"So what do you have planned for us today?" -HollyWhat a great end to what may have been my favorite season of "The Office" to date. The show has had overall funnier years (notably season two), but I don't know that it's ever been this consistently satisfying, because the characters have become so richly-drawn, and because the writers (led by showrunners Paul Lieberstein and Jennifer Celotta, who teamed up to write "Company Picnic") have really learned to trust their actors to convey so much emotion in really quiet moments. As we've been saying for a while now, the show has become as much of a kitchen-sink drama as it is a comedy, but it's a great drama when it wants to be.
"Company Picnic" featured a couple of sublime moments. The first is the one we were all expecting in some way as soon as we heard that the briliant Amy Ryan would be coming back as Holly, Michael's perfect woman: Michael and Holly, post-morteming their disastrous sketch show at the company picnic(*), with Michael waiting for the right moment to deliver his list of reasons why Holly should dump her boyfriend AJ and get back with him. What was so wonderful about the scene as written, and as played by Ryan and Steve Carell, was that Holly knew what Michael wanted to do, and Michael knew she knew -- when Holly's around, Michael's self-awareness, charm and ability to read social cues all skyrocket, which, as much as her own dorky sense of humor, is why the two are perfect for each other -- and in the end, he was able to recognize that they were experiencing a perfect moment right then, one that could only be ruined by him trying to win her back. The old Michael, the pre-Holly Michael, would have barreled on forward with the plan, and made an ass of himself, and mortified the woman he wanted, and basically killed any chance of the future. This Michael -- the Michael who has grown through his love of Holly, and his experience with The Michael Scott Paper Company -- has the maturity and patience to wait for the real moment, when Holly is unattached, or they live closer together, or in some other way the cosmic forces are better aligned to make this match happen.(**)
(*) I have to say, by the way, what happened with the Buffalo branch closing news was David Wallace's own damn fault. If he hasn't figured out by now not to share sensitive corporate information with Michael Scott, he needs to learn.
(**) That, or Michael's been paying a lot of attention to Jim and Pam's story, and he assumes he and Holly are destined to end up like those two.
And speaking of PB&J, the episode's other sublime moment revolved around that crazy couple silently (as we were observing from another room, and as they apparently weren't wearing their usual documentary radio mics) discovering that Pam is pregnant. The moment was set up a few minutes earlier, when the nurse asked Pam if she might be pregnant, as a precaution before X-ray'ing her injured foot, and once we were primed, we didn't need any dialogue, as the joy on Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski's faces told us the rest. Fischer is usually the master at these kinds of moments, but I want to give an extra salute to Krasinski for the scene in the hall, where a dazed Jim tells Dwight to go on with the vollyeball game without him, then pauses to compose himself after this unexpected but obviously thrilling piece of news. Maybe Krasinski's single best moment on the series to date.
I'll leave it to you guys to speculate on what Pam's pregnancy, coming just as she got promoted to saleswoman, and before she and Jim have even gotten married, means for the series. All I'll say is that the nature of "The Office," with its focus on work over home life, makes it better qualified than most sitcoms to handle the introduction of a baby. (Plus, depending on how they work the timeline, we might not even see the kid until the end of next season, if that.) And after the brilliant year they just had, I think I trust these guys with anything.
Some other thoughts on "Company Picnic":
• The return of Charles Miner should once and for all clear up some of the confusion from "Broke" about whether Michael was able to get Charles fired as part of his negotiation. No, Charles still works for Dunder-Mifflin; he just (as even Jim notes) no longer has authority over the Scranton branch.
• Perfect casting of James Urbaniak as Dwight's spiritually compatible best friend Rolf. I just hope he hasn't been introduced as some kind of substitute Mose. I don't care that "Parks and Recreation" was much improved in its finale (which I'll review in a bit); dammit, we need Mose!
• Rolf's scenes also set up an apparent Dwight/Angela reconciliation, based on the look on Angela's face after Dwight told Rolf to stop calling her a whore. And perhaps this will let Dwight allow Andy to pursue Erin, to whom he's obviously still attracted.
• Though it was designed as such, I have to say that Michael and Holly's "SlumDunder Mifflinaire" sketch was just brutal to sit through, like an "SNL" sketch where somebody thought of a great title or catchphrase, couldn't come up with any jokes beyond that, but still stretched it out to eight minutes.
• Hilarious Fischer/Krasinski comedy team moment: after Pam explains that you don't grab her breasts for balance, Jim shrugs and Pam glares at him.
What did everybody else think?