Friday, December 12, 2008

The Office, "Moroccan Christmas": Tra la la la la, ka-ching

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?

56 comments:

Kristin said...

I am sorry, but I thought this one paled in comparison to season 2's "Christmas Party". There were a few funny moments, but this just highlighted how far this show has fallen since, what I think may have the peak of season 2/3.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget "I will not be the guy with the big head and the small hat" with the cut to Kevin.

Hal Incandenza said...

"Christmas Party" is probably one of the five best episodes in the show's history, so falling short of that standard (which I thought last night's episode did) probably isn't that big a deal.

I liked it quite a bit (Dwight's interviews--as you mentioned--were absolutely hilarious; Creed having a connection inside the fire department, etc.), but was way too bummed out post-Phyllis's reveal to truly enjoy the last five minutes. I've always found the Dwight-Angela-Andy storyline to be really sad (it might work if Andy and Dwight switched roles, since I always end up pitying Helms, but rarely feel that way about Wilson). All of that said, The Office really is killing it this season. (I chalk a lot of this up to them not having to do hour long eps this time around.) Very impressive.

Surprised you were disappointed with 30 Rock, Alan. I was laughing the whole time...

Kristin said...

Different Kristin here....I liked it. Most especially for the fact that we got a lot of Phyllis and Meredith...two characters who typically don't even get more than one line an episode.

I loved how Phyllis enjoyed making Angela's life hell with her party planning! The full bar, no tree, no nativity scene. Hilarious.

Meredith's drunken dancing cracked me up, too. The funny thing is, Michael was right--Meredith does need an intervention. He just had no clue how to do one. My favorite was the questionnaire which included things about the Mormon Church.

olucy said...

Yeah, I needed 30 Rock after this episode. Or I at least needed a drink.

This was a roller coaster for me, but more dips than heights. Loved the Phyllis/Angela showdown and thank gawd the secret is out. That storyline was starting to smell like 4-day-old fish. But it's out at what cost? Poor Andy! That was painful.

Also painful: a big part of the intervention (it went on too long) and Meredith's repeated insistance that she's not an alcoholic. And watching Michael trying to drag her, screaming, from the car. In fact, the show's insistance that we laugh at her alcoholism. That made me uncomfortable.

Not to say it didn't have its funny moments, though. After being asked to share how her alcoholism affected everyone else, Kevin's response about Meredith giving him the movie tix when she was too drunk to go being "awesome" was vintage Kevin and so funny, because it so missed the point.

dez said...

Ack, Blogger ate my post! Anyway, loved the ep, loved Michael realizing he couldn't force Meredith into rehab as security escorted them out, loved Phyllis humiliating Angela (about time, too). Felt very sorry for poor Andy not realizing why no one was reacting to him playing "Deck The Halls." And I pick Creed and the hookah as the better throwaway bit.

I think either Kevin inadvertently or Creed deliberately tells Andy about Angela and Dwight. Or maybe some combination of Kevin hinting around about it and Oscar or Creed getting annoyed with Andy's guessing and just blurting it out to him. It's going to be ugly, regardless.

Anonymous said...

I don't know, but for some reason this episode I thought was just too much of a downer. I mean, besides Dwight, it was pretty much 30 minutes of terrible things happening to people. Did anyone else think they went too far with 3 depressing plot lines in one episode?

I think maybe with all the heavy handed rehab stuff, they could've waited on doing the Angela-Dwight reveal. And when Toby basically started crying at the end, I got completely bummed out.

I saved 30 Rock on my DVR until tonight because I didn't want this Office episode to make 30 Rock seem any less funny.

Kenrick said...

I thought this episode was great. So many LOL moments and yet moments of great sadness. I felt so bad for Toby I couldn't even laugh when he was handed the doll. Not true. I did laugh. And then felt really bad.

I was kinda disappointed with Phyllis and to what extent she was "blackmailing" Angela. It went from being slight revenge to just being really mean and I thought it hurt her character for that.

