Tuned In

Lord, Beer Me Strength

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NBC Photo: Chris Haston

I meant to work an Office review into my Alec Baldwin rant, but that went on and on and on, and after the umpteenth paragraph I thought I’d better play myself off. Decent, midlevel episode. Great concept (I laughed like a donkey when I saw the obscene watermark; then again, I’m mentally 12 years old). So-so execution (Michael went a little too far into Zanytown in his apology video; the ending sort of petered out; and none of the running plots were meaningfully affected).

Still, by now The Office is like pizza: even when it’s just OK, it’s awfully good. You never know when a side character is going to step up, and last night Kelly had one of her best showcases in a while. Mindy Kaling plays her as such a believable ditz that it was surprising, and refreshing, for her to get a chance to actually be good at something–and how fitting that that something should be talking on the phone. Seeing her diplomatically tell lemon-faced Angela that her phone-apology mode left something to be desired was a perfect interaction, and actually, not bad management. Watch your back, Michael.

You can’t talk supporting characters in this episode without talking Creed, and he was in fine form: setting up a paper-plant employee he’s never met to save his skin was a new, and totally believeable, low. But the episode also made me glad to have Andy back: his frat-boy mannerisms (the “beer me” joke), his flashes of self-awareness (recognizing that the “beer me” joke only gets a laugh 25% of the time), his vulnerability/craziness (getting his heart broken by his jailbait girlfriend) and, of course, his singing (I still have The Lion Sleeps Tonight in my head).

That last singalong bit between Jim and Andy is one of the things I love about this show. Going on the apology visit didn’t exactly bond the two of them, and I doubt that Jim likes him any better–and yet it’s still important to Jim to cheer Andy up. That’s partly because Jim’s a good guy, but also partly–like some of his team-ups with Dwight–a sign of how working together confers a kind of trench-warfare connection even among employees who don’t much like each other. It’s the sort of insight, rare in Hollywood productions about work, that makes you believe the person who wrote it could actually once have worked in an office. Beer me some more of that.