The Office "Livin' the Dream" Review: Good Riddance

The Office S09E21: "Livin' the Dream"


Ding, dong, the ding-dong's dead.

Not dead but certainly, hopefully, removed. It was fun to watch an entire episode of the characters extolling everything we hate about Andy as an audience and using it as material for why Andy shouldn't go into show business. Everything from Creed and his "charisma blackhole" to Kevin's poignant and frank confession: "You're too character-y to lead and you're not fat enough to be a character actor."

Never was the problem with Andy so succinctly put. While I was lukewarm on Ed Helms being a lead or a secondary character in anything, Andy was a tertiary character on this show who was stretched and beaten into the de facto lead. I picture some sort of ancient pagan ritual performed in the writers' room as they prayed to the gods that Andy would fit into the Michael Scott-shaped hole Steve Carell left when he abandoned ship. There were probably potions, a macabre scene of blood-letting, the sacrifice of a virgin, afternoon tea, and then droning chants over the warped shell of a character. Poor Andy. The universe was always against him.

A lot happened in "Livin' the Dream," but the emphasis was on Andy's exit, and everyone in the office offered up individual punchlines on the Nard-Dawg taking off. Even his exit was similar in format to Michael's, except everyone was ready for Andy to go. They all thought hew was making a huge mistake, but by the end of it, from the tone in Phyllis's voice, they were all ready. They'd reached the point we had weeks ago.

As an audience member who'd been wishing for some kind of warehouse accident or car crash or anvil to take Andy out and end our misery, I couldn't help but feel the will-he-won't-he pressure. When David Wallace suggested that Andy could stay on as a salesman, I threw my hands in the air. "Cut him loose, Wallace!" I said. "Why are you toying with my emotions?" The entire episode was a microcosm of Andy's entire season, a compressed version for his officemates of how we've felt about him over the last 21 episodes.

There was a fear in me that he would stick around and I tried to make my peace with that, tried to justify it to myself that Andy would return to the role for which he was the most likeable. That they would slowly slide him into the background while the characters we care about—Jim and Pam, Dwight, Angela, Erin even—would edge him out and move their stories to the forefront. There was justice in putting Andy on the same tier as Nellie.

But then he talked about burning his ships like Cortez and I sighed with relief. Just a heaving relaxation from my lungs. Let this all play out. Groping Toby was kind of funny in an awkward sort of way. The middle fingers for Wallace were pretty rote. The cameras actually showed Andy, pants down, crouched over the hood of a car, ready to take a dump on it (David Wallace must not have detailed with the American flag).

Then the show walked Andy's triumphant firing back a little bit as he returned to the office (after pooping on Wallace's car) to play a tune for his exit. The Scrubs episode "My Finale" (which should've been the actual finale) is my go-to example for describing how manipulative a show can be, the frosting on that particular nostalgia cake being Peter Gabriel's cover of "The Book of Love." But there was nothing more blatantly intentional with regard to engineering weepiness and reminiscence than using a Sarah McLachlan song, especially "I Will Remember You," which is probably soundtracking a video montage of someone's senior year right now.

What it did do was return focus to the the episode's more sentimental storylines. It's interesting that a plot about a character leaving the flock would be less sentimental than all the other contained arcs. But when you're dealing with Jam and the Schrute Triangle, not to mention watching Dwght win so much while Jim loses nothing, it's hard to compete with such saccharine happenings.

And that's sadly what the Jam storyline felt like to me. Last week, I was happy to see Jim and Pam kiss and make up, but there was something hollow about their reunion this week. What's strange is that this was basically a performance from the early seasons, the sweetness of Jam and how connected they've always been. There was a callback to the air high-five, a lot of giggling, people around them emphasizing their sweetness by making gagging faces at the camera. But it was off somehow. Maybe I've been trained by the show to see their marital problems as the truth, and the turnaround was too quick for me to settle back into the Jim and Pam of old.

But Jim and Pam are supposed to be magic. Even though I'm skeptical, it doesn't surprise me that they only needed a single moment of honest, bald-faced affection to switch their heart lights back on. The entire point of their being together is to advance the idea of soulmates and destiny. No two people in the universe where Dunder-Mifflin is a paper company in Scranton, Pennsylvania are more made for each other than Jim and Pam. Their obstacles are comparatively small in the face of fate. Which is why that conversation with Darryl at the end of the episode is going to lead to some new compromise where Jim gets to go talk to sports teams. Because Pam heard the sacrifice he's making in order to ensure their marriage stay healthy and, with their relationship back to fighting strength, there'll be no reason this obstacle can't be surmounted. It was a sugary dose of what Pam and Jim are supposed to be about.

