“Mrs. California” was a streamlined and altogether sadly telling episode of The Office, which has reached points of plot strain and looped themes previously unimaginable from the long-running Emmy-winning show. In short, it's become clear that in a post-Steve Carell world, Dunder Mifflin is hopelessly doomed.
Maura Tierney began her guesting arc on the show playing Susan, the amiable and hesitant wife of Dunder Mifflin CEO Robert California. Office manager Andy, as has become the tiresomely repetitive case, is still desperate to impress Robert and show his mettle as Michael Scott's replacement. So when Robert shows up wild-eyed and urgently insists that Andy not let his wife work for the company under any circumstance, the supplicating manager is understandably mindf*cked.
And so the stage is set for yet another episode in which we see Andy flailing about, making a mess of everything as he does anything and everything to gain the good graces of his boss. How many episodes have we dealt with this same tired, dead-horse plotline? Eight?
Andy convinces everyone in the office to be mean to Susan so that the last thing she'll want is to work there. This backfires, of course, when the generally-amiable wife deconstructs Andy's dilemma and confronts Robert about his real motivation. This, in turn, infuriates Robert, who turns the tables on Andy once again by posing as his dead grandmother over the phone. Somehow, a desperately reluctant Jim is chased around the building (interrupting Creed on the roof with a toy helicopter – the ep's best moment) and eventually pulled into the fray as well.
Robert and his wife are clearly in a contentious stage in their marriage, and as oh-shit twists go it's not nearly as excitingly escándaloso is it should be when she suggests that Andy and her go out on a date sometime. Chances are this is going to lead somewhere immensely uncomfortable, but the more the show continues to center on Robert and Andy's relationship, the more dismal the outlook for the show seems. Ed Helms cannot carry this show. End of story.
In a feeble side-plot, Dwight starts a half-assed gym in the office building, but can't get anyone to join (Darryl rightly compares the setup to Saw V). So he rents real gear, and gives Darryl a personal training experience that's anything but welcome. Darryl, of course, is trying to get in shape to impress Val, the girl in the warehouse. Dwight thinks he means Val Kilmer, and while he's perplexed, he rolls with it, insisting that he'll help Darryl become the sexiest man Mr. Kilmer's ever laid eyes on. It's a laugh, but it's also the only thing keeping this episode from being a one-trick pony – and that's a damn disappointment.
"The Office" producers and NBC execs are clearly milking the series for every last drop while driving it into the ground. There's so little spark here, so little originality as Andy retreads and regurgitates the various acts of buffoonery previously done better by his predecessor, that it's impossible to believe otherwise.
CraveOnline Rating: 4 out of 10