Very surprised that she outed Angela and Dwight - I didn't expect her to back up her threat. Even though it hurt Angela, in the end, Andy should know.

So that leads to... poor Andy. His reaction to everyone's non reaction to his music playing and well wishes was hilarious.

mac13 said...

Save Toby's big scene, this episode was awful, and I'm usually a staunch defender of the Office. Almost every joke fell flat. All I could hear during the intervention was the sound of the writers choking. And Meredith's over-the-top antics in the rehab parking lot was something out of a bad MadTV sketch.

olucy said...

I could see Kevin letting the Dwight/Angela "secret" slip in his doofus-like way. But I also think Kelly will have a hard time keeping this in.

Matty said...

Oscar has to be the one who tells Andy after their bonding in Canada.

Anonymous said...

I thought this was a great episode. Not sure what those of you who didn't like it were smoking (hookah?) but it was hysterical!

Rachel said...

I enjoyed the ep. Loved Angela thinking she had successfully bullied Phyllis but then Phyllis called her bluff. Loved the Michael/Meredith chase in the parking lot. Jim's prank was top-notch, and the talking head with Jim and Pam was great.

The reveal about Dwight and Angela made me a bit sad for Andy. I hope he gets his revenge in a big way.

y 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.

Not sure what I would've done in your shoes, Alan, but I think this story says great things about your daughter.

Jon Weisman said...

I thought it was a great episode. It seemed obvious to me that Angela was going to tell Andy that night, but perhaps I'm dead wrong. But I'm prepared for Andy to have already found out the news the next time we see him.

Anonymous said...

OMG!!

All of you, google princess unicorn!

They made a site devoted to the doll!!!

It is hilarious!!

Mark said...

That Princess Unicorn site is great! Click on "Testimonials" if you want to find out the fate of Toby's doll.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I especially like this photo from the YouNicorn section.

J.J. said...

Point of fact: stabbing a zombie in the brain with a wooden stick isn't actually the most satisfying way to kill a zombie. Decapitation with a single strike from a katana is.

Dwight's character really should have known this.

Myles said...

I just could not get into this one for the life of me - and I blame the Intervention story.

I liked most everything else, but the Intervention story was just so pointlessly shoe-horned in. It felt like the result of a last minute brainstorming session of "Obnoxious things Michael could do," and all of the actual "jokes" about Michael's strategy with the intervention were derivative. Instead, it was played entirely for comedy, which in an episode where human tragedy was displayed so well felt more than a little bit off.

This isn't to say that parts weren't funny: Michael's "I have a deposit - an alcoholic?" was fantastic, and the aforementioned slapstick made me chuckle. But in an episode where there was already so much human drama during that party, I would have much rather they have left Meredith alone and allowed more of the supporting cast to take part in that party.

Phyllis and Angela's storyline was more than enough to anchor this episode: Smith demonstrated some true acting chops, Kinsey was good as always, and there was no need for the Intervention on top of it. This was the real storyline: stark humanity, tragedy, sitars. I thought the episode could have done more with Andy than return him to obnoxious and one-note in an effort to make the ending more artificially sad and pathetic, but it offered the episode's best storyline regardless.

As for the rest of it: loved Toby's storyline, loved the cold open, but just found this one made some decisions that kept me from really enjoying it.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Jon that I think Angela will tell Andy off camera between now and the next episode and we'll just see reaction shots. Similar to how we didn't see Jim and Karen break up but only hear their stories after-the-fact.

brian said...

Alan, the story of your daughter reminds me of the Lucky Louie episode where Louie CK's daughter is given an African American barbie and starts crying and then Louie is busted by the neighbors throwing it out.

Sonia said...

Overall, I thoroughly enjoys this episode -- I laughed for 2 minutes straight at the Jim wrapped "desk" gag...OMG...that was so funny! Michael thinking he invented a screwdriver (ok...WHO didn't first try those as their very first drink? LOL), his "One of everything", Meredith dancing, Dwight hoarding dolls, evil bossy Phyllis, Kelly texting during Meredith's intervention...it goes on and on.

