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So What's the Deal With James Spader's Robert California on The Office?
As one of The Office's greatest guest stars, Spader is a scene-stealer as Robert California.
Coming into a hit series like The Office toward the end of its run is no easy task, and it takes a certain kind of actor to carve out a memorable role on a show filled with characters that fans already know and love. Thankfully, James Spader was more than up for the task at the end of Season 7 when he brought Robert California to life as part of the search for who would take over as the new branch manager at Dunder Mifflin.
Like Spader's character on NBC's The Blacklist, Robert California (if that even is his real name) is a mysterious force to be reckoned with, never afraid to stand out among his Scranton colleagues. He doesn't work out weekly; he instead has a monthly wrestling match that exerts as much energy as a month of workouts. He refers to Sesame Street as simply, "The Street." He goes by many names: Bob Kazamakis, R.C., the Lizard King.
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He's a man, a myth and a mystery.
How Robert California Became CEO of Sabre
After quickly showing the Dunder Mifflin search committee that he's the smartest and most enigmatic person in the room, he lands the job as manager of Dunder Mifflin in Scranton. But it didn't take him long to realize his skills were being wasted, as we learn he headed down to Florida and convinced Sabre CEO Jo Bennett (Kathy Bates) to appoint him as the company's new CEO. Which is impressive, considering she was literally the company's CEO at the time. So instead of running a branch of Dunder Mifflin, Robert is running the company that owns it.
The larger-than-life manager turned CEO of Sabre (the company that purchases Dunder Mifflin) branch and all-around anomaly made his way into The Office during the series' later seasons but became a fan favorite fast. What began as a one-off guest appearance quickly turned into a recurring character, with Robert's Reddington-like monologues and manipulative schemes earning Spader a guest spot in Season 8. And fans are lucky he did, because Spader is easily one the best Office guest stars of all time.
James Spader Was Only Supposed to Cameo on The Office
Back when Steve Carell departed The Office, the producers reportedly had the likes of Will Arnett and Catherine Tate on the short list to join the series in the role of a new branch manager. But as part of the replacement process, they ended Season 7 with a cameo-filled extravaganza featuring everyone from Ray Romano to the aforementioned Will Arnett with an episode filled with job interviews with the folks vying to replace Michael Scott. But after seeing the vibe Spader brought to the show as one of the many applicants during his cameo appearance, the creative team decided it'd be fun to bring him in for a full season to start building out on the enigma of Robert California. Thus, the Lizard King was born.
Why Robert California Left The Office
The end of Robert California's journey was arguably even more fun than his bizarro introduction, and was fairly well planned, as his gig was always conceived as a one-season role. In late Season 8, after being fired by Robert, Andy orchestrates a deal to have old Dunder Mifflin CFO David Wallace step in and purchase the company back from Sabre. When the news breaks, Robert is as surprised as anyone to learn the company has been sold and he's now out of a job. But after a brief chat with David Wallace, Robert convinces him to bankroll his new "charity" project where he'll travel the globe helping underprivileged young gymnasts. With that, and with an awkward kiss on the mouth to Andy to say goodbye for good measure, Robert is gone just as mysteriously as he appeared.
The Best Robert California Episodes of The Office
Season 7, Episodes 23 & 24 - "Search Committee"
Robert California makes his first appearance in the two-part Season 7 finale when the former oil-rig salesman stopped by the office to be interviewed by Jim for Michael's former position. While interviewing for the role, Robert tells Jim and the Scranton hiring board that there is no difference between "someone wanting to purchase a $100 worth of paper or $100 million worth of deep sea drilling equipment." At the end of the day, Robert believes there is no such thing as products, his universal truth is that "everything.... is sex." And Spader weaves this monologue in such a compelling way that the employees agree, and Jim claims Robert is a genius despite creeping them out.
Robert sabotages a fellow candidate in the lobby (Ray Romano), running into Dwight in the process. Dwight questioned Robert's knowledge about paper, and Robert responds by claiming he learned how paper is manufactured by watching an episode of Sesame Street. As Robert leaves the office feeling confident with his odds, Office fans instantly fell in love with his fanciful monologues and ridiculously manipulative behavior.
Season 8, Episode 1 - "The List"
In the Season 8 premiere, it is revealed that Robert landed a position as the Scranton branch manager but somehow managed to drive to Florida and convince the CEO to give him her job. This leads Andy, the second choice, to be chosen for the manager position. After Jim notices Robert conversing with different coworkers, they realize Robert has split up the office between the "winners" and "losers" and has a list to help keep track. Robert tells the employees, "Winners: prove me right; losers: prove me wrong." Andy sets the record straight for his coworkers, and slowly Robert starts to respect the Scranton branch.
Season 8, Episode 9 - "Mrs. California"
Robert has been married three times, with his third marriage collapsing in "Mrs. California," when we meet his wife Susan. After Susan briefly kinda gets a job in Scranton's accounting department, Robert becomes enraged, projecting his anger onto Andy. Andy then concocts a plan to get his coworkers to bully and ridicule Susan to convince her to quit. But this is Robert Calfornia's wife, after all, so she catches on pretty quickly.
Season 8, Episode 12 - "Pool Party"
In response to his pending divorce from Susan, Robert decides to sell his mansion and throw an office pool party as the perfect send-off. Robert's tour of his home is hilariously dark as he reminisces about the parties he never had, leading him to an epiphany that he must enjoy the pool party happening now. As a result, Robert strips naked and jumps into his pool, and Ryan and Gabe quickly follow. If you love watching Spader play a drunken millionaire, this episode is comedy gold. Jim also spends the entire party trying to just escape and go home.
Season 8, Episode 23 - "Turf War"
Ah yes, the episode that brought us this fantastic quote a-la Robert California: "I will not be blackmailed by some ineffectual, privileged, effete, soft-penised debutante. You wanna start a street fight with me, bring it on. You’re gonna be surprised by how ugly it gets. You don't even know my real name. I'm the f---ing Lizard King." After he is wrongfully fired by Robert, Andy gains some leverage by securing one of Robert's largest clients. Andy offers to give the client back as long as Robert rehires him, and Robert takes it poorly. By the end of Season 8, Robert is revealed as a fraud as he abandoned his post to pursue alternative ventures outside of Scranton. But make no mistake: No one forgets Robert California.
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