The Farm (The Office)
|The Office episode|
|Episode no.||Season 9
|Directed by||Paul Lieberstein|
|Written by||Paul Lieberstein|
|Original air date||March 14, 2013|
|Running time||22 minutes|
"The Farm" is the seventeenth episode of the ninth season of the American comedy television series The Office and the 192nd overall. It originally aired on the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) on March 14, 2013. The episode guest stars Matt L. Jones as Dwight's cousin Zeke, Majandra Delfino as Dwight's sister Fannie, Blake Garrett as his nephew, and Thomas Middleditch as his brother.
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. The episode revolves around Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) and Oscar Martinez (Oscar Nunez) who attend the funeral of Dwight's Aunt Shirley at Schrute Farms. Dwight soon receives his aunt's property, and he and his siblings decide to run it. Meanwhile, Todd Packer (David Koechner) returns to the office to make amends for his previous misdeeds; however, he is secretly trying to get back at them for his firing a year prior.
"The Farm" was produced to serve as a backdoor pilot for a proposed spin-off series starring Wilson as Dwight, which NBC ultimately did not pick up. The episode received mostly negative reviews from television critics, with many criticizing Dwight's farm storyline and some critics calling it a "Frankenstein episode". The episode was viewed by 3.54 million viewers and received a 1.9/5 percent rating among adults between the ages of 18 and 49. The episode ranked fourth in its timeslot, and it was the highest-rated NBC series of the night.
Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) receives news that his Aunt Shirley (Mary Gillis) has died, and he informs the office. The only co-worker he decides to invite to the funeral is Oscar Martinez (Oscar Nunez). At the funeral, Dwight's family gathers: his brother Jeb (Thomas Middleditch), his cousins Mose (Michael Schur) and Zeke (Matt L. Jones), his sister Fannie (Majandra Delfino), her son Cameron (Blake Garrett), and Dwight's uncle Heinrich (Tom Bower). The family soon learns that Aunt Shirley has willed them her estate on the condition that they all move back to run it. Unsure about whether they should take over the farm, they all discuss the pros and cons of the situation. Eventually, Dwight convinces them to help him run the farm.
Meanwhile, Todd Packer (David Koechner) returns to the office and attempts to make amends for his past bad behavior. During his apology, he continuously makes rude remarks to the office, and they do not believe he is apologetic. Eventually, he reveals that he purchased cupcakes for everyone to make up for this behavior. Pam Halpert (Jenna Fischer), however, warns everyone that they should not eat the cupcakes, on principle. Packer eventually leaves, and everyone agrees that it is safe to eat the cupcakes now that he is gone. However, Packer reveals in a talking head that he spiked the cupcakes with drugs, laxatives, and other ingredients, as revenge for sending Packer to Florida under false pretenses and having him take the fall for the failure of the Sabre stores. In the morning, Pam—being the only one who did not eat the cupcakes—returns to the office and finds everyone else reeling from the aftereffects of Packer's deed. Meanwhile, Packer goes to Philadelphia and visits Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) and Darryl Philbin (Craig Robinson) at Athlead, pulling the same trick on them.
The episode was written and directed by executive producer and former showrunner Paul Lieberstein, marking his thirteenth writing credit, sixth directorial credit and fourth dual credit. "The Farm" was the fifth episode produced, but was the seventeenth aired, as noted by its production number. It was originally supposed to act as a backdoor pilot for a spin-off series starring Wilson and focusing on Dwight. As such, Wilson was initially slated to appear in only 13 episodes of The Office 's ninth season before leaving for the spin-off. Paul Lieberstein, the showrunner for The Office for seasons five through eight, stepped down at the start of season nine in order to focus more energy on the potential spin-off. However, upon review, the spin-off was not picked up by NBC. Executive producer Greg Daniels revealed that the episode would have additional material shot so that it fits better into the season, as the original version contained "certain aspects that were appropriate for a pilot of a new show".
The episode guest stars Majandra Delfino, Blake Garrett, Thomas Middleditch, Matt L. Jones and Tom Bower as members of Dwight's family; Delfino plays Dwight's sister Fannie, Garrett plays Dwight's nephew Cameron, Middleditch portrays Dwight's brother Jeb, Jones portrays Dwight's cousin Zeke, and Bower appears as Dwight's great uncle Heinrich, in a deleted scene. Jones had previously appeared in the ninth season entry, "Junior Salesman".
Broadcast and reception
"The Farm" originally aired on NBC on March 14, 2013, after a four-week hiatus. In its original American broadcast, the episode was viewed by an estimated 3.54 million viewers and received a 1.9 rating/5 percent share. This means that it was seen by 1.9 percent of all 18- to 49-year-olds, and 5 percent of all 18- to 49-year-olds watching television at the time of the broadcast. This marked a decrease in the ratings from the previous episode, "Moving On". The Office ranked fourth in its timeslot, being beaten by an episode of the CBS police procedural Person of Interest which received a 2.9/8 percent rating, an entry of the ABC series Grey's Anatomy which received a 2.6/7 percent rating, and an installment of the Fox series Glee which received a 2.0/6 percent rating. Despite this, the episode was the highest-rated NBC series for the night. 1.90 million viewers watched the episode via DVR playback, bringing the total viewership to 5.36 million viewers and a 3.0 18–49 rating.
"The Farm" received mostly negative reviews from critics, many criticizing Dwight's farm storyline and some critics calling it a "Frankenstein episode". M. Giant of Television Without Pity awarded the episode a C. Alan Sepinwall of HitFix considered NBC's decision not to pick the spin-off for more episodes the right decision, writing that the characters and scenes were "barely sketches" and featured too much "cartoonishness". Sepinwall also criticized the Todd Packer scenes, and only saw Dwight's interactions with his nephew, Cameron, in a positive light. TV.com columnist Nick Campbell called the farm storyline "unnatural" compared to the episode and the series, as a whole, and wrote that the tone to the ending "didn't match". Despite this, he complimented the storyline for "establishing tone, characters, and direction in literally half the time usually allotted". The A.V. Club reviewer Erik Adams complimented the episode for serving as a "breather" from the season's long arcs, and gave good background information into Dwight's personality. Despite this, he went on to criticize the pilot's broad humor, writing that following the scene featuring Dwight shooting a shotgun into his aunt's casket, "it would be next to impossible for The Farm to heighten from that point". Adams eventually graded the episode with a B.
Damon Houx of Screen Crush called the two storylines "two pieces of that didn’t work all that well together", which all added to a "dull" episode. Houx complimented Koechner's performance, calling him a "great improviser" but wrote that the whole plot was lacking. He also considered the farm plotline to be pointless and aimless, especially due to it airing in the last few episodes of the series.
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