|The Office episode|
|Episode no.||Season 9
|Directed by||Troy Miller|
|Written by||Allison Silverman|
|Original air date||February 7, 2013|
|Running time||22 minutes|
"Couples Discount" is the fifteenth episode of the ninth season of the American comedy television series The Office and the 191st episode overall. It originally aired on the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) on February 7, 2013. The episode features return guest appearances from Andy Buckley as Dunder Mifflin CEO David Wallace and Chris Diamantopoulos as Brian the boom mic operator.
The series—presented as if it were a real documentary—depicts the everyday lives of office employees in the Scranton, Pennsylvania, branch of the fictional Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. In the episode, the office pairs into couples so that they may all be able to take advantage of a Valentine's Day discount at a mini-mall. After Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) returns from his boat trip, Erin Hannon (Ellie Kemper) decides that she is going to break up with him so that she can be with Pete Miller (Jake Lacy), but Pete begins to doubt her. Meanwhile, Pam Halpert (Jenna Fischer) and Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) share lunch with Brian.
"Couples Discount" received mixed reviews from television critics and was viewed by 4.15 million viewers and received 2.1/6% share among adults between the ages of 18 and 49. The episode ultimately ranked fourth in its timeslot. Despite this, The Office ranked as the highest-rated NBC series of the night.
The office pairs into couples so they may all be able to take advantage of a Valentine's Day discount at a nail salon in a local mini-mall and enjoy one last boss-free day before Andy (Ed Helms) returns from his three-month boating sojourn. Erin (Ellie Kemper) decides that she is going to break up with Andy so she can be with Pete (Jake Lacy), but he begins to doubt her. After being gone for three months, Andy surprises everyone by showing up a day early and proceeds to alienate the entire office through a series of stupid or tone-deaf actions: he wrecks Dwight's record-setting sale with the Scranton White Pages by antagonizing Jan, shows no shame at accepting all of his absentee paychecks and a "merit bonus" because the branch had their best sales quarter ever while he was gone, expects everyone to take him as seriously as a boss as if he never left and holds a meeting to get up to speed on recent events so he can bluff his way through a meeting with CEO David Wallace (Andy Buckley), who has no idea that Andy was gone at all. The employees tell Andy false stories, but he manages to spin them and Wallace leaves without any repercussions.
At the end of the episode, Erin tries to break up with Andy by saying she no longer loves him and is angry that he left and barely communicated with her, but Andy assures her that they can work this out by having her fake love him. A few moments later, Erin walks outside to Pete, saying she could not do it. Pete tells her that all he wants from her is to be happy; however, after giving him a kiss, she runs back up to Andy's office and breaks up with him for treating her badly and for not showing up for work for three months. David Wallace (on speakerphone) asks a devastated Andy, "What was that about three months?"
Meanwhile, Pam (Jenna Fischer) and Jim (John Krasinski) share lunch with Brian (Chris Diamantopoulos) to thank him for protecting her from Frank. They are expecting his wife Alyssa to join him, but Brian reveals they are getting a divorce. He says they've been fighting for a while, but they realized it was over for them when they stopped fighting. Jim is surprised when Brian brings up consoling Pam when she broke down after his fight with her over the phone a few weeks ago. Jim decides he wants to go down to Philadelphia to avoid another fight with Pam, but Pam says she wants him to stay because she wants to fight, and Jim agrees.
"Couples Discount" was written by co-executive producer Allison Silverman, marking her second writing credit for the season after "Roy's Wedding". It was directed by Troy Miller, his third directorial credit for the series. Originally, it was reported that the episode would be titled "Andy's Return". However, it was later renamed to "Couples Discount". The episode features the return of series regular of Ed Helms, who had left for several episodes to film The Hangover Part III. His character was written out for eight episodes, leaving the office on a boat for three months with his brother Walter.
