Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Office: Let's all go to Asian Hooters!

Posted a bit early due to evening plans, spoilers for "The Office" just as soon as I find a black magic marker...

After a couple of uneven post-merger episodes, the show's nearly back to full strength. I'll still probably take "Christmas Party" over "A Benihana Christmas," but it's close. Lots in common: both do outstanding work at spotlighting the entire cast (hell, even Oscar returned for a half-second tonight), and both feature Michael Scott at his most cringe-inducing (last year by instigating Yankee Swap, this year in his immediate reactions to getting dumped), and both feature Michael having unique reactions to women (photographing naked Meredith, using the marker to identify which waitress liked him), etc..

While the sequence where Michael realized he couldn't tell the two girls apart -- followed by the marker solution -- was the episode's highlight, overall I found myself enjoying the Pam and Karen half of the episode more than the stuff with the guys at Benihana. (Though, as someone who's had to sit at the far end of the table now and again, I actually felt sorry for Dwight for once.)

Jim's Women make a formidable team, and after some nervousness over seeing the two of them hanging out, even Jim jumped in with his brilliant monologue about a committee to determine the validity of the other committees. (And I love that Dwight, for all his hatred of Jim, thinks of it as an actual committee that he has a chance of joining.) The sight of the entire office torn between two parties, and Stanley of all people breaking the tie, was brilliant.

Some other things I loved:
  • Michael lying down by Pam's desk and explaining that Carol wanted to do things in bed
    "that were foreign, and scary, and some wine might've helped."
  • Ryan pulling a Jerry Seinfeld in "The Secret Code" and providing 1000 different excuses for why he couldn't go to Benihana, leaving Jim with nothing. ("Look alive, Halpert!")
  • Kevin defiantly eating a second cupcake and getting back to his Scrantonicity roots with his karaoke rendition of "You Oughta Know."
  • Toby's pain at having his gift bag stolen, including him trying to feel up the other robes to see what he had lost.

And some other thoughts, since I'm in a list-y frame of mind:

  • Is there any way that it wasn't Jan on the other end of Michael's phone call about the Sandals trip?
  • Am I reading too much into Jim's explanation of rebound girls, or does he consider Karen to be just a rebound from Pam? And, much as I liked the Jim/Pam thing, why? Karen's awesome, as this episode showed.

Some lines of the week:

  • Jim on Michael: "It's a bold move to Photoshop yourself into a photo with your girlfriend and her kids and her ex-husband on a ski trip, but then, Michael's a bold guy. Is 'bold' the right word?"
  • Michael: "Jim, take New Year's away from Stanley!"
  • Kevin: "I think I'll go to Angela's party, because that's the party I know."
  • Kevin: "Double fudge... Angela... double fudge... Angela..."
  • Karen and Pam: "Are we taking this too far? I say we're not taking this far enough." "I got goosebumps."
  • Angela to Waitress #1: "I don't walk into your apartment and steal your Hello Kitty backpack!" (And question: is this the rudest thing Angela has ever said?)
  • Oscar: "Too soon."

So what did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

If you say anything bad about "Black Frasier," I'm breaking up with you.

bill said...

I agree with Alan about The Office and I agree with j about Black Frazier.

Anonymous said...

Alan said:

" this the rudest thing Angela has ever said?"

Most of Angela's comments are given indirectly ("Don't go. They eat monkey brains" -- to Dwight, in the Diwali episode, for example), but surely the meanest thing she said in this episode, directed to someone she knows and works with, is:

"No, orange is whorish"

Which itself is just a follow-up on a (very slightly) indirect insult to Phyllis from season one (or two?), when, at a prior Christmas party planning meeting, Angela mentioned that green was whorish and the shot widened to reveal Phyllis' green sweater.

In fact, I think Angela has the same sort of irrational hatred for Phyllis that Michael does for Toby. Remember that when Phyllis suggested the DaVinci code as her desert island book, Angela said she'd take that too -- just to burn it. And when Jan had her women in the workplace meeting, Phyllis rattled off a list of things she thought she was good at, only to have Angela interrupt with "Really?"

I mean, sure, Angela'll share her racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic opinions with strangers -- but she'll also just lash out at Phyllis because she can. And that's mean. (My wife has just wandered over and pointed out that the Phyllis/Angela tension was also alluded to when Michael tried his hand at conflict resolution last season. That's when we learned Stanley doesn't like Phyllis that much either.)

