The Office "Couples Discount" Review: The Rise and Fall of the Nard-dog

By Nick Campbell

Feb 08, 2013

The Office S09E15: "Couples Discount"

There are few characters on television who bring out our humanity, remind us that we are all a common people, unify us in a single, unanimous, bestial hatred for one guy. That guy right now is Andy Bernard.

Dear reader, you and I may not see eye to eye on everything that's happened this season. The comments came alive after "Customer Loyalty" sparked a controversy over whether putting a face to the show's documentary crew was a good thing or a heinous crime against television (I may still be bitter). There has even been some debate as to whether Nellie is the living worst. Well, that can be put to bed. Because there is a living worst and it's the villain this show has painstakingly developed during the past fifteen episodes.

It's not distance that made our heart grow darker. Part of our disgust is thanks to the craftsmanship of the show's writers, honed in their attempt to make Andy a reviled character. However, some of his arc has made it seem like he was lost to sea long before he stepped on the boat. Replacing Michael Scott hasn't been an easy task and Andy, as a character, has been forced to sample a number of different personalities to try to fill the void. He's been sensitive and compassionate, heartless and selfish, and oblivious and lonely. He's had to shoulder the overstock Michael jokes while also maintaining the imminent dastardly persona he would fully adopt during his three-month absence. If you were to look at this season so far and focus only on Andy, you would feel like The Office was testing out some alternate dimension theories. It's kind of like that Jet Li movie The One, except I hope all the different Andys meet and destroy each other in what I assume would be an a cappella Mexican standoff.

What "Couples Discount" did was reassure us that, no, our assumptions about The Office being a better show with Andy gone were not wrong. I'd like to think the episode addressed that, too, by suggesting the Scranton branch of Dunder-Mifflin had never been better than when the Turd-dog wasn't around. It didn't help Andy's cause that "Couples Discount" portrayed him as possibly the most schizophrenic he's ever been in a single episode.

He vacillated between being an entitled prick (the balls on the guy who dips out for three months but browbeats coworkers for taking a long lunch) and desperately pawing after Erin as she slipped out of his grasp. We can look at this as the basic thesis of Andy as a character, post-Michael Scott: The man is tragically flawed with selfishness.

We may have been duped over the years, with The Office's romantic theories softening Andy in order to place him in the ongoing cycle of underdogs attempting to win ladies on this show (both with Angela and with Erin), but he's always been a douche. Infuse that self-serving smugness with the suggestion of power and maybe this is the result. What I've been referring to as schizophrenic may just be the most selfish person alive dealing consistently with the situations of his life.

Andy's unevenness led to one of two satisfying events in this episode: movement in the Pete and Erin... thing. Their painfully repetitive holding pattern finally broke up so they could approach for a landing after Andy declared his manifesto of selfish love. His idea of a relationship allowed that two people could be happy but not necessarily at the same time—a theory that benefits him—and was easily countered by Pete saying he only wants Erin to be happy, no matter what that means for Pete. Good line, Pete. But it felt like a fast-forward.

I kind of felt like I'd missed an episode somewhere. Last I remember, Pete and Erin were still denying their mutual crush, even to each other. But, from the beginning of this episode, Pete talked about how he'd be put out to pasture if Erin chose Andy, and Erin apologized to Pete when she couldn't break up with Bernard But maybe I just have selective memory and only the Pam and Brian stuff is sticking.

Which leads me to the other satisfying event, Jim and Pam building to The Fight. "Couples Discount" pushed the sexual tension between Pam and Brian aside (mostly) so that we could focus more on what's important: Jim and Pam ignoring their own static. Sure, there was that subtle suggestion that Brian is single (and, presumably, on the prowl for Pam), but I'm more concerned with Jim coming to terms with how much he's hurt the family by splitting from them three days a week and leaning on Pam to hold everything together while he's gone. I love that the writers even let Jim and Pam address how big a fight is coming and how important it is. "Put up your dukes, Beesley." It was almost sweet, how nervous they were about heading into the Thunderdome. The exchange marked the best communication they've had in weeks.

