The Office's Season 9 Premiere: Pray Until You're a Cat Person

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The Office S09E01: "New Guys"

"Don't you guys have everything? It's just a paper company."

There's nothing like seeing the end to make us look back through our regrets, is there? Like a montage of facepalms, these are the days of our lives.

It appears that the people behind The Office felt the same way when faced with the final season. It's clear they reflected on some criticism and used the premiere to address a few of the issues that've been plaguing them. They wasted no time; the opening scene found a way for a star to exit (Kelly went out on a punchline, though I'm still dubious over whether the glee she experienced upon hearing "Miami" would cloud the chagrin that always sets in when someone follows up with "Ohio"), a storyline to be reset (Andy's back in power), a different storyline to be erased (Dwight's son will have to wait), and a business opportunity to shake up the world's most boring couple (bland Jam).

And that's all the matters so far. There are two reasons that there are only five people in Season 9's opening credits, despite The Office's large ensemble cast. The first is time, because getting all those people into the opening would make the sequence almost as long as The Newsroom's, which feels slightly longer than Ben-Hur. The second is that Dwight, Jim, Pam, Andy, and Erin are the five people who are now the core of this show. Whether this season is great or not isn't going to fall on the shoulders of Stanley or Meredith or even Creed (sometimes I wish it were Creed). It's the inner circle that'll make it or break it.

And, to that end, I think they did a pretty good job.

The Andy vs. Nellie thing may be setting the table for a meal for which we haven't received a menu but, for now, it's pretty silly. The heart of the episode focused on the two characters who are arguably the heart of the series. The look back didn't end behind the scenes: Dwight and Jim got parallel storylines that allowed them a vision of themselves in the form of fresh-faced goofballs. And neither liked what they saw.

Let's face it: Jam needed a shake-up. You know it. I know it. Your cat probably knows it. Since they got married, it's pretty much been more entertaining to watch that plant in the confessionals grow. So I was ecstatic to see Jim—after listening to Pete talk about dreams and ambitions and subsequently realizing that part of him has been cold and dead since he turned a Beesly into a Halpert—take action. What I'm afraid of, however, is that the action won't be enough.

Pam isn't an established dream-killer. She might have repeated a few dozen times this episode that she likes her boring life, but would she stand in the way of Jim doing something important with his? She might be upset that he made a decision without consulting her first, but no, I don't think this is something that will be a major upset for them. Especially since, if they decide to do the long-distance thing, with Jim going to Philadelphia while Pam stays in Scranton, they've done it before. I'm not saying they would be jumping the shark (I have very specific conditions regarding that phrase), but there was a time when Pam wanted to go to art school and Jim patiently waited for her. Granted, now they have a family and she would have to, presumably, be left alone with the kids or quit her job to move. I just don't think Pam has been established as the type who would stand in Jim's way. It feels like a one-episode problem..

That's how bland Jim and Pam are: You can't even conceive of them doing anything rash or theatrical based on emotions. They're like the anti-Bravermans.

Dwight, however, is all theatrics. Between ridiculous slapstick and throw-up scenes, he identified Clark as his doppelganger, either his younger double who wants to take his place or an omen of his irrelevance/death. I suppose that explains why Dwight decided that, instead of proving his worth through his job (which is all Clark seems to want—to be a salesperson), he wanted to prove his vitality through feats of strength. He failed, of course, but leave it to Dwight to escalate something until it's too ridiculous to be worthwhile.

And that's when Jim and Dwight's tracts defined themselves as parallel. In an effort to not be erased from the world, either by being forgettable or through the machinations of a guy named Fart, both of these men, the beating hearts of this show, took giant risks. While we only saw the beginning of Jim's (the phone call), we saw Dwight's play out. And it didn't end well. How do you think Jim will fare?

All in all, "New Guys" was a decent season premiere for The Office. It was a moderately sharp episode with some of the things we love (Jim convincing Dwight about the sales meeting and the belt above black was beautiful) and callbacks to the things we're nostalgic for (interesting that Andy made an effort to recall Michael with regard to Toby). While the episode still wasn't on par with those of the show's earliest seasons, I didn't roll my eyes even once. The episode wasn't lazy—and for The Office, that's a win.


NOTES


– I could've done without the blue throw-up. Why was there so much? And right after it was mentioned? It was like Chekov's barf take but it went off before the first act even started.

– I really liked the turtle story. I also like that Oscar was more willing to tell Kevin he was putting the pieces of the shell together wrong rather than just convince him that that turtle is already dead.

– BJ Novak probably wishes he could go to "Ohio," too.

– The crew actually responded when Pam questioned why the documentary is still being filmed. I know a lot of people can't wait to see who's in charge of this production and will love it when they break the fourth wall. Obviously, the characters ask questions of the crew often, but the crew very rarely responds. The only time I can think of it happening is when they showed Pam evidence that Dwight and Angela were together ("E-mail Surveillance"). To me, it's disconcerting.

– Angela: "If you pray hard enough, you can turn yourself into a cat person." Oscar: "Those guys always turn back, Angela."

– I didn't really think we needed another relationship on this show (we already have Jim and Pam, Andy and Erin, Darryl and Val, Meredith and Pete's face) but at least Oscar is seeing someone outside of the office. And he's a (state) Senator, too!

– Creed: "I laughed and I cried. Not bad for a day in the life of a dog food company." If Creed isn't summing up the episode for us every week, we're wasting our time.



QUESTIONS


– How will Pam take Jim's decision?

– How long until Oscar gets caught? Will a cat in jeans be his downfall?

– What is our plan for Nellie?

– Do we think all the slapstick with Dwight was funny or kind of cheap?

– Do you have "Eternal Flame" stuck in your head like I do? Is it the version from Pushing Daisies? Samesies!