Friday, December 11, 2009

The Office, "Secret Santa": A Scranton Christmas miracle

A review of "The Office" coming up just as soon as I write a ransom-style note...
"You guys are the only thing about this company that works. So congratulations." -David Wallace
"Secret Santa" wasn't up to the standards of the previous "Office" Christmas episodes, mainly because it leaned too much on Michael as a pouting little boy, a note that works better in small doses. But it did plausibly resolve the bankruptcy storyline and how our characters might all keep working together, and it did a splendid job of giving everyone in the cast a good moment, and of showing that most of these people do like each other to some degree, in addition to being happy that they still get a paycheck.

So we got to see everyone's delight at Phyllis finally being cast as Santa, and Phyllis threatening to invoke the wrath of Bob Vance (Vance Refrigeration) on Jim if he didn't get Michael out of the other Santa suit. We got to see Michael get an inspired Christmas present for Dwight, and Andy get a present for Erin that was a little too inspired (leading to the first angry moment Ellie Kemper has had to play on the show), only to have the 12 Drummers Drumming save things. We got Meredith acknowledging Michael's point about her uselessness compared to David Wallace, Creed's fear of having been a really naughty ("more evil") boy for Santa, Kevin's surprise and delight at getting to sit in someone's lap, Dwight admitting he's too tired in December to continue his evil plot, Pam trying to help Oscar with Gay Warehouse Matt (and Oscar turning out to be just fine at landing the guy himself), Kelly's delight at the "Twilight" poster Jim got for her, etc., etc., etc. And we got another glimpse of the always-wonderful concept of Jim and Dwight as reluctant, incompetent heads of the Party Planning Committee.

And while the dueling Santas sequence went on a little too long (and was trumped by the later kissing Santas scene with Phyllis and Bob), Michael as a bitter, heckling Jesus was inspired. "His last name is Christ. He has the power of flight. He can heal leopards" still has me chuckling this morning.

I'll be curious to see how the new corporate overlords fit into things when we get new episodes in January. The show has already gone to the well a few times of a new boss coming in and being alarmed by Michael's management style, only to be trumped by the bottom line that Scranton produces. So I don't want to see that again, but I'm also not sure how else they can integrate the new owners. We'll see.

What did everybody else think?

38 comments:

akaBruno said...

I particularly was amused by Mindy Kaling not being able to keep a straight face when Kevin sat on Michael's lap.

Drew said...

I thought this was the best episode of the last two, maybe three, seasons, and heads-and-shoulders above last year's trainwreck of a Christmas episode. The jokes hit, the characters were a little more human and more recognizable, and the story seemed perfectly in-line with what the show did in its best episodes.

For me, Michael as Jesus is one of the greatest moments in the show's history, particularly the Anti-Christ moment and him telling Stanley that he was headed to "h-e-l-l-double hockey sticks." Michael was petulant and obnoxious, but because it was contained within the office and because he didn't seem to really hurt anyone, I could handle it and I accepted his growth at the end (Carell sold the hell out of his joy of watching Dwight figure out his present).

I also thought Erin's smile at the end as she watched the drummers and Andy was terrific and completely earned. One of my favorite endings in a long, long time and the reason I've held out with this show despite my issues the last few years.

I figure that with HIMYM, Community, The Office, and 30 Rock all being both hilarious and sweet to me this week, it's my favorite sitcom week of the season.

Brandon said...

Solid episode that was good because of a few moments...Michael as Jesus was hilarious as you said Alan, and Angela's reaction was great as well. But when Kevin sat on Michael I couldn't stop laughing that was awesome.

Chazz Goodtimes said...

Overall I thought it was fun to watch but not much there for me in terms of laugh out loud moments. I agree that Micheal's reaction the Santa issue seems to be a little played out and I wish they had a better story for him in the episode.

I'm starting to have a problem with the way they're playing Kevin. Back in the first Amy Ryan episode where Dwight convinced her that Kevin was handicapped was one of the funniest moments of the show for me- because he's not actually handicapped. The way he reacted to the Santa's lap thing though made it seem like he has a legitimate mental problem and just didn't work for me.

MC said...

More Andy/Erin!!!!

Imamarilyn said...

One of the best Office moments ever with Michael pretending to be Jesus.

Dwight was just like a kid, petulant and annoyed when it seemed his present was not turning out to be a gun and he couldn't figure out what it was, then sheer delight when he saw that it was a nutcracker.