But I have to say this...the rehab parking lot scene, while played for laughs, just made me cringe. It was one of those Curb Your Enthusiasm-type, uber-cringe-worthy moments that are so uncomfortable. I said to my husband when we were watching it, "This is how I feel watching Larry David sometimes...I just want to reach through the TV and strangle him!"

Anonymous said...

This post is just going to end up being a drag, but...

I get the conundrum of Alan's story above his daughter and the Barbies. I don't even think I'd have a problem with this if it were for a family member, or one of my nieces or nephews, but I'd feel a little odd doing this for my kids' random classmates.

And I get that it's a little funny Tobey forked out $400 for the doll, but the ridiculous cost aside, I don't think it's THAT unusual today for kids to have multiracial dolls. Is it? The idea that Tobey would rather give the doll to charity than give it to his daughter strikes me as over the top. (and this is stupidly off topic since that was suggested on the Princess Unicorn site, not by the episode itself)

Jon Weisman said...

I'm always a little amazed that people are taken aback by cringe moments in The Office. I mean, they've been doing this for five seasons now. Those moments are part of the show's DNA.

Anonymous said...

"The idea that Tobey would rather give the doll to charity than give it to his daughter strikes me as over the top. (and this is stupidly off topic since that was suggested on the Princess Unicorn site, not by the episode itself)"

Anon, check the site again. There's also a response from a girl who says she got a doll from BOTH her mom and dad (presumably Tobey's daughter) which presumably leads to Tobey giving his doll to charity because, once again, he was one-upped by his ex-wife. I'm not sure the race of the doll was the reason.

Anonymous said...

I found that parking lot scene to be somewhat disturbing. I'm hard-pressed to say why exactly; all I know is I just wanted it to be over as quickly as possible.

Anonymous said...

This one should go down in the anals of Office History.

I only wished this could have aired after 30 Rock last night to wash the taste of schmaltz out of my mouth. As much as I love 30 Rock, they could learn a bit from the writers here on how to NAIL a Christmas episode.

Janslike said...

Kevin's 'Fire Girl' comment was the highlight for me. Too perfect

Anonymous said...

Though "Morrocan Christmas" was great. Perfect mixture of cringe, laughs and emotion.

For me the best epis are the ones where you almost can't look at the screen because the behavior is so embarassing, yet on second viewing you are rolling.

Parking lot scene was almost a COPS outtake, which made it all the more uncomfortable and hilarious.

Loved Michael knowing the Unicorn Princess JINGLE! Someones been spending to much time on Nickelodeon....

Puff

Eugene Freedman said...

" Is it possible that Here Comes Treble doesn't include someone named Broccoli Rob?"

As a Cornellian, I want to note that there are annoying witty a capella groups at Cornell. Andy's names for them are almost accurate. At least when I was there 92-86 there was Nothing But Treble, Cayuga's Waiters, Class Notes, and the Hangovers among a few others.

Anonymous said...

Let's say I was a first time viewer of the Office during this episode, what would I think? The conclusion I would draw is that this office is full of mean people. One person in the office is treating another like a slave during a party. Another person is handling a serious problem completly in the wrong fashion. Another person is cheating on a fiancee behiend his back. Dwight and Jim's pranks and money making oppurtunity are harmless compared to the other horrible things occuring in the office.

Now I have watched a majority of the show and understand the humor but I thought this episdoe was just people being mean to each other without comedic reasoning. If your going to make fun of alcholism let South Park or E S in Phili take a shot at it. Since the strike I have been looking for a reason to give up the show and this episode did it for me.

Anonymous said...

While this wasn't the best Office episode ever, it still had its funny moments. I know humor is subjective, but this wasn't an obviously horrible episode. Awkward and a bit cruel at times, but it wouldn't be the first time.

Since the strike I have been looking for a reason to give up the show and this episode did it for me.

Well I hear Grey's is having a stellar season. You should check it out.

Kelly said...

I loved that Michael said they couldn't do the intervention on Groundhogs Day because he "celebrates privately."

