The Office "A.A.R.M." Review: Love in the Time of a Series Finale

The Office S09E22: "A.A.R.M."

Now, with two episodes left, The Office is a show with an agenda.

As we watch the celebrated exits of long-time contributors from the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin (Andy last week, Darryl this week), I can't help but feel that they writers are ticking off line items from a dusty to-do list they've had since the second season (once the characters stopped being clones and the series diverged from the source material). It's all very important that these things happen, too. It's the difference between enjoying the end of the series and just watching the minutes roll by.

Jim probably accounts for a good amount of those to-dos, and he was a big focus in "A.A.R.M."—both with Pam and again with Dwight. Obvious fan service needed to be paid to Jam, though.

Season 9 for Jim and Pam has been dedicated to their moving through all the motions of a relationship that weren't explored in the last few seasons as we fell asleep during their scenes. The season opener was like horror movie rules as Pam suggested happily to the doc crew that nothing interesting ever happens to them—which, of course, was eventually followed by the largest obstacles Jim and Pam have faced since Roy still worked in the warehouse. It's debatable whether their struggles were really all that difficult compared to those of less rose-tinted, real-life couples, but the challenges were relatively large for them, and that mattered.

Everything that's happened this season, from Jim becoming distant for a few episodes to Pam's breakdown to the reconciliation was all service for that montage Pam watched in the breakroom. Jim's line: "You're not enough? You're everthing" felt like it's been waiting in the wings for years, waiting for a moment when Jim hadn't been the perfect human being for long enough that we could miss him being perfect. You could almost believe the doubt that was in Pam's mind, despite the fact that Jim's "distance" only lasted a few episodes and we only witnessed it a handful of times.

But as you can probably see, I'm torn on whether Jim and Pam's relationship troubles were what we needed to fall in love with them again, or if the post-montage scene being a tearjearker was mostly about nostalgia for the better times of the show.

The awwwww feeling was certainly helped along by stacked-up warm fuzzies in consecutive scenes. While Pam watched the montage to put a cap on her and Jim's story for the week, Jim was putting the cap on his and Dwight's arc. Last week, we discussed how Dwight's change of heart about Jim might've been a little sudden or even manufactured, but now I feel the need to walk that back. Starting with Dwight's petulance when Jim went part-time earlier this season, you could see the tide turning from this being a relationship between nemeses to it being a comraderie between veterans. I don't want to say the transition for them this season seemed more effortless than Jam's, but it was a little more subtle.

Seeing such a long-game goof by Jim was great, however. Pam mentioned that she loves "Goofy Jim" and I, have to admit, I love Goofy Jim myself. One of the brightest spots of the season for me was when Dwight found Young Halpert's treasure hunt, because it reminded me of the old Jim, the one that pranked Dwight to make himself feel alive. Ambitious Jim didn't need that. And Ambitious Jim was nearly the ruin of Jim.

So watching a well-orchestrated scheme featuring his vast knowledge of all things Dwight was equally a breath of fresh air and solemn relief. It's so fitting, now, to watch Jim close out the series with something that so defined his character at the beginning. And this week it segued nicely into that bond these two share which, even if Jim picks on Dwight, is mutual and, deep down, respectful.

So Jim's conversation with Dwight at the end about love and honesty with yourself, which overlapped Pam's viewing of the love montage and a Snow Patrol soundtrack, did double duty of checking a box off the list (showing how close these two men really are) while setting us up emotionally for the Pam and Jim scene where he uttered that line. Even if the total reconciliation feels unearned because of the confluence of different feelings from Jim, Pam, Dwight, you, and me with our nostalgia, we can let the Pam and Jim thing slide. It's been scratched off the list.

And then a new box: Dwight and Angela. Of all the things we saw coming at the beginning of the season, this one seemed the most obvious: Angela had birthed a Schrute baby and they would end up together. My eyes screwed up when Jim said that Dwight had "always" loved Angela (there was a time in Dwight's existence where you weren't even sure he was a sexual being) but their story was brought to the climax we'd always expected: Dwight and Angela are going to end up together. And she's going to wear a ring pulled out of Dwight's grandmother's butt. That's love, right there.

I know it seems like I'm giving Jim preferential treatment here, dedicating so many words to him even though his actions were only a portion of what happened (I'm purposefully ignoring Andy) but, to be fair, Jim was given heavy preferential treatment by the show. I don't know what the final episode has for in store for us (enough fifteen extra minutes and rumors that Michael Scott is going to show up), and it's probably going to include more warm fuzzies times ten. But this was a decent if uneven penultimate episode that gave us one last look at this quirky group of people in their office environment, not doing any work. Seriously, when do they work?


– Okay, so I guess we have to talk about Andy a little bit. Last week, I said I'd be happy with Andy not being a part of The Office's final two hours, but in retrospect there was no way we'd ever be so lucky. Instead we got a mediocre story that stood in stark contrast to the emotional timbre of the rest of the episode. It was the same issue I had with his industrial safety video where it looked like he might've had an emotional beat in there, but it was so far-fetched and so over-the-top, it was easy to laugh at him. Which was probably by design. But it was jarring to switch back and forth between Pam's admission that she's not sure if she's good enough for Jim (another subject entirely) and Andy sitting on the ground, crying in old-man makeup. The reasoning might have been comic relief, but Andy's stories have contrasted everybody else's way too much, and this one threatened to remove the sentimentality of the rest of the episode.

– So, do you think the devolution of Kevin was just a long game for that joke where he was jealous of Angela's baby? I almost hope it was, so there could be a viable—if ridiculous—explanation for it.

– I'd knew beforehand that Mark McGrath, Santigold, and Clay Aiken were going to appear in this episode as guest-stars, but it was Aaron Rodgers who caught my eye, being a Packers fan since birth. My prediction was that he'd figure into the Athlead storyline, maybe for a visit in his hometown of Chino during the tour of the western United States. Instead he was a panel judge for a singing competition—which was kind of funny, but you have to wonder, why him? Because he's the new Peyton Manning (a football player with comic timing)? I guess I should just be glad he didn't do the Discount Double Check.

– CreedWatch: Creed had a few lines this week, but none that matched his material in the beginning of the season. He was on fire for a while, but lately he's been petering out. Such a disappointing end to what started as an MVP-caliber season. I hate to see that happen.

– I can't say enough about how happy I am not to actually be seeing the documentary. A pan across all the faces at Poor Richard's and the sound of Michael Scott's voice was all we needed. There's no possible way that showing any part of the documentary, assembled from nine years of footage, would be satisfactory for anyone in the audience. Besides, you've already watched the producer's cut.

– That Brian thing evaporated pretty quick, didn't it? No mention of him since he tried to convince Pam that Jim was a monster.

– Quote of the evening goes to Stanley. When everyone else panicked about the public's response to documentary, the Senator had the most to lose. Stanley was a close second. I'm interested to see his happy ending. Or whether the last episode partially takes place at his funeral.

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