changes. He ends the episode promising to go to Florida to get Erin back. Finally! Don’t bother to dump your girlfriend first, Andy. None of us remember her name anyway.

The Office Recap: Pretty Hardest