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Episode: Andy’s Ancestry (Season 9, Episode 3)
Synopsis: Darryl (Craig Robinson), as the new assistant regional manager (not assistant to the regional manager), is taking his new title seriously and is trying to find ways for people in the office to be more efficient. Nellie (Catherine Tate) decides to play a prank on Andy (Ed Helms) by telling him that he’s related to First Lady Michelle Obama. But the rest of the office, not in on the prank, thinks that the only way those two could possibly be distant relatives is that Andy’s relatives were slave owners. Nellie is also taking driving lessons from Pam (Jenna Fischer) and Pam opens up to Nellie that she thinks Jim (John Krasinski) is hiding something from her. Meanwhile, since Andy’s family is classy and knows multiple languages, Erin (Ellie Kemper) is trying to learn French. But Dwight (Rainn Wilson) stops her and starts teaching her Dothraki, the fictional language spoken on HBO’s Game of Thrones. During their driving practice session, Nellie is convinced that Jim’s secret is that he’s having an affair.
In the end, Nellie hires Pam to paint a mural in the warehouse, Jim brings Darryl in on his sports marketing firm, and Jim finally tells Pam about it. Jim is relieved and excited, but Pam is still troubled that he went that long without telling her that he was going through with it (he had previously told her about the possibility in the first episode, but he pushed forward anyway).
This is the best episode of The Office I’ve seen in a long time. The cold open set the tone. This Jim prank on Dwight immediately replaced the “Pavlov’s Dog” prank at the top of my all-time favorite pranks list (many of which made our Top 20 Office Moments list).
The rest of the episode worked really well. There was much more comedy than drama. There was also a lot going on, but the stakes were only particularly high in the Jim and Pam storyline. It was really the little things that ended up being so hilarious like Darryl’s pre-taped reaction, Clark (Clark Duke) and Pete (Jake Lacy) applauding Andy about everything, Kevin (Brian Baumgartner) changing Andy’s ringtone, and Erin vociferously learning a primal language. Most impressively, there were three big laughs going into the three major breaks of the show: right before the opening credits (the cold open) and before each of the first two commercials. Perfect timing for those laughs. Even for people watching the show on DVR, the laughter lasts through anyone fast forwarding through the ads. The only problem was that I literally had to pause the show because I was laughing so hard during the cold open… if you could call that a problem.
The one interesting trend that is fully developed thanks to this episode is a scary one: Jim and Pam aren’t funny together anymore. One of the reasons that “Andy’s Ancestry” was so funny is that Jim and Pam are separated throughout almost the entire episode. In the previous two episodes and in a lot of last season, the two just weren’t funny together, certainly not as funny as they used to be. Jim wasn’t all the funny in this episode, he was just sort of a comic prop. He had nothing but drama going on in this episode. Luckily, Pam and Nellie’s scenes in the car were funny, and Pam was great in the cold open. While this episode gets an excellent grade, it’s going to be tougher for The Office to be this good if Jim and Pam just aren’t funny together this much.
I would say that maybe now that they’ve gotten past Jim hiding his new job from her is over that they can move past their drama and awkwardness, but Pam’s ominous “talking head” at the end of the episode wasn’t promising for the future. I’m starting to really miss when the two were funny beyond the cold open.
Finally, the show is starting to drop subtle hints that Pete has a crush on Erin. In the previous episode “Roy’s Wedding,” Pete hilariously foiled Clark’s attempt to seduce Erin by getting involved and bringing Andy into the mix with successful results. The final shot of the main part of the episode was he and Erin sharing a meal. I thought that there was nothing to that shot, but my sister (Laura, also a major fan of the show) asserted that she thought it was because Pete had a thing for Erin. Thankfully, my sister was quite cordial when we talked about this episode after it aired when she noted that the writers are making Pete’s crush clearer now.
Pete was quite happy to see Erin at one point in the episode and then went through the trouble to learn how to say goodbye in Dothraki just because she was learning the language. I like this development. Erin is adorable and funny in her own right. Andy was a disaster as the focal point of the story in the season premiere but has provided great support in the last two episodes. They just haven’t been very funny as a couple. We rooted for them to get together, but it hasn’t been a satisfying relationship. So I think this is a promising development for the show, especially for Pete to get more screen time because I’ve been really impressed with him and Clark in the last two episodes.