So, if they know they're about to have it out, do they drop the kids off at a grandparent's house for the evening? If you know you're headed into battle and you know it's going to be a big deal, does that change how you fight? When you know you have problems to work out and you're both willing to address them, does that affect your approach? Part of me hopes we'll get to see the fight and that it'll come off like the big Friday Night Fight on Gilmore Girls—lengthy, funny, and emotionally charged, with a broken formula to emphasize the importance (for the Friday Night Fight, that meant breaking from the show's usual wider, postcard-worthy shots to going handheld and POV). Chances are, though, we won't even get to see the big showdown, or it'll end before it even begins.

The whole of "Couples Discount" wasn't seminal but it was, more or less, satisfying. Andy returning is obviously important, as may be a path toward redemption if that's in the cards, but on the whole we just got to relax a little bit, and now things can finally, mercifully, move forward again.



NOTES


– "Goodbye, chunky lemon milk." There's no CreedWatch this week so that quote from Kevin will have to do, even if it did hover in that gray area between simple man and simpleton. Okay, it's just Kevin being a flat-out idiot. Dude must have the constitution of a naval warship.

– The nail salon plot seemed like something jammed in with the rest of the episode. The writers needed an excuse to get everyone out of the office so they worked it in, giving us Nellie's predictable joke, Darryl and Oscar's almost political (but still predictable) joke, and a bunch of women tittering over Angela's tiny feet. It was dull. It felt like an intermission to the rest of the episode.

– Andy did everything dastardly in this episode short of tying Erin to the railroad tracks. Losing the White Pages account? Asking for paychecks (how does he not have direct deposit?) for a job he didn't perform? The browbeating? Asserting his authority despite taking a sabbatical that undermined it? Even Ellis from Smash was like, "Whoa, buddy. Dial it down a notch."

– The most egregious thing Andy might've done is insert himself into New Girl's theme song. Where do you get the right, sir?

– Pam actually demanding that Jim fight with her might be the most aggressive thing she's ever done for this relationship.

– Pete can't take the phrase "flesh hoover." Pansy.

– I really liked Jim's reactions to Brian's insinuations. He could've been mad about the connection Brian and Pam had while he was away, but he was more concerned with what he'd missed and how he hadn't been there for Pam. Their relationship allows The Office's writers to negotiate different aspects of a marriage since Jim and Pam's is built on trust and mutual respect. There's no one trying to pull the wool over the other. Jim can be disappointed here without being jealous, despite what we know and what he hasn't pieced together.

  • Comments (30)
Add a Comment
In reply to :
  • MichaelKelso Feb 12, 2013

    At this point too, I love how Pete and Erin are Jim and Pam circa 2005. I just hope they end the show with the indication that these two will take a more ambitious turn with their lives.

    Other than Pete, Erin, Jim, Pam, and possibly Dwight, the rest of the cast is pretty much useless. Clark has been a huge bust, Nellie's jokes are done, and the rest haven't done anything different in the last nine years, so why would they start now.

    Overall, I think the show's in a great place to throw in a few more twists and end this era of the characters' lives realistically.

  • MichaelKelso Feb 12, 2013

    Like many of you, I used to watch The Office to laugh and appreciate the great writing. Michael Scott burning his foot on the Foreman grill remains one of the best sitcom episodes ever in my opinion.

    In this last season, I don't laugh as much, but I appreciate the writing all the same. The Office isn't the awkward comedy fest it once was, but it remains authentically human. These are boring people living boring lives, and their plots seem real to me. Are Jim and Pam moving through a slow stage of tension? Yes, but that's exactly how all healthy, married couples with kids would move through this.

    I also love the addition of Brian. I agree it's a bit hasty, but I fore one want to know why a documentary crew has felt the need to film these people for the last nine years, and I think they are leading us up to a good conclusion.

  • donohue22 Feb 12, 2013

    And, I just read that Steve Carrell will not be back at all this season. It's sad to think that he truly believes that Michael Scott's narrative arc is over, seeing as he was the centre piece of the show for such a long time.

    Since his departure, I always imagined the last episode's cold opener being catching up with Michael in his store, Michael's Cereal Shack; giving us an update. Surprisingly, the store would be doing great, he is a considerate and successful manager/owner of the franchise (and looking to expand) and, most importantly, Holly has had a son called Steve Martin Scott. He even wants to start-up Shoe-La-La but Holly has put the brakes on the idea.

    Even Ricky Gervais did a cameo for the US version. Twice! It's the least Steve can do.

    I hope he is playing possum.

