After about a month on ice, “The Office” returns to the NBC line-up with an Ed Helms-directed episode that delivers plenty of laughs. With the fate of the series still unknown, the first-rate “Welcome Party” begins the season eight home stretch of five, all-new episodes, which could be the once loved/still loved show’s last.

The Players:

  • Director: Ed Helms
  • Writers: Steve Hely
  • Cast: Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, James Spader, B.J. Novak, Jenna Fischer, Ed Helms, Leslie David Baker, Brian Baumgartner, Creed Bratton, Mindy Kaling, Ellie Kemper, Angela Kinsey, Paul Lieberstein, Oscar Nuñez, Craig Robinson, Phyllis Smith

Episode: “Welcome Party”

Robert makes the office throw a welcome party for Nellie, and the party planners try to sabotage it. Meanwhile, Andy and Erin practice how Andy will break up with Jessica.

The Good:

  • Robert California: “Why is Jim treating the magician poorly?” For me, this was the line of the night, one of RC’s finest moments this season. Some will say ‘whatever, not that funny,’ but I laughed my ass off when he said it.
  • Erin/Andy: Their ‘Two for the Road’ storyline of long distance travel and uncomfortable break-ups gets the golf clap from me. I thought it was well-played by Helms and Ellie Kemper, and funny all the way through. I didn’t really believe Jessica, Andy’s now Ex, at how she handled the breakup. It just looked and felt odd. That it happened at her sister’s bachelorette party made it all the more awkward and funny. Andy and Erin’s I Love Savannah t-shirts were excellent.
  • The Andy Hug: That hug he gives Jessica after he dumps her is cold and funny all at once.
  • Gummy Penis: Submitted without comment.
  • Haulin’ Cube: Dwight and Jim helping Nellie move-in did allow for us to get some back-story to the quirky new member of the office crew, and we also heard Dwight refer to himself as the ‘Great Schrutini.’
  • Candle Stick: Let’s follow that with Dwight’s funny line about hitting Nellie in her brain stem with a candle stick to help her forget her painful memories of lost love.
  • Creed: The guitar man says: “The first song is half-an-hour long!”
  • Cathy: The slut temp seems to be gone!

The Bad:

  • Cold Open: The first cold open all season that I didn’t care for.
  • Nellie: It’s both good and bad with Catherine Tate’s Nellie. One second I’m charmed, the next I’m ill. The character is certainly funny, but at times it feels forced.


It felt like months since the last episode, so the return of “The Office” definitely jazzed up my Thursday night. That the new episode, entitled “Welcome Party”, did not suck and was pretty damn funny also helped make my night of TV watching extra enjoyable.

There was nice rhythm throughout, which cannot be said about numerous episodes this season. Erin and Andy both had me laughing as they traveled back to Pennsylvania – now a couple – with a quick stop so Andy can dump his girlfriend Jessica. Maybe it was because he was directing himself, but I haven’t liked Ed Helms’ Andy character this much all season. His character, much different prior to becoming the boss, is funnier out of the office!

The appearance of Robert California is always welcome, and he delivered my favorite line: “Why is Jim treating the magician poorly”

I thought the code word: Pam scene during Nellie’s welcome party was funny, and the ensemble stepped up with some humorous comments. Good episode for Krasinski as well, who at times looks like a guy working on numerous things besides being on “The Office.”

These last few episodes should be interesting because they might very well be the last episodes. “The Office” is still not officially renewed for next season, and there is a lot of talk about what the show would look like if it does return. Ed Helms, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer and B.J. Novak are each unsigned for another season, so even if “The Office” comes back, it might be a totally new ballgame.

I think the show will return, but it’s anyone’s guess what kind of series it’s going to look like next season. In the meantime, season 8 rolls into the final batch of episodes on a high note behind the mostly excellent “Welcome Party.”

Rating: 8/10

“The Office” airs on NBC at 9pm (ET/PT) on Thursday nights.

What did you think of last night’s episode?