And those little looks and smiles of interest from Angela toward Darrell, wow.

Robin said...

Maybe I was just in a really good mood last night, but I loved this episode. Even the cringe moments were gold, and Michael as Jesus had me in stitches.

And the ending was just perfect. I've always been a huge fan of the sweet moments of the Office, and I realized last night that I will be almost as happy to see Erin and Andy get together as I was to see Pam and Jim get together. Ed Helms is just awesome.

So, any chance that the disintegration of corporate will result in Michael Scott deciding to bring back the MS Paper Company, only without Dunder Mifflin as a competitor?

Ford said...

The Erin/Nard-Dog story was surely influenced by the '12 Days Of Christmas Correspondence'. Hilarious stuff.

http://www.dezert-rose.com/humor/christmas/12daysreply.html

Chazz Goodtimes said...

@Ford

Thats right! I meant to write that in my post, they clearly got the idea from that old joke (which I believe originally ran in Playboy many many years ago).

Wordnerd said...

Pretty solid episode, but it's going to be really disappointing to me if this is the end of David Wallace.

Michael G. said...

I agree with Wordnerd; let's hope this isn't the end of David Wallace. To be fair, he probably deserves to be fired if only for the amount of times he's trusted Michael Scott with valuable information.

I thought the episode was good, definitely in the top half of this season.

"She's uslurped my role as Santa!"

Anonymous said...

Like Kelly, it seems as is if Mindy Kaling has special relationship with Erin that's different than anyone else has. With "Subtle Sexuality" (which I realize wasn't written by Kaling) and Erin's angry moment (which sounds a lot like something Kelly would say), I find it strange, yet not contradictory.

Angela and Darryl? And those beards were creepy.

Bill said...

I was weirdly charmed by Toby's attempt to get a hug from Ryan -- Paul Lieberstein is so good at playing Toby's vulnerability. If this were Scrubs, I would definitely want one of those "alternate POV" episodes to be Toby's Story.

ryan said...

once again, mindy kaling proves she can only write michael as a moron and she needs to have episodes co-written so michael doesn't come across so heavy-handed and jerkish.

LA said...

The two Santas (Phyllis and Bob Vance) kissing at the end did me in. I laughed until I cried. That was a FANTASTIC visual, maybe the best ever on this show.

Anonymous said...

Decent episode but with each passing week I'm becoming more and more certain that Jim becoming a co-manager was the moment the office jumped the shark. Its still good, just not quite as good as it once was.

Peter said...

Michael heckling, "Oh it's space garbage." Had me rolling on the floor forever.

knocsucow00 said...

Any chance that Bob Vance is the new buyer? My rationale behind this guess:

Was Phyllis saying Jim would be sorry if she had to get Bob involved. Made it seem, to me at least, more than just about having Bob come down and get in Jim's face.

David Wallace saying that the company was bought for distribution, and doesn't Bob own the warehouse?

It would solve a lot of problems, no new character to introduce, someone who is familiar with the what goes on at the branch. Also, it would totally fit in with Bob's character by stepping up and buying it, and be able to keep Phyllis happy by working at a place she enjoys.

lifeofmytime said...

Wow - I was watching and twittering at the same time and clearly missed many subtle nuances of this episode. Going back to watch it now (with no distractions!).

Anonymous said...

There's no way Bob Vance is in the financial position to buy out DM, which is a publicly traded corporation with headquarters in New York City.

Also, when did Oscar become single? What about Gil?

Jesse Pinkman said...

New Ownership/storyline prediction:

Jan Levinson (no Gould) is a part of the new ownership and consolidation or some sort of corporate plan will bring Holly back into Michael's life...throw Jan's baby into the mix and you got some Three's Company style hyjinx.

filmcricket said...

Alan, I think you can add to your "Lines of the Year/Decade" list a few from this episode, including "When you need my help because I'm ruining everything, don't look at me" or whatever it was Michael said. I also really enjoyed the "uslurped" line.

Landry said...

"New Ownership/storyline prediction:

Jan Levinson (no Gould) is a part of the new ownership and consolidation or some sort of corporate plan will bring Holly back into Michael's life...throw Jan's baby into the mix and you got some Three's Company style hyjinx."