Also loved the fact that Meredith named off like 46 bars and then said the one Michael named "must have just opened."

The guy coming in during the intervention and not knowing if he was in the right place before throwing up the horn on his forehead was hilarious too.

Nicole said...

I didn't have a problem with Phyllis being mean to Angela, because Angela has always been mean, and is the one cheating on Andy, so I really don't feel too sorry for her. Also, the spitting out of the Ramadan cookie, just confirmed that she is a little bit racist too. I would say that Toby's situation was a little bit different because he just assumed that he was getting a white Princess Unicorn doll and kids can be picky about fad toys.

I have checked out the website and I love the pictures of the girls posing with the dolls, where the unicorn is dangerously close to poking an eye out. Every parents nightmare.

The parking lot scene was awkward, but it's not that different from other Office antics, and is probably akin to what the UK Office would have done. There were definitely some laugh out loud moments for me, and while I feel sorry for Andy, I really don't for Angela or Dwight (who smirked the whole time anyway), so it's probably good for this to be out in the open and move on.

Anonymous said...

I really missed Jim's pranks. I laughed a little too loud and a little too long for this one. Yep, I loved it and I hope there are more in future episodes.

Anonymous said...

Snoozer ... worst of the season.

Uncle Ira said...

How does Andy find out? My guess is that he begins to suspect something when Kevin starts calling him “Cuckold Guy”........

For some reason, the fake desk was just explosively funny to me. I laughed till it hurt.

I completely understand some people not liking this episode, but I thought it was brilliant in a jaw-dropping, “I-can’t-believe-they’re-doing-this” kind of way. I was thinking early on, in the first few minutes of the party, “They’re starting this one where most episodes would end...” And they just kept pushing things from there on...

I loved moments like Michael getting ready to leave the office and asking Toby for the rehab number---Played so straight, and then hitting him in the head with the pen. And the end, with Andy playing the song, was a great example of just how strong this entire cast is. The looks on their faces....

Anonymous said...

worst ep of the season

Number Five said...

I felt the same way as Uncle Ira - instead of the usual setup/party scenes/aftermath, the first act was a lot of shorter party moments and then they pushed forward from there. It felt fresh and they executed it well, so that helped make it a very strong episode.

Everything about Princess Unicorn, from Michael knowing the jingle to Toby's Liz Lemon-esque reaction to the doll he ends up with to the website, was absolutely hilarious. And the website has a higher proportion of funny testimonials from fans than one would normally expect to find on the internet. Well done Office fans!

If you thought this episode was excruciating, go back and re-watch Christmas Party from season 2. You wouldn't think so, but watching Michael finish his ruination of Yankee Swap by insulting Phyllis' handmade gift is excruciating compared to anything in Meredith's intervention (although it doesn't get much worse than the Dwight/Angela secret coming out).

And after Alan justifiably points out all the times Meredith ends up on the cutting room floor, it's great to see her get some great scenes, from the discussion in Michael's car to her antics before the fire.

annie said...

I was sad Creed didn't blow a smoke ring.

Anonymous said...

We have no doubt that Andy has a capella buddies, since we heard them over the phone.

Anonymous said...

That wasn't directed at you, Alan, but at Eugene.

Stef said...

I loved this ep, and laughed out loud more than I have at any in recent memory. I thought the footrace was especially hilarious, closely followed by Dwight's "ka-ching" and the Jim/Pam talking head. And I just really loved all the stuff Phyllis pulled out for Moroccan Christmas - far more creative than most Office parties!

dronkmunk said...

Who thought Michael was perhaps going to take Meredith to rehab after taking advantage of her. I am glad they didn;t go that route though.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 2:06
It should read "annals", what you said- totally something else

PaulRW said...

I really enjoyed this episode.
I also get a lot out of the comments here.
When other people also like it, It's gratifying in that laughing-in-a-crowd way.
When they don't, it's a fascinating reminder of how open to interpretation everything is. Art is so subjective -- especially comedy.

DolphinFan said...

