'The Office': Garden party massacre

office-garden-party.jpgMost of Jim's pranks on Dwight affect only Dwight. But the one he pulled on "The Office" Thursday (Oct. 13), while excellent in its planning and execution, also caused some collateral damage.

Andy was likely in a no-win situation, inviting his parents to his own Connecticut-casual garden party a week after they threw one for his favored, name-stealing younger brother Walter Bernard Jr. But the ridiculous guidelines in Jim's fake handbook, which Dwight of course followed to the letter, made a bad situation worse for the Nard-Dog.

As with a couple of the other episodes that have aired this season, "Garden Party" could have, with a few alterations, easily been a Michael Scott story. But because Ed Helms is very good at playing poignancy, it worked pretty well anyway.

Josh Groban didn't get a whole lot to do as Andy's younger brother, aside from the obligatory singing scene. But he was there mostly as a vehicle for Andy to play out his issues with his father (Stephen Collins rolling in a very un-Eric Camden-ike way). It suddenly makes a lot more sense why Andy is the way he is -- he has different daddy issues than Michael did, but man does he have them.

But as happened often with Michael, his co-workers picked him up at the end of the fiasco, turning the garden party into a barbecue and giving Andy an up note on which to end the day. Even part of Jim's prank (the closing ceremony) works to help lift the mood a little, and their sympathy for the boss feels unforced and earned.

And also, Mose! "Parks and Recreation" showrunner and former "Office" writer-producer Mike Schur reprised his sometime role as Dwight's cousin and got his best showcase ever, driving Toby's car through a cornfield, parking cars way too close together and Evel Knievel-ing said cars ... on foot. Schur has said he's not the biggest fan of being on camera, but he threw himself into this one.

"The Office" still feels like it's finding its way in the post-Michael era, but the cast remains one of the better ensembles working in comedy, and the writers are spreading the wealth pretty well.

A few other notes on "Garden Party":

  • Robert California dropped in for the garden party, with a basil plant and a thunder-stealing toast in which he completely undercuts Andy in front of his folks. He also had one entirely weird, Spaderian moment in which Dwight was trying to sell Schrute Farm as an event site: "I can get you exotic meats -- hippo steaks, giraffe burgers." "We'll talk."
  • Apoplectic Dwight is funny Dwight, and the highlight of the defaced-billboard gag in the cold open was Rainn Wilson running through the streets screaming "No, no, no, no!"
  • Oscar and Darryl's argument over what Rosebud means in "Citizen Kane" -- fantastic. And for the record, we're siding with Darryl.

What did you think of "The Office" this week?
Photo/Video credit: NBC