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Friday, March 9th, 2012

The Office Recap: "Last Day In Florida"

"I refuse to be another man's horsey."

"Last Day In Florida" stretches itself a little too thin — it's about Robert's plan to veto the Sabre store expansion, it's about Andy realizing that Erin's in Florida for good, it's about Toby and Darryl fighting over Girl Scout cookie dealer turf — but when viewed with eyes that have withstood the spoiler and guest star-packed post-Michael Scott era, the details save the chaos. For one, Ryan has finally updated his Tumblr! Also, the password on Erin's computer is "erin123." Also, did you know that Toby "has that indescribable quality that makes a star?" It's probably those cool new glasses.

Robert California's adage to Jim a few episodes back to bring his golf clubs to Florida finally comes to fruition in a foursome with Dwight and Nellie. Though Dwight is busy being rude and escstatic about his new V.P. position, Jim hangs back and Robert confides he's going to name the Sabre store project a failure then fire Dwight, but he's actually just in touch with how bad an idea the Sabre store is: "There's a reason we sell our products online or over the phone," he says, noting that all their absurd triangular devices are cheap and unintuitive. Jim then spends the rest of the episode trying to feed the mouth that won't stop biting him, i.e. telling Dwight an axe is about to fall on his head, and he ends up tackling Dwight on the floor outside the conference room to stop him from giving the presentation with Nellie. Packer eagerly fills in for Dwight ("I've got the info down backwards, forwards, and doggystyle") and is swiftly fired by Robert, who comments that Dwight "clearly had the infinite wisdom to stay as far away from this clownshow as possible."

Meanwhile in Scranton, Toby and Darryl both bring their daughters' Girl Scout cookie order sheets into the office, which naturally evolves into a shameless battle for Kevin's massive cookie order. After competing with "Ragtime Gal" performances, pretending to be sexy ladies on Kevin's voicemail, and delivering their pleas to him ("You think people are gonna buy cookies from my chubby daughter?" notes Darryl, adding that Toby's daughter is pretty enough to sell door-to-door), they both give up: "This might be wrong, but there's a limit to what I'll do for my child." While the cookie competition gave the Scrantonites some opportunities to each get a time to shine (like when Kelly says "I started using my makeup to contour my face so I look skinnier"), I was too distracted by the fact that the office kept running without a receptionist. I don't remember the phone ringing once.

Speaking of receptionists, Erin hasn't exhibited a drop of doubt since she announced to the camera that she wouldn't be coming back from Florida. Now that the special project is complete, she's taken a job as a live-in helper to an old lady (Mary Tyler Moore's Georgina Enge) who seems way too tolerant of Erin's questionable way of doing things, like when she substitutes boiled Gatorade for tea. To fill the obligatory schmaltzy Andy Bernard quota, he and Erin share an awkward video chat where she breaks the news to him, which chokes him up so much that he leaves for Florida almost instantly, declaring "I'm going to Florida to get Erin!" like a wannabe Prince Charming. This scene felt like a predictable letdown — I can only hope that Erin's resolve doesn't shake next week.

My awareness of the camera has been on the rise these past few weeks, starting with Jim's hotel room prank on Dwight and now after Jim tries to tell Dwight that he's going to be fired and the two part ways in the Sabre headquarters — Dwight tells the camera "Nothing is gonna stop me. That is the mark of a great man — unstoppability" while Jim, walking the other way, slouches his shoulders and looks down like a puppy. When paired with his phone call with Pam where Jim says he's trying his "pretty hardest" to convince Dwight not to take the V.P. job, it begs the question of who Jim really is when cameras aren't around to record his slavish duty to the dubious morality of "the right thing to do." And I know it's an old question, but what is this crew going to do with all of this footage? After The Office ends, can we expect a huge film of a film about Dunder Mifflin made up of clips from every season and stitched together into a film of epic proportions? Maybe we'll finally meet the documentary crew?

Now that we've come to the final three episodes of season 8, it's probably safe to say that The Office is going to end its finale running at full speed — they have to send off Nellie and Robert in style, bring Val back for a little more romance with Darryl, document Andy's trip to Florida to win Erin's heart, and give us at least a taste of where Dwight will end up now that he's back in Scranton with failure and betrayal on his mind and an even tighter unspoken bro bond with Jim. So it seems fitting that "Last Day In Florida" is stronger in its details and weaker in its overarching plot, which crumbles down as the episode climaxes with Jim and Dwight fighting on the floor like baby brothers — it's either a pathetic moment or an enlightening symbol for this season's self-consciousness, or what Paul Lieberstein called the show's "rotating center." Last week he hinted that next season won't be nearly as chaotic by mentioning his "romantic feeling for the simplicity of the single-manager structure." More and more we're allowed to wonder who these people really are when the cameras are gone — Jim, for one, would be a lot more interesting if he occasionally did the wrong thing, and Dwight's pathology is so cartoonish and downright dangerous you'd think he'd be advanced enough to discern between a prank and legitimate heads-up. As for Andy, he's racing off to win back Erin so that she can fulfill her role in his mind — the girl who forever waits in the wings — and then Robert California is left picking up the pieces of a bad idea he should have stopped. But if he had, how else would Packer, Dunder Mifflin's disgusting 20-year "institution," finally get fired? And even more importantly, how would we ever know the magnificence that is Florida Stanley?

Megh Wright misses Harrisburg, lives in Brooklyn, and answers phones in Manhattan.

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nbc, recaps, the office, tv