If "The Office" hasn't officially jumped the shark, it's currently mid-leap. All is not well at Dunder Mifflin, ladies and gentlemen, and whether it be Andy's poor traction as new leader of the Scranton office, Pam and Jim's terribly stale presence or Gabe's creepy focus shifting to a new character written seemingly just for that purpose, the show has officially lost its shine.
The first few episodes after Steve Carell's departure were a process of setting new parameters, and warming to Andy Bernard as the new boss in his place. But half a dozen episodes into the story arc, and we've still got the same go-round we've been having: desperate to impress new CEO Robert California, Andy goes to great and ill-advised lengths that puts the rest of the staff in peril.
This week's episode revolved around the weekly productivity report, the last of which indicated a barrage of staff errors. Demanding that all the mistakes being made by the Scranton branch end immediately, Robert puts Andy in such a panic that he allows Dwight Schrute to set up an Accountability Booster "doomsday device" of sorts to prevent further errors. The machine logs errors made by the staff, and if the entire branch reaches five strikes in a single day, Robert California will receive a blast of emails containing last season’s consultant report – the one that recommended the entire branch be shut down.
Naturally, hysteria ensues, especially when it takes the office less than a day to hit the number. Everyone begs Dwight to cancel the email, for the sake of keeping their jobs, but Dwight sees the opportunity to finally play God and do away with everyone, so he refuses, heading home early for the day. Desperate, the Pam-led expedition (with Andy, Erin and Kevin) to Schrute Farms to confront and sweet-talk the antagonizing co-worker ends with the gang helping to dig a horse grave – in Dwight's front yard.
Pam, having a bit of personal experience with the sociopathic weirdo, handled the situation wisely. She didn't bring up the email at all, and through the longstanding odd bond between her and Dwight, he eventually relented and cancelled the email, effectively saving his coworkers' asses. A little too neat, if you ask me.
Elsewhere, Gabe has taken a liking to a new warehouse worker named Val, but she has zero gravity in the show, and her only purpose seems to be to give Gabe and Darryl something to compete over. These loose-ends of character development need something new to focus on to stay fresh, and so we have a new love interest. Unfortunately, the scenario only highlights Gabe's creepiness (he wants to take Val out – for wine in a cemetary) and general lack of worth on the show. Now that the wind is out of the sails between he and Erin, he genuinely serves no purpose.
That's not the core issue with "The Office" these days, however. Put simply, Andy is not fit for his new position. The bumbling underdog routine of the first few episodes this season were endearing, but it's grown cold quickly. Sure, the guy's replacing a boss who never once took his job seriously, but Andy is terribly unproductive, has to resort to extreme tactics to accomplish his tasks, and his unprofessionalism hit a new high upon the cold-open realization that every single day since he's become boss, Andy has sung Semisonic’s “Closing Time” just before departure time.
Dwight, by contrast, is maniacally devoted to success. It's also his greatest weakness, as his juvenile obsession with conquering everything results in severe tactics (see the central focus of this episode) that aren't conducive to sustained productivity and a positive work atmosphere. The show would undoubtedly take an entirely new direction with him behind the boss' desk, but with what we've got currently, there's a good chance "The Office" will have worn out its welcome entirely by season's end.
CraveOnline Rating: 4 out of 10