‘The Office’ Review: “A.A.R.M.”
So this is it. This is the penultimate episode of 'The Office.' Will Pam and Jim break up? Will Jim keep working at Dundler-Mifflin, or is there a compromise he can find with his wife? Will Brian the boom guy show up and make out with Pam? Will Dwight and Angela get together? So many questions. And at least one answer.
The episode starts with Kevin getting buzzed in after reciting a password. Dwight has increased security, but when he forgets the password he gets steamed (Creed saves a fortune on dry cleaning because of this).
Oscar and Angela are now living together, while Dwight is driven to work by his new girlfriend Esther, who he plans to propose to later in the day. Andy auditions for 'America's Next A Capella Sensation,' which is like 'American Idol' but meaner. Jim shows that filing paperwork with Dwight has become slightly more labor intensive, but he's amused by it. Together they've become a no nonsense office, and they even have a sign that says there's been "6 days since our last nonsense." Jim doesn't want to do the three month trip for Athlead -- but both Jim and Pam have reservations about him not going, though Pam loves that Jim's acting more goofy lately, and when they have a meeting Jim proves it. Angela shows up with her child Philip in tow, as her child care has rejected her. This makes Dwight nervous. They all plan to watch the documentary about them that night.
Andy's waiting in a long long line to audition, but he thinks it's his time. It's there he meets woman, and is told about the trials they're to go through for the audition. Oscar and Angela fight like a married couple at the office, and Oscar has assumed the father role (which makes Kevin act like a child), while Jim interrupts Dwight painting a 'Battlestar Galactica' model asking for an assistant to the assistant to the regional manager. They plot tests, and also agree that Pete should be called "plop" in deference to Andy. Jim figures that Dwight will choose himself to be Jim's assistant.
Andy commiserates with his female friend about all the feel-good stories being presented at the audition, while Darryl goes to the warehouse to return a truck he borrowed to move as he quit a week ago and didn't want to say goodbye. Then he runs into Pam and says things that make her question Jim's decision to not go on the trip. Jim quizzes the office to read his mind, know protocol, and deliver coffee all as set up for Dwight to get the job, when Darryl shows up during the test. He says goodbye briefly, and is told to get upstairs. Dwight is made the A.A.R.M., and Pam runs out. Jim goes after her and the two talk about if Jim is happy, and she worries about a year from now, or five years from now. She's afraid that she's not enough for him. Jim asks for a favor from the camera crew.
Darryl is surrounded by his coworker and is told to go to Poor Richard's to watch the documentary. Then everyone wants some Darryl-time, but he counters that he'll do one thing with all of them. Kevin starts banging a pen on his coffee cup as he feels ignored because of Philip, and then runs off. Andy shows back up in line dressed up as an old man. Esther shows up at the office and talks to Dwight, when he's distracted by Philip, who points at his 'BSG' model. Dwight thinks it's his kid, and doesn't propose to Esther. He then calls Jim into his office; he wants Jim to test Philip, but Jim passes it off to his assistant Dwight.
Oscar tries to soothe Philip as Stanley's sleeping, but when Dwight picks up the child he goes silent. Dwight tests Philip to see what he'll chose: a check for a million dollars or a beet. He chooses the beet. The auditions are closed on Andy and company, but he runs in. Santigold, Clay Aiken & Aaron Rodgers are the judges, and though Andy pretends to be an old man, he already talked to them regularly so they see through his ruse. He forces his way into an audition, but they reject him, and so Andy starts crying.
Jim finds a note on his desk, while Oscar and Angela try to make Kevin feel better. Kevin and Philip then become best friends, at least on Kevin's end. The office decides they want to dance with Darryl. Angela comes in to Dwight's office, and Dwight says that he thinks Philip is his and should be raised under Schrute conditions (along with the farm and an inheritance), and Dwight offers marriage to Angela. Angela says that Philip is not his son (though we know different), while Jim is about to shows Pam something from the documentary when he's interrupted by Dwight, who needs him. Dwight weighs the great points of Esther, but he's still in love with Angela. Jim tells Dwight that love outweighs rational thought. Pam watches the disc without Jim, and it shows their love over the years, which makes Pam cry. Jim points out to Dwight that he's always loved Angela, so he should do something about it. Jim pulls out the letter from the teapot he gave to her so long ago, and she reads it. They then hug, and she says "thank you."
Everyone dances, and Darryl is happy he did it. Oscar takes off with Philip, and Angela drives home when she's pulled over by Dwight. Dwight tells her he loves her through a bullhorn, and then proposes. She says yes, and then says that Philip is his son. They join the gang at Poor Richards, then Andy shows up, and the documentary starts.
Tonight showed the difference between earned and unearned emotion. Dwight blasting that he loves Angela through a bullhorn felt perfect for the character, and though their union was pretty much a fait accompli when 'The Farm' was DOA, it was still a nice moment. As was Darryl's send off, which evoked strong emotions. It was a nice tribute to these characters as we get to say goodbye before we really get to say goodbye next week. The dancing was sweet.
But then there's the problem of Jim showing Pam the video. It was a nice touch that the letter wasn't read, so it's all up to the viewer, but it's one of those things (and maybe this is just me) where when you see it, you start thinking about all the work that went into it. Jim got the documentary crew to go through nine years of footage to show things that proved Jim loved Pam? Did they have that footage highlighted already? How long would it take to assemble this and then put it to music? This may be similar to wondering how the cars in Pixar's 'Cars' have sex, but still, it's a question raised by the material. But if that isn't enough to convince you that it was a bit of a misfire, the fact that they were showing footage from the earlier season in an effort to create nostalgia is the cheaper trick. If we, as viewers have lived with these characters as long as we have, then that footage should have been like that note. Something where we could fill in the blanks without seeing it.
These hour long episodes, as with last week, feel pretty light. It feels like there's more commercial breaks, and not as much content, as if having an hour leads to fatter episodes, not more. But a lot did happen, even if there was probably a scene or two more Andy than needed. And it was nice they worked in some old-school goofiness into one of the last episodes, classic Jim and Dwight stuff. But that points that so much of the Athlead subplot -- like Brian the boom guy (and seriously, is he coming back) -- didn't work that well. But they've got one last episode to tie it all up, and it's possible they will. We're so close to the end at this point, that it's impossible to call this a bad episode (and it wasn't, it was quite good), but the show, like the viewer, knows this is coming to an end soon. And when the show was on, it could be great. There are moments here that come close to that, but more than anything nostalgia is taking over. Perhaps as it should.