Science fiction often deals with alternate realities, but tonight's 'The Office' offers a glimpse into what was and what could have been. "The Farm" was meant to be a backdoor pilot for a spin-off show starring Rainn Wilson's Dwight Shrute. Previous episodes that have played up Shrute's wacky kin suggest the series would have been insufferable. Perhaps tonight will clarify if NBC was right to axe the idea.

The episode starts with Dwight dressed in an odd outfit because his aunt Shirley died, and sprinkling dirt in people at the office's faces to let them know if they can attend her funeral. Only Oscar gets the green light, while Jim gets a dirtball in the face.

Back at the farm, Dwight hangs with Mose (who's playing guitar) until Zeke shows up to give Dwight a ride to the funeral. Oscar also attends, and then Dwight's brother Jeb shows up accidentally driving his rental into the grave. At the office, David Koechner's Todd Packer shows up saying he's working the steps of AA (and NA), so he apologizes (but can't help but be rude) and gives them all cupcakes.

At the funeral Dwight's sister Fanny shows up with her kid, and the Shrutes offer useless facts about the dead woman, while the ceremony concludes with Dwight shooting his dead aunt full of shotgun shells. Pam heads a discussion with the office regarding cupcake-eating, and successfully leads them to not eat the cupcakes, though Todd gives one to Clark, who seems up for it. The Shrutes watch a video from their dead aunt, which sets up the idea that the Dwight, Fanny, and Jeb would have to live on the farm together.

Dwight is all for the idea, but Fanny is opposed and it's revealed that she's a sometimes poet, while Jeb is also against it, but Dwight convinces them to stick around for a couple days. During a concert, Dwight courts one of the local girls. Back at the office, it turns out that Todd laced the cupcakes, and once Todd leaves almost everyone eats their cupcakes.

Dwight hangs with his sister's kid, and Dwight's a bit of a jerk but tries to be nice in his Dwight-ish ways, while everyone back at the office (expecting Pam) is hungover. Todd goes to give Jim and Darryl the same treatment, while the episode ends with the Shrutes deciding to take up farming...

This felt like two pieces of that didn't work all that well together. The farm stuff is obviously set up for the spin-off, but is any of this going to play in the next couple episodes? I guess so, maybe they're going to layer it in to the future episodes, but it's not really going anywhere interesting as we come into the final stretch. Seeing Dwight come to live on a farm is surely part of the finale, right? The stuff in the office feels like padding as the only interesting part is Koechner, who's a great improvisor, but there's not much there. And we've only got six episodes left. Ugh. It's a little late in the game to drop off a dull episode like this one, but it was meant to be a pilot.