By Madeleine Bond
The less said about The Incentive, the better. In terms of plot, episode two of season eight feels like it could fit into seasons one, two, or three of The Office, but it’s not particularly funny. It follows the formulaic plot that we all became familiar with during Michael Scott’s tenure as the regional manager of Dunder Mifflin Scranton: the boss doesn’t think he can inspire his employees, falls in way over his head with an outlandish promise, Jim talks him down, and the boss finds out that it’s all going to be OK.
Robert California (who unfortunately had little screen time in this episode) tells Andy that profits need to double in the next month. Worried that he can’t inspire everyone to work harder, Andy creates an incentive program in the hopes that he won’t let Robert down. He accidentally promises something to big: for 5000 points, the employees can make Andy get a tattoo on his rear end. Of course, they immediately work harder in the hopes that they can pool all of their points and reach 5000 by the end of the day.
This whole episode seemed so familiar, I could honestly see Michael doing the same thing. Unfortunately, it didn’t have any of the same charm or sweetness that any Michael Scott-era episodes had. Andy Bernard is not endearing in the same way as Michael, are we really to believe that he’s as misguided as Michael either? What this episode really needed was more Dwight K. Schrute. His general dislike of Andy is always hilarious, and would make Andy’s victories a lot more worthwhile. Instead, it just feels like Dwight’s there to be weird, which is annoying, because he’s one of the best characters on television and is being underused.
While The Incentive had its bright spots (Dwight, the weird pregnancy friendship between Pam and Angela), it doesn’t give me great hope for the rest of the season. As the episode wore on, I began to miss Steve Carell more and more. Ed Helms is great comedic actor, but Carell injects a level of earnestness into Michael that feels almost Simpsons-y (think The Simpsons seasons three and four, when the show had real heart). Helms may be able to do the same, but so far his sweet moments don’t have the same impact as Carell’s.
So, I’m giving this episode a C+, because I know they can do a hell of a lot better. The Incentive had some nice moments, but it felt a little stale.