Spoilers for "The Office" just as soon as I head out to Staples to buy a salad-maker...
Well, that was... squirmy. Great, but squirmy. One of the reasons Michael has become easier to take over the last couple of years is that we're used to how he deals with the staff and they're used to him. Seeing his buffoonery unleashed on a group of unsuspecting victims was just as horrifying as it was back when the British show did this storyline. (Though with Josh gone and this show not subject to the British economic model, I don't think Michael's in danger of being fired anytime soon.) The gift bags were bad, "Lazy Scranton" was worse, but trying to shove Bizarro Kevin onto the table had me looking for something to hide behind.
But in the middle of all that awkward was some comedy that didn't have me cringing (much): Kevin's sheer joy at using the shredder (and the abrupt change of mood after the credit card bit, and, of course, "Staples"), the look of utter contempt on Stanley's face when the new black guy tried to make a show of solidarity, Phyllis' "You have a lot to learn about Scranton" when Karen didn't know who Bob Vance was, Ryan markin his territory with Jim (and putting Jim at a desk without a good sightline to Pam), Kelly's "I just told you" explanation of what's new with her, Creed putting the nursing mom's picture on his desktop, and virtually every confrontation between Andy and Dwight. Personality-mirroring, eh? I may have to try that. And even Michael's usual idiocy led to a nice, Charlie Finley's A's-style bonding moment for the staff, not to mention another sad reminder of Michael's lonely childhood.
Best of all, though, was "Was your father a GI?" Funny as that was in the promos, the reactions by Rashida Jones and Jenna Fischer made it about 10 times funnier. (I'm guessing Rashida has had a lot of experience dealing with clumsy, offensive "So, um, what are you?" questions in real life.)
The big news, obviously, is the anti-climactic Jim/Pam reunion, complete with the expected and yet not news that Jim and Karen are dating -- or, at least, "sort of seeing" each other. Unless Jim was just saying that to protect himself from being hurt by Pam (a not unreasonable possibility), then I think the writers would have been better off showing us the beginning of Jim and Karen's relationship before they left Stamford. We all knew it was heading there, and we understand why (both in show logic and Jim logic), but it's a little jarring to go from Karen's "I know he may not be that into me" monologue from last week to the idea that they are (assuming that they really are) starting to date just as Jim as returning to the same city as Pam.
I also hope that the new people don't get too much in the way of the original Scranton folk. I'm not anti-new blood, but it already feels like the very funny supporting cast doesn't have enough to do (Meredith in particular usually winds up on the cutting room floor), and while I'm sure the writers have very good ideas for the non-Andy and Karen newbies, a lot of characters I already like are going to be struggling for airtime.
What did everybody else think?