Much of this post-Steve Carell season of The Office has been about the team in Scranton, Pa., learning to navigate the waters of the paper industry — and day-to-day life, for that matter — without their beloved longtime boss, says writer-co-executive producer B.J. Novak, who also plays Ryan on the comedy. “I think it [has been] a special, odd year for The Office, and it is about Dunder-Mifflin finding its way after the departure of this hurricane,” he tells EW.
And as the creative team looks toward the end of this trying season, Novak warns that fans should prepare for another earth-shaker: The truth about Angela’s new baby, which she currently claims belongs to her senator husband. “Dwight will go on a quest to prove the paternity. He has a whole scheme concocted to get some DNA to test, and it is one of the best schemes I’ve ever seen him do,” says Novak. “[The answer] will either be in the last second of the finale or a cliff-hanger. We’ll take it right down to the wire.”
The odds currently stand in Dwight’s favor, of course. Not only is Angela’s baby enormous, “which is a Schrute tradition,” Novak points out, but there have “been some questions about the senator’s private inclinations.”
In the meantime, fans can look for more Florida fun from the gang. As the launch of the Sabre store draws near, this week’s episode finds Ryan feeling pressure after Nellie (guest star Catherine Tate) asks him to do a presentation — his first important task since he was in corporate. Cue an epic melt down. “They have to figure out what to do with how to sort of talk Ryan down from his panic meltdown that he has, without his mom or Kelly there to comfort him. So Jim and Dwight have to channel what they think Ryan’s mom and Kelly would say to him to get him to do the presentation,” previews Novak. “Rainn Wilson is playing Dwight Schrute playing Kelly, John [Krasinski] is playing Ryan’s mom. Jim and Dwight are great in it.”
Back in Scranton, Andy comes to work with a black eye and a fabricated tale to accompany it, prompting Toby to run a self-defense class. “Toby’s outfit alone is worth watching the episode,” Novak says. (One word: Turtleneck.)
Taking part of the Dunder-Mifflin gang to Florida was a chance to explore the dynamic they captured last with the Michael Scott Paper Company, says Novak. Mixing characters (Erin and Ryan, for example) and putting the pairs we know well in different situations (Dwight + Jim + slutty girl who wants to sleep with Jim = hilarious) has produced some of the show’s strongest episodes in a while. Credit, he says, goes largely to fellow Office triple threat Paul Leiberstein and writer Carrie Kemper, sister of actress Ellie Kemper.
“Paul Leiberstein had the idea for this Sabre tablet, [and] in our original idea, they would only display the movie The Coneheads on this device because it was the perfect thing to display on a triangular-shaped screen. I think we couldn’t get the rights to The Coneheads so now the pyramid has the rights to play Chuck and Cars 2,” Novak explains. “Then Carrie Kemper had the idea that we send a group to Florida and it was originally a way to split up Andy and Erin so that Erin start forming a life down in Florida and not plan to come back.”
But what does this mean Andy and Erin? Novak was coy, but warns, “maybe they’re Jim and Pam, maybe they’re not. But [we thought] it would be fun to sort of test [them].”