Though it has taken me a few extra days to get to writing up “Andy’s Play,” the episode has been in my mind ever since Thursday night, as it is certainly the best episode of this young season and probably the most enjoyable effort since “Niagara.” Yeah, I said it.
The writers said before the season that the first half of season seven would feature individual episodes that focus solely on various main characters as a way to create some sort of “test run” to see if they could carry the series once Steve Carell’s Michael says goodbye. That seems like a really odd and possibly horrible idea on paper, but as the first execution of that idea, “Andy’s Play” instills me with more confidence both for the approach and for the possibility that the series could carry on with the Nard Dawg as the centerpiece.
After the recalibration of his character post-wall punch in S3, Andy has been a favorite character of mine. Some think he’s been marginalized a little bit since the madness with Angela, but I personally hated that pairing and have been glad to see Andy try to find love with the goofball Erin. They are both incredibly dense, but charming in an “aw shucks” kind of way and so I’m totally invested in their relationship.
As an individual, I feel like Andy’s talent is one that doesn’t really fit into the Dunder Mifflin fabric. Being a good singer doesn’t really equate into the paper-selling business, and as hard as Andy tries to make the two worlds come together, it never really fits. So not only does getting a role in the local production of Sweeney Todd make sense for Andy as an outlet for his talent, but it actually feels real, because Andy is well, actually talented.
But this being The Office, things don’t quite go as planned for Mr. Bernard. Somehow he convinces everyone in the office to come to his play — except Erin, who agrees to babysit Cecilia Halpert so that Jim and Pam can attend. From there, the Nard Dawg’s neurosis takes over and his insistence on checking his phone for good luck texts backfires when the iPhone goes off during the performance. Multiple times. Cringe.
Meanwhile, of course Michael feels generally jealous throughout the performance because apparently his audition (where he performed an entire episode of Law & Order) didn’t cut it. He boos the man playing Sweeney, drinks too much champagne and causes a cringe-worthy moment of his own by letting the glass bottle roll down the auditorium just as the crowd is already quiet due to Andy’s phone. Eek.
Thankfully, things work out okay in the end. Erin stupidly brings Cece to the play so she can watch from the back, Andy sees her and they have a little charming moment. Michael is able to deal with Andy’s minor stardom and in the end, the Nard Dawg gets to perform another song while everyone (minus the freaked out Jim and Pam, and Erin) plays along.
I’ve read some comments and tweets taking this episode to task because it felt too sitcom-y in the sense that it’s hard to believe everyone would actually come to Andy’s play and especially hard to believe that they’d want to make him feel better at the end of it. I can see that argument, particularly when thinking of the fact that no one but Michael (and Oscar for a few minutes) came to Pam’s art show. However, my response is this: First of all, I think that four years later, the office is much closer, so they’re willing to watch Andy. Or secondly, they assumed that he would fail and just had to see it, even if they subsequently want to make him feel better. Third, it’s very possible that Andy just bothered everyone enough that they gave in, again probably to see him fail. And finally, sometimes, a sitcom is a sitcom. It’s not as if The Office has kept a totally, absolutely real-life vibe or tone in recent years anyway.
In short, I’m totally okay with it, particularly because the episode itself was so satisfying.
- So many great small moments in this episode: Dwight grabbing the knife during the cold open, Darryl’s rant about the overture, Ryan smugly showing Kelly the time on his iPad, Creed phoning in his theater review and Jim’s “It’s like The Hurt Locker” line.
- I like what the writers are doing with Dwight and Angela, his character needs the romantic entanglements to ground him in some sort of reality. Plus, it’s often funny.
- I would totally watch Michael perform an entire 42-minute episode of Law & Order, wouldn’t you?
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