I do not think Jan will return at all. Though i would be neat to see some conslidation adding new empoyees. I think what could be really intresting is if the new owners remove Scranton speical status and Charles Miner is back, having to deal with both Jim and Mike. Possibly the new owners makig either Jim or mike the new east or something manager based out of scranton giving those guys a new dynamic, with one being subbordite to the other.

Anonymous said...

I think Oscar should become the new CFO, he could already do Michael's job so I think it makes sense.

Dan Jardine said...

Almost certainly new management will nuke the two managers concept, no? So, there will be a competition, a la Mad Men, to see who gets to hold the reings on his own.

Could be fun to see Jim trying to be a cutthroat. He has shown little glimpses of that (the marginalization of Ryan in the closet being the best example) but we'll see if he can turn it on against Michael, for whom he does have something of a soft spot.

Anonymous said...

The best part?

Dwight's list of potential items his Secret Santa present could be.

The best part of the best part: Speculum.

belinda said...

I think they could work the new management angle if they have the new boss be enamored by Michael's antics in the office for a change.

As over the top as Andy's 12 drummers drumming to Erin were, it could rival any of Pam and Jim's sweet stuff in the past - I was awww-ing all over the place.

I was a little confused with Oscar's plot- maybe it's buildup to a bigger story later on, but it seemed to have ended rather abruptly in this episode.

I loved their secret santa gifts - the twilight poster, the fabric, the kite, the nutcracker in parts - it's interesting to see just how well they all knew each other in the office to give them such appropriate gifts that were all well received in the end. (Compared to an episode way into the past (that ipod episode), where most of the gifts were 'wrong'.)

dez said...

"Get a room, Santas!" was my second-favorite line of the night (after the leopards one). Michael was annoying as h-e-l-l double hockey sticks, but he sure did bring the funny. Great ep!

Brian J said...

1. This show's parts were better than the whole, but I don't mean that as a criticism. Each character had a moment to shine, which was nice, even as the episode itself didn't have many unifying elements.

2. A few weeks ago, when they went to the shareholder's meeting, I said that the final scene, where they were riding away in the limo and laughing as the Dunder Mifflin stock was tanking, was a pleasant nod from the producers to everyone who wasn't a higher up. Last night's episode was along those same lines. We had everyone but, we assume, the corporate bosses being canned, which makes a lot of sense, since they ran the company's finances into the ground. As David Wallace said, the lower level employees were the only thing that was working about the company, which meant that everyone at the top, including himself, wasn't doing well. And so on. Once again, the show gave a gaint eff you to corporate bosses and a wet, sloppy kiss to everyone else. I have to think this was planned.

3. I'm curious to see what happens with the new owners and exactly what sort of company has purchased DM. As it a company that is a larger competitor in the office supply world, or is it a different animal entirely? You know, for a long time, I suspected that they'd have some company like UPS try to buy DM, kind of like how FedEx bought Kinko's, both as real world commentary and some serious product placement. I wonder if there's any chance of that happening.

Anonymous said...

Line of the episode: "You can't say 'I need this, I need this' while pinning an employee to your lap."

gaylaroo said...

I want that nutcraker for my secret santa! Anyone know where to get one? Can't find it anywhere online.

TheDen said...

I don't think it was really a nutcracker. It looked like a downrigger for a boat.

Andrew said...

I suppose this confirms idris elba will not have another cameo if corporate is getting sacked. There really wasn't any room for him at the shareholders meeting.

Buchholz Surfer said...

I wish it was an English company, Wernham-Hogg, who was buying Dunder Mifflin. One of their managers, Gareth, could come over and train the Scranton branch. David Brent could be hired to help as a consultant/motivational speaker.

Marshall said...

Was Oscar really successful in wooing the warehouse guy? My reading of that subplot was that Oscar was as incompetent in romance as the rest of the characters, belying the stereotype of gay men as skilled in the unspoken style of flirtation.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Marshall, I think the idea was supposed to be that Pam was pushing way too hard, and in the end Oscar recognized that the way to go was to play it cool - that getting the guy's name wrong would interest him.

We'll see if that's right or not down the road, I guess.

Michael 8-) said...

I, too, had the thought that this could trump 30 Rock's excellent skewering of product placements by having a real company buy out DM. Imagine a Xerox sponsorship, with shots of Xerox paper and copiers in the background of scenes all the time.

DJRJAY said...

The part that cracked me up the most was when Michael gave the family rundown of his Dunder co-workers with Pam as his wife, Jim as his grandMOTHER and Stanley as his mailman.