How amazing is Jenna Fischer? I'm serious. How amazing is she? That final talking head -- my favorite form of talking head, one where actual office action interrupts the interview -- was a little acting clinic, with Pam genuinely convincing herself it was okay that she and Jim had missed their window, only to be overwhelmed by Jim's entrance and the realization that he was holding the window open for her. Just a beautiful moment, and one the entire season had been building towards.
The Pam/Jim/Karen triangle reminds me in a lot of ways of the Luke/Lorelai/Christopher situation this last year on "Gilmore Girls." You have the couple who the audience is rooting for, kept apart by wishy-washy behavior on someone's part (Luke there, Pam here), then the rejected person (Lorelai/Jim) spends the better part of the season involved with someone who's a good match on paper (Chris has more history with Lorelai and the same sense of humor, Karen is willing to put herself out there for Jim in a way Pam wasn't), only to realize towards the end that love doesn't happen on paper, and in the finale we finally get the pairing we want. The difference is, "Gilmore Girls" ended just as Luke and Lorelai got back together, while "The Office" has a lot of time to explore what life will be like when Jim and Pam actually try dating.
And I think we needed this year of having them mostly apart, even if at times the fun was as lacking for us as it was for Pam. Pam needed a season to find, as both Michael and Oscar's roommate realized she needed, some courage. Early in the year, she was still casting about for a new accomplice (an audition Ryan failed, largely because he didn't know it was happening), but by the finale she had become strong enough to do the coal-walk, declare her feelings to Jim in front of everyone, and have herself a whole lot of fun with Dwight as boss. She couldn't have shouted down the conference room a year ago, and she would have felt the fun was empty without Jim or someone else to share it with, where now she seemed okay just sharing with her pal the camera guy.
Jim, meanwhile, needed some time to heal from Pam's rejection, and by keeping distant from both her and his old office-wide hijinks (the betting episode aside), it made the moment where he found Pam's note and the old yogurt lid (a callback to the medals from "Office Olympics," possibly their finest moment of office cruise-directoring) that much sweeter. Jim had spent the last year focused on his career, but when he saw the note and yogurt lid and David asked him what he liked most about Scranton, the only thing he could think to say was, "the friendships." Another lovely little moment, and well-played by Krasinski. (We didn't see the entire interview, but I have to assume he answered David's long-haul question by admitting he wasn't ready to leave Scranton yet.)
I don't think the end of Unresolved Sexual Tension is the kiss of death for a show -- especially not a show where the UST isn't even the main story element. If anything, I think too many shows have died trying to postpone the inevitable for too long ("Moonlighting," "Ed"), while the king of the genre ("Cheers") put its couple together quickly, then spent the next four years exploring different break-ups and reconciliations. I'm not saying "The Office" should go that route -- Jim and Pam are far more compatible than Sam and Diane, where the comedy came from how wrong for each other they were -- but at the very least it could be like "NewsRadio," which put Dave and Lisa together in episode 2, had fun with their relationship at times and treated it as a simple fact of life at others. Certainly, Michael, Kelly, Dwight and Kevin all have ways of making an office romance uncomfortable (and funny) for Jim and Pam, so even if their own relationship is smooth, there will still be some laughs and tension to be wrung from how other people now treat them.
While Jim and Pam were making up the emotional core of the episode, Michael, Jan and Jan's new girls were bringing the funny. My reaction to Michael's reaction to the bigger girls was the opposite of emotionally magnificent. It was completely shallow, and I don't care, because I laughed so damn much through the entire sequence where Jan was in the office, and again when Jan had her meltdown at corporate and again when they were in the car together and she was talking about wearing stretch pants and waiting at the door for Michael to come home. Melora Hardin and the writers have done wonders with a role that was fairly limited at first as the disapproving straight woman to Michael, and I hope we don't lose Jan next year. (Roy, on the other hand, seems gone, and with Rashida Jones doing that Farrelly Bros. sitcom for Fox, I imagine she's out, too, even though she didn't get the corporate job as predicted. More on that down below.)
Dwight's one-day reign of terror was also marvelously silly, particularly the Scrute-Bucks vs. Stanley-Nickels confrontation. I just love the way Rainn Wilson says "Schrute," making an odd name sound completely ridiculous; adding "bucks" to the end of it, repeatedly, was practically Dada. I've been saying "Schrute-Bucks" all day, and will likely continue until I beat it into the ground just like "I'm gonna chase that feeling," "Is that something you might be interested in?" and all my other borrowed catchphrases.
I'm sure you all will have lots to talk about this episode and this season, so I'll move on to the bullet points:
- Ryan getting the corporate job was a weird surprise, and it did lead to his perfectly cold dumping of Kelly, but it doesn't make sense even within a universe in which Michael Scott would be considered for said job. Ryan's been a full-time employee for less than a year, still doesn't have a sale, and if he managed to complete his MBA, it was only in the last few months since Michael lectured at his school, and from a non-prestigious local school, at that. I just can't see a guy with that resume getting Jan's old job.
- Jim picking apart Dwight's Motel Hell fantasy was brilliant. $84,000, eh? What do you suppose Dwight makes now?
- "Goodbye, Kelly Kapoor." Maybe Angela and Ryan should be dating.
- I feel like I know far too much about Meredith and Creed's respective love lives now. (But I can't complain too much about an episode with so many Meredith moments after my season-long quest to get her more material.)
- Funnier Pam talking head: the cliche one where she became Popeye, or the one where she became concerned the documentary people would think she was gay?
- Was I the only one who felt the Jim and Karen in New York footage felt off? It's not like the documentary crew hasn't followed people to other cities (they did some New York stuff with Michael in "Valentine's Day"), or showed people in their personal lives (Jim's party, Pam's art show), but this just didn't feel right. Maybe this time Greg Daniels wound up hiring a local film crew who didn't nail the house visual style, I don't know.