Andy throws a garden party at Schrute Farms for the whole gang

By Erin Strecker
Updated October 14, 2011 at 04:30 AM EDT
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After a questionable start this season, I’m here tonight to officially declare The Office is back! “Garden Party” had everything you could want: field trips to Schrute Farms, Mose, a fantastic prank by Jim, dancing Dwight, and a great use of guest stars. Oh, and penis jokes!

Let’s start with those penis jokes. What better way to announce Dunder Mifflin’s new prices than with an ad campaign? The cold open explained that Andy took out some billboard ads around the Scranton area. Unfortunately, Andy’s over-the-top enthusiasm was too tempting a target for some miscreant kids (or, let’s be honest, Creed). As Jim explained: “If there’s an opportunity for the graffiti artist to work in a phallic shape interacting with the artwork, it’ll happen.” The quick shots of Defaced Billboard Andy were perfect, as was everyone’s reaction, from Stanley’s booming laugh to Meredith’s calm approval (naturally). And Dwight? Poor Dwight. It was funny when it was just Andy, but when it happened to Dwight, too? No, no, no. no. no. no, no, noooooooooo.

Andy decided to throw an elaborate garden party for the whole office at Schrute Farms to impress Robert California. Typically, Office parties don’t go so well. See: Michael Scott’s dinner party, Gabe’s Glee viewing party, etc. With that track record, you have to admire Andy’s optimism (or naïveté?)

Naturally, there was a conference room pre-party meeting where Dwight explained that Schrute farms is quite easy to get to — it’s right in the middle of the root vegetable district. Andy talked everyone through the rest of the rules: The dress code for this picnic barbeque dignified garden party is Connecticut casual, which is not the same thing as Pennsylvania business. And please, “no burpin’, no slurpin’.”

Dwight agreed to throw this business party because he’d really like to break into more high-event entertaining. That, and it really hasn’t been a great beet season. Dwight is so serious in his quest to be a good host he even orders a book online — he spent two dollars and got the only copy of Throwing A Garden Party in print. Well played, Jim Halpert.

With the prep work in place, it’s over the hills and through the woods, off to Schrute farms we go! Tonight we also got the special bonus return of Mose — now he’s a valet, and also, apparently, a daredevil thrill junkie: just watch him ride, or rather, walk, over all those cars.

The funniest gag of the night was seeing all the clever rules Jim worked into that book, from “the tableau is not only welcomed, it’s expected entertainment” to “One of the host’s most important duties is as dancemaster.” Seeing Dwight announce everyone’s arrival (the louder the voice, the more important the guest) was great.

NEXT: We meet Andy’s not-so-cheerful family

The other great highlight for Office fans was finally meeting the Nard Dog’s family: guest stars Dee Wallace and Stephen Collins as his parents and a wonderful Josh Groban (swoon) as his younger brother, Walter Jr. Can we talk for a second about how painfully sad it is that the younger of two sons is the namesake? Seriously, growing up in that family, Andy didn’t stand a chance. No wonder he’s so focused on nicknames: His real name is a constant reminder he’s not the favorite.

After all this, the party was predictably kind of a disaster. Even the gang’s formal wear, from Kevin’s toupee to Kelly’s royal wedding-esque fancy hat, can’t save this get-together. Andy tried to get a group toast going, but everyone kept toasting Robert California (he’s backkkkkkk!) and not him. To make matters worse, Andy’s parents tried to cut out early — they had tickets to Moneyball, so it was a busy afternoon.

There was also a return to the cringe humor Office fans are so fond of. After a painful forced duet with his dad, Andy’s brother took over — and collegiate a cappella man or not, you really can’t compete with that voice. So Andy went inside to hang with baby Cece. Side note: Awwww, Jim and Pam’s kid is adorbs. I can’t wait to meet Phillip (both of them).

When Andy’s dad came inside as well, Andy told his dad he just wants his parents to be proud of him. Walter says, basically, that they aren’t, and as Andy is regional sales manager of a failing company, they never will be. Bru-tahl. Also brutal? Cece’s baby monitor was on, so the whole gang heard most of this conversation, until classy Pam switched it off.

The episode could have ended on a painful, uncomfortable note but instead the gang took pity on Andy, turned the party into a grillout once his parents left, and all seemed to have a nice, relaxed time — complete with closing ceremonies by Dwight.

Other episode highlights:

++ Pam and Angela’s continuing pregnancy wars continue to be a fun side plot. They’re both naming their babies Phillip: Pam after her grandfather, Angela after her cat.

++ Google Maps: They don’t warn you when the cameras are driving by.

++ Josh Groban’s over-enthusiastic “Bye Tuna! Bye Pam!” Actually, just Josh Groban in general. Although I’m holding out hope for a deleted scene of an Andy and Walter Jr. a cappella-off.

++ Oscar thinks they’ve found Andy’s rosebud: how someone came to be who they are. Darryl has seen Citizen Kane too — that’s not what that meant.

++ “I’d like to make a toast to the troops. All the troops, both sides.” –Ryan’s toast

++ “You know the difference between a crying baby and a manager? One day the baby will grow up.” –Robert California’s toast

++ “The pewter package has the least amount of goats. It’s not no goats; it’s still 10 to 12 goats.” Dwight, discussing party packages with Robert California

++ “Andy, if you don’t steal my business strategies, I won’t dress like my life is one long brunch.” –Gabe to the camera

++ “Who do you think is really the best salesman?” –Jim / “MR. JAMES HALPERT” –Dwight

++ “I can get you exotic meats: hippo steaks, giraffe burgers…. It’ll all be goat.” –Dwight

How did you guys like the party?

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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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