  • donohue22 Feb 12, 2013

    Introducing Boom Mic Brian is singlehandedly the worst move ever made for the show. Sure, we get the odd look to the camera, or talking directly to it during talking heads, but to blantantly drop the fourth wall then enter it as a narrative arc was cheap. Jim and Pam's tension built up for three years, this dude is only there for three eps and its about to test the greatest television soulmates.

    It feels like the show is heading down the same path as Cheers. Cheers' last season was sad. And not 'boo-hoo' sad, but annoying sad. They spend season after season glorifying their space, making the mundane seem exceptional, only to recant and make it "more real" for dramatic inclination and sacrificing the essence of the show for narrative arcs.

    When Jim told Pam to put up her dukes and they gave an awkward smile, I thought it was in reference to Brian's line about how when he and his wife stopped fighting, it meant they stopped caring. By having Pam step up to Jim about staying home to fighting, she was using that same meaning to not only say to Jim, "Hey pal, we need a serious chat about all this", but she was relaying to Jim that because she wants to fight it means she still wants to care. It was a weird backhanded compliment. But there chemistry in that 15 seconds was classic Jim/Pam.

  • neo112233 Feb 10, 2013

    I actually like Andy and Ed Helms, he fit in with the cast before he was made the boss. When you think about it he was the perfect replacement for Michael in that he is awkward, oblivious to a lot of his actions and dumb/smart some of the time. The writers needed his character to have to same relationship with the other workers,the dumb boss they can all roll their eyes at. Andy and Erin should get together, he always cared for her that's why this whole 3 month thing was out of character and just weird.

  • fierdog2818 Feb 09, 2013

    The Office just reminds me of that Seinfeld bit where Elaine is one terrible sub short of a free sandwich. We'll eventually get to see where everyone ends up, but it's not going to be fun.

    The whole Andy going away for three months thing is just so ridiculous. I mean, the guy had to have an inkling that doing that was not okay. And what sort of boss is Wallace (not to mention why on earth did he want a paper company in the first place, he was doing fine without it) who doesn't even notice.

    He was comic relief, now he's just an irritation. A bit like Ed Helms, if I'm honest. Very much over his entire schtick.

  • Kids_Table Feb 09, 2013

    The one word to describe Jim/Pam all season has been: anticlimatic. They seemed to build to a fight when Jim hid the new job from Pam, but then Pam took it in stride. Then they built in a pile of tension with Pam's obvious unhappiness and Jim's ignoral of his family, but at the beginning of this episode that was all just peachy. Not to mention the love triangle that seems to be amounting to nothing.

    If they don't show The Fight, I'm going to throw something at my television.

  • Klirro Feb 09, 2013

    Highlights: Meredith's narc rant, followed by Pete's "Why does noone stop her?", Pam asking Jim to fight with him, and Pete's story about his dog. Even though the nail salon story was mostly stupid, the part where everyone gathered round to look at Angela's tiny feet was adorable.

    And I'd say Andy's character has actually been more or less consistent, with changes in his behaviour mostly caused by external factors. His selfishness has always been there, but in the beginning it was in his best interest to be a more caring person. Then it was essentially the same thing with Erin, all those sweet gestures were just another expression of his selfishness. This time, the thing he wanted was Erin. And nowadays he apparently doesn't have to care about anyone else, since he's the boss. Surely this inherent selfishness wasn't helped by spending three months basically alone with nobody else to care about.

  • OdumC Feb 09, 2013

    I've found something to laugh at during every episode of the Office (even through the "lamer" seasons) up til now. there was literally NOTHING funny about last nights episode.

  • Dayman90 Feb 08, 2013

    Okay so I've given it some thought and here is what I came up with. Andy sense he first appeared on this show has always been a bit of a dick but never to the point of lacking a solid personality and having something to at least semi root for. If I give the writers the benefit of the doubt which I'm not super thrilled about doing but will for this point then Andy becoming boss finally made him become ultra dick because he now has all the power and doesn't have to suck up to any more bosses. He has lost his sense of being one of the people and become a dictator almost. I really started to like Andy right after he came back from anger management in what I think was season 4 may have been 3. But they started to humanize him a bit and to just turn a complete 180 on us and make him this villainous bland character I think is pretty weak. Unless they go the semi respectable route and try to explain the change in character to a power trip gone wrong. Otherwise I'm sitting here scratching my head as to why Andy has become so boring and resentful.

  • See More Comments (10)