Robert California’s wife shows up at Dunder Mifflin; things don't end well

By Erin Strecker
Updated December 02, 2011 at 05:54 AM EST
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The office took an awesomely uncomfortable turn tonight as Robert California’s wife, Mrs. Susan California (guest star Maura Tierney) came to town. We dove deeper into the uncomfortable psyche of mysterious, divisive character Robert California when his personal life rudely interrupted his confusing business style. His wife Susan wanted a job at Dunder Mifflin and Robert told Andy under no circumstances was that to happen. Unfortunately, Andy’s earnest charms were no match for Robert’s steely gaze and intensity, so that plan didn’t exactly work out. Oh, and also Dwight opened a gym. We’ll get there.

Let’s back up. So far this season, Robert California has been creepily, I would say intentionally, one-dimensional, spitting out wise truths and cryptic sayings on a weekly basis. I know some of you love him and some of you can’t figure the man out. Frankly, I’m pretty divided myself. So it was nice tonight to see more layers to the enigma that is the head of Dunder Mifflin revealed tonight, from his panicky “my wife will be here in four seconds” to his real anger at Andy when he was defending himself in a disturbing game of cat and mouse.

The episode began with Dwight explaining he would now be standing 100% of the time. “Standing has proven to be healthier, increases productivity, and just looks cooler. Picture someone doing something heroic. Now was he sitting or standing?…Not counting FDR.” You know that annoying person in your office who is always championing the benefits of sitting on an exercise ball (something Dwight has previously done as well!)? Dwight was that person on crack — way too obnoxious and had to be stopped. When it was discovered Dwight was using a crutch to secretly sit down on, I was right there with Jim pushing smug Dwight over. I think I found this “prank” particularly funny because it was realistic — and although I love them anyway, not all of the Jim/Dwight moments always are.

After Dwight was brought back down to everyone else’s level (literally), Susan came in wanting a job, and for a few brief moments, it looked like Andy was following Robert’s orders perfectly, as he explained there were simply no openings at the Scranton branch. Of course, their “game” spiraled out of control fast, with Robert demanding Andy give Susan a job, and Andy, who thought Robert must have changed his mind, agreed. Don’t feel bad, Andy. James Spader can make anyone do anything. Just accept it.

After Susan was hired, and after one soul-crushing HR meeting — be ready for adventure, not that Toby has ever had any — Andy devised a new plan. Everyone in the office should be really mean to her, so she would willingly quit. Problem solved? This had no way of working, of course. There were only two ways to actually get rid of her: 1.) Phyllis could let out one of her classic, room-clearing farts, or 2.) They could let this place crush your spirit by itself. It knows what it’s doing.

NEXT: Andy’s caught in the middle, plus Dwight’s gym!

Naturally, Susan figured something was up (Erin gave her a mini-stapler, which probably didn’t help) and she, Andy and Robert had a meeting. Word of advice: You never want to get involved with a married couple and their weird power dynamics. In the conference room, Andy looked like a kid about to pee his pants and didn’t know what to say to whom.

He tried to call in Jim, who had previously overheard the conversation about Robert instructing Andy not to give Susan a job. In one of my two favorite cutaways of the night (the other was Creed on the roof with a remote-control airplane, natch), as soon as Jim’s name was mentioned, he pushed his chair away from his desk and high-tailed it out of the office — and almost cleared the security gate.

Unfortunately he didn’t, but after being brought back in for questioning, he did give a wonderful blame-dodging answer about loving working with his wife, who apparently is on maternity leave right now. (Pam didn’t have her baby yet, did she? They gave us the hospital story last time, maybe the show isn’t going to be “documenting” this time around?) Robert and his wife seemed to come to some kind of silent understanding after this touching speech by America’s boyfriend Mr. Halpert. All’s weird that ends weird?

In other news, Dwight decided to open a gym! Dwight Schrute’s Gym for Muscles screams 2:00am infomercial — sign me up. Darryl, who wanted to get in shape for Val Kilmer warehouse Val (I was totally right!) considered signing up. Unfortunately, Dwight’s gym was straight out of the Schrute Farm Bed and Breakfast school of design. To refer to the phone book ripping and tin cutting stations as ‘rustic’ would be kind. “Five yards in, your forearms will be on fire.”

Darryl passed on pretending to be in the 1820s, and Dwight decided to up his game. Dwight saw Darryl working out on a leg master, and commented that he wasn’t working too hard. Darryl replied, “’I just did 35 minutes on the treadmill.’ ‘Want to know how long it really was?’ ‘No.’ ‘8 minutes.’” True Life: This is pretty much every conversation I have at the gym. Moving on.

Dwight wanted to get Darryl in shape, namely, with pelvic bowls. “How do you think the Fonz got so cool? He stretched his pelvic bowl.” I can’t wait to hear more topical references from Dwight about John Travolta, Vietnam and hippies. Darryl was skeptical, but a surprise appearance by Gabe reminded me why I’m loving him this season: “I didn’t know Darryl joined! Nice pelvic bowl. Deep.”

I’m not forgetting anything, am I? OH WAIT. Just when you thought California Creepiness (™) was over, Andy got himself in more hot water in the parking lot. He told Susan he was sorry things didn’t work out, and they both said that hopefully they can give it another try when the timing is better, etc. Then Susan is all, “It’s a date.” This coming from the woman who earlier claimed, “Last time I had a job I hated the boss’ wife, of course, she was married to Robert.” Andy grimaced — he’s going to be in for a long winter.

I think I’ve solved the rest of the season: Susan should take Kelly’s job. Then Kelly could stay at home all day like a celeb (win), Mrs. California could work in customer service (win), and Robert would be so busy dealing with chatterbox Kelly at home, he wouldn’t have time to be concerned he was working with his wife…or that she might be making a play for Andy. It’s a win, win, win.

NEXT: Top lines!

Top Lines:

++ “I’m going to make you look like LeBron James.” “It’s LeJon Brames. Get it right.” “I know.” –Dwight and Darryl

++ “Bitch.” –Brian Ryan

++ Ryan’s Dream for a Wish Foundation. I just really, really want all of Ryan’s business ideas to come to fruition.

++ “I used to say I wanted to live long enough to see a black president. I didn’t realize how easy that would be. So now I want to live long enough to see a really gay president or a supermodel president. I want to see lots of different kinds of presidents.” –Darryl

++ “Massive BMs bust my pipes…but a gym turns fat into cash.” –Dwight

++ “It’s the second easiest job in the world. [Beat. Looks to camera.] Being a mom.” –Dwight

++ “You didn’t say goodbye to your grandmother.” “We promised we’d never say goodbye.” –Andy and Susan

++ “I know how to build a business. You’ve got to get the black people to do it to get the white people to do it. Then you’ve got to get the black people to stop doing it. One step at a time.” –Dwight

++ “ ‘How mean are we talking about?’ ‘It would be great if she were gone by lunch.'” –Oscar and Andy

++ “If you have a question just raise your hand. But I’m going to save you some time, sweetie, and give you the answer now. I don’t know.” –Kevin

++ “We have a gym at home…it’s called the bedroom.” –Phyllis

++ “I know exactly which stapler to give her.” –Erin

++ “I’m going to make you the buffest dude Val Kilmer has ever seen.” –Dwight

What did you all think of Mrs. Susan California? And how about that ending? Is Dunder Mifflin going to get all Seattle Grace-y? (OMG. CROSSOVER POTENTIAL)*

*I’m not actually advocating this.

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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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