‘The Office’ has limped to the season-ending finish line with ‘Free Family Portrait Studio.’ With only a couple of laugh-out-loud moments and plenty of change ahead, it makes one worry for the series’ future. But let’s start with what actually happens.
Andy returns to Dunder Mifflin (again) looking pathetic as ever. He’s dressed like a janitor and asks Nellie for any sort of work. She allows him to be a carpet cleaner, for which he appears grateful. As it turns out, though, he’s just putting on an act. He knows David Wallace has bought Dunder Mifflin and that he will be returned to the position of general manager. But that doesn’t stop him from playing up his desperation, putting whiskey on his own breath and spilling soup on himself.
Dwight, meanwhile, is offering free family photos with a studio he has hired to come into the office. A surprising number of people take him up on it, including Pam, much to Jim’s dismay. He’s afraid Dwight will literally harm one of the children as a way of getting back at him.
Angela, too, is paranoid when her senator husband brings in the baby for some photos. She is actually the rational one. Dwight pounces on every opportunity to get ahold of a piece of the child’s DNA, and finally succeeds when he acquires a poopy diaper. Angela goes on a car chase but is deterred by a decoy (Mose). In the end, she succumbs, knowing that Dwight will probably get the answer he’s looking for.
Back at the office, David Wallace finally arrives and makes his announcement (barely being able to talk over Andy, who keeps bragging about himself). One surprise: He’s liquidating Sabre, meaning that Robert California is out of a job. For his part, Robert doesn’t seem too perturbed, and will go one some sort of “volunteer” mission to help female gymnasts. Mmmmkay. Bye, Spader! Nice knowin’ ya!
As for Nellie, by the end the tables are turned. She is the one who is desperate. She asks Andy for any sort of job, and manages to get him to promise to make her the “special projects manager.” That’s basically made up, but so was Pam’s job, after all.
Oscar, meanwhile, runs into Angela’s husband, who asks him why he never called. And he means it.
Okay, so what’s the takeaway from this episode? California is gone. Andy will apparently stay manager, while Nellie will remain an office employee. Come to think of it, when the question of “who is going to replace Steve Carell?” was raised last year, no one was sure who it would be. In retrospect, I think we are all still unsure. Was the answer Ed Helms, James Spader, or Catherine Tate? I don’t think you could argue with any of those answers.
So what will next season hold? The show was just renewed, but Spader will be gone, Mindy Kaling is leaving for her own show, and showrunner (and “Toby” actor) Paul Lieberstein is leaving to lead the ‘Schrute Farms’ spinoff, which will presumably snatch away Rainn Wilson as well. What do you think? When should they throw in the towel, and how can the series end?