So it appears we’ve hit our first dud of the ninth season. It was bound to happen sooner or later so hopefully this gets it out of the way and is a mere hiccup in an otherwise consistent and upstanding final season. “Here Comes Treble” wasn’t completely devoid of laughs or entertainment, in fact I laughed out loud on several occasions. However, the plots were pretty weak and the episode ended with no real sense of resolution among them. I understand showrunner Greg Daniels has stated that he wishes to comprise this last season of The Office of multiple seasonal arcs as opposed to more stand-alone stories or smaller multi-episode arcs, but that doesn’t let him off the hook for making sure the episodes have actual endings instead of just stopping after 22 minutes. Plus, any instance of underutilizing the great The Rev. Sir Dr. Stephen T. Mos Def Colbert, D.F.A. and Heavyweight Champion of the World is borderline criminal.
Essentially there are plenty of small bits and other one-liners and visuals that made me laugh, but they were merely garnish for stories that neither lived up to their potential nor reached any satisfactory point on which to temporarily conclude.
The eponymous plot is that of finally meeting Andy’s long since fabled college a cappella group, Here Comes Treble. Only we actually meet the current incarnation of the musical group, not Andy’s Cornell choir of yesteryear. Save one member, the oft-referenced Broccoli Rob, played by fellow former Daily Show alum Stephen Colbert, there’s really no interaction with this legendary element of the series’ mythology and when you title an episode after such an aspect, you better go big or go home and unfortunately the episode did neither. Granted it was amusing watching Andy dressed very convincingly as George Michael become quietly enraged by his failures to connect with his younger counterparts and the gradual realization that Broccoli Rob has more or less usurped the boner champ’s title and legacy, after hearing about this group for five years (I did appreciate Pam and Daryl’s sarcasm when asking, “You were in an a cappella group?” and “You went to Cornell?”) I expected something with a bit more impact and spectacle. The plot’s failure isn’t due to not meeting my expectations, it’s because the goal of the story was not met by the means the writers chose to employ; there was no sense of grand scope or deep-rooted history, just Andy being petty and refusing to let go of the past as he’s challenged by his old friend.
We don’t even get to see the sing-off that’s agreed upon because Erin literally pulls the plug in an attempt to reason with Andy and make him feel better. She fails miserably and Andy becomes convinced that the solution in lieu of moving to Cornell is to make a considerable donation through his family’s shady non-profit organization which leads him to the revelation that his family, known for their WASPy wealth and snobby, bourgeois attitudes, is broke. This felt like a big, fat rip-off. Not only did the Here Comes Treble plot fall flat, but it was used primarily to introduce a cliffhanger that I for one couldn’t be less moved by. I suppose the Bernard family fortune being lost can hold solid potential for Andy to become a more self-possessed, responsible adult, but considering the socio-economic and cultural landscape we find ourselves in across the globe, I’m hard-pressed to feel sympathy for a bunch of rich people who suddenly aren’t quite so well-to-do. I think my favorite aspect of this story was when Clark would oversell his passion for a cappella in the attempt to impress Andy and while I’ve been quite happy with Clark’s contributions as a newcomer, when the new talent upstages the veteran’s big performance, it’s not a good sign.
The B-plot of “Here Comes Treble” is everything I hate about what’s going on between Jim and Pam this season. We see that the couple is still working through some emotions regarding Jim having kept Pam in the dark for so long before telling her he had made some major financial commitments to his friend’s new business venture and after Jim attends a business lunch with whom I assume were the company’s other partners, or just major investors, he tells Pam he sunk the couple’s entire savings into the company and Pam is rightfully upset. The thing is, I don’t care. There’s nothing funny about this situation nor is there anything emotionally resonant. Yes, couples should be honest with each other and carefully talk through major decisions – except this isn’t a sitcom about good marital communication techniques, it’s supposed to be a show about how a group of paper company employees cope with monotony through absurdist humor and/or genuine, emotionally relevant experiences; this was just watching two characters passive-aggressively fight at a work Halloween party (although I did chuckle at Kevin’s conclusion that Pam really hates the song, “Monster Mash”).
