Kathy Bates specializes in playing formidable women who combine steely ambition with folksy charm, as in her stunning performance in Primary Colors. So she was ideally cast as the theoretically country-fried matriarch of Sabre, the amorphous printer dynamo that saved Dunder-Mifflin from extinction.
Bates didn’t have much screen time in tonight’s show but she made the most of it. She has such an intimidating, iconic presence that she even managed to dominate scenes she wasn’t in (Rip Torn also pulled this off on 30 Rock), like every sequence involving her Texas-sized dogs launching a full-frontal attack on Andy Bernard’s penis.
This brings me to Andy Bernard and Erin. Over the course of a single season they’ve gone from being the poor man’s Dwight and Pam to two of the most ingratiating, sweet, human and funny characters in The Office’s sprawling, deep universe. Tonight’s Andy and Kelly subplot veered dangerously close to flailing Three’s Company territory in a thread where Andy, in a desperate bid to semi-mask his feelings towards Erin, ends up getting everyone in the office Valentine’s Day cards, leading Kelly Kapoor to think that he’s in love with her and Erin to brood quietly.
As with Jim and Pam, so much of what makes these characters and their star-crossed romance so endearing is non-verbal; it’s the look of disappointment on Erin’s face when she thinks Andy is interested in Kelly and Andy’s look of mortification when dogs are lapping hungrily at his crotch. I watched The Hangover a few days ago and was even more impressed with Ed Helms and his genius for physical comedy; somebody really needs to write a Helms/Galifanakis buddy comedy.
Tonight’s episode was, as always, rich with incident. In my favorite subplot, half-assed super-villains Ryan—who inexplicably but delightfully was dressed like Harry Potter for no discernible reason—and Dwight decide to further their evil/nonsensical plan to further undermine Jim. Oh, but I enjoy their Machievellian scheming! More Ryan is always a good thing (B.J Novak must be the only writer/actor in existence who isn’t always scrambling for more screen time). Their Lord of the Rings bit: priceless.
Speaking of Jim, he was kind of a fucking dick tonight, as Bates ordains that it doesn’t make any fucking sense to have co-managers so she determines that one must step down and become a salesman so that the other might serve as sole manager.
At first Jim is eager to hold onto his power until he learns that he can make substantially more as a salesman. Once Michael discerns the same thing there’s a race to the bottom, with both Dunder-Mifflin employees angling to not be named manager. In a delightful change of pace, Michael did time in the trenches as a salesman under Jim’s watchful/disapproving glare and learned firsthand just how shitty a job salesman really is.
Yes, it was all about power struggles tonight as everyone angled desperately for position. Jim and Michael battled to see who could become first sole manager and then a moneymaking salesman. Kelly and Erin battled for Andy’s heart, Ryan and Dwight tried to take down Jim and Bates’ reverse carpetbagger (who, as Michael helpfully reminds us, comes from a lawless swamp: Florida) tried to turn Dunder-Mifflin into a sane work environment.
Erin is rapidly becoming one of my favorite characters. I kind of wished that I had a secretary who indulged all my most immature, ridiculous whims, whether that meant spinning me around in my chair to jumpstart my critical thinking or providing ants on a log every afternoon at 2:30 sharp. Erin seems very, very sweet and borderline mentally challenged. I am very much enjoying this current arc. It leaves the show plenty of interesting places to go.
—Kelly’s response to what she imagined was Andy’s dogged advances were perfect, especially her line about the right one always being the one you least expect and think might be gay and her flirtatious body language around Andy
—How much longer can they drag out the Andy/Erin tension? It’s getting a little ridiculous at this point
—Meredith’s line about fucking Andy in the bathroom: so wrong. So right.