Dwight manning the ice sculpture on The Office.
Last week’s episode was such a bummer. Andy was indecisive; Robert California was absent; and the long-term story, it seemed, was going nowhere. However, a handful of optimistic commenters cited the slow starts of recent seasons — which built to genuinely solid episodes and even arcs — as evidence that the show could still turn around. Defenders of Dunder Mifflin, you should feel vindicated this week. Obviously it’s way too early to claim whether or not The Office is 100 percent back on track, but I can say this: "Garden Party" is funny, weird, touching, and unpredictable. A gem, really.
Well, sort of. The cold open was one strange dong joke. But hey, everything else worked.
On a technical level, the episode coalesces in a way its predecessors couldn’t. For three weeks, we watched Michael Scott replacement Andy Bernard do the lost puppy dog routine. Not this time. Andy Bernard is throwing a garden party at the Schrute Farm, full stop. He’s very clear that there’s no room for discussion that this is not a barbecue or a picnic, and that everyone should come.
The gang assumes the shindig is Andy’s not-so-subtle ruse to win the adulation and respect of Robert California, but the new CEO takes backseat to the real stars of this episode: the Bernards. The casting is pitch perfect. Andy’s father is played by Stephen Collins (7th Heaven), his mother by Dee Wallace (E.T.), and his brother, Walter Bernard Jr., by none other than Josh Groban (Josh Groban). It doesn’t take a Cornell grad to see whom the party is really meant to impress.
Despite their beautiful, sweet faces, the clan treat their eldest son like they’d treat a head cold, with aversion, only paying it enough attention to make it go away. Andy’s clutching for approval is tough to watch, even for a show that prides itself on channeling life’s more uncomfortable and humiliating moments. Read More...