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TV Review: The Office – “Search Committee”

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NBC’s The Office ended its season last night with a special one-hour episode entitled “Search Committee.” In it, Jim (John Krasinski), Toby (Paul Lieberstein), and Gabe (Zach Woods) interview a wide variety of candidates vying for the manager position at Dundler Mifflin Sabre. Jo (Kathy Bates, whose NBC series Harry’s Law was just renewed) returns to check on the process, but gives little input on who should be chosen. Jo does send Gabe back to Florida, though, when it’s clear that he has gotten too personally involved in office drama, and replaces him on the panel with Kelly (Mindy Kaling). Angela (Angela Kinsey) gets engaged to her senator boyfriend, and the staff wonders if they should tell her that he’s gay. Phyllis (Phyllis Smith) wonders if she might be Erin’s (Ellie Kemper) mother. Ellie makes a play to win back Andy (Ed Helms). And Pam (Jenna Fischer) tries to keep acting manager Creed (Creed Bratton) from losing all their clients.

The Office brings in some heavy star power to apply for the top job, though few are serious contenders. Jim Carrey (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) is the briefest cameo, complete with funny accent, concerned with getting back to his family in the Finger Lakes. Real life Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett is similarly quick, but surprisingly funny as he tries to negotiate a salary. Ricky Gervais (The Invention of Lying) reprises his British The Office character of David Brent for the second time this season. Will Arnett (Arrested Development) leaves surprisingly little impression, while Ray Romano (Everybody Loves Raymond, Men of a Certain Age) kills as a bumbling nervous applicant.

Neither Carrey or Gervais, who have movie careers, Arnett, who is already starring in a new series next season, Romano, who has a show on TNT, nor Buffett, a real CEO, will be the boss. All have prior, more important commitments. They are a welcome diversion in a fantastic and memorable episode, but that is all they are. While speculation will continue to reign over who will ultimately get the job, it is not worth talking about any of those applicants in any serious manner.

Perhaps the only two possible contenders from the guest star list are James Spader (Boston Legal) and Catherine Tate (Doctor Who). Tate’s character is completely unpredictable, changing her opinions constantly, but she is a friend of Jo’s, and that gives her a leg up. Spader delights as a creepy salesman who insists there are no products to sell, just sex. His time on screen is short, though longer than the other guest stars, and it reminds viewers just how good he is, and how he should be back on series television as soon as humanly possible. Either Spader or Tate could fit well with the current ensemble.

There are also applicants from within the office vying for the position in front of the “search committee.” Jim’s favorite, and the frontrunner going in, is Darryl (Craig Robinson). Sadly, Darryl botches his interview, doesn’t have a resume, ends up making a terrible resume, disappoints Jo, and resorts to cheap tricks with his daughter to try to win the position. Even Jim begins to look exasperated with him by the end. This likely spells the end of his efforts. Kelly fares worse, being laughed out of her interview almost as soon as it starts.

Andy could possibly be the new front runner. He is underwhelming, but as he says, he will not make waves or changes. Dunder Mifflin Sabre has been through a lot lately, and Andy’s leadership style may be just what they need. Though not an early favorite, as Gabe goes on the attack during the initial interview out of jealousy over Erin, he distinguishes himself as he decides to really go for it. He is educated and qualified, and isn’t contributing much to the company as a salesman. It could be a perfect storm, or lack of other options.

Dwight (Rainn Wilson) redoubles his efforts, determined to prove that he can do better than he did in his recent, brief stint as manager. He uses disguises and bribes to try to work his way into the top spot. Jim is dubious, and refuses to actually consider him, even after Jo asks him to. Considering Jim seems to be the decision maker, does Dwight still have a chance?

Or could Jim reluctantly step in? Despite Spader and Tate’s memorable performances, The Office has such a large cast already, it would be good to keep it in house. Dwight is risky, at best, and Andy doesn’t blow anyone away. While Jim is previously reluctant to stay manager after his run as co-manager with Michael (Steve Carell), perhaps he will try again, given the lack of options, and the way a poor choice would reflect badly on him and his career.

Pam is stuck handling Creed for much of the episode, who is every bit as bad a manager as one would expect. Pam often has to put out metaphorical fires around the office, and has the respect and affection of nearly everyone. Throughout “Search Committee,” it is Pam who keeps the place running smoothly. For this reason, it is possible that Pam could be a dark horse choice for manager.

Any way they go, it is crummy that the season ends without a choice being made. The office has been in a state of flux for awhile now, ever since Michael announced his intention to leave, and the instability leaves the viewer feeling uneasy at the end of the episode. Perhaps the choice will be stronger, given that the writers are taking time off to consider the options one last time. But it certainly does no favors to fans in the short term.

Should the staff tell Angela that her Senator boyfriend is gay? They opt not to, out of kindness, but their patience is stretched as Angela continues to brag about her fiance and their upcoming nuptials. While the decision is made not to do so, it seems only a matter of time before the truth comes out, likely in a retort from a co-worker after Angela makes a particularly snide comment. Angela is a bit delusional, but it is doubtful she will go through with a sham marriage once that lie is exposed. And then perhaps she will revisit Dwight again.

It is with great disappointment that Phyllis discovers she is not Erin’s biological mother. In a previous episode, the clues are set up perfectly for the mystery of Erin’s mother and Phyllis’s daughter to be solved. The two women exhibit the same mannerisms, and the timing works out. It is not very realistic that they should be related and coincidentally end up in the same workplace. For that reason, it is good the writers did not go through with making Erin Phyllis’s daughter. But considering how happy they are when they think it’s a possibility, it’s very sad that it doesn’t work out. How long before Phyllis breaks the news to Erin, or will they continue to act like it might be true? Or perhaps they will decide tests don’t matter, and they can maintain the relationship they’ve started, both filling a gap in the other’s life.

Equally disappointing is that Andy turns Erin down for a date. The two are so obviously perfect for each other. Andy’s hurt feelings are understandable, and considering how much he put himself out there for her, and she continuously rejected him, and he does need some time to make her sweat. She deserves as much. Knowing Andy is as nice a guy as he is, he won’t make her wait long. He basically says he still likes her in his camera interview. One more romantic gesture from her, and he will probably give in. As he should. Petty feelings cannot take the place of true love. Make no mistake about it, Andy and Erin have true love, and deserve to be happy together. They are the second Jim and Pam of The Office.

Is Gabe gone for good? Added as a main member of the cast relatively recently in the show’s run, he has fit well into the group. Although his immediate plots, a relationship with Erin, and severe jealousy after losing her, have run their course, that is not to say other stories could not be given to Gabe. He has acted completely unreasonably lately, but so have plenty of other characters over the years, and that has never resulted in them being kicked out. It’s hard to see how Gabe may continue, and feelings are torn whether he should. It is not in doubt, though, that Woods has so far been completely satisfying on The Office, and should he be gone, it is not due to any fault of the actor’s.

The Office has been picked up for another season, and will continue with someone as the new boss next fall on NBC.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com