Spoilers for last night's "The Office" coming up just as soon as I pour myself a One Of Everything...
"I think I know what I need to do at this point. I need to find ways to push Meredith to the bottom. I think I can do it. I did it with Jan." -Michael
"The Office" didn't do a Christmas episode in its brief first season, which debuted in the spring, and it didn't do one last year because of the strike. But man oh man oh man, the three times that they've been able to do a Christmas episode, they killed it.
"Moroccan Christmas" not only featured what seemed like the best Dunder-Mifflin party of all time -- at least until Meredith lit her hair on fire -- but featured consistent hilarity mixed in with some of the sharpest emotion we've ever gotten from a non Jim & Pam story.
This was a triumphant episode for Phyllis and Dwight, and a humbling one for Angela and Meredith and, unbeknown to himself, Andy.
Phyllis got to prove that she deserved the Party Planning Committee leadership even without blackmail, and got to make Angela her prag (to borrow a bit of "Oz" slang), deliberately snuffing out all the parts of the Christmas party that Angela enjoys (the tree, the nativity figurines), and even forcing her to wear a hairnet. And when Angela attempted to call Phyllis' bluff, Phyllis hesitated for maybe a second before blurting out the news to the whole office. And then her moment of victory turned into a moment of great shame as she realized how badly she had just hurt Andy (again, not that Andy knows -- yet) in a very human moment that "The Office" does so well. I continue to be amazed that Phyllis Smith had no real acting experience before this show, other than reading lines as a casting director. She's wonderful, and every bit the equal of all the trained actors and comics in the cast.
Dwight, after falling victim to one of Jim's best pranks ever (more on that below), got to make a very tidy profit with his doll-hoarding scheme, had the entire office (save Andy, Michael and Meredith) learn of his cocksmanship, and got two of his better talking heads in a while (zombie-killing and the Schrute family "five-fingered intervention," complete with punching). Rainn Wilson's smirk as the office digested the news of the affair was superb.
Phyllis spilling the beans on Andy's cuckolding -- Should we start a pool on who breaks it to him, and when? -- upstaged the Meredith intervention story, but I loved that one, too. This was Michael dialed in just right: you could see that he really did care about getting help for Meredith, but that he was clueless about how to properly do it, and yet not so loudly inept that anyone other than Toby would have tried to stop him. And the foot chase in the rehab center parking lot, with Meredith screaming "WAIT A MINUTE! WAIT A MINUTE! WAIT A MINUTE!" over and over and trying to evade Michael's grasp, was a great piece of slapstick.
Some other thoughts:
• Poor Toby. Not only does Michael throw a pen in his face, but he winds up having to double-pay for a doll that his daughter might not want. True story: I took my daughter to Toys R Us a few months ago to buy presents for a classmate I didn't know very well, with the only instructions being "She likes Barbies." My daughter makes a beeline for the Barbie aisle, tosses a white Ken-as-groom doll into the cart, and then grabs an African-American Barbie-as-bride. If they were for my daughter, or for someone I knew better, I would have headed right to the register, but instead I had a Toby-by-way-of-Liz-Lemon moment, wussed out and swapped in a Totally Caucasian Barbie. Everyone's a little bit racist, sometimes, right? Right?
• So how long do you suppose it took Jim -- possibly with Pam's help -- to create a paper-and-cardboard gift-wrapped simulacrum not only of Dwight's desk, but of all the things on it, like the bobble-head? And should we be glad that he's gone back to these elaborate pranks, or sad that he's backslid after swearing a couple of seasons ago that he was done with them?
• Pam was mostly reacting to what was happening, but I loved her talking head insistence that she knew all along about the new Angela/Dwight affair, and that she had to invoke the Christmas spirit to get Jim to play along.
• Better throwaway moment during the party: Creed smoking a hookah, or Michael thinking he had invented the Screwdriver?
• Kevin's love of nicknaming other people -- and his lack of creativity in same -- goes on as he attempts to dub Meredith "Fire Girl" (in the grand tradition of Ryan as "Fire Guy," and then "Fired Guy," and then "Hired Guy"), only to realize that it might be too soon.
• Even before Phyllis revealed his humiliation to the entire office, I felt pretty sorry for Andy as he went through that talking head about his college years, which involved sneaking into frat parties, doing body shots off himself, and the ever-changing list of nicknames (Puke, Ace, Buzz), which sounded so made up on the spot that I'm now starting to doubt all previous Andy nickname stories. Is it possible that Here Comes Treble doesn't include someone named Broccoli Rob? That would make me sad. But kudos to Ed Helms and the writers for making a character who was so overbearing so sympathetic (largely by emphasizing the "pathetic").
What did everybody else think?