"Right now I need canned tuna, okay?"
What is going on with Andy?
Remember when Andy was just that guy who tried too hard and had an anger management problem due to his litany of failures? It wasn't necessarily a dynamic role, but Ed Helms played the thing well and it grew into something slightly more nuanced, if awkward. But this season, after coming back into power at the Scranton branch, he's been like 50 shades of asshat.
It's not even the jackassery that I mind so much. It's the inconsistency in character, like he's bipolar for comedic purposes. Including the end of last season, we've seen him vacillate from shrewd corporate backstabber to diehard romantic to juvenile prat to gullible nincompoop all within, I would say, four or five episodes. "Andy's Ancestry" made me consider why it's happening. Why is it that Andy, debatably likeable before Season 9, is so hard to figure out right now?
I think part of it has to do with the writers trying to shove Andy Bernard in a Michael Scott-shaped hole. There was always going to be a certain amount of that when Andy took over the position of regional manager, but they've been hitting it extra hard this year. Nellie is Andy's Toby. Darryl is Andy's Ryan. Andy tends to be a little more prone to fanciful distractions in the office. If he puts on a bandana and calls himself "Prison Andy," I won't be shocked.
So with Andy filling the roles of both Andy and Michael, we've got a mess of a character that's completely erratic from episode to episode. Andy is (now) someone who put together a complex coup to get his old job back but also believes data brought to him by his enemy that says he's related to Michelle Obama.
Sadly, Andy isn't the only square peg being shoved into a round hole. I felt like Oscar's rally to confront Andy about the slaveowners, and his defense of the stance during the meeting, where pretty antithetical to his character. The catty gossiping behind Andy's back: Sure, that's fine for Oscar. But escalating it and insisting that Andy consider his family's wealth tainted is outside of his jurisdiction.
Lastly: Dear The Office, stop trying to make Nellie happen.
She's the greatest square peg of them all. I say it every week, but Nellie is woefully out of place. She's a tertiary character at best (somewhere in the Phyllis-Toby realm), but she always seems to be in the mix, receiving plotline after plotline with the primary, opening-credits characters (she's only missing an individual storyline with Jim). Pam's revelation that Nellie might actually be cool sounded more like the show trying to convince us that it's true. If this is some sort of campaign to temper her character and make her more likeable, I feel like it's doomed. The show positioned her too well as someone who doesn't belong; now it's struggling to make her seem like she should be included.
Speaking of Pam's revelation, there was another part of her story this week that sounded more like meta-response. Nellie suggested that Jim is cheating on Pam, to which she confidently responded that such a thing isn't possible. Jim loves her too much. It was just as much set-up for the lame Darryl-Nellie miscommunication joke later as it was a statement to the audience for why her mind hasn't gone to the bad adultery place. Jim does love Pam too much. Although Jim may be bored with his wife, there's no indication that his eyes have wandered, even when the temp took over during Pam's pregnancy. It's making my foolish suggestion that the couple needed an affair to be interesting all the more sophomoric.
I was of two minds about Jim's secret coming out, though. The conversation with Darryl was great (Craig Robinson really nailed his part this week—I like ambitious Darryl) and the line about how it isn't real until he tells his wife is an astute observation, in general, for any husband with a life-altering plan, but specifically for Jim since nothing is real until it's revealed to his soulmate. That Jim told Pam about it before it got out of hand and Pam was hurt but not livid seemingly frittered away their emotional capital with the secret at all. I debate whether or not this is true to character or not, if Pam would so easily swallow such a thing, but I suppose that assessment can't really be made for another episode or two.
All in all, I felt pretty crappy about this week's episode. There were things I liked (noted below) but overall, this week wasn't nearly as sharp. Time will tell if the plan to Unbland Jam will come to fruition, but ultimately I'd just like to see these characters be consistent, even during the filler episodes. And maybe, just maybe, if we squeeze our eyes closed tight enough and wish really hard, Nellie will just fade into the background until she's just a blurry figure behind one of Jim's smirks.
– The opening: Asian Jim was a good prank and one of those that I can't believe hasn't been pulled yet. Practical jokes between Jim and Dwight are turning into Simpsons couch gags: How can there still be more ideas out there?
– As I mentioned above, I like ambitious Darryl. As a person who just browses Lifehacker when I get bored, I think someone catching up on GTD in the office was a great idea and I loved that his ideas were ignored because of a giant waste of time. The point was only driven home further by having Jim agree that he has good ideas. Best arc of the episode and it connected back to Jim's seasonal arc.
– Loved Pete and Clark's clapping and the reverse effect that bent reality. "Just clap through it."
Broken Fourth Wall Moment: The "crew" actually reusing Darryl's pre-recorded soundbyte. Clever, even if I don't totally agree with character directly interacting with the crew.
– The end tag: The Pete-Erin-Andy triangle is on. It's on like Donkey Kong. Why would Andy suggest setting him up with Meredith? Why is that where he went first? Is it because there aren't any other single women in the office and no one has friends outside of work? Yes. Yes, that's it, isn't it?
– Over/Under: Episodes before Andy gets hip to the budding attraction between Pete and Erin?
– Was the best line of the night Creed shaking his head to the question of whether or not he has fermented mare's milk?
– Is there anyone who can make a Nellie-less Office like that Garfield minus Garfield site? Are there any Nellie fans out there?
– How do you feel about how Pam handled Jim's news?