Watching The Office lately has felt a lot like watching a split screen video in which one side has absolutely nothing to do with the other and you find your mind being numbed and your interest waning.
But “Tallahassee” was different. Though the story back in Scranton and the alternative Floridian plot were not interrelated, they were both surprisingly entertaining and remarkably cohesive.
Back when Catherine Tate appeared in “Search Committee” to be interviewed among several other bigger named actors to take over Michael Scott’s (Steve Carell) role as Regional Manager of Dunder Mifflin, I was pretty excited about the prospect. But after looking into her prospects further, I discovered she would not be signed on to replace Carell because she was returning back to England to preform in Much Ado About Nothing on the London West End.
Actually ending up in London and seeing Tate in the show made me glad she didn’t end up signing with The Office. Her interpretation of Shakespeare alongside David Tennant was hilarious and wonderful. But logically following from my initial love of her character around nine months ago, I was so excited to see her return in “Tallahassee.”
Tate’s character, Nellie Bertram, is an outrageous, faux-feminist, alienating go-getter who makes even Andy or Michael look like stellar bosses. As she conducts meetings with the team that has been assembled to help her build Sabre retail locations, she calls upon several of them – including Packer (who mysteriously reappears in this episode as per his sporadic and unnecessary appearances on The Office) – to make individual presentations.
Even when she is annoying, Nellie was absurdly funny. Like Catherine Tate’s own characters on her hit show (in England), unsurprisingly titled The Catherine Tate Show, Nellie is outspoken and a little off her rocker. It fit just right even if it was over-the-top.
Dwight’s strange subplot of having appendicitis was sadistically funny if not outright hilarious at times. When he attempted to pull down the projector to show off his strength, even his health damage was less of a concern to him than the fact that Nellie might be watching and amused.
I love this sort of Dwight who is not entirely one dimensional and obnoxious, but also not developed in a strange way as he was in “Pool Party” when he practically propositioned Erin after vegetating like sloth next to the pool for the first portion of the episode.
Back at Dunder Mifflin in Scranton, Andy is being his usual adorable and sympathetic self as he takes over Erin’s job as receptionist and ends up feeling that this was the career he was meant for.
At some points, he almost reminded me of Steve from Blue’s Clues, a sort of cartoon-ish version of himself who was lacking in emotional depth, but full of surface naiveté.
A definite highlight of the episode was when Andy came around the office with mail, singing “His name is Oscar and he’s got mail and he’d better open it or he’ll go to jail.” It’s a twisted form of the “Mail Time” or “We Just Got a Letter Song,” but certainly in the same vein.
Equally adorable was when Andy tried to defend his fascination with reception. “I'm acting like a like reception and I'm a really good actor so people are actually believing that I like reception,” said Andy. “But seriously, reception sucks. Oh! There's the phone.”
Little moments and developed characters, despite an episode that may have lacked slightly in narrative arc, are really the glue of The Office. When weird developments occur alongside uncharacteristic decisions by major Office players, I tend to become disinterested in the plot because the show loses some credibility for not sticking true to its roots.
But “Tallahassee,” even though it was a field trip Office episode and had a bit of an over-the-top plot, was really an episode that fits in well with the series as a whole. And Catherine Tate is also awesome, of course.