Forgive my absence.  I blame it on a European vacation, and I could only view ‘The Office’ in French.

The writers of ‘The Office’ keep coming up with fairly clever ways of getting the office staff out of, well, the office. Think of some of the series’ best episodes, such as ‘Booze Cruise,’ ‘Casino Night’ and ‘Niagara.’

‘Garden Party’ doesn’t quite rank up there, but it’s pretty good. Andy decides to host a garden party (how very Connecticut of him) at Schrute Farms, seemingly as a way to impress Robert California. However, it soon becomes clear that he’s really trying to impress his parents (played perfectly by Stephen Collins and Dee Wallace).

It seems Andy’s brother (a game Josh Groban) recently had a garden party thrown by their folks, and it was a smash. Predictably, this one doesn’t go quite so well.  Let’s run down why:

-Dwight, as host, finds a book about garden party hosting on the Internet, the only copy in existence. And that’s ‘cause it’s written by Jim. It provides reasons for Dwight and his staff to perform ridiculous stunts like 17th century dance and a closing ceremony with torches.

-Pam and Angela continue the pregnancy feud, this time because they’re both planning on naming their baby boys Phillip. (Pam’s naming her son after her dead grandfather, and Angela after her dead cat.)

-Mose serves as the psychotic parking attendant who makes a game out of stealing people’s cars, driving them through a cornfield, parking them too close together and practically destroying them.

-Robert brought basil. Andy was expecting marmalade.

-People like Kelly aren’t smart enough to bring jackets.

-Erin’s hat is stolen by a crow.

-Cece is referred to as Pee Pee, while Meredith and Phyllis are both mistaken for Pam. (Cue shuddering Jim.)

-And, of course, Andy makes everything awkward. He starts a round of toasts in the hope that someone will toast him (no one does, but at least three toast Robert); he attempts a song with his dad that turns out to be a showcase for his brother; his parents try to leave early to see ‘Moneyball’; and everyone overhears an awkward conversation in which Andy’s dad is downright cruel when it comes to giving his son a little approval.  It’s sad, really.

In the end, this episode helps us understand Andy a little better, and why he tries so hard to be liked. Not many comedies these days go into such depths about what makes people the way they are.