The Office has always been great at making us laugh at the painfully awkward, whether it’s by tweaking the absurdity levels just the right amount or following up the cringeworthy moments with something sweet to make them go down easier. In recent years, however, the show’s lost sight of this, as evidenced by this week’s episode, “The Boat.”
All of the main plotlines this week dealt with Dunder Mifflin coworkers hurting each other somehow—whether intentionally or not—but unlike earlier episodes like this, there weren’t really any major payoffs to make it seem worthwhile. When Dwight’s radio interview falls through, Nellie, Jim, Pam and Phyllis let him believe that it’s still on and field his call themselves. Of course, they mess with him, leading him to believe David Wallace is about to be locked up for fraud and the company’s going under and telling him to remove his clothes because his buttons and zipper are interfering with the radio frequency.
It’s funny for a while, but it never really goes anywhere. Dwight emerges from the interview, sweaty and in his underwear, and everyone applauds him—but they never reveal the truth about it, and it seems like it doesn’t even matter if they do or not, as Dwight seems generally fine with how the whole thing played out. That’s that, I guess.
The Dwight gag is relatively harmless, though, compared to what’s going on over at the accounting desk this week. Kevin has discovered Oscar’s affair with Angela’s husband, and, terrified that he’s too dumb to keep the secret, Oscar actually comes up with some numbers to make it look like Kevin’s gambling problem has resurfaced and presents them to Toby. Toby calls Kevin into his office to dismiss him, and Kevin—who thinks perhaps he’s getting a promotion—tells Oscar, “Maybe I’ll get my own office and then I won’t have to worry so much about keeping your secret from Angela.” Guilt-stricken, Oscar interrupts the meeting with Toby and explains that the numbers were wrong. Surprisingly, he actually admits he cooked them up out of anger—why didn’t he just say he miscalculated? Toby doesn’t seem too concerned about the fact that Oscar was scheming to get an innocent employee fired, though. Instead, he’s reminded how he had his doubts about the Scranton Strangler’s guilt and may have put an innocent man on death row.
That would have been a sweet enough resolution (kind of), but that’s not where it ends. The Senator pops in to surprise Angela, explaining he just felt like seeing someone he loved while giving Oscar a knowing look. He then goes to pat Oscar on the shoulder to say hello, but Oscar freaks out and pulls away. By overreacting like that, he only raises suspicion, and it’s obvious that the Oscar-Angela-Senator love triangle is going to erupt soon. We end with a Kevin talking head where he’s laughing hysterically and saying Angela’s entire life is a sham—only it somehow doesn’t seem that funny.
Meanwhile, Andy’s still being a whiny baby, this time bemoaning the fact that his dad never allowed him to captain the family boat. Now that it’s time to sell the boat because his family’s broke, Erin convinces him to leave work early with her and give it a whirl. She spends quite a bit of time on the boat with him building up his spirits, but when he finds his brother on the vessel drunk (having left rehab and relapsed), he decides that a family cruise is in order and ditches Erin to go to Bermuda with him for three weeks. A bummed-out Erin returns to the office, where Pete asks her if she wants to hang out with some of his friends at a bar. She accepts, most likely signaling the end of her relationship with Andy and the beginning of whatever this new Pete-Erin thing is.
The problem here is that Pete hasn’t really been around long enough for us to be emotionally invested in his story. Five episodes so far haven’t really established any particularly incredible chemistry between him and Erin, so we don’t really care so much whether they wind up together. It’s not so much “Erin and Pete” we’re rooting for as it is “Erin and Not-Andy.”
-I guess Pam’s not mad anymore about Jim’s huge investment with his new company? It seems odd that that wouldn’t be addressed.
-Nellie’s American accent made me wonder…if Catherine Tate’s so capable of sounding American, what’s the point of having her character be English?
-Maybe it makes me immature, but the montage of Kevin running to the bathroom made me laugh.
-I know with any sitcom we’re supposed to suspend disbelief to a certain degree, but does Andy ever actually…work? We started the season with him returning from a nature retreat after running away to Florida to get Erin last season, and now he’s off to Bermuda for three weeks? Must be nice to be the boss.