The Office “Pool Party” Review

“Pool Party” was definitely one of the weirder episodes of The Office this season. Don’t get me wrong, I laughed at a lot of the gags tonight, but as I reflect on the episode, I’m having a hard time piecing together a substantial plot.

The cold open was a riff on Jim’s standard Dwight pranks. Jim admitted that he needed an audience for his pranks to really feel successful. I’m a sucker for dogs in costumes, so I had a hearty chuckle when Doggy-Dwight was sitting in that chair, but Stanley doesn’t seem to share my sense of humor. Jim discovered that only the meatball pranks got Stanley laughing, so his pranks became meatball centered.

The twist of it was that Dwight and Stanley were in cahoots to get bags of free meatballs from Jim. In their minds, the joke was on Jim, but I don’t know if I’d agree. I don’t think I’d want to eat meatballs that were piled up in my desk drawers among eraser dust and stray pencil shavings.

As the episode continued, Robert California admitted to the office that his beloved mansion was to be sold and divided as part of the terms of his divorce. This inspired Kevin to convince Robert to have an impromptu pool party at his mansion as a last hurrah. In his own weird way, Robert embraced the idea and the entire office was invited to bring their bathing suits over for a pool party.

After Meredith had told Erin about Andy following her home the night of the Christmas party, Erin cheerfully mentioned that she should get a restraining order against Andy (which she punctuated by a high pitched squeal of excitement.) Erin is probably my favorite character on The Office right now because she pulls off this unique character which is essentially an adorable, ditsy psycho with a heart of gold. Most importantly, she’s downright hilarious.

Once we got to the mansion, everything became a blur of people and plots. Andy was contemplating a wedding proposal and lost the ring; Erin enlisted Dwight to make Andy jealous; Darryl was trying to hit it off with Val; Gabe and Ryan were battling over their allegiance to Robert; Toby was bonding with Oscar over pretentious wine snobbery and all while Robert was giving a farewell tour of his house which kept Jim from escaping the party. There was so much going on in such a strange environment that I don’t even know how to concisely recap the main plot points.

Even though they seemed like weird 8-year-olds playing “pretend” together, I enjoyed Erin and Dwight teaming up to make Andy jealous. Dwight had his own reasons for wanting to make Andy miserable, but those motives ultimately fell by the wayside when Andy gave his indifferent response to Dwight’s permission to have crazy sex with Erin. That brief moment of sincerity between the two of them when Dwight called Andy an idiot was maybe my favorite beat of the night.

The rest of the night was so absurd at times that the whole party seemed surreal. I don’t know what I would do if I walked into an party and saw my coworkers drinking expensive wine straight from the bottle, doing headstands and having chicken fights in the pool, while Creed moon-bathed at the pool’s edge wearing a speedo and a crown. Like Jim, I’d probably try to escape before things got weirder.

As one would expect, things definitely got weirder when Robert stripped down for a skinny dip followed by his two wannabe protégés, Gabe and Ryan. I couldn’t tell if it was Gabe or Ryan who fell into the pool with his pants still around his ankles, but that little bit of physical comedy had me laughing so hard my sides ached.

I’m still not sure what to make of tonight’s episode of The Office. Despite glimmers of sincerity sprinkled throughout the episode, it felt shallow. I’m pretty sure I laughed at every bit I think the audience was supposed to laugh at, but there was something missing from the story that left me feeling ambivalent about the episode in the end.