And hey, an _Office_ hiatus cliffhanger! I mean, what sorts of friends does Michael even have outside of the office? By getting everyone to the party the writers even eliminated nonsensical oddball choices like Roy or Oscar. Jan is not just the obvious choice, she's almost the only choice. The one other person I can come up with offhand is Dave Koechner's Tod Packer, and we haven't seen him since season one. I suppose you could also take a long shot with Andy, since I _think_ that in the final scene with Oscar's cameo Andy appears to have already left the party. But really, Jan has to be the front-runner, right?

All in all, I have to say, for an hourlong episode it didn't really feel padded at all.


Anonymous said...

I find The Office to be a hilarious show. Though its also the type of show that I find myself saying, "thats funny" or just smiling really broadly as opposed to simply laughing.

Tonights episode I laughed harder than I probably ever had at the series -- especially the image of Michael replaying a 30-second iTunes sample over and over and over.


wonderbug said...

re: sandles....i pretty much figureed it would be jan...and, then in the next episode there'd be a flashback to a very drunk jan accepting michael's offer and then quickly regretting it.

re: rebound....when jim was explaining rebound to michael he seemed to be looking off in the distance, kinda in the direction of pam's desk...

karen is great...but she's not pam.

did anyone else catch ryan looking VERY happy with kelly at certain points? sure he looked freaked out when she was serenading him..but, there was one point where he was smiling and putting a candy cane on his nose just to make her laugh and then they were standing with his arm around her...
i think he likes her - but, he just won't admit it.

Anonymous said...

I loved that Dwight and Angela are telling each other what crappy days they've had and Dwight just casually holds her hand. Aw! That so makes up for her orange whore and hello kitty comment!

How drunk did Micheal and Andy have to be to not notice that the two waitresses they picked up weren't even Cindy and her friend?

Unknown said...

I liked some of the little touches to this episode:
- Pam's kindness to Toby by giving him her bathrobe
- Jim following through with Pam's gift prank on Dwight
- Dwight comforting Angela
- Ryan getting drunker and drunker
- Jim managing to cheer up Michael with a couple comments about rebounds
- Karen and Pam hitting it off; I got goosebumps too

Loving this show and it's been a good season so far. Now I have to runa nd find where to rent one of those margarita mixers for our office.

Anonymous said...

I took the "rebound" scene as Jim giving Michael some honest advice and then realizing how it might apply to himself, especially when he accidentally spoke a little too honestly at the end of it. He probably sabotaged the relationship by putting the idea in his own head that this fits the definition of a rebound relationship (even if it always felt like something more) and now will be questioning his motivations.

anon, now you've got me thinking how funny Michael and Andy on vacation would be.

Anonymous said...

This episode tanked for me! I don't know, maybe my hopes and expectations were too high. I was so excited that it was an hour, that it was directed by Harold Ramis, and that it was rumored (by Jenna Fischer herself on her myspace blog) to be the best episode ever. But it was just "eh" for me.

Suddenly I feel like Randy Jackson.

My major gripe, besides it not being all that funny, is Creed stealing the toy in front Jim and everyone. I love Creed. I love him because he is so freaking creepy! But I think it would be better to keep his kleptomania a known secret than to make him nonchalant and almost proud of it. Have him walk out of the break room during the party and slip one in his bag. That would have been hilarious.

The power of this show is in the small moments, though, and I loved Jim's moment with Michael. Karen is awesome, but she's a rebound. And thank goodness! (And isn't it interesting that she doesn't even know Pam and Roy's history? How is Jim going to keep those girls from talking now?)

Oh, and the reason I read this blog? Because I really did think it was Jan that Michael was on the phone with, but now I think maybe it was someone like Andy or Packer. Sandals with Packer?! Hysterical.

It's all inclusive.

floretbroccoli said...

My first thought was that it was Michael's mother accepting the offer to go to Sandal's. Of course that makes his "it's all-inclusive" comment very disturbing.

Wasn't there some story from the TCA awards that Carol Burnett was going to play Michael's mother? Or something?

Anonymous said...

definitely one of the best episodes of the season - well-written through and through, I actually put everything down so I could sit and watch it.

My challenge was to figure out what song Creed was singing - I'm hoping it's one from his actual band, I had no luck googling any of the lyrics...

Toby O'B said...

Like floretbroccoli, I also thought Michael might have been inviting his Mom to go to Sandals.

And my favorite moment came near the beginning of the episode when it Creed verified that bringing in that dead goose was not right.

Man! If you get Creed thinking something is wrong, it's gotta be!

Anonymous said...

