I’m showing up pretty late with my thoughts on last Thursday night’s episode of The Office, having only just gotten caught up with TV after a brief trip out of town. “Mrs. California” proved to be well worth the wait as it featured a guest appearance by Maura Tierney, an actress who’s proven time and again to be as skilled at comedy as she is at drama. Unfortunately, her stay at Dunder Mifflin was short-lived, thanks largely to the very reason she was there in the first place, her husband.
There are times when I think James Spader’s excellent comedic timing may actually be overwhelming the balance of the show. He’s a huge presence in an already heavy ensemble cast. But other times, his weirdness proves to push the characters through new challenges, which gives the show and the characters new ground to explore. Such was the case in “Mrs. California” when Robert California’s wife showed up.
Andy was tasked to not-hire the boss’ wife on the boss’ orders, which proved to be extremely tricky. Blame Robert California for giving Andy virtually no notice and no reasonable explanation to figure out a way not to hire Susan. He merely burst into Andy’s office, told him under no circumstances should his wife have a job there, and then spent the rest of the episode pressuring Andy to find a place for her. Of course, all of that was for show. What Robert wanted was for Andy to figure out a way to get rid of his wife, which put Andy into a ridiculously awkward situation and resulted in him ordering the staff to be mean to Susan.
The intentional meanness was probably the funniest aspect of the Susan arc. Between forcing her to share a desk with Kevin, who went out of his way to be rude to her, to Erin doing her part by giving Susan a tiny stapler, and Oscar later refusing to let Susan see the picture of what I assume was a puppy in a gravy ladle, some people had an easier time than others making Susan feel unwelcome.
In the end, a talk with Andy had Susan putting the pieces together and figuring out that her husband was behind the shenanigans. The fact that there’s someone in Robert California’s life that puts him on edge only makes me want to see more of her around. I get the impression that Susan’s the kind of woman who gets what she wants, which at one point, included Mr. California (back when there was another Mrs. California). At the end of the episode, it seemed like she’d taken an interest in Andy. Just a joke? Or will she be back? I hope it’s the latter. Maura Tierney makes everything better and her visit to The Office proved to be no exception.
One last comment on the Susan arc. Jim displayed some very goofy, Michael-Scott-like behavior when attempting avoid being pulled into the Susan/Robert/Andy mess. He tried to escape the office by car, in an effort not to have to testify to Susan about Robert’s orders not to hire her. And when security closed the gate, he escaped up the side of the building and to the roof. Ridiculous and over the top? Sure, but I’m blaming Pam’s absence for Jim’s weird behavior.
The B-story had Dwight setting up a gym in the building, which originally consisted of a phonebook ripping station, a tin-cutting area, and a sledgehammer, which could be used to hit an old tire. There was also a ridiculously complicated price plan. Darryl called the gym a scene out of Saw 5 and gave him a few pointers to get the place up to snuff so people would actually use it. Dwight expressed a racist belief that if Darryl joined the gym, others would follow suit, so he took the man’s advice and put some real equipment in there. In the end, it turned out he was right to some extent as Gabe soon joined up after seeing that Darryl was a member.
“Picture someone doing something heroic. Now, was he sitting, or standing?... not counting F.D.R.” - Dwight, explaining why he decided to do his work standing during the cold open.
“You know I have to do this.” Jim, about to knock Dwight over.
“I know.” Dwight, accepting his fate.
Ryan’s latest project: The Dream for a Wish foundation, which from the sound of it, is meant to put Make a Wish out of business. I think he’s missing the point.
“Bitch.” - Ryan, after Mrs. California mistakes his name for Brian.
“This is the second easiest job in the world.” (looks at the camera.) “Being a mom.” Dwight, on sales.
“What I wouldn’t give for one of Phyllis’ classic room-clearing farts right now.” Andy, trying to figure out a way to make Susan hate working at DMS.
“Um, no, this is not a gym. This is like a scene out of Saw 5.” Darryl
“We have a gym at home. It’s called the bedroom.” Phyllis, smiling.
“I know how to build a business. You gotta get the black people to do it to get the white people to do it. Then you gotta get the black people to stop doing it. One step at a time.” Dwight, on luring Darryl into his gym.
“You need to be over here with us accountants. Just sit here, and be quiet. If you have a question, just raise your hand. But I’m gonna save you some time sweetie and give you the answer now. I. Don’t. Know.” - Kevin being a jerk.
“No, I don’t think we should be trying to make this place seem unpleasant. I think we should let this place just crush her spirit by itself. I mean, it knows what it’s doing.” Jim on not being a jerk.
“It’s not that kind of ladle,” Oscar’s quiet rudeness.
Creed up on the roof playing with a remote control helicopter.