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

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 (31)
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Oh my god, Andy ruined every single moment of this episode. EVERY SINGLE MOMENT, right until the very end when Erin finally upended it. But holy jesus, what were they doing? Andy left a minor douchebag and came back a spewing colostomy bag!

BTW, Nellie can't be the worst, because she has a great British rack. Shallow and sexist? Yes. True? Yes.

Nothing Andy did was in character with even his previous asshole behavior, this was just a whirlwind of awfulness, even the ridiculous wig. I can only hope the intention was to have his killing of the white pages deal lead to the show's finale, because otherwise there was no excuse for how dreadful this episode was thanks to the Turd Dog (and thank you to Dwight on that one, great job!).

Even when Andy wasn't on-screen, this episode was still a stinking pile, everything with Brian and Pam and Jim was the equivalent of watching a silent street camera monitor of a Chinese intersection's multi-person car accident, with the baby stroller in between the out of control cars (seriously, that was one of the most jaw-dropping internet videos I've ever seen).

Andy wasn't even selfish when we met him, he had rage issues but he was a nice enough guy, I'll never understand why they torpedoed that personality in favor of what we've been building to the last year, and certainly not how they got from that to this monster. That thing about wanting to be like his parents, miserable one at a time, that wasn't even selfish, nobody would actively want that unless they were a psychopath bent on ruining another person's life for their own pleasure - had Erin come back into the room with a claw hammer and smashed in Andy's moronic face I wouldn't have felt the least surprised when the police came by and just swept his corpse into the gutter and gave her a medal and a gift certificate to K-mart.

As for wanting to see Pam & Jim fight, I'm with you there, if they come back next week all post-fight and happy it'll feel hollow. At least a clip or montage of various stages of the fight.


Kevin's bad milk joke was funny for a half second, then just pure mental handicap once it sunk in, and it's too bad because Kevin had come alive in the last 3 episodes as someone who isn't that great at what he does but is observant and slightly wise.

Darryl's anti-gay/pro-gay stuff was weird, at first it was clear that his opinion changed due to knowing the cameras were on him, but towards the end of that bit when he made a huff it was unclear whether he truly sympathized or was still just posturing. I'd like to think he genuinely sympathized though, and by that it was a pretty good little moment IMO.
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Lol, agree with you about Nellie. I think it's the writers' fault her character is so bad. I thought Catherine Tate was great as Donna on Dr. Who.
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Catherine Tate was so good as Donna Noble that when she got her memories taken away and she turned back into her vapid original self, I actually found myself disliking her again. That's some nuanced acting, to go from a fantastic character to an awful person without fundamentally changing the behavior of the character.
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Are Brits known for their racks? And it is true.

While I wasn't so down on the Jim and Pam stuff this episode, everything else was definitely a train wreck. Andy ruined everything by his presence and the story for the rest of the cast having one last bossless day whiffed. Brian trying to convey his feelings about him and Alyssa splitting up while communing with Pam was weak but I feel like the build-up to The Fight (that I'm sullenly doubtful we'll get to see) made it worth it.

Kevin's milk joke only shined because it was brighter than the pile of crap around it and because Creed was silent.

I think he genuinely felt like Oscar was being slighted and stood up for his buddy. I was mostly disappointed about how that didn't go anywhere after. They huffed and puffed out of there and that was the end. All of the anil salon stories were like that. Nano-arcs with weak punchlines. Miserable.
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I'm not sure they're "known" for it, but they do seem to develop more buxom women than average for a western society, and I'm not complaining.

Jim & Pam & Brian stuff was interesting in pieces, moments of actual humanity, but never funny, and punctuated by a lot of "yikes, turn into the skid, TURN INTO THE SKIIIIIID!" stuff.

Darryl's storyline almost felt like a real B-plot that just got cut down. In a way, I suppose it's better that they didn't try to cram a lot of cheap "fake gay couple" jokes at the screen, but like you said, that whole section of the episode just didn't work, didn't go anywhere.
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I miss when the office was a comedy, and I would laugh so hard I would roll off my chair laughing. Other than when Jim and Pam walked out of the office getting ready to fight, there wasn't anything really good about this episode.
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Merideth's "ain't never been called no narc" rant was good, as was Pete's response; "Why does no one stop her?!"
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It's not funny Office episode where Jim doesn't prank Dwight. I really miss Dwight-Jim duet. I hope this Brian thing won't last rest of season.
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We went from a series where it seemed like Jim was always pulling something on Dwight to a prank being a nice surprise. I think the Dunder Code is a good demonstration of where were are compared to where we used to be. Young Halpert had some imagination.
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I know its building to something, and they are probably setting Andy up to be an underdog and come back - but I just really want Erin to break up with him (which she did) him to lose his job for being a complete unreliable jack wagon and for us to never see Andy again. THAT would make me happy, I don't want any underlying meaning or motives - they made Andy into a bad person that no one likes and all I want now is for him to get what is coming to him and GO. I know they all gave their reasons why nobody is telling Wallace and what not but I think that is just ridiculous, get that man fired.

