About three quarters of the way through “Turf War” I actually started yelling at my television. I was furious that The Office appeared to be rehashing a major arc from season five, and I was just about ready to finally give up on the show. But! I’m not a quitter, so stuck it out until the end was wonderfully surprised, and most importantly, impressed.
In a drunken act of callousness, Robert California shuts down the Binghamton, NY branch of Dunder Mifflin, and consequently, their clients are up for grabs. While Jim and Dwight try to outsmart a salesman from the Syracuse branch who’s out for the same clients, Andy decides to get creative and finds an interesting way out of his unemployment. Meanwhile, Robert enlists Pam to retrieve a voicemail message he left for Nellie while drunk.
As I’ve said about past episodes, the Dwight/Jim relationship is one of the most consistently funny dynamics on the show, and so while their storyline may not have been the most interesting of the episode (well, tangentially it was), it was a great anchoring the rest of the episode’s goings-on. Luckily, Jim and Dwight’s alliance wasn’t what impressed me about “Turf War”, otherwise that really would have said something about the state of The Office. Instead, the return of David Wallace—who I should have mentioned in last week’s review has become a millionaire after selling his “Suck It” invention—revived what had the potential to be one of the laziest storylines in the history of The Office.
Andy, believing that he can win the major client Jim, Dwight, and the Syracuse salesman are fighting over, sets out to get his job back, or at least start his own paper company. Sound familiar? It was at this point that I started yelling at my TV. Fortunately, Andy seeks out David Wallace and tries to convince him to invest in “Big Red Paper Company” or perhaps, Dunder Mifflin. If this means that the season (or possibly even series) finale features a showdown between Robert, Andy, David Wallace, and Nellie, this whole mess of a season may have been completely worth it.
Another highlight of this episode was the wonderful new relationship between Pam and Nellie. While Catherine Tate still seems out of place on The Office, Nellie’s sad, heart-warming moments are oddly reminiscent of Michael Scott. When Pam hacks Nellie’s voicemail, she finds evidence of her boss’s utterly depressing life – most notably, a message from MasterCard highlighting her debt and a rejection message from an adoption agency. After hearing those messages and being aware of Robert’s awful behaviour towards her, Nellie’s apparent new friendship with Pam was just lovely.
For such a wildly inconsistent episode, I was remarkably impressed with “Turf War”, and am almost certain it was the best episode of the season. As with nearly every episode of season eight, it wasn’t outrageously funny, but like “Angry Andy” was deeply satisfying. I’m giving it a B+.