All of that only makes the Schrute Triangle that much darker. While we all sort of know that Dwight and Angela are going to get it together by the end of the season, the show is making us work for it. Angela has hit sort of a rock bottom in the wake of leaving the Senator. The forceable removal of her cats (to be fair, they looked like they wanted to suck the life out of baby Phillip anyway), her struggle to make ends meet, and her existence in the shadow of a fresh-faced blonde farmgirl is the lowest we've ever seen Angela. She can no longer bother to wind herself up.

She broke down in Oscar's car as she admitted her love for Dwight and we all had to nod our heads solemnly. This is, of course, another example of how The Office likes to do relationships: Put a desired character with someone else and make another character pine meekly until they are united through the power of love. We've already discussed how Esther is kind of a nothing character, more of a face than any kind of threat (though they really were trying to sell the differences between Esther and and Angela this week, cutting from Esther's made-up and barely post-adolescent-looking face to Angela's make-up-less, wild-haired, fur-covered visage). Esther is no Roy or Gabe, two men who represented everything that was wrong for Pam and Erin, respectively. She's just not Angela.

So these are the stakes that are lifting for the final run of the season. Two more weeks of hour-long episodes left. And, with all the hope in the world, we finally got to say goodbye to Andy Bernard. Good riddance. We had the time of our lives. Oh, there's another manipulative song he could've played.


NOTES

– I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Dwight's promotion. It's the right move for the show, but I'm glad they waited until now and didn't do it back when Michael Scott left. Two seasons of Dwight being in charge would've warped his character. This way we got to watch Christopher from The Sopranos teach Dwight karate but also get the satisfaction that he'll inherit the branch he always wanted. The peace with himself that he exhibited throughout, how he'd come to terms with how he lost the manager position before and the possibility that Jim might succeed Andy, was interesting. I like how the office was happy that he got the job (as opposed to the entire office being against everything Andy decided) but am a little offput by Dwight's friendliness toward Jim and Pam. Obviously, when the show is over, you'd have to believe that Jim and Dwight will become the best of friends in the happily ever after, but the goodwill he advanced toward them was strange, was it not?

– Andy bringing up how he slept with both Erin and Angela in the same episode just gave me another reason to be glad he was leaving. Get gone, Andy.

– CreedWatch: Though I think his "charisma blackhole" joke was supposed to be part of his skewed view on people in the office (his view being different or opposite of reality most of the time), I liked it in reference to Andy, since Andy never held the show together like Michael Scott. As for Creed standing on the desk to declare himself the manager: Nice try. But it makes sense that Creed would believe that's all it took to become manager.

– Andy Buckley does a great job of portraying David Wallace in a way that shows he's fond of these lovable freaks but maintains that he's the shot of reality that really underscores how weird everyone else is. It's like a human visiting Fraggle Rock.

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Quite possibly the least funniest episode of The Office to date. At times, it seemed a totally different show - a straight drama. Can't say I'll be missing the show if this is the direction it would continue toward were it not ending.
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I always loved Andy. I, thought he brought some much needed pettiness, selfishness to a show that can get really get sappy at times. I always viewed Andy as Micheal's less likeable, more selfish younger brother. I am so glad the show let him go out on a high note, proving that he really does have talent, he just not likeable.

Unlike the reviewer, I did not think Dwight's niceness toward Jim was strange at all. Dwight and Jim have slowly grown close ever since Jim kept Dwight from getting fired in Florida. I love the respect they showed for each other.

As for Jim and Pam, I've lost that loving feeling. I could care less if they stay together or not.
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In the scene where Angela loses her cool with her nasty landlady/neighbor on the phone, was it ever made clear what this new accusation was? At that point she had already gotten rid of the cats, but I couldn't tell what the new complaint was. Or is it not important for the audience to know the specifics?
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The show established pretty early on that Pam and Dwight have a mutual respect (and sometimes friendship) between them. As for Jim and Dwight, they have had their moments throughout the series but that's evolved in the last few years, too. It was nice to see it addressed openly, even though I thought Angela and Oscar's moment was more rewarding.
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"As for Creed standing on the desk to declare himself the manager: Nice try. But it makes sense that Creed would believe that's all it took to become manager."

