Fundraiser—the twenty-second episode of the eighth season of The Office—feels remarkably familiar. I’m almost certain I’ve seen this episode before, even though the major plot points were new. Yes, despite still being funny—which, at the end of the day, is its job—The Office has finally become stale. How many times have we seen an (at least temporarily) unemployed character become a desperate, pitiful person trying to claw back into their boss’s good graces? So far, Michael, Ryan, Dwight, and not Andy have all played this part. Sure, passive-aggressive, verging-on-nervous-breakdown Andy is funny, but we’ve already seen this so many times before in far funnier situations.
So, to the actual plot: Angela’s husband, the Senator (sorry, that’s State Senator) throws a fundraising silent auction for a local animal charity, and Robert California buys two tables for his employees at Dunder Mifflin/Sabre Scranton. Of course, newly unemployed Andy is Erin’s date to the event, and there’s obvious tension between him and Robert. By no means was this the funniest storyline of the episode, but Andy’s description of what he had been doing in his spare time was hilariously depressing; he’s been working on a rock opera set in space with a villain named ‘Thomas Oregon’ – you don’t get points for guessing who that’s based on. As I said earlier, this episode followed a formula that The Office has relied on heavily in the past, but unfortunately, it’s become tired and awfully predictable. It should have been much more enjoyable than it actually was.
Meanwhile, Nellie tries to bond with Darryl, but of course share nothing in common with him. This was a relatively inconsequential plot, but I found it rather odd that Nellie didn’t interact with Andy more. Why didn’t we get to see much of the awkward tension between her and the man she replaced? It didn’t particularly matter; however, as thankfully very little time was spent on this plot, which left more time for my favourite storyline of the episode (outside of the cold open, which I’ll get to later).
The most consistently funny part of the episode was Oscar and Pam’s quest to prove that the Senator is gay. After receiving the Senator’s private cell phone number, Oscar once again finds a reason to question Angela’s husband’s supposed-heterosexuality. Along with Pam, Jim, and Meredith, Oscar attempts to finally resolve the issue. This was a plot point I was hoping the show would return to at some point this season, and was pleasantly surprised by its ending.
For me; however, the most enjoyable sequence in Fundraiser was the cold open. To prove his music-cred, Ryan breaks the news to the office that Smokey Robinson has died (it was just a hoax, by the way), and claims to be a huge fan of his work, while shunning more popular acts. The scene finally confirmed my long-held suspicion that Ryan is some kind of inhuman monster – I mean, I’m with Dwight on this one, who doesn’t like THE BEATLES? This was somehow one of the most realistic scenes in recent Office history, because it was so relatable; we all know that one person who tries to have a cool taste in music, but is really just lying.
This was a middling episode, saved by its few bright spots. I’m giving it a B-, and I hope that the last two episodes of the season are a little more exciting.