‘The Office’ Recap: Classy Christmas

Dwight as Meredith UGHS07E11/12 It looks like the Holly-days are here at The Office!

Ugh, I hate myself for writing that. You deserve better. I apologize, I’ll do better next time.

Anyway, we have our first hour long episode of The Office this year in celebration of the return of Holly. Usually the hour long episodes are basically two normal episodes semi-sewn together for ease of broadcasting. But this one actually worked well as a solid piece of entertainment. True, it could basically be divided into “waiting on Holly” and then “Holly is here!” but there isn’t a clean cut. For once The Office made a high quality, complete hour long episode.

The cold open was a very cold one as they attempted to take a picture outside (oh god, I did it again, must be the weather). Of course, some wanted to take a funny picture which resulted in them spending even more time outside. Jim had the easy idea of a Charlie’s Angels pose (which of course Erin didn’t get and just made a contorted face) but that wasn’t good enough and eventually Andy suggests one of them all jumping in the air at the same time. The usual stuff manages to happen as they all try to figure out when to jump and who isn’t jumping high enough and poor Erin doesn’t want to miss it so she just keeps jumping.

Jumping into the main story, Pam has taken her job as Office Administrator very seriously. It helps that it is basically Party Planning but, like, super serious and she gets paid for it. Her summation of it was perfect, “At its worst it was a toxic political club used to make others feel miserable and left out. At best it planned parties.” Nicely done, Pam. Nicely done.

Because of her diligence, the party is planned, under budget mind you, and everyone is satisfied. This shocks Michael, as it should, because nothing ever goes right for him. They’re about to have their first nice and easy Christmas party (complete with new rules against drunkenness and divulging pent up feelings) but then Toby has to ruin everything. It’s such a great character trait for Toby that the coolest thing that has happened to him also was the catalyst to ruin everything. I giggle at Toby’s misfortune.

And from there our stories diverge like three roads in a forest, and I took the one with less to write about and that has made all the difference.

First up is Daryl’s story. Daryl’s character has really expanded in recent years and we, the fans, are the lucky it has. We finally get to see him show some emotion beyond sarcasm while he talks down to Michael. He is really looking forward to having his daughter come stay with him for Christmas this year (and Daryl’s expression of joy is one of the best things ever), but his ex-wife claims that their daughter doesn’t want to spend Christmas with him and that totally bums him out.

Pam and Andy take it upon themselves to rectify this and show Daryl’s daughter a good time at their Christmas party (side note, where did Andy’s infatuation with Daryl come from? I understand WHY it is happening, but when did it start? It seemed like out of nowhere Andy suddenly wants to be BFFs with Daryl. Oh well, not complaining, just wondering). But since this is an office party after all, Daryl’s daughter would rather read in his office. Pam then comes up with a really sweet alternative. She created a fun obstacle course in the warehouse with Andy dressed up as the Grinch where she had to complete each task to eventually find the star of Christmas that has been stolen. However Andy tells her the star was behind her hair and a few seconds later the game was over. Man, Andy has no idea how to deal with children.

Eventually she discovers that they have a ton of vending machines in their break room (I can relate, as a kid vending machines were AWESOME) and she and Daryl go crazy buying a bunch of snacks. She then gets in the Christmas spirit and starts handing out stuff (which was so ADORABLE). Daryl wins big and when Daryl wins, we all win.

Next we have the Jim stories. Jim got two stories this week, one absolutely adorable and the other absolutely terrifying. Let’s start with the adorable one because delaying pain is a healthy way of living. This narrative dealt with Jim and Pam’s Christmas presents to each other. Pam wanted to one up Jim for once by hand making something really special (and to be fair, Jim is ridiculously good at giving presents. That tea kettle from the Christmas Party in season 2? SO GOOD) so she drew him a comic book. Trying to boost her confidence she shows it off to people around the office who don’t give her the feedback she was looking for (Ryan was particularly harsh, but he was kind of prick, if not kind of truthful). Of course Jim loves it (and who wouldn’t? You can read it here) but this year he switches it up and buys her a pretty shiny necklace. Pam gets all teary eyed because Jim is just so DAMN GOOD at giving gifts and all is right with the world.

After watching the promos for this episode, a shot of a teary eyed Pam was shown and I was expecting something a little bit deeper (not that the exchanging of presents wasn’t sweet) but I guess I just feel duped by the network once again. Curse you Peacock! I shall best ye one of these days. Also – anyone think it was kind of weird that Jim and Pam exchange their gifts to each other at the Office and not on, say, Christmas at their house with their daughter?

