Blue puke is never a good sign.
I don’t mean medically, either—although cerulean spew certainly is a sign you might need a doctor. Nope, it’s the health of The Office we’re talking about here, and when 30 seconds into its ninth (and final) season premiere we’ve already got Dwight spitting up some neon, homemade beet Gatorade onto Angela, the prognosis isn’t too great.
By now, the criticisms of the show’s last few seasons are so obvious, they’re almost not worth rehashing here (but we will anyway, just in case you’re one of the millions of viewers who abandoned the Dunder Mifflin crew last year): Jim and Pam are boring now and haven’t had a decent storyline in years. The revolving door of new boss figures trying to fill the gaping, Michael Scott-shaped hole in the series has failed, and The Office should’ve called it quits when Steve Carell left. Dwight’s a total caricature of himself now—which, when you consider the fact that his character has always leaned closer to the cartoonish side of the spectrum to begin with, is both annoying and weirdly impressive.
There is a silver lining though, a bit of sawdust to toss on top of this barf stain if you will, and that’s this: these complaints aren’t falling on deaf ears. The writers of The Office know this is their chance to hit the reset button and deliver one last quality season before riding off into the sunset, and “New Guys” made it clear that that’s exactly what they aim to do.
Think Jim and Pam are a snoozefest? Guess what? So do they. In a clever, meta scene, the couple explains that over the summer, Jim’s college buddy decided to use one of Jim’s ideas to create a sports marketing company in Philadelphia and offered him a partnership. He turned it down, however, because it’d mean uprooting his family and venturing off into the unknown. After this is revealed, Pam looks off-camera and asks the film crew if they got what they needed as the two of them begin to take off their mic packs. “Don’t you guys have everything?” she wonders. “I mean, it’s just a paper company.”
It was a nice, self-aware moment from a show that has hung on a little too long, and it also set up what’s likely to be this season’s major story arc: As Pam continues to joke about how boring she and Jim are these days, the camera zooms in on Jim, who’s got a thoughtful look of discontent on his face. We can already tell where this is headed.
But before we get too caught up with the future, let’s take a step back and see how everyone else spent their summers. Mindy Kaling and BJ Novak are each given one brief scene to explain their departures as series regulars; Kelly is headed to Miami University (in Ohio—although she thinks she’s on her way to Florida), where her doctor fiance will be doing a residency. Ryan’s headed to Ohio as well, with a garbage bag full of clothes in hand. It’s not because Kelly’s there, of course. Miami, Ohio is “the Silicon Prairie.”
They’ve been replaced by two new hires—Clark and Pete, or as they’re quickly dubbed by everyone in the office, “New Dwight” and “New Jim.” Dwight—who found out over the summer that he is not the father of Angela’s baby—feels threatened by New Dwight’s presence and basically spends the entire episode pratfalling and dangling from highwires. Andy returns as manager after a nature retreat, and he’s surprised to find that Nellie is still working at Dunder Mifflin (you’re not alone, Andy—we don’t really get it either). It turns out being in the woods kind of turned him into a vengeful d-bag, and he nicknames his new employees Plop and Fart, promises Nellie he’ll make her life a living hell and pushes her off a tight rope. Oh, and Kevin ran over a turtle and then tried to glue it back together, so…there’s that.
In other words, there was a lot that felt tired and pointless in this episode. However, there were two storylines that displayed some potential. After turning down Angela’s repeated requests for him to adopt one of her cats (the baby’s allergic), Oscar finally agrees to take it in after she mentions it’s her husband’s favorite cat. He offers to come pick it up, and she says the Senator won’t get a chance to say goodbye because he has a dinner meeting. We then see Oscar in the hallway, on his cell phone, telling the Senator that when he comes over for dinner he’ll be reunited with his precious cat. Scandal! Is Oscar sleeping with Angela’s husband? How long before she finds out? Will this push her back into Dwight’s arms? Most importantly, is this something that can be neatly resolved in one season?
The other glimmer of hope was, of course, Jim picking up the phone at the end of the episode and telling his pal he’s all in, totally unbeknownst to Pam. John Krasinski proved he’s still got the chops to make us root for Jim when he’s given interesting material to work with, and he completely nailed the scene, nervously hanging up the phone a few times and getting up to leave before pausing, returning, pulling the trigger on a whole new life and topping it all off with an adorable triumphant fist pump. Sure, we can guess how this will all end, but it seems like it’ll at least be compelling to watch it all unfold. Along with our dear, departed Michael, Jim and Pam have always been the heart and soul of The Office, and if “New Guys” is any indication, they’ll be back front-and-center this year—and that alone makes this new season much, much easier to stomach.
-Andy, getting serious with Nellie: “I don’t like to throw around the b-word, but I am going to be a huge bitch to you.”
-”I’ve got a couple tickets to the Slayer concert 10 months from now. You wanna go?”
-Darryl on tightrope-walking: “This seems like the kind of thing white people with dreadlocks do.”
-Creed, this week’s Greek chorus, summing up all the action: “I laughed and I cried. Not bad for a day in the life of a dog food company.”