While breathing a sigh of relief may still be a bit premature, so too may have been my premonitions of total doom that I felt after watching The Office’s last new episode, “Happy Hour”—while the long-running comedy still has its problems, and at this point is succumbing to wheel-spinning and tired retreads of old storylines and themes, it somehow still manages to be one of the most entertaining comedies on television. Case in point: last night’s episode, which featured the clichéd TV trope of focusing on a new (in this case, semi-new) character to give the show a rush of new life.
Normally, this kind of move would be the death-knell for a program. But when the TV show is as sharp as the The Office can still occasionally be, and that character is the increasingly bizarre/ creepy/ quite-possibly-mildly-retarded-and/or-disturbed Erin the secretary, you end up with one of the best episodes of the season that recalls classic episodes of seasons past.
- Director: Steve Carell
- Writer: Mindy Kaling
- Honorable Mentions: Greg Daniels (Developer), Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant (Creators)
- Cast: Steve Carell, Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, B.J. Novak, Ed Helms, David Denman, Leslie David Baker, Brian Baumgartner, Creed Bratton, Kate Flannery, Mindy Kaling, Ellie Kemper, Angela Kinsey, Paul Lieberstein, Oscar Nuñez, Craig Robinson, Phyllis Smith,
The Show’s Plot:
The Office is a mockumentary following the mundane, yet hilarious, lives of employees of the paper company, Dunder-Mifflin, in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Title of this Week’s Episode: “Secretary’s Day” Season 6: Episode 22
“Secretary’s Day” has the eternally overachieving Andy forcing his coworkers to over appreciate his new girlfriend/ office secretary Erin on Secretary’s Day, which leads to Michael taking Erin to lunch and answering questions about Andy’s past, including the fact that Andy was once engaged to evil, diminutive Angela for a year. Erin proceeds to lose her mind, Andy collapses in on himself, and for once Michael seems almost borderline normal in comparison. In the episode’s subplot, Oscar makes a YouTube video parodying the similarities between and Kevin and Cookie Monster, prompting corporate lackey Gabe to make an attempt at office discipline.
- Erin: This episode belonged entirely to Ellie Kemper, whose character arc this season has essentially been one that has quietly moved from office strait-woman to awoman who probably belongs in a straightjacket—from her lunchtime meltdown at the discovery of Andy’s previous relationships (she hides behind a wall of her own hair and moans wildly) to the slivers of her past that she lets slip (“I used to work at a Taco Bell Express, but then it became a regular Taco Bell, and, I don’t know, I couldn’t keep up.”), Erin has moved from one-note oddball to giving office weirdo Creed a run for his malevolently insane money. While Erin can’t get much more strange/ idiotic without becoming the cartoon character Michael has often been relegated to, her madness in “Secretary’s Day” was magnificent.
- Michael: Normally, every recent episode of The Office can be whittled down to the following: Michael does something mind-bendingly and cartoonishly stupid. Everyone gets mad. Michael tries to repair stupid move. And repeat. For once, though, The Office has broken up the routine and allowed Michael to be the horrified straightman to Erin’s increasingly disturbing behavior (“She’s kind of a rube, isn’t she?”) and offered the character a new dimension beyond the live-action Homer Simpson he has so quickly become.
- Kevin/ Cookie Monster/ Gabe: It’s a b-plot for a reason (i.e.: it has no bearing on the main storyline whatsoever), but listening to Kevin struggling against his own Cookie Monster voice and watching the “stick-insect” Gabe attempt to make a power-play simultaneously recalled the best of the series’ most broad and most awkward comic moments.
- ?: Honestly, this may be the first episode of season six in which there were no grating or unfunny moments—no Must See TV marriages or births, no rehashing of an early episode’s plot, no celebrity guest spot or cameo. It was simply a TV comedy getting down to the business of being exactly that—being a funny TV show. I can’t think of a single disappointing moment. If anything, the only downside to “Secretary’s Day” is that is brutally highlights how uneven the rest of this season has been.
That’s What He/ She Said:
Erin: In the foster home, my hair was my room.
Gabe: That’s why we leave the parodies to the pros at Mad TV.
Michael: I resent the implication that I would have kept that secret. Everyone here knows that I can’t and won’t keep a secret.
Angela: You are throwing up for the wrong reasons!
Erin: Is your name even Andy Bernard? What’s your real name, Lionel Frankenstein?
Erin: I have to be on my own for a little bit, like that girl Precious in Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ By Sapphire.
Michael: You know what, I wouldn’t worry about Angela. She doesn’t hold a candle to you, Erin. She’s old enough to be your mom, for one thing. And she’s like three feet tall, and she wears pioneer-women clothing. And I don’t think she’s ever pooped in her life.
Certainly the best episode of the very unreliable season six, “Secretary’s Day” found The Office doing what The Office does best. Sure, the lines of age are still evident, but this was an episode that could easily find itself on an Office highlight reel.