Halloween episodes! They are only mostly an excuse to get characters in costumes for silly sight gags! The Office had their Halloween episode this week, entitled “Spooked,” as the Andy Bernard as boss train continues. How will the Halloween episode look without Michael Scott?
First, I might as well briefly discuss the costumes. The most notable one was Dwight as some sort of female warrior from Starcraft. However, he didn’t have his weapons, and we got a funny montage of Toby taking away Dwight’s various weapons from his costumes. Oscar’s costume was too clever. Erin was Wendy from the hamburger establishment. Robert California was Jack Nicholson. Kelly, Toby, and Gabe were skeletons. Darryl, Kevin, and Jim were the big three from the Miami Heat, with Jim as Chris Bosh, to his mild dismay. You see, people like to rag on Bosh because, for whatever reason, they don’t like the fact that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Bosh got together to try and win a title. They can’t rely talk jive about James or Wade, because they are two of the top three players in the NBA, so they focus on Bosh, who, while very good, is not an elite player. Honestly, none of the costumes were that funny this year. The best joke probably came out of Kelly and Meredith arguing over who got to be Kate Middleton. Meredith won out because she was actually at the wedding, drunkenly yelling at the happy couple.
I don’t really know how to break down this episode. Usually, I go through the “A” story, and then the other stories as I add some commentary and review. This episode was a big mishmash. There wasn’t really an “A” story. Or, at the very least, there was only a nominal one. There wasn’t really any other stories either. There was sort of a “B” story, and that story caused any other story to flame out into unsatisfactory endings. However, I guess I might as well start with the “A” story, to the extent there was one. There was reason for optimism here, as once again it didn’t really focus on Andy. Sure, he was involved, but instead Erin got to carry the weight.
Erin has become my favorite character on the show. As I’ve watched Dwight because both malevolent and marginalized, Erin has grown into her own as a more fully developed, but still very funny, character. So, obviously, I was more inclined to like something focused on her. Andy put her in charge of the party, but he’s quite worried about it because Robert is going to be there and, get this, he’s afraid of disappointing him. Meanwhile, Erin is worried about disappointing Andy, which is at least something that we haven’t seen every week this season, and Erin is just a more sympathetic character. In my favorite moment of the episode, Erin asks Pam to judge how well she’s doing as a receptionist on a scale of one to three. When Pam says two, Erin says something to the effect of, “That was the second to last thing I wanted to hear.”
When Robert shows up, he has his kid with him for some reason, and his kid proceeds to overtake Jim’s computer to track a hurricane. Andy thinks that Robert thinks the party is too childish, so he gets Phyllis and Angela to try and mature up the joint. Erin, wanted to contribute, turns to the most macabre person she knows; her ex-boyfriend Gabe. When told to get something scary, Gabe is delighted, and heads on his merry way.
In the end, while people are enjoying the party, Erin plays a (I presume) DVD Gabe gave her, which is just a series of unsettling and alarming images. Think Luis Bunuel’s Un Chien Andalou, provided you majored in film studies like I did. Nobody likes this, except Gabe, and then Erin turns to Plan B: Pornographic playing cards. Alas, she could not find the “Girls of the Internet” deck. I’d go on-line with them anyday! Incidentally, quoting The Simpsons for a half hour may have been a more enjoyable than watching this episode of The Office. That’s not to condemn “Spooked,” but to praise the excellence of The Simpsons over this merely good, sort of lackluster episode.
This gets Erin into Andy’s office with Robert as Andy and her have an awkward conversation in front of Robert, who is never uncomfortable. He says he won’t fire her, but he also tells her he has been dating a woman for quite some time, and he no longer wants to keep her from calling or visiting to spare Erin’s feelings. So, I bet we will be seeing a new character soon, which is just what this show needs. Maybe he’ll be dating Jordan. I shall get to the (utter lack of a satisfactory) ending of this story later.
Kudos to the writers, and Ellie Kemper, for nailing the delicate balance of using Erin well. She did some dumb things, but they didn’t go as far as other times, because they needed to ground her a bit to make her the viable focal point of this episode. They succeeded. There was plenty of funny stuff for her to do, but there was some emotional heft as well. Overall, the “main story” was probably only pretty good as a storyline, but there was still plenty of laughs and a bit of pathos thanks to Erin.
Here’s a couple other things that happened. First, Jim overhears Pam talk about a ghost she saw while working at some old haunted house type thing. This alarms Jim, because the woman of his dreams to whom he is married and with whom he has fathered multiple children, apparently believes in ghosts and he did not know this. Since they are Jim and Pam, they then spend some time joking with one another about it, with Jim getting in some good Ghostbusters related lines. Pam responds by drawing a hand extending its middle finger to him. The argument does get mildly serious at a point as they discuss what would happen if their child told Pam they had seen a ghost, but, again, I’ll get to the (lack of an) ending later.
Also, Dwight and Robert’s kid bond over their fondness for Starcraft and box jellyfish. They play Starcraft for a while and in the closer Robert’s kid pretends to fire Toby to Dwight’s amusement. It had a few funny moments.
As for Robert California, here is what he was up to. He spent the episode going around and prodding people in conversation to figure out their fears. Then, at the end of the episode, he tells everybody a story about a woman and her baby that includes all their various fears in it. In the end, it is more of a shaggy dog joke than anything. This, inexplicably, apparently helped people solve some of their problems. Suddenly, Jim and Pam weren’t fighting anymore. Suddenly, Erin and Andy had a heart-to-heart. Robert gave another one of his voice overs during this, some nonsense about fear or what have you.
So, basically, none of the stories in this episode really ended. The best you can say is they ending poorly. Robert has basically become a walking deus ex machina at this point. He shows up, gives some big speech, and while he explains his speech in a voice over people heed his words and improve their lot in life. It is getting repetitive, and it is straining credibility. I’ve tired of it already, and I feel fairly confident this isn’t the last time it would happen. The whole gathering “fears,” some of which weren’t really fears but more worries or anxieties, had some funny and/or interesting moments, but the payoff was minimal.
Erin and Andy could have had some sort of satisfying moment of closure, but they didn’t. One minute, Jim is worried because he realizes that he has married a stupid person. Then, moments later it is all over. Although, Pam does point out Jim has a superstition about his Philadelphia Eagles jersey apparently, so they are evidently both morons. They are raising two children. Good thing they aren’t real people.
I was really disappointed in the way this episode ended. I am tired of Robert magically fixing things with speeches, and I would like the show to focus on the characters that have been around for a while and actually have relationships. I would also like more Erin. Jim and Pam are no longer America’s sweethearts. Erin has that whole spotlight to herself, at least in my eyes.
All that being said, this was a good episode. It was not plotted well, it was not paced well, and, if I can beat a dead horse, it did not end well. However, there was still plenty of really funny stuff in it, and there was enough well done emotional stuff with Erin to keep this from being a mediocre outing. I’m starting to feel that less Andy and less Robert is the key to success for The Office in this post-Michael Scott Era. The show has plenty of other people to rely on. If “Spooked,” and several other episodes, are any indication, that would be the way to go.