Then there was the most successful story in “Here Comes Treble”, that of Nelly and Dwight’s pharmaceutical witch hunt. This one had some good, silly moments (like Dwight smearing peanut butter all over his face and trapping Meredith in a giant butterfly net) and an effective emotional payoff, Dwight realizing how legitimately stressed he feels tending to his many familial responsibilities (another spot of foreshadowing for his departure to The Farm next year) and accepting the possibility that he may need some help. This was yet another volume in the tome of the writer’s efforts to make Nelly a character that most people don’t want to see at the bottom of a cliff, smushed flat surrounded by a plume of gray smoke, Wile E. Coyote style. I’m of the opinion this campaign has been pretty effective, but that’s just me. I’m curious if we’ll ever hear about Nelly’s supposedly ongoing adoption process or if this will amount to nothing more than one among many attempts to humanize the series’ most hated character.
The only other ongoing story that was touched on in “Here Comes Treble” was Oscar’s affair with Angela’s husband, The [State] Senator. Again, there’s nothing of any comedic value here and it’s essentially the story of an otherwise very moral character working toward ruining his long-time coworker’s marriage for no apparent reason. We’ve watched several instances of these two characters’ flirtation but for all the time that’s been spent watching this love triangle, there have been absolutely no contributions in terms of why Oscar evidently believes this relationship is worth pursuing. One would have to assume that if Oscar were to engage in an affair with his coworker’s husband that he’d have a damn good reason, but there’s been absolutely none put forth. The big deal this time around was that the cameras actually caught the two men sharing a stolen kiss. It’s a big deal not because two men kissing (one dressed as a furry dinosaur) is such an unprecedented sight, but because Angela’s husband is a conservative politician and so such footage could prove quite detrimental. For all the time and effort spent on this plot there’s been little to no exploration of it which is a shame because it’s not without potential, but audiences certainly haven’t seen any of it yet.
I’m a big fan of Halloween themed episodes, and I certainly appreciated seeing everyone in costume in “Here Comes Treble”. Kevin as Charlie Brown and Meredith as Black Widow were inspired choices and although it completely destroys any semblance of realism, Creed’s accidental costume/total lack of an alibi made me chuckle. I didn’t really get Nelly’s costume; I know she was supposed to be “Sexy Toby”, but it felt really random to me. Though when Toby was so visibly struck by seeing Nelly dressed as him that it moved him to attempt a kiss, I couldn’t help but find it disturbingly funny. I also thought Erin’s puppy (not dog) costume and Pam’s “Dr. Princess” were cute and the cold open with Dwight’s pumpkin head was a really wonderful metaphor for the show – seeing a man wearing a giant pumpkin he can’t remove attempt to still carry on normally throughout the workday felt very representative of the show as a whole, unusual characters attempting to fit the mold of their perceived notions of normalcy.
I didn’t hate “Here Comes Treble” as much as this review may suggest, I was just disappointed by it. Depending on how the rest of the season plays out, history may remember “Here Comes Treble” more fondly as it remains to be seen how well the many ongoing plots the episode touched on will be developed. Andy’s coping with his family’s relative poverty, Dwight’s gradual departure, Nelly’s ongoing campaign to be seen as an actual human being, Jim and Pam’s “rough patch”, and the love triangle among Oscar, Angela, and her husband may all prove to be solid seasonal arcs, but only time will tell. Personally, I’d prefer to see most of these wrapped up sooner rather than later in favor of more comically ripe stories, but most of the ninth season thus far has proven it’s not incapable of making these stories as funny as they are supposed to be dramatic so here’s hoping the plot-pushing “Here Comes Treble” is an exception to an otherwise proper send-off to The Office.