That reminded me of Michael Scott believing you could declare bankruptcy just be yelling "I declare - BANKRUPTCY!!"
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HAHA I was just about to comment that - Dear God that brought back hilarious memories.
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When Andy started grabbing Toby I wished for Toby to start chocking Andy so that it would suggest that he was the actual Scranton strangler. And as a bonus I'd wish for him to be hauled off by the police in the very last episode.
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I'm just glad Andy is gone. He was so annoying and irratating
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You're view of this episode is quite different than mine was (which is fine). First, this was the best episode of The Office I have seen in a long time. The best parts for me: Seeing the evolution of the Dwight, Jim, Pam relationship. When Dwight looked at Clark and said "Pam's really, really cool." I believed him. Also Jim and Dwight's acceptance of their respective possible promotions seemed very honest and heartfelt. Dwight's whole promotion was handled in what I think was the best way possible, right down to David Wallace asking Jim if he was crazy for considering it. Angela and Oscar were perfect. I ignored Andy as much as possible, of course, but I couldn't help but appreciate the manipulation/song at the end of it all.
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I can't believe that there has not been any mention of what I believe to be one of the most significant moments of the entire episode!! Yes of course I love Jim and Pam and Dwight and totally relieved to see the back of Andy but what about Angela and Oscar! Yes of course it was totally obvious that he was going to offer to take her in but as soon as she leaned forward and held his hand, I burst into tears uncontrollably!!!
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The only things carrying this show was Jim - Pam and Dwight's story.. And they were quite strong in this episode.. I just ignored Andy's whole plot.. Well not ignored totally but I wasn't much interested.. I think Andy's character got caught in the black hole that was left after Michael's departure.. It was messy.. He would have been much better part of the story if he had just stayed as an employee..

Dwight.. he is showing such a depth but in such a weird and honest fashion that you just have to love every minute of it.. His expression showed what the manager post meant to him and he was destined for it... I was so glad to see that..

Of all the upper management, David Wallace fits perfectly in the current situation and I am glad it's not Jo or Robert.. Also I don't think that Dwight's goodwill towards Jim and Pam was strange.. They have been suggesting it for quite a while now..

PS - We didn't see the last of Andy Bernard.. He will be returning in the remaining episodes.. Check out the plot for the nest episode :)
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It's funny that it made sense and everyone was happy Dwight is manager now. When Michael left everyone was scared of what would happen should Dwight be manager but I guess after Andy, Dwight is actually a relief. Now with Jim and Pam, I'm a little annoyed at Pam's selfishness. I can understand her reluctance to move from what she's always known but she has to know Jim didn't want to spend the rest of his life at that place. He said it way back when- "If this was my career I'd throw myself in front of a train". Of course things change as you get older, settle down, marry and have kids. But c'mon Pam, sports is what Jim has always wanted to be a part of; I feel if this was some kind of art thing for Pam, Jim would follow her anywhere. So I'm sure the show recognizes this, or I hope so; and it's all part of the storyline.
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I've never understood why Pam didn't want to leave. Her parents are maybe there, but you have to move away some time! What an adventure, to try a new place; I would have jumped on it.
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100% agree that Pam has been selfish.
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I loved the line, "You're too character-y to lead and you're not fat enough to be a character actor" because it so perfectly frames Andy as the manager, and Kevin's role on the show.

I though Dwight getting promoted made sense in the end of the series, and they've actually done a great job at showing him being more pragmatic this season. Landing the White Pages, signing contracts in Andy's absence, essentially acting as the powerless defacto manager while Andy was gone for 3 months. Dwight just had to lose the position in order to take a step back and be more mature about it. It was also believable that Jam were true friends of Dwight. Jim did prevent Dwight from getting fired down in Florida, and they showed immense growth in the Pie episode. Then there was the Christmas episode where Dwight essentially threw a tantrum with Jim when Jim had to leave. Out of all of Dwight's "friends," Jim is the most normal. Although not as hilarious as Badger.
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Weak episode and too long.

"... They all thought hew was making a huge mistake, but by the end of it, from the tone in Phyllis's voice, they were all ready..."

Hew? :P
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Dismiss episode and nitpick single small grammatical error? Thanks for your time.
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The Jam thing did feel forced but I do like that Jim said he won't do this to Pam and that she overheard it. I don't think her biggest problem was moving but that Jim wouldn't really consult her first or give her a chance to decide, he just kept doing things without asking her. Now she at least has the chance to make a choice rather then feeling helpless in making decisions
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I thought he said "you're not bad enough to be a character actor".

Anyway, I kinda liked the idea of Andy staying on in sales, he was an ok character when it was just sales with him, and now he has a hobby. But leaving permanently was better, they broke Andy and couldn't put him back together again, at least send him off on his own new journey and closed with him showing some talent to give hope that he might not be totally useless.

