20. The Garden Party
Season 8, Episode 4
Original Air Date: October 13th, 2011
Memo: Let’s be honest. There isn’t much essential going on in seasons eight and nine. James Spader’s Robert California intrigued but never quite delivered a payoff, and Andy as boss, well, was never quite as fun as Andy as hapless salesman trying to fit in somewhere. The very best of those seasons — even with members of the cast already leaving — were episodes where the whole gang got to take part in one ridiculous outing or another. Cue “Garden Party”, featuring a gala Andy throws at Schrute Farms to impress Robert California but even more so to win the approval of his fastidious Nard Dad. From Mose’s innovative valet work to Kevin’s Bogarting the hors d’oeuvres to a round of toasts that leaves nobody out (except the Nard Dog of the hour), the entire cast gets a chance to playfully shine, and Andy’s co-workers come to understand his nature a little better. Enjoy the goat!
Employee of the Episode: From voluminously announcing the arrival of guests (Peepee Halpert?) to performing a stately pre-meal dance, nothing suggests refinery and induces laughs quite like Dwight’s attention to detail as master of the garden party.
Gutenprank: Luckily, Dwight snagged the last (also the one and only available) copy of James Trickington’s The Ultimate Guide to Throwing a Garden Party. You can probably guess who the royalty check will be going to.
That’s What She/He Said: “I cannot believe I didn’t think of toasting Robert. Get in the game, Gabriel. Why are you talking to Stanley’s mistress?” –Gabe Lewis or “I’d like to make a toast. To the troops, all the troops, both sides.” –Ryan Howard
19. “Did I Stutter?”
Season 4, Episode 16
Original Air Date: May 1st, 2008
Memo: The relationship between Michael and Stanley has always been a calm but tense one, with Stanley half-politely tolerating Michael’s antics. But here, their differences come to a head, as the normally languid Stanley lets his boss know exactly what he thinks of him, directly and forcefully. It creates a conflict for Michael who tries, as always, to be a friend and a cool guy with all his employees, but now needs to actually dole out some discipline. Michael’s reaction when things truly erupt after his abortive efforts to fix the problem shows him both at his most vulnerable and most competent. After clearing out the entire office and shedding a few tears, Michael convinces his employee that whatever Stanley thinks of him, he still has to speak to Michael like a boss. It’s as much of a measured victory as Michael Gary Scott could ever hope for, but it’s enough.
Employee of the Episode: Dwight, for asserting his superiority over Andy to Angela by flipping Andy’s car and, somehow, misunderstanding Mad Libs worse than she does.
Gutenprank: The cold open sees Michael taking advantage of wet cement by leaving a chunky imprint of his face in the pavement — one for the ages.
That’s What She/He Said: “So how are we going to energize our office? I mean, I haven’t done anything since Christmas. Pam, clearly, has just given up trying.” –Michael, to poor, glasses-ridden Pam
18. “The Return”
Season 3, Episode 14
Original Air Date: January 18th, 2007
Memo: Andy Bernard truly transformed across his seven years on The Office. By the time the show neared its wrap, he was the type of well-meaning, lost soul that fans hoped would find his place in the world (not unlike Michael Scott in some ways). That’s a far cry from the WASPish Ivy League sycophant who transferred to Scranton when the Stamford branch closed down with intentions of kissing ass and sabotaging his way to No. 2. “The Return” depicts Andy at his worst, practically glowing after steering Michael towards firing Dwight in the previous episode. This isn’t how we like to remember Andy, but if not for his a capella-induced meltdown, he never would’ve gone to anger management and grown into the Nard Dog that we came to love. Oh, and Oscar’s back from his gaycation!
Employee of the Episode: Michael, for dashing off in his snow-filled Sebring to rescue Dwight from Staples once the staff help him realize he just fired the company’s most devoted employee.
Gutenprank: DJ Jim hides Andy’s phone and gives him a taste of his own “Rockin’ Robin” medicine until Andy finally snaps and puts his fist through a wall. That … was a bit of an over-reaction.
That’s What She/He Said: “I don’t understand how someone [Andy] can have so little self-awareness.” –Michael Scott
17. “Office Olympics”
Season 2, Episode 3
Original Air Date: October 4th, 2005
Memo: The show’s eponymous office was often the site of boredom or frustration, but it could also be a place of fun and even solace. That’s the essential insight of “Office Olympics”, which not only shows Jim and Pam working together to turn Scranton Business Park into a field day-style, improvised Olympiad, to the delight of their coworkers, but also shows that for all Michael’s strained efforts to find a home, he’s most at home inside those fluorescent-lit walls. The episode shows us Jim’s enthusiasm when he’s genuinely engaged by a project, Pam’s creativity when she’s given the chance to shine, Michael’s gratitude when he’s shown the slightest modicum of appreciation, and the whole office’s communal spirit, which emerges when conditions are just right. It was an early, hilarious sign that this office could mean more, and be more, than just a place that people worked.
Employee of the Episode: Dwight, for his town home know-how and and for giving us the first few details about his infamous beet farm.
Gutenprank: The faux-solemnity of Michael, Dwight, and Jim on the “medal podium” as paper doves “fly” behind them and a muzak national anthem plays.
That’s What She/He Said: “No, I’m like Butch Cassidy, and Michael is like Mozart. You try and hurt Mozart, you’re gonna get a bullet in your head, courtesy of Butch Cassidy.” –Dwight K. Schrute
16. “Diversity Day”
Season 1, Episode 2
Original Air Date: March 29th, 2005
Memo: There’s a time and place for everything, including a Chris Rock routine about the two types of black people out there. However, that time and place would not be at the office, which Michael finds out when Larry Wilmore’s Mr. Brown is sent by corporate to guide the staff (actually, just Michael) through diversity training. “Diversity Day” clued us in early on to both Michael’s need to be the center of attention at all times and his tendency to cross well-marked boundaries of appropriateness on a whim. From playing guess-my-race to naming a race you’re sexually attracted to, the second episode of The Office demonstrated the series would go places even Chris Rock might think twice about. Want a cookie?!?!
Employee of the Episode: Everyone is a true H.E.R.O. for having survived Michael’s makeshift diversity training session.
Gutenprank: A game of guess-my-race rarely turns out well, especially when Stanley draws the “Black” card.
That’s What She/He Said: “Abraham Lincoln once said, ‘If you are a racist, I will attack you with the North.’ And those are the principles I carry with me in the workplace.” –Michael Scott