Spoilers for "The Office" season five premiere coming up just as soon as I really process 9/11...
Holly beat-boxed! She beat-boxed, people! I don't care if there was nothing else remotely funny about this episode, because I'm a little in love with both "The Office" and Amy Ryan right about now.
Fortunately, there were a lot of funny things going on in "Weight Loss" -- as well as a moment to make every PB&J fan's heart soar -- as "The Office" returned in superb form.
I can't say enough about how perfect an addition Amy Ryan has been as Holly, even if you take out the beatboxing. Michael's attraction to Holly, and Jim's attempt to help Michael actually forge a relationship with her, has forced Michael to curb some of his more extreme behavior. Michael has always worked best when the writers push him back from the cartoon ledge a bit and force him to seem human, if completely inept. So here he was a fool, but a recognizable fool -- growing that heinous goatee, tossing Jim a condom to prevent an unplanned pregnancy, failing to come up with any kind of explanation for his audible groan upon hearing Holly's date went well -- in a way that was still extremely funny. Even the Michael Klump fat suit bit wasn't so outrageous as to make you wonder why no one shut it down, and in the end he actually did some good for Kelly with it.
And then, just as we were all convinced all of Michael's good behavior might lead to him attending the Counting Crows concert with Holly, he had to go and make what he thought was a grand gesture but was in fact a completely self-destructive one by ripping up the tickets! I wanted to smack myself in the head a few times, not because I thought it was a bad moment, but because I feel so much for Michael when the writers rein in his behavior just enough like this. They actually have me rooting for this relationship just as much as people cheered for Jim and Pam to hook up back in the day.
Of course, those two young lovebirds got their moment of pure bliss, which no doubt prevented Michael and Holly from getting theirs. (This is "The Office"; only a few characters are allowed to be non-miserable at a time.) I'll admit it: they had me fooled. I thought for sure that we were heading towards some stupid storyline where Pam "outgrows" Jim while attending the design school (possibly hooking up with the classmate played by Rich Sommer, aka Harry from "Mad Men"), and I was preparing a big screed about how the writers were afraid to have them stay together, even though they proved last year that resolved sexual tension can still be funny. But no -- it was all a set-up for Jim's impromptu proposal in the rain, at a highway service area, a setting that was at once the least romantic and most romantic place he could do it. (That he chose to do it then -- that he needed to do it then -- made it clear to Pam how badly he wants to marry her.) Perfectly written by Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, played by Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski, and beautifully-shot (from the other side of the highway) by Paul Feig.
I spent a lot of time early last season complaining about the pacing of the hour-long episodes. "Weight Loss" didn't really have any slow spots, because there were stories or running gags for virtually every character (except, as usual, Meredith). Stanley is determined to lose weight on his own to get back to his Black Panther fighting trim, Andy falls in and out of Angela's good graces depending on how much he's willing to bend to her whims, Phyllis blackmails her way into the Party Planning Committee leadership, etc., etc., etc. The writers continued the marvelous joke of Holly believing Kevin to be mentally disabled, but not for so long that we'd get tired of it. (And it's a credit to Amy Ryan that she played Holly's anger at hearing Angela call Kevin stupid so passionately; that only made her mortification at learning the truth even funnier.)
Welcome back, "The Office." You have been badly, badly missed.
Some other thoughts on "Weight Loss":
• Another reason to love Holly; she's read "Lonesome Dove" (one of my five favorite books ever) three times.
• Holly's not the only extremely white Dunder Mifflin female to be trying on a hip-hop persona; check out Pam's amusingly dorky gang signal salute to the 2-1-2.
• Pam gets an iChat talking head! Brilliant!
• We finally have the much-discussed question of Michael Scott's virginity solved once and for all. And now I kinda wish I hadn't discussed it so much.
• Lots of great Dwight/Jim throwaway bits, but my favorite was Jim trying to explain to Dwight that people don't die in shotgun weddings.
• Was there a continuity error with Michael being clean-shaven in the lunch room scene with Holly and Jim, or were we supposed to assume that he shaved the goatee and then re-grew it?
• I loved the stupid nicknames for all the members of Andy's old band (Broccoli Rob!), and that one of his father's old Cornell classmates is now a groundskeeper at The Breakers. Between that guy and Andy, a Cornell degree may not be all it's cracked up to be, no?
• Poor, poor, poor, pathetic Toby. The perfect darkly hilarious kicker to the episode.
What did everybody else think?