I liked this episode not for Andy leaving, not for Jim & Pam making eyes at each other, but because Jim's ability to be charming and nice about getting Dwight the manager job, complete with taking the "assistant TO THE regional manager" position under him. Those moments really sold me.

As for Jam, you're absolutely right that it was off, it was a forced fit after their lives had changed, the end bit with Pam overhearing that Jim had gotten everything he wanted from his dream and sacrificed it for her was the button on it being off. If Jim and Pam only can work as long as they're in constant close proximity, that's an unhealthy codependent relationship and one just as destined to fail.

Angela's pride had driven her to a studio apartment before, yet now she walks around sloughing her pride all over this episode, and it makes the Dwight/Angela thing feel confused, as if they should be together here, her son should be Dwight's (hence no Senator child support), and so on.

Wait, Andy said he slept with Angela? I thought she never gave him any satisfaction, that was a longstanding joke on the show.

Creed's cubicle has his guitar in it, I was glad to see that, hadn't noticed it before.

Great line about Fraggle Rock and David Wallace!
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I agree with nexpose that this is about as good as this show is capable of getting without Steve Carell, or without BJ Novak, Mindy Kaling, etc. I think they're now in the homestretch, they're putting the pieces in their final places, and they no longer have to stretch their characters for comedic purposes. The one thing The Office has always done well is those big, important episodes. The wedding, Michael leaving, even to a lesser extent this episodes goodbye to Andy. Yes, it was manipulative, but it still worked, both within the confines of the character, and for us as the audience. I've spent my entire adult life with The Office, and while at times the last two years I've wanted to give up, I couldn't with the home stretch in sight. It's nice to finally get to say goodbye to the Dunder-Mifflin family, and if it's a bit saccharine, so be it.


As for the Jim and Dwight relationship you mentioned, Nick. I don't think the goodwill Dwight showed was odd. We've seen for years that deep down Jim and Dwight are good friends, and now we're finally seeing that they've matured enough to be able to admit it, not just to themselves, but finally to each other. To me, it makes perfect sense in the journeys of the characters.
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I thought this ranked up as one of the best post Carell eps. Boy, tell us how you feel about Andy / Ed Helms, Nick? haha. While the writers completely destroyed Andy for some reason, he always had his place on the Office. I am really livid they didn't make Andy and Erin work. That really pisses me off plus just making him an ass. Seeing Dwight rise up in so many ways was awesome. Ed Helms is definitely awesome and he ruled in Cedar Rapids. Really almost an Office movie in a way.

I honestly feel Dwight will go down as one of the best tv comedy characters in history. I really hope Rainn Wilson stays more comedic since he rocks that way.

I guess Jim and Pam were all back and shiny too fast but no prob to me.

Ultimately I just thought this ep. was great and what I was yearning for in awhile. Minus Andy leaving but considering how they wrote him, I get it.
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Andy wasn't that bad last season, everyone had too high of expectations for him. Everyone thought he would rule the entire show like Michael and I don't think that was the plan (he's not actually the lead/star; I think it was supposed to be more about the ensemble as a whole). The reaction to him last year i think is what caused them to make him the horrible person he was this year. Their strategy was to embrace the audience's hate of Andy, which was the point at which I started to not like the character.

With that said I disagree with Nick and think that Dwight should have taken over in season 8 instead of Michael. I think the audience could have accepted this and it would have been a much better fit for the show.
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The reason I, personally couldn't have accepted Dwight back then was because of all the things he did that were dangerous (the fire drill, the the thing with the bat, and many others. The incident with the gun wasn't at all out of character for who he was back then). Since then they've mellowed him out, and that's what it took for me to think of him as a leader rather than a danger. Sure it would have been hilarious back then, but to keep some semblance of reality, they couldn't have.
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I understand that but the truth is they could have mellowed him out/matured him a little last year (but not too much) so he could take the job then (and it could be a little more realistic). They could have easily promoted him to regional manager last year and it would have been an instant success. As opposed to the audience's negative reaction to Andy, I'm almost certain that Dwight would have won over the audience without them constantly comparing him to Michael. But even if they didn't mature him it would have worked (see his episode as acting mgr) because the character is consistent at getting laughs. The thing with a semblance of reality though is that the show kind of lost that a while ago (season 4?). Michael was never that realistic; it was surprising he got away with what he did. And Dwight's character has never been that realistic. So would you rather have it be more entertaining or realistic?
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