Episode: Nice Guys (Season 9, Episode 1)
Synopsis: After taking their usual summer off, the documentary crew is back to quickly catch up with the members of the office and pick up where they left off. After being named regional manager by new Dunder Mifflin owner David Wallace, Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) returns from a month-long wilderness adventure as a stronger and more decisive person. Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) finds out that he’s not the father of the baby that Angela (Angela Kinsey) had toward the end of last season. Jim (John Krazinski) feels unfulfilled and takes a risk by going in on a friend’s sports marketing company in Philadelphia despite Pam (Jenna Fischer) being happy with their lives in Scranton. Jim is motivated by seeing a younger version of himself in one of the new office employees, who talks of big ambition but has no concrete plans. Angela gets Oscar (Oscar Nunez) to adopt her cat, ideal for Oscar because he’s apparently seeing Angela’s state senator husband behind her back.
Finally, Andy’s team-building exercise of walking across a slack line serves to embarrass Nellie (Catherine Tate) and Toby (Paul Lieberstein). Dwight is also embarrassed because one of the new employees nicknamed “New Dwight” is better at walking the slack line than “Old Dwight.” To prove his manliness, Dwight constructs a device so he can ride on a bicycle along a metal line from the building to a telephone pole. Dwight has to be saved by a fire truck when his device fails at the end of the episode.
We knew coming into this episode that this was the start of the final season, but what caught me off guard was how different and how fast some of the characters moved in their transitions and how some of the storylines aren’t going as expected. The biggest surprise was that Dwight isn’t the father of Angela’s baby. The other big surprise was how quickly Jim is making a big move and our inside look at the camera crew. We’ve never heard them speak before. They have been humanized before, like when the camera guy helped Pam figure out that Dwight was seeing Angela in “E-mail Surveillance,” when the camera guy sighed with frustration after being tricked into staying out of Pam’s dorm room when Jim visited her in “Weight Loss,” and when they show Jim and Pam the footage of the two of them kissing and leaving work together to finally get them to address their relationship in “Fun Run.”
In this episode, we see something we’ve never seen before. Jim and Pam finish their “talking head” and are taking off their microphones when Pam asks why they’re still filming them after all these years. Someone on the crew answers that they’re actually following Jim and Pam to see how they turn out. Although Pam answers that nothing big will happen for them for a long time, we see a look on Jim’s face that shows that he disagrees. So what we might get after all is a possible move to Philadelphia during the season with the crew following Jim and possibly his family going with him.
Many of the storylines in this episode fell flat and didn’t produce very much humor. Angela’s search for a cat owner wasn’t funny and Dwight’s conversations with Dwight Jr. weren’t funny either.. This season opener felt more like a soap opera than a comedy as it advances or starts long-term arcs that we’re going to have our eyes on the rest of the season. What saves this episode from a failing grade is Jim’s funny exchange with Dwight (another classic), Nellie’s nervousness around Andy, and, most importantly, Dwight’s stunt at the end of the episode. I really didn’t know what to expect out of that, but it garnered the strongest reaction of the premiere.
Hopefully we’ll see the sweeter side of Andy, more interaction between Jim and Pam, and something funny coming from the very weird Angela-Oscar-senator love triangle. It was a good introduction to the season, but it had better get funnier, quick.