*Spoilers*

It’s a race to the finish, so will The Office finish strong but with band-aids on its nipples (Andy in the Season 4 premiere “Fun Run”), finish less-than-strong but with integrity (Michael in the same episode), or waltz to the finish line without too much concern for the race (Jim and Pam)? After last night’s episode, it’s tough to say. Before we can get started, let’s adjust to some in-house cleaning:

  • Kelly Kapoor has left for Miami University in Ohio. If only she knew it was the one in Ohio. Wait, I mean, she has her own television show.
  • Ryan Howard also went to Ohio with a garbage bag full of clothes, for “unrelated reasons”.
  • Robert California also will not be returning for reasons unexplained. He probably broke the first rule of being on a sitcom–you have to be funny.
  • The “new guys”: Clark and Pete, who we’ll now know as New Dwight and Plop, respectively.

You know Clark Duke (Clark) well, from Hot Tub Time Machine with Office co-star Craig Robinson and Kick-Ass. It’s quite nice, actually, to be introduced to a new character who we sort of know already. Because, of course, he’s expectedly very similar to his other characters.

The episode opens with most of the regulars sharing what we’ve missed over their summer. Most hilarious was Kevin, who ran over a turtle in the parking lot (not sure what a turtle was doing there but nobody seems to be asking). Then he was unable to glue the shell back together. It’s too bad, if he were more competent with puzzles that totally would’ve worked. But then, while reaching for the glue (as turtles often require) he crushed it again–and fixed it again? Sorry Kevin, it’s been dead the whole time.

We also learn that Dwight invented a new kind of beet energy juice (a refreshing blue), which he vomits onto Angela when he learns he isn’t the father of her child. A simple way to nip that storyline in the bud. So what could’ve been an ongoing sub-plot is no longer. Even though that case is closed, Oscar’s relationship with Angela’s Senator husband is opened.

As for Jim and Pam: Jim is unhappy with the fact that his life has stalled. And Pam is quite content that it did. We catch Jim’s sulking face as Pam gleefully goes on to the fictional filmmakers about how nothing interesting is going to happen to them for a “long, long time.” While there’s no indication right now that Jim and Pam’s marriage is in danger, it’s intriguing to consider that possibility since this is season is a finale. 

So, how does this season premiere compare to the others? Well, it’s not bad, but it’s definitely not as memorable as the others with Steve Carell. “New Guys” almost didn’t feel like a premiere, aside from the series and story adjustments. Perhaps, however, that’s a good thing. Because if it did feel like a premiere, we might be complaining that it was too over-the-top for a series that’s on its way out. But, the jokes ARE still there. At the start of Season 8, the tone of the show was “now what are we going to do without Michael?” With Season 9, however, the writers have collected themselves and their thoughts and it looks like we are in for a promising last season of The Office.

Best moments:

Dwight: “Are you a fruit man or a root man?” Clark: “Hey man is this code for some kind of gay thing?”

Andy: (To Toby) “Now I know why Michael hated you so much.”

Angela: “Oscar still hasn’t given me a definite yes or no.” Oscar: “Definitely no.”

Erin (repeated line): “Andy’s coming back today!”

Jim: “You like the Phillies?” Plop: “You mean like horses?”

Dwight: (About to ride a bike across a cable over the parking lot) “They say you only live once and I’m about to prove it.”

Bottom line: If you are looking for a brilliant comedy, watch the first few seasons. But if you just want to laugh at some creative and hilarious jokes..watch every season. Including Season 9.

I will be recapping each new episode of The Office, as well as Parks and Recreation this fall. Please follow @MattBenincasa and @ScreenInvasion on Twitter!