But not all was shiny and adorable for Jim this episode. He spent the other half of this episode navigating one of the most embarrassing and cringe worthy plots that we have ever seen in The Office – definitely the darkest Jim/Dwight prank war ever. And in the end it turned into the most terrifying thing The Office has ever produced (ok, it wasn’t that terrifying, but for The Office it was).

Jim started it off by throwing a snowball at Dwight in the office. Jim did throw the snowball kind of hard, so I can see why Dwight would be angry. But Dwight took it a step further by ambushing Jim in the parking lot after disguising himself in a snowman. He pelts him with snowball after snowball, knocking him on the ground, taking it way past funny. Jim is on the ground in a heap with a bloody nose. It was one of those moments where you just don’t know whether to laugh or not. It wasn’t really all that funny, the stuff after it was. But at the same time you wanted Jim to get up and punch Dwight in the face.

We haven’t seen this kind of awkwardness in a long time. It was a great combination of dark humor The Office used to be known for and the newer kind of exaggerated Office shenanigans. While I felt extremely uncomfortable, I was appreciative that the show did it. That type of stuff made The Office what it is and I and glad to see it come back.

After the parking lot blitzkrieg, Jim attempts to get Dwight back by slinging a snowball from a lacrosse stick but Dwight slips past him and Jim breaks a window. Again, we haven’t seen Jim in an awkward situation like this in quite some time. Welcome back awkward Jim! But Dwight wasn’t done just yet. He gets in another ambush when he slips past Jim with his co-workers disguises. Which gives us this hilarious montage of Dwight dressed up as everyone else in the office. Fantastic, fantastic stuff.

But the true kicker was at the end when Jim and Pam attempt to leave the office and are confronted with a dozen snowmen taunting them. Jim seems to have a mild case of PTSD and almost can’t make it to the car. They make it through but Jim snaps and starts attacking them. Meanwhile, on the roof, Dwight lords over them and cackles to himself. “In the end, the greatest snow ball isn’t a snow ball at all. It’s fear. Merry Christmas.” Man, Dwight is evil.

I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this episode featured many great Dwight moments considering Rainn Wilson directed it. He did a great job and it really featured some emotions that we hadn’t seen from the program in a very long time. I have no idea if Wilson plans on continuing to direct, but he should. He handled this episode very well.

And then there was Holly.

We knew Holly was coming back, and honestly everything happened about as well as we could have hoped with a few surprises thrown in for good measure.

Their first encounter was of course as weird and awkward as Steve Carell and Amy Ryan can make it. They attempt impersonations but they dissolve into other worse impersonations and keep up with the each other so all is well. Sparks still fly of course and it doesn’t seem like anything has really changed. However, AJ is still in the picture. Michael couldn’t get off scott free (what is wrong with me today? sheesh) so he needed an obstacle to overcome. What happened next resulted in some of the best beats of the season.

Holly has a Woody doll from Toy Story that AJ had given her. Michael, in a fit of jealousy, pours coffee all over it (brilliantly dumb but it paid off in the end) and then Holly confronts the entire office about it. Michael ends up confessing everything to her and she appears to be slightly more mature about it all (she easily calls him out on how childish he is being) but he manages to open her eyes as well. Then we get the sweetest shot of Michael cleaning the doll in the sink with Woody’s clothes hang drying above him. It was an absolutely crazy little story, but Michael and Holly are crazy, so it worked very well for me.

Then most shocking thing happened (gasp!)! AJ showed up! Totally didn’t see that one coming! But whats this? Michael is cool about it and actually mature during the whole thing? What happened? “I’m dead inside” he confesses in one of the funniest talking head bits of the whole series. Absolutely perfect. Carell killed it.

The whole thing ends on two very good notes. Holly had confessed to the girls of the office that AJ won’t commit so she’s going to give him an ultimatum. Pam tells this to Michael and lets him know that no relationship is going to work if there is an ultimatum given. Michael sees a spark of hope if he can just wait it out. Then at the end Michael overhears Holly lying to AJ about what happened to the doll. There is definitely hope after all.

But we still have many opportunities for Michael to screw things up. With the return of Holly things are getting kicked into high gear and needless to say, I can’t wait to see how it turns out.