Make Dwight manager, you know you want to. Also, the look on Dwight's face when Clark is saying what he did to get that account - he just looks so horrified, it definitely made me laugh.

Brian's lines seemed a little obvious for me - either the writers just needing Jim to know that Pam was upset while he was gone or Brian trying to intentionally cause conflict between Jim and Pam, I didn't like that. What I did like was the look on his face when they came in and he saw the camera and he fully realized that he was part of the spectacle now. (Though I'm gonna ignore that the first camera angle of Jim and Pam coming in is clearly behind him and he doesn't seem to notice that one.)
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I fast forward through all scenes with Andy. Try it! The show becomes like 10 times better. Well, and a lot shorter, but I'd rather have that then suffer through a another Andy scene.
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Ed Helm's is crazy talented and for the Office writers to destroy Andy is a real shame. They never propped him up to be leader and really could have had a great character. Before Michael left, I predicted Andy the boss but why do it if you're not making him to BE the boss? haha. But I'm glad he's back and it's not that bad to inject someone back into The Office from what it's been. And then the Jim and Pam "Bore-fest" I just don't know. :P
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i am really impressed that people are still enjoying this show.Great staying power guys ! I have really struggled to find it watchable since micheal left. Mind you the fact that i am only the third comment is probably testamount to the fact that this show is (in the words of kevin) now chunky lemon milk.
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Quite possibly the worst episode of the office ever. Man the writers are really struggling coming up with ideas now a days. The whole Brain thing added just to create some kind of rift between Pam and Jim is just stupid we don't need his character for this, the stress angle was great but this triangle feels like a convenient plot device that got shoved down our faces.

Andy went from metal break down during the last episode we saw him to complete and total douche bag. Erin and Pete thing is just a rehash of Jim and Pam, yes that whole thing was completely recycled from the first few season by lazy and sloppy writing. Andy gave up his fiance for Erin and now we are to believe he just ditches her for three months with 4 emails. Very bad writing. This show needs to end the writers appear to have given up and ran out of ideas.
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I think the mistake was trying to turn Andy into a sympathetic character. Season 3 might seem like eons ago, but Andy was a whacky douche right from the beginning. Then he came back from anger management and we got New Andy, who was amusing for a while until the writers tried to make him a central character after The Hangover's success. I think the writers have realized that he doesn't fit the mold of a central character so they're trying to backtrack and devolve him into Old Andy.
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Andy has always been all over the place. When he came on (Stamford episdoes), he was sort of a hilariously unhinged douche but likeable. When he first moved to Scranton (pre-anger management), he underwent his first personality change and became that annoying kiss up you mimics everything you say. They had kind of went overboard. It was after anger management that he was softened, humbled and just wanted everyone to like him (I believe this was the producers' response to the fact that American audiences typically do not like characters that they cannot root for). And now of course, I think they're just desparate to find a way for the audience to approve of him as manager. So as a result, overly too nice and indecisive last year, and a complete jerk this year. I think the moral of the story is if they wanted to avoid problems they should have just promoted Dwight; that's where he belongs. I don't think there would have ever been any problems with Dwight in charge. And that's practically how the show has sort of seemed to be without Andy. And I think it's been an improvement that way.
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I agree with this. Weakening Andy and making him a softer character so he could be a player in the love triangle game The Office loves ended up doing in what was a likable douche. He's never been material for a central character. Imagine them doing what they did to Andy to Stanley, or Phyllis, or Creed. It would be completely destructive to those characters. They are quips, at best arc-assistants and that's okay. Andy was jammed into a Michael Scott-shaped hole and he suddenly became a polarizing character. They created a monster.
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Couldn't of said it better, the Pete and Erin relationship is super weak, and they've ruined the Andy character.
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I like how Darryl changed his mind when he saw that the camera was right on him. if you look closely you can see him stare right at the camera...

I didn't think it was possible for me to hate Andy, this episode managed that. Wow, that was painful. But at least it was a device to rally the rest of the office together (well, most) because i felt like they have been distant with each other for a long time. The outing helped as well.

How Jim reacted was great, I'm so glad they explained how both Jim and Pam got close to Brian and its not just this weird but obvious triangle. Jim actually likes the guy. I'm still not why he was mad, Jim isn't even sure, he just is. I guess its just the whole situation.

Very good episode.
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