Gabe and Erin host a TV viewing party that threatens both Michael and Andy

By Darren Franich
Updated November 12, 2010 at 05:07 AM EST
Ed Helms Office
Credit: Paul Drinkwater/NBC

There are two things I just don’t like about The Office: episodes that stray outside of the workplace, and Andy Bernard. (Apologies to your regular recapper Margaret Lyons, an extremely reputable Nard-Dog loyalist.) But I kind of enjoyed last night’s telecast, even though it was an extremely Andy-tastic evening away from Dunder Mifflin. The key to the episode, I think, was how completely the non-work event — a Glee viewing party at Gabe’s yuppie-palace apartment — was dominated by a work-centric power play. The Dunder Mifflinites were only there because they consider Gabe the boss, and you can’t skip the boss’s party. Michael was only there to re-establish his dominion (or, if that failed, commit sabotage). Erin, bless her, was the only one without any ulterior motives. She just wanted Gabe and Michael to mash-up. “Take Gabe, take Michael. GayMike. Best Friends!”

The problem began early, when it became clear that Gabe has precisely the kind of life both Michael and Andy would like to live. His well-appointed apartment includes a well-stocked kitchen and a man-cave filled with swords and virility drugs. He doesn’t make music, he creates soundscapes. (“Imagine one instant of the song expanded to be the size of the universe.”) Things escalated quickly. Andy mixed several powdered seahorses into his drink and became a vomiting sex machine. Michael started his own Glee party in the back bedroom, and then he cut the cable. Gabe told Michael, “You’re making this harder than it has to be.” Michael, somehow filling this old joke with all the anger and self-loathing of a general who’s just been demoted to latrine duty: “That’s what she said.”

If this had been a better episode — from a couple seasons ago, perhaps — Michael and Andy’s twin Gabe-hating plotlines might have intertwined. But instead, they both genially dawdled away — Andy into the toilet, Michael into a beyond-bizarro mock-paternal squabble with Erin that was truly one of the weirder moments in Office history. Still, the episode was saved by the sheer specificity of its Glee jokes, which were less about the show and more about how people watch the show. Kelly was echoing the highly specific gripes of a few million tweets when she asked, “What was with Jesse’s sudden turn on Rachel, between ‘Dream On’ and ‘Funk’?”

Likewise, Phyllis totally nailed the annoyance of watching a show with someone who doesn’t get a show when she asked, “Which one’s Glee?” Best of all was Oscar, who took the time to freeze on Dianna Agron’s face while proudly (and wrongly) noting, “That one was on a couple episodes of Friday Night Lights!” And who among us hasn’t experienced that excruciating horror, so modern that it doesn’t yet have a name, of “Switching Back To the Show You Were Watching Before And Realizing That You Were Watching It On Delay And Weren’t Recording It.” Scream!

NEXT: The best moments from “Viewing Party.”

Highlights of this week’s episode…

++ The Scranton Strangler was involved in a standoff at the start of the show (“What if it’s another Waco?” “It’s pronounced Wacko.”) and then an OJ-style police chase. In related news, “The Continuing Saga of the Scranton Strangler” is officially my favorite sub-sub-sub-sub-subplot ever.

++ Michael’s favorite character on Glee: “The invalid!”

++ This was the first episode that really showcased Gabe and Erin (GayBerin?), and if you ask me, they make a perfect couple. Gabe’s corporate-intellectual posturing somehow perfectly syncs up with Erin’s gushing naivete. (“These posters used to be real French advertisements!”)

++ Darryl had the line of the night, staring at Gabe’s swords: “I wonder if there’s a guy in China right now, looking at a bunch of our stuff.”

++ Much as I liked the episode, I couldn’t shake the vague feeling that we were basically watching a ’90s sitcom plot with the laugh track taken out. The basic joke – everyone’s trying to watch a TV show, but everyone keeps getting in the way – felt like something right out of Friends.

++ And then Darryl had the OTHER line of the night, to Andy: “If I had to choose between a tall dude who loved Asia, and a you-looking dude who loved sweaters? I’d choose you. And I’d blow your mind.”

++ Kevin: “I want to eat a pig in a blanket. In a blanket.”

++ I love the fact that Dwight and Angela both adore little Cece Halpert.

++ Creed: “Puck and Finn worked it out, and the solo is now a duet!” Hey, I think I saw that episode every week for the last year!

Viewers, did you enjoy the Gabe/Michael face-off? Am I wrong to hope that Andy leaves Gabe and Erin alone in their weirdly perfect love? (Seriously, Nardo, just move on. Move On Dot Org.) And will the Scranton Strangler ever be caught? Sound off below!

EVER WISH EW.COM HAD A RADIO STATION? Quit living in the past, man or lady! In this week’s TV Insiders podcast, Annie Barrett, Dalton Ross, and Michael Slezak grade the first week of Conan, pick the funniest Modern Family characters, and discuss the latest bitchy controversies on Survivor and Dancing With the Stars. Click here to download the TV Insiders podcast to your MP3 player, or listen to an embedded version below!

Episode Recaps

Michael Scott, The Office (Steve Carell)

The Office

The mockumentary-style sitcom chronicles a group of typical office employees working 9-5 at the Scranton branch of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company.

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