After a week off so two people who very likely will never be President could have a debate, The Office returned tonight with “Work Bus,” which, notably, was directed by Bryan Cranston, who is taking time away from dealing meth to participate in NBC comedies evidently. The last episode to air before this one, “Andy’s Ancestry,” had some issues, but it also seemed to hint toward a couple of interesting storylines going forward. Would this week’s episode pick up on that?
You know how most of the episodes of The Office take place within the titular office, but every now and then the show does episodes where the gang all get together outside of work, like at a party or a wedding or a boozing cruise? Well, in a bit of inspiration, “Work Bus” managed to do both things at once. While Jim’s new job was not as focal this week, the ramifications of him finally telling Pam the truth drive the action a bit. He’s so happy that Pam was pretty cool about the whole thing, he wants to do something special for her. So, when worries about electromagnetic radiation within the office spring up, Jim exploits them, leaving Dwight to foot the bill for repairs and getting everybody out of the office for a week. It’s just going to be peace and pies for Jim and Pam.
Ah, but Dwight has a trick up his sleeve. He is required to get them a temporary work space, and he does in the form of a bus parked outside the building. Now, instead of vacation, everybody is shoved in a cramped bus and Jim’s plan is crushed. Advantage, Dwight… or is it? Jim is determined to get Pam some pie, and he’s not going to let Dwight stand in the way. So, it’s Jim versus Dwight, but it’s not just silly pranks like it often is. Jim convinces Andy to call for a road trip for the gang to the pie stand (also tires fixed), save for Darryl and Clark, who get left behind. Nothing comes of it. It’s just a thing that happens.
However, as the trip goes on, Pam feels that something is off with Dwight. Instead of scheming of some way to strike back, he seems to be sulking. Jim thinks nothing of it, of course, as Pam is the only person who really cares at all about Dwight’s feelings. Time is running out if they want to get to the pie stand in time, but Dwight is being difficult, and Jim gets angry. His wife is going to get her pie! Then, Dwight climbs onto the roof of the bus, and naturally Jim follows for a heart to heart. I know the show has gone to this well many times, but I prefer when Jim and Dwight are within this realm. When they become truly enemies, and that is usually fueled by Dwight being utterly ridiculous and over the top, it falls flat, but they can play pranks and mess with one another and then still help each other out occasionally.
And so, Dwight confesses in Jim that he fears he is barren and will never have a child. He feels this is in part because of the radiation, which he mistakes for a prank by Jim, one he is particularly impressed with. It takes a true prankster to render another man sterile through electromagnetic radiation. Anyway, they have their talk, Dwight comes down, and he speeds away so that everybody can get their pie. Plus, Kevin evidently gets to live out the dream of having a pie smashed in his face. There was also a running gag that Kevin becomes a math wizard when pies are involved. It was as dumb as it sounds. They also did this annoying roll call thing, which was brought back up in the tag, that I did not enjoy.
The rest of this was OK, I suppose. I do like Jim and Dwight storylines generally, and it was nice to see Jim acting somewhat intense for a change. However, it wasn’t all that funny in total, and it didn’t really do much. It was a contained storyline, which is alright, but I wish that they had pushed the Jim storyline a bit further. Oh well. There is a lot of season left, and I suppose they can only do so much with Jim and Pam.
Meanwhile, the awfulness of Andy is certainly pushing forward. He feels more like early Michael Scott now. Like, first season Michael Scott. The one they softened because a lot of people didn’t like him. First, he creates an inane, unfunny “fail” video about the Dunder-Mifflin softball team that evidently exists. Then, he gets his comeuppance with a video of him. Later, Nellie comes to him needing a recommendation for her adoption proposal, which is a think that is still happening and presumably nobody cares about. At least in the real world.
In the fake world, Erin very much cares, because she was an orphan who never got adopted. Perhaps it was because she was unlovable, she ponders in the most tragicomic line of the episode. So, Erin helps Nellie with his application, but then Andy, in the meanest way possible, does not agree to sign it. This makes Erin cry, so then Andy does sign it. Pete was not happy that Andy made Erin cry. It feels sort of odd now that they spent last season getting Andy and Erin back together and now they are already working on breaking them apart and Pete likely stepping in. Well, that’s Greg Daniels’ prerogative, I suppose.
While I am fine with Andy as a jerk and the sort of antagonist of the season. I’m just not to keen with what they did in this particular episode. It wasn’t funny, and instead of Andy getting a comeuppance, like he did earlier, he just sort of buckles and that muddies the waters. Plus, it wasn’t that funny.
This episode wasn’t that funny. It had a few good jokes, but it was fairly lackluster in that department. Additionally, none of the storylines were that good, and “Work Bus” also felt fairly staid and stagnant. It’s the weakest episode of season nine thus far. Still, it was a pretty good episode, I suppose, if ever so slightly. It lacked some of the dumbness and ridiculous that reared its head occasionally in the darker moments of last season. Still, that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement. I think The Office has some plans going forward, but “Work Bus” was a misstep on that road.