"Four years ago, I was just a guy, who had a crush on a girl, who had a boyfriend. And I had to do the hardest thing I've ever had to do, which was just to wait." -JimEarlier today, I wrote about how Jim and Pam's relationship should disprove the theory that ending will-they-or-won't-they sexual tension equals creative death for a series. And "Niagara" very much bore that theory out. It wasn't perfect - like most hour-long "Office" episodes, it was at times trying to do too much, at other times feeling oddly padded - but it managed to showcase every character even as it gave Jim and Pam their moment, it was at times screamingly funny, and at others touching enough to move any real-life Andy Bernards to reach for the Kleenex. It somehow managed to open on mass vomit and close on that gorgeous image of Jim and Pam staring out at the Falls, and yet it all felt like part of "The Office."
Now, I found the Phyllis wedding episode to be unbearably mortifying, because there are some instances where I just don't want to see Michael being Michael. Yet here, I didn't mind it - and in fact found Michael's "different sensation" speech at the rehearsal dinner to be one of the funniest things in the episode. The difference, I think, is that Greg Daniels and Mindy Kaling's script was written with the understanding that Jim and Pam know how Michael operates - really, they know how all these people operate - and they were bracing for it and had backup plans in mind. Hence, Jim's line about buying the Maid of the Mist tickets the day he saw the wedding dance video on YouTube. So while it was all worst-case scenario, it was a worst-case scenario they were prepared for, and so I felt free to laugh. (Also, Michael talking about sex is usually gold, and in this case it helped that Jim had screwed up first, and Michael was only trying to fix things.)
The pre-credits sequence was both horrifying (I wouldn't be surprised if it inspired some sympathetic hurling from people with weak stomachs in the audience) and hilarious (note Creed casually eating noodles while everyone else pukes), and the cast's joy at doing their own version of the wedding dance was infectious. And that is exactly the sort of thing Michael would try to do, only here it mostly went well, and had lots of silly beats within (Ryan doing the Lawn Sprinkler, Dwight kicking Isabel in the face).
The episode didn't really start clicking until Jim's toast at the rehearsal dinner (a lovely summation of a story the audience knows so well), but from that point on, it was the kind of show where mostly what I want to do is list some (but by no means all) of the things I found funny, including:
• Dwight horrifying the kids table with tales of "Jim, the Bad Man";
• Meema's story of watching "Bruno" on the hotel TV and extrapolating from it that Jim and Pam are awful people;
• Oscar's mortification at anyone thinking Kevin was his boyfriend;
• Dwight's fascination with the male twins;
• The entire exchange between Kevin and the hotel manager about his shoes ("It became a safety issue, sir");
• Another Andy/Kelly dance-off, albeit not as long as the one from "Cafe Disco."
• Andy: "Who told you that?" Jim: "I may have told some people that."
• Michael's painting, and the news that he has a second, nude one that is for him to keep;
• Michael wishes he was a bridesmaid;
• Stanley once again buying a toaster as a wedding present;
• "I know way too much about Andy's scrotum."
• Toby's brief moment of excitement at the thought Pam might not actually marry Jim;
• My own dawning excitement and horror at the realization, midway through the apricot snack scene, that Michael was going to hook up with Pam's mom, and knowing how Pam will react to that news down the road.
Also happy to see Captain Kirk's real-life father as Jim's kilt-wearing dad, to see Dwight be a plausible playa, and, as always, to see just how sweet John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer are together.
What did everybody else think?