Broadcast and reception
"Couples Discount" originally aired on NBC on February 7, 2013. In its original American broadcast, the episode was viewed by an estimated 4.15 million viewers and received a 2.1 rating/6% share. This means that it was seen by 2.1 percent of all 18- to 49-year-olds, and 6 percent of all 18- to 49-year-olds watching television at the time of the broadcast. This marked a slight increase in the ratings from the previous episode, "Vandalism". The Office ranked fourth in its timeslot, being beaten by an episode of the ABC series Grey's Anatomy and the CBS police procedural Person of Interest, both of which received a 3.1/8 percent rating, and an installment of the Fox series Glee that received a 2.2/6 percent rating.
"Couples Discount" received mixed reviews from critics. The A.V. Club reviewer Erik Adams complimented the transformation of Andy into a villain, calling it "intriguing" and "curious", although he said the characterization wouldn't "stick" to the character for the following episodes. Adams gave more praise to the subplots, particularly Jim and Pam's storyline, calling it a "refreshingly honest take on the vagaries of marriage" and compared their decision to fight at home to the early "Pam-and-Jim charm". Adams ultimately gave the episode a B-. TV.com columnist Nick Campbell complimented the choice of using Andy as a villain, for further developing the Erin-Pete relationship, which he called "one of two satisfying events in this episode". He also praised the Jim and Pam storyline and the writers for focusing on their relationship, rather than Brian, writing that their final scene was "almost sweet, how nervous they were about heading into the Thunderdome". Despite this, he criticized the plot inconsistency and the nail salon plot for feeling "jammed in" and for using predictable jokes. Campbell ultimately called it a "satisfying episode".
IGN writer Roth Cornet was more critical towards Andy's return, writing that it serves as further example of the writers treating him as a "plot device", rather than a character. Cornet continued to say that while the episode featured "some fairly compelling drama, as well as some of the more cohesive moments of the season, character-wise", but criticized the episode for featuring "very little comedy". Despite a mainly critical review, Cornet complimented the turn in the Jim-Pam-Brian storyline, and for the writers using Brian as a catalyst for a "real conversation between Pam and Jim", instead of a love triangle between the three. She also went on to praise their final scene, for showcasing "what The Office has created with these two characters – a human, and real relationship." Cornet ultimately gave the episode a 6.9, considering it an "okay" episode.
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- Allison Silverman (writer), Troy Miller (director) (February 7, 2013). "Couples Discount". The Office. Season 9. Episode 15. NBC.
- Allison Silverman (writer), Matt Sohn (director) (November 27, 2012). "Roy's Wedding". The Office. Season 9. Episode 2. NBC.
- "The Office : Andy's Return". Zap2It. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
- "Couples Discounts". OfficeTally. January 25, 2013. Retrieved January 26, 2013.
- White, Cindy (November 9, 2012). "The Office: "The Boat" Review". IGN. Retrieved November 10, 2012.
- Bibel, Sara (February 8, 2013). "Thursday Final Ratings: 'Community' & 'The Big Bang Theory' Adjusted Up; 'Person of Interest' & 'Elementary' Adjusted Down". TV by the Numbers. Zap2it. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
- Kondolojy, Amanda (February 1, 2013). "Thursday Final Ratings: 'The Big Bang Theory' Adjusted Up; No Adjustments for 'Scandal', 'American Idol' or 'Do No Harm'". TV by the Numbers. Zap2it. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
- Adams, Erik (February 7, 2013). "“Couples Discount” | The Office | TV Club | TV". The A.V. Club. Retrieved February 18, 2013.
- Nick Campbell (February 8, 2013). "The Office "Couples Discount" Review: The Rise and Fall of the Nard-dog". tv.com. Archived from the original on April 4, 2013. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
- Cornet, Roth (February 8, 2013). "The Office: “Couples Discount” Review". IGN. Retrieved March 2, 2013.
- "Couples Discount" at NBC.com
- "Couples Discount" at the Internet Movie Database
- "Couples Discount" at TV.com