Spoilers for last night's "The Office" coming up just as soon as I drunk dial...
"Business Trip" was a very melancholy episode, the sort the show does a few times a season, as we saw Michael, Andy, Jim and Pam and even Ryan struggle to come to terms with a lousy personal development: Michael grieving for the end of his relationship with Holly, Andy briefly (and drunkenly) realizing how bad he has it with Angela, Jim and Pam starting to lose patience and faith with their long forced absence, and Ryan realizing what a horrible mistake he made by getting back into a relationship with Kelly.
Now, the genius of "The Office" is that it can find laughs even in very depressing situations. "Business Trip" wasn't as gut-busting hilarious as some other episodes this season, but I was impressed by how often I was laughing during an episode that was so much about the characters' pain.
Before Michael had to take his pathetic walk of shame or got to unload on David Wallace for transferring Holly to Nashua, we got to see him get whacked in the knee by the business class drink cart (a problem I've often had, blindfold or no) and rave about how the hotel concierge (played by Wendy McLendon-Covey from "Reno 911," doing a delightful faux-Manitoba accent) was like the Winnipeg equivalent of a geisha. (I especially loved seeing how turned on he got at realizing she knew where to get dry cleaning done on New Year's Eve.)
And even though there was a very sad truth at the heart of Andy's story -- he's being cuckolded by an awful woman who will have sex with Dwight but not him -- it gave us the spectacle of Andy and Oscar doing some drunk out-of-office bonding. I'm not sure there's ever been a wronger sentence uttered in that Winnipeg bar than "Beer me dos Long Island iced teas," but it was very Andy, and the whole thing was a nice acknowledgment of the way that co-workers can sometimes discover they like each other a lot more when they're not working at adjacent desks.
Ryan and Kelly's story was the most blatantly comic from start to finish, with the funniest part being Daryl's silent jaunty walk to his truck, which said all we needed to know about how happy he was in that relationship. Almost as good was the dazed look on Ryan's face in the final talking head as he acknowledged, "I realized that, for whatever reason, I just couldn't do better than Kelly."
The one story I had a problem with was Pam's abrupt return to Scranton. I'm glad to have her back in the middle of the action again, and that the writers are apparently done trying to create false tension in the PB&J relationship. But it seems like a cheat to me to have Pam suddenly claim that she hated graphic design, especially when it was clear in earlier in episodes that she was having a great time on her New York adventure (other than the forced separation). If Pam is just back at the reception desk in the next episode and no longer pursuing her artistic dreams, I'm going to be really annoyed, because it'll be a violation of character in the service of maintaining the series' status quo.
And yet Jenna Fischer and Krasinski did a good job playing their long-distance misery and then their joy at seeing each other again in the parking lot. I really do like having those two together; I just wish the writers had just let Pam finish the class and then decide to come back to Scranton, going back to receptionist while exploring other options in the area.
Some other thoughts on "Business Trip":
• In the course of a brief web search, I have been unable to find a direct flight from Scranton to Winnipeg, let alone one that runs less than two hours. Michael got robbed of a meal, I say.
• Andy's personal DVD collection includes "Harry and the Hendersons"?
• Did Oscar and his "roommate" break up? Or was he just indulging Andy's wingman fantasies because he was bored on the trip? (And because he assumed Andy would fail miserably, which he did.)
• My favorite of Michael's cultural lessons from the opening sequence: in Italy, you have to wash your hands after going to the bathroom. My gosh, what a bizarre country that must be.
What did everybody else think?