THE OFFICE 8.04 ‘Garden Party’

Andy goes overboard to win his father's approval, while Dwight plays ultimate party host.

Johnny Firecloudby Johnny Firecloud

 

Ah, the endless struggles and torturous mind games that come with trying to make our creators proud…

Dunder Mifflin has kicked off a new promotional campaign, and Andy & Dwight posed for a photo shoot that ended up on billboard ads around the Scranton area. There's just one catch, however – Andy’s enthusiastic hand gestures were perfect fodder for vandals, who turned an otherwise harmless ad into a bout of cartoon fellatio.

As Jim explained: “If there’s an opportunity for the graffiti artist to work in a phallic shape interacting with the artwork, it’ll happen.”

Cold open jokes aside, the focus on Andy Bernard's struggle is beginning to wear thin. The new Dunder Mifflin regional manager is still desperate for the approval of new CEO Robert California, and arranges for an elegant garden party. What better location, then, to throw such a classy event at Schrute Beet Farm? Yes, it's a potential – if not likely – disaster in the making, but a few surprise turns and a wildly eager host made for quite an interesting night.

Naturally, the party idea goes awry, but not off the rails, due to Dwight's insistence on handling every detail of the event. He's so dedicated to the task that he even buys the only copy of a book on Throwing A Garden Party, by the esteemed James Trickington (better known as Jim Halpert). The book is a thin plot premise but serves as a leaping point of the episode, with Dwight following Jim’s terrible advice to a T – including announcing guests by screaming their names ("the louder the voice, the more important the guest), a fire dance with the hired help ("One of the host's most important duties is as dance master. A proper courtly dance sets the tone for the entire afternoon.") and so much more. Also, Mose (Dwight's inbred homebody assistant/cousin) is in charge of valet, which apparently involves driving through cornfields and climbing out of sun-roofs.

Once everyone finally sits down to eat, we're given a deeper glimpse into precisely why Andy is the perpetual overeager lap dog: his parents (Stephen Collins of "7th Heaven" and Dee Wallace of E.T.) aren't proud of his accomplishments, and quite clearly prefer their talented other son Walter Jr. (played by crooner Josh Groban). Nard Dog calls a toast, in an attempt to subtly flaunt his boss rank in an attempt to leverage the moment to his benefit and gain some parental respect. But he’s immediately upstaged several other toasts, ranging from supplicating CEO-suckuppery to the inanely trite ("I'd like to make a toast. To the troops . . . all the troops . . . both sides." — Ryan).

Robert California makes matters worse by giving a speech of his own, rejecting any actual credit between he and Andy and turning the praise on the DM staff. This leads Andy to a painfully awkward upping of the ante, putting his father on the spot for an acoustic duet in front of the party. The song choice? "More Than Words," by Extreme. Dad is understandably nonplussed, and after a series of restarts and key changes recruits his other son to take over for Andy, who is rightfully crushed.

During a farewell moment before his parents leave the party ("We have tickets to the theater." – "What show?" – "Moneyball.") Walter Sr. asks why his son acted like such a fool, to which Andy replied that the entire purpose of the party was to show his dad that Walter Jr. wasn’t the only successful Bernard child. This is the key sitcom moment, the 18-minute mark where the tension wave breaks, the antagonist realizes the error of their ways, and a heartfelt apology leads to a saccharine conclusion.

That's not what happens here, however. Andy’s father doesn't feel bad for so flagrantly favoring his other son, and scolds Andy for expecting to get his father’s approval for his marginal job at a paper company. What neither men know is that Pam left a baby monitor in the room to keep ears on Cece, and the core office staff sitting outside overhears the entire exchange.

With his parents having departed, Andy has given up on turning things around, his chief motivation extinguished. He says his "See you Monday" goodbyes to the staff and begins to make his exit, but Daryl offers him a cheeseburger & Oscar hands him a soda, and he's brought back into good spirits by the staff, who have no desire to see their new boss so downtrodden.

These outside-the-office episodes of "The Office" always seem to do exceptionally well, and this week's installment was true to form. It was great to see the crew outside their standard element, even though the arrangement of the staff to watch Dwight & staff's closing ceremonies resembled something out of a Vanity Fair cover than any natural social setting. We can forgive them that if they can finally put the underdog-Andy focus to rest for a little while.

CraveOnline Rating: 8.5 out of 10