After a short hiatus, The Office is finally back on the airwaves. While this show clearly isn’t the powerhouse it once was, it still has some lovely, honestly funny moments, but unfortunately the hiatus gave me time to reflect on the show it once was. I say unfortunately because I realised that if this was 2010, I would have been bouncing off the walls waiting for a new episode. Instead, Welcome Party just kind of came and went; it wasn’t a bad episode, but frankly it’s disappointing to know that it could have been so much better.
Faced with the fact that Nellie is technically their new boss, the Party Planning Committee decides to throw her a welcome party. Of course, no one in the office believes that she deserves to be there, so instead they plot to make it the worst welcome party they possibly can. This was far-and-away the best storyline of the episode. It was great to see that Dunder Mifflin/Sabre Scranton was just as mundane as ever – their delightfully boring ideas of what constitutes a bad welcome party included holding the party in the break-room instead of the conference room and taping a piece of paper saying “UNWELCOME PARTY!” to the vending machine. Outside of the cold open, the party itself was the funniest moment of the episode and was reminiscent of the pointless parties of the Michael Scott-era of the show.
Meanwhile, Dwight and Jim help Nellie move into her new apartment, and—gasp!—learn a secret about her past that actually makes them feel sorry for her. They find a box full of photos of Nellie and her ex-boyfriend, a magician named Henry and she tells them how he left her heartbroken, eventually leading her to where her life is now. I have to admit, even I, someone who typically can’t stand Nellie became a little sad. Of course, this being The Office, Jim had asked Pam to hire a magician for the party after Nellie commented early in the episode about hating them. The awkwardness of the party was multiplied tenfold with the arrival of the magician (played by Eagleheart’s fantastic Brett Gelman), and honestly, the whole sequence was reminiscent of the awkward dynamic season two, which was great.
As for Erin and Andy and their fresh start as a couple; Andy still hasn’t broken up with Jessica and so decides to drop in at her sister’s bachelorette party on the way back from Florida with Erin. This storyline was a let down. Andy is a generally pretty stupid, but is he really so dumb that he would break up with his girlfriend at a family get-together? This was Michael Scott-level stupid, but nowhere near as endearing.
With the news that this will almost certainly be the final season of the show with this cast, it’s sad to know that The Office will never return to its former glory and will possibly tarnish its reputation if the rumours of an out-and-out reboot are to be believed. All in all, Welcome Party was a respectable effort but ultimately lacked the charm of the past episodes, so I’m giving it a B-.