After a couple of uneven post-merger episodes, the show's nearly back to full strength. I'll still probably take "Christmas Party" over "A Benihana Christmas," but it's close. Lots in common: both do outstanding work at spotlighting the entire cast (hell, even Oscar returned for a half-second tonight), and both feature Michael Scott at his most cringe-inducing (last year by instigating Yankee Swap, this year in his immediate reactions to getting dumped), and both feature Michael having unique reactions to women (photographing naked Meredith, using the marker to identify which waitress liked him), etc..
While the sequence where Michael realized he couldn't tell the two girls apart -- followed by the marker solution -- was the episode's highlight, overall I found myself enjoying the Pam and Karen half of the episode more than the stuff with the guys at Benihana. (Though, as someone who's had to sit at the far end of the table now and again, I actually felt sorry for Dwight for once.)
Jim's Women make a formidable team, and after some nervousness over seeing the two of them hanging out, even Jim jumped in with his brilliant monologue about a committee to determine the validity of the other committees. (And I love that Dwight, for all his hatred of Jim, thinks of it as an actual committee that he has a chance of joining.) The sight of the entire office torn between two parties, and Stanley of all people breaking the tie, was brilliant.
Some other things I loved:
- Michael lying down by Pam's desk and explaining that Carol wanted to do things in bed
"that were foreign, and scary, and some wine might've helped."
- Ryan pulling a Jerry Seinfeld in "The Secret Code" and providing 1000 different excuses for why he couldn't go to Benihana, leaving Jim with nothing. ("Look alive, Halpert!")
- Kevin defiantly eating a second cupcake and getting back to his Scrantonicity roots with his karaoke rendition of "You Oughta Know."
- Toby's pain at having his gift bag stolen, including him trying to feel up the other robes to see what he had lost.
And some other thoughts, since I'm in a list-y frame of mind:
- Is there any way that it wasn't Jan on the other end of Michael's phone call about the Sandals trip?
- Am I reading too much into Jim's explanation of rebound girls, or does he consider Karen to be just a rebound from Pam? And, much as I liked the Jim/Pam thing, why? Karen's awesome, as this episode showed.
Some lines of the week:
- Jim on Michael: "It's a bold move to Photoshop yourself into a photo with your girlfriend and her kids and her ex-husband on a ski trip, but then, Michael's a bold guy. Is 'bold' the right word?"
- Michael: "Jim, take New Year's away from Stanley!"
- Kevin: "I think I'll go to Angela's party, because that's the party I know."
- Kevin: "Double fudge... Angela... double fudge... Angela..."
- Karen and Pam: "Are we taking this too far? I say we're not taking this far enough." "I got goosebumps."
- Angela to Waitress #1: "I don't walk into your apartment and steal your Hello Kitty backpack!" (And question: is this the rudest thing Angela has ever said?)
- Oscar: "Too soon."
So what did everybody else think?