ellie kemper the office 'The Office': Erin's 'Secretary's Day' massacredFirst new “Office” in four weeks, and we get an episode that had both a lot of good little moments of comedy and a sad/funny showcase for Erin. Happy “Secretary’s Day,” everyone.

The way Ellie Kemper plays Erin — bubbly and guileless and not a little bit weird — it’s been difficult to get a read on what makes her tick. That changed in a big way tonight, as Michael stepped in it a little by revealing on their Secretary’s Day lunch (the “Administrative Professionals Day” rebranding apparently hasn’t reached Scranton, or “The Office” writers room) that Andy was previously engaged to Angela.

In Michael’s defense, he had no clue that Erin didn’t already know that, and he later correctly points out to Andy that not telling your girlfriend that you used to date a co-worker is not good. (Although he said it funnier: “I resent the implication that I would keep that secret. I can’t and I won’t.”)

Still, the full-on meltdown it triggered in Erin was a bit of a shocker, and well-played by Kemper, because I didn’t know whether to laugh or want to give her a hug for lines like “In the foster home, my hair was my room.” The cake-throwing scene, her little heart-to-heart with Pam (“I hope you find what you’re looking for”), her heartbreaking admission of her favorite age and month (“I liked April when I was 7”) — all of it was really good.

It also gives the show a way to break from the perception that Andy and Erin are just a funhouse-mirror version of Jim and Pam, which is a good thing. PB&J were already best friends and knew just about everything about each other before they ever got together, but Andy and Erin are still really in the dark about what makes the other one tick (partly because Andy is only slightly less dense than a black hole, but still). I feel like this incident can give them a little bit of breathing room — and good on Andy, by the way, for not forcing the issue when Erin said she needed to be alone — and let the relationship be an occasional font of comedy rather than a front-and-center aspect of the show.

Speaking of fonts of comedy: Pretty much every piece of the Kevin-Cookie Monster-ineffectual Sabre Lackey Gabe B-story tonight was fantastic. Sadly, the Cookie Monster video isn’t online as of this writing, but Oscar’s idea to dub Kevin’s voice was genius.

Unless you’re Kevin, who was miffed at the mockery: “Sure, they’re making fun of Cookie Monster, but in a weird way, it’s like they’re making fun of me.” He takes his case to Gabe, who attempts to assert his Sabre authority over the situation, going so far as to suspend Jim and Pam for continuing to do their Kevin impressions after he said to stop, and then add Dwight to the list for slow-clapping his decision.

Except he has no authority to suspend anyone; heck, he can’t even reprimand them. So Pam, who’s on her first day back from maternity leave, and Jim get two paid days off — and Gabe gets his after trying to win the staff back with a weak Kevin impression — a C-level Michael move at best. Kevin then does a very solid Gabe, and the whole office is soon “Ciao”-ing on his skinny behind.

More notes from “Secretary’s Day”:

  • Angela smiles! Her delight at the Cookie Monster video was maybe the most unabashedly happy we’ve ever seen her: “This is my favorite day.”
  • Kevin, taking satisfaction at Gabe’s brief display of power: “C is for suspension.” Perfect.
  • What decade would you most want to be a teenager? For Erin, it’s the 1490s — “You know, because of America.”
  • Come to think of it, Andy does kind of look like Easter when he dresses, doesn’t he? Good call, Michael.
  • Dwight on “Sesame Street”: “Is that the program where all those puppets live in the barrio? I love that show.”
  • I hesitate to bring this one up, because I fear I’ll have nightmares about it later. But the 1-2 punch of Dwight Purelling up to help Pam pump, then Meredith using Pam’s breast pump in the bathroom, was the cringiest moment the show has had in a while. Shudder.
  • Steve Carell directed the episode, his second time helming “The Office” (he also did last season’s episode “Broke”). The show’s style is good and set at this point, but he did a solid job, and I really liked the reveal of Toby standing at the fax machine while Erin and Angela had it out.

How’d you like “Secretary’s Day”? We knew Erin was a little odd, but did you think she had such deep-seated issues?

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Photo credit: NBC

Posted by:Rick Porter