‘The Office’ Review: “Couples Discount”
As we head into the final stretch of 'The Office,' there are now two questions remaining: Will Jim and Pam live happily ever after, and will the Brian the boom guy subplot work? Last week Brian got fired and seems close to Pam, so we'd expect that to go somewhere this week, right? The good news: this week brings the return of Ed Helms to the show.
This episode offers no cold open, and starts with Jim saying he switched days to spend Valentine's Day with Pam. Erin then invites Pete out to do something, and tells the documentary crew that she plans to break up with Andy when he returns the next day. Pete thinks this date is Erin's way of ending the fun, flirtatious behavior they've had. Everyone liked that Andy was gone, and they all (outside of Dwight) plot to go to the mall for one last day of freedom. Jim and Pam have a lunch date with Brian the boom guy and his wife Alyssa. It turns out that Brian has a lady in his life. This is a great revelation, but unfortunately it doesn't last.
At the mall, Oscar and Darryl pretend to be a couple (though Darryl is a little reticent at first), but when they're rejected by the foot massage lady Darryl steps up and defends their fake relationship. Jim and Pam go to lunch, and Brian is alone and reveals that he and his wife are splitting up. At the office Dwight is faking Andy's signature when Andy shows back up.
Everyone turns back up at the office to find Andy berating them. Andy says that he lied as a Valentine's day surprise for Erin, but it turns out he came back early because David Wallace was coming to the office, and reveals he never told Wallace that he was out of the office. He pretended to be around by monitoring the internet (which adds another insult to injury for Erin, as Andy only emailed her four times). Brian relays how his relationship ended, which - believe it or not - moderately parallels what's going wrong with Jim and Pam, and Jim didn't know about how Brian broke the fourth wall to comfort Pam, which makes Jim very uncomfortable. Andy tries to play tough with Dwight, and seemingly dissolves the deal with Jan Levinson because Dwight wouldn't say Coolio.
Andy goes to Angela to get his paychecks, and gets a bonus for how they've exceeded expectations while he was gone. Dwight tells the gang about how Andy blew the deal with Jan, and tries to get someone else to narc Andy out, but no one will bite. As they had back to work, Pam can tell Jim's annoyed, and he lays it out that he's upset he knows less about his marriage than Brian, but realizes it's his fault and tries to swallow it. Andy gets everyone in the conference room to find out what he's missed, when David Wallace shows up. As Andy needs some last minute cramming, everyone starts lying to him about the events of the last three months.
Andy starts using the false information with David, but realizes he's been chumped, and backtracks. Erin comes into Andy's office and tells him that she doesn't love him any more because he was gone so long, but Andy suggests she pretend to love him until she does again. And she doesn't say no. Jim asks Pam to skip the Valentine's day stuff and drop him at the bus station because he can tell they're about to fight. Jim gives her one of her old drawings in a frame, and she says he should stay and they should fight, which Jim agrees to. Erin goes to Pete and tells him that she couldn't do it and Pete says he just wants her to be happy, which makes Erin kiss him. Erin goes into Andy's office and tells him its over and that she worried he was dead over the last three months. What she didn't know is that Andy was on the phone with David Wallace.
This was a strange episode in that it kept almost falling over, but then would right itself. Andy acting like a jerk wore out its welcome real quick, but the show may be done with Andy Bernard if the end sting plays out (though one would guess Ed Helms is done shooting the new 'Hangover' movie), and they are stacking the deck against him -- we'll see if it sticks. More importantly, the Pete and Erin thing got some escalation, and the Jim and Pam stuff had a good conclusion and the emotions felt real. Brian the boom guy is still a looming threat, but the happy decision to have a fight was a good moment. As the end is near, we hope they figure out how to stick the landing (hey, isn't Jim's start-up in fiscal hot water? Did they forget about that for the last three episodes?) and wrap things up. But this episode points to a possible good, if not strong finish. And that's all we ask.