I loved Phyllis' "outing" of Angela and Dwight for several reasons. The show set it up perfectly when it looked like Phyllis was backing down in the face of Angela's dismissal, then turned around and threw the punch that connected. Also, while I would 100% side with Phyllis over Angela because of how awfully Angela's always treated Phyllis when holding power, Phyllis hasn't always been the matronly sweetheart her appearance suggests (recall her snide comment to Pam about not siding with "whomever you're currently sleeping with" on sales leads) and the fact she has some steel in her came out throughout this episode--only to boomerang when Phyllis silently registered how badly this would eventually hurt poor, pathetic, clueless Andy. And last, I just like seeing hypocrites get the most poetic of justice, so having Angela of all people outed as a, um, woman of loose morals...richly deserved. Plus the closing scene was delightfully excruciating!

Chris said...

The best line was when dwight doubted how a princess unicorn could ever exist - "how would that even happen? a king has sex with a unicorn? a man with a horn has sex with a royal horse?"

Mark B said...

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. ... 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?

Maybe not racist, but certainly Ameri-centric to assume it was an African American doll. What term would you have used if you were in Britain? :)

I think a child would care that the 2 dolls were the same color as each other, less that they were the same color as herself.

Jim said...

I'm also a little taken aback by the people who found this show too mean, too bitter. As Jon Weisman said, this sharpness is in show's DNA, going back to the British version. I like that the American version is a bit kinder and gentler, but also that they occasionally go for the jugular.

JamesG said...

Like several others, I naturally compared this episode to "Christmas Party" and was disappointed. I think this episode was better than "Benihana Christmas," which dragged on insufferably, but it comes no where close to replicating the feeling of realism from the first party. A few tiny things that bothered me:

- The props at this party (all the pillows, hookah, food) and the full bar would have cost a fortune. How could DM Scranton have this kind of budget?

- What happened to the policy of "new alcohol at XMas parties" from season 2?

This episode, like most of them, did have its moments of cleverness (Princess Unicorn was great), but it's lacking the wonderful mix of drama, realism, and comedy from season 2. The Jim/Pam sexual tension did a great job of keeping this show grounded. Without that, it's become too heavy handed on the slap-stick and over-the-top Michael Scott antics that should have gotten him fired a few dozen times already (the forced intervention being just another example). But that's a more general criticism of this show rather than this episode.

Alan Sepinwall said...

- The props at this party (all the pillows, hookah, food) and the full bar would have cost a fortune. How could DM Scranton have this kind of budget?

Phyllis very well could have rented stuff.

- What happened to the policy of "new alcohol at XMas parties" from season 2?

Was that a corporate policy or an Angela policy?

Maddy said...

I'm surprised people liked this episode, I thought it was just bizarre and it doesn't really feel like the writers are trying anymore.

Basically, this show should have been done after season 2. It's just dragging on. I don't know why we have to have season after season of shows that only needed to be one or two seasons.

JamesG said...

Was that a corporate policy or an Angela policy?

I would assume a corporate policy since Toby immediately comments on it when Michael returns.

Jill said...

I also thought the episode was half funny, half depressing. I'm confused by the writers making Andy such a dolt at first, and now so (sym)pathetic -- was this intentional?

As to Toby's story, I thought the same thing at first about the Testimonials including a story from a girl with divorced parents. However, her name is "Caitilin R." and we know from the Bring Your Daughter to Work Day episode that Toby's daughter is named Sasha (presumably Sasha F.).

I also don't think it's racist to be uncomfortable about the black doll. As a white person, I'd be fine with my kids having them, but also might feel like a poser or like we were trying too hard to be PC.

Helene H. said...

Since the opening credits harked back to earlier seasons, at first I thought I was watching a rerun. That said, I thought this episode got it (mostly)right. Michael was recognizably human. Loved the line about his desire to drag Meredith to the bottom. I think Angela breaks up with Andy, but does not tell him the real reason(s). After all, in his eyes, she's probably still a virgin! I think he will find out the truth later on from either Oscar or perhaps Dwight himself. Then watch the fur fly!