Last week’s episode of The Office suffered from being silly and slapdash, and it did not make me feel any more confident about the Andy as boss era. Fortunately, this week’s episode, “Lotto,” made some nice changes, mostly by taking the focus off of Andy and moving it onto Darryl.
As the episode begins, we find out that the warehouse guys have won a pretty hefty lottery sum, and as such they’ve all quit. So now, everybody left is daydreaming about winning the lotto instead of working, Darryl and Andy need to hire a whole new warehouse crew posthaste, and Darryl is feeling despondent because he used to be part of that lottery pool, and now he hasn’t won the lotto and he’s got the same job with seemingly no more upward mobility left.
Andy is left to try and motivate people, with little success, especially when it comes to his good friend Darryl. Instead of doing his job, Darryl is sitting around lamenting the fact his formally nice basement now smells like tacos. Andy and Darryl interview some new applicants, but Darryl basically tells them not to take the job and then leaves the room. Andy is left to try and deduce who is best for the job, but he doesn’t know anything about warehouse work. He is, in fact, so bad at it that everybody leaves. When Andy confronts Darryl, Darryl tells him to fire him.
Andy manages to cull together three applicants, but one of them is a doctorate student looking for research, and one of them was hired just for his muscles on Oscar’s recommendation. Oscar has a thorough knowledge of the most muscular men in the Scranton area. Oh, that Oscar. Andy tries to introduce them to Darryl, but Darryl is still looking to get fired, that or get Andy’s job, which he feels he deserves. Andy argues with Darryl over this fact, and he has some astute points, and he wonders where Darryl’s ambition went. Darryl realizes Andy is right, and gets things back in gear.
This was a much better way to use Andy. He got to spend some time struggling to be the boss, but it wasn’t the focus, and the jokes just happened to be funnier as well. Having him play off Darryl, a much more straightlaced character, worked well. Darryl is better equiped to carry the load, with Andy being the secondary character to play off him. They can do that with Andy as the boss. Quite frankly, that may make the most sense. This was just overall a better, funnier storyline with an actual semblance of reasonable emotional and dramatic impact as well.
Not that there wasn’t a lot of silliness in this episode, however. It was just relegated to the warehouse. Phyllis has a big order that needs to go out, but with nobody in the warehouse, folks from upstairs are going to have to take care of it. Erin agrees right away, and then Jim agrees and is able to shrewdly coerce Dwight into joining him. Also, Kevin is volunteered. So, we’ve got the two least intelligent and goofiest characters paired with Jim and Dwight. Clearly, this had the potential to go awry.
Fortunately, despite the silliness, it mostly worked. First, Dwight crashed the forklift into the wall, and then non-chalantly gets to work loading the truck by hand. This, obviously, is going to slowly, and Erin can’t really keep up. Also, they don’t notice the hand cart, which isn’t surprising considering that they aren’t used to this kind of work. Kevin broaches the notion of buttering up the floor and sliding the boxes, which Erin likes, but Jim and Dwight are sour on. However, while Jim and Dwight are picking up coffee and Erin’s hot chocolate tea, Kevin and Erin start greasing up the floor. With nowhere else to turn, Dwight and Jim give in and they start working on the grease plan again.
Of course, this leads to the moment where Darryl and Andy show up to see that the truck isn’t loaded, there is a forklift in the wall, and the floor is covered with grease. Jim and Dwight try and back away from the plan, but Kevin and Erin show it off anyway. Thus, we get the sight of Erin on a sled holding up boxes while she’s pulled along through a track of some sort. Also, Phyllis lost her client.
Again, this was quite silly, but at least it had some funny stuff in it. Was it a bit too cartoonish for this show? Probably, at least for the early days. By the modern standards, it isn’t that out of the question. Fortunately, Dwight and Jim were around to ground it a bit, and the fact the plan failed and was looked at with derision helps. Dwight and Jim, much like Andy and Darryl, make a nice pair, and that certainly helped.
There were also a lot of small moments of folks discussing what they would do if they won the lotto. It was mostly Jim and Pam who got to talk about it, with their clashing plans for their impossible dreams. That sort of seemed to be the crux of these scenes. Having people discuss their impossible dreams of what they would do with a bunch of money. Nothing terribly funny came out of this, but it was all fine and some of it made the episode better.
The cold open was also good. The gang find a dog stuck inside a car with the windows up, much to everybody, especially Oscar’s, dismay. They try and figure out what to do, Dwight throws some sort of beverage into the car, and eventually Oscar gets fed up and smashes the window. However, since they have to keep the dog from leaving the car, they then tape some cardboard over the window and poke holes in it. While it may have been a bit much, the gag of taping over the window was pretty funny. Kevin passing out in a car when trying to be a sort of canary in a coalmine was less amusing.
Overall, “Lotto” was the best episode the three so far. It was the funniest episode, and the best plotted as well. I don’t think it is a coincidence that it was also the best use of Andy as boss so far. Most of the characters were used better, however. This isn’t all a referendum on Andy as boss. It is just the biggest change, and as such is going to have the biggest impact on the show. It is still too early to really assess what the “Andy as boss” era is going to be. We’re three episodes into season eight, and two of them have been good. While last week’s episode, “The Incentive,” was concerning, “Lotto” was able to alleviate many of those concerns at least for one week. In the end, if most of the episodes this season are good, things will be fine. So far, so good in that regard.