Hey anon, and anyone else: Were you able to figure out the song that Creed was singing? I am too hoping it was from the Grass Roots, though it sounded a bit steve miller band-ish.

Anonymous said...

Re: Kelly and Ryan's "sporadic" happiness as a couple.

There was a moment in the episode where everyone thought the Scranton branch was closing, but I am pretty sure it was cut and only played in the extended website episode.

Right after Kelly's hysterical screeching and hugging him when they find out that Stamford is closing and they don't HAVE to break up, and his stunned reaction, they show Ryan with the interviewers.

Ryan (in response to an unheard question from behind the camera): "I don't know" (looks down and sort of half smiles)..."I can't explain it". (looks up and smiles)

There it is in a nutshell my friends. :)

Happy Holidays!

Anonymous said...

I thought the invite had to be to Jan Levinson-Gould. Why would Michael look so nervous about asking his mom?

Anyway, great episode. I was disappointed that there was no Bob Vance appearance at the party, though....

Anonymous said...

1: In the deleted scenes we discover that Angela can be really mean (WARNING: LINK TO VIDEO ON NBC.COM). Poor Toby. I think Angela's escalating.

2: The song Creed was singing was "Spinnin' N' Reelin'", from his solo disc _The 80's_. A long clip is available here .


Anonymous said...

Forgot to add...

3: I was wrong, Andy was still at the party in the closing scene. Michael's mom would make for a good single episode gag, but Jan would make for multi-episode hilarity.


Anonymous said...

I was _sure_ that had to be one of his original songs, a gift to insiders. Thanks for finding it!

Anonymous said...

I just assumed it was Jan. There isn't anyone else it could be, and Jan strikes me as someone who, faced with loneliness, makes bad impulsive decisions (like driving four hours roundtrip to Scranton for a gambling night), so Jamaica all-inclusive out of the blue would appeal.

The end of every episode has almost always been a message about Michael that was really about Jim and Pam, and I certainly saw Jim's rebound speech to be the same thing.

Angela's "Hello Kitty" remark didn't strike me as unusually mean for Angela, but it did strike me as unusually knowing; I don't see Angela as someone up enough on pop culture to associate young Asian women with Hello Kitty backpacks.

I think Michael's dislike for Toby is entirely rational: Toby is the one person in the office who gets to say no to Michael and Michael sees Toby as someone who spoils all his fun.

There was a lot that was great about this episode.

Black Frasier was great. 30 Rock is really picking up. I especially like how 30 Rock is doing all these jokes with obscure double meanings: this week, it was a reference to a Dave Chappelle interview about how racist whites always try to neuter black comedians by making them do drag. But the end of the episode was a little sitcommy, though I suppose it was Arrested Development's failure to nod to sitcom conventions that killed it; at least it wasn't as sappy as Scrubs.

Michael K. said...

"How drunk did Micheal and Andy have to be to not notice that the two waitresses they picked up weren't even Cindy and her friend?"

See, I assumed that this was a dig at the general populace, i.e. did you, the viewer, notice that they were different people? If you didn't, then how different are you from Michael Scott? A writer's gag, not about Andy and Michael.

Anonymous said...

Michael K, I didn't see that as a writer's joke at all -- the two women they brought to the office looked nothing like the waitresses -- from hair length (long and no bangs for restaurant waitresses) to figures (Michael's date had an hourglass shape, neither of the waitresses) let alone their faces (which i thought looked quite different). I thought that added a whole other dimension to Michael and Andy picking them up, and not bringing back cindy and her pal.

And I agree that Karen is great -- but she's no Pam. Pam is kind, and knows when to pull the plug on a prank, and Karen has an edge to her -- which is interesting, and attractive even, but not right for the inner softy in Jim.

Cinemania said...

Terrific episode, and one of Steve Carell's best pieces of acting to date. I felt his pain as he fought back the tears, and when he opined that Jim was making fun of him, it was the sort of pitiable self-aware moment that really makes you care about Michael.

Then he balances the scales by using the magic marke on his date. Priceless.

Anonymous said...

I loved how Toby went red when Pam brought him his bathrobe. Paul Lieberstien is so good at blushing in those scenes I sometimes wonder if Jenna Fischer just says something really filthy to him or if he's holding his breath or something like that. Turning red voluntarily isn't that easy, I wouldn't think.

Alan Sepinwall said...

And the funny thing is, Paul hates acting. It really makes him uncomfortable, and when he agreed to play Toby, he had no idea that Greg Daniels would love the character so much that he would keep popping up. So the character's popularity has become something of a cross to bear for him.