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'The Office' recap: Me want cookie!

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Image Credit: Justin Lubin/NBCWhat a great little episode of The Office. Ellie Kemper got one of her first major episodes, the supporting cast was present in full force (except Creed), and we got to know Gabe a little better. All that and some god-awful/awesome Cookie Monster impressions made for a bang-up visit with the Dunder-Mifflinites. This also marked Steve Carell’s second time as director, and while last season’s “Broke” covered a lot more ground, “Secretary’s Day” was similarly fast-paced and focused on the theme of how one fits in in such a strange environment.

The break-out characters for this episode were definitely Erin and Gabe, two of the newer faces at DMHQ, and one of the things that keeps me optimistic about The Office, even if I sometimes wonder about its lifespan, is its ability to integrate new people. Will there ever come a time when the show doesn’t include Dwight, Jim, Pam, and Michael? I really hope not. But knowing that new characters can make sense within the show — without seeming like straight-up replacements, Law and Order-style — is encouraging.

That and how weird those two turned out to be.

Andy decided to celebrate the living crap out of Secretary’s Day to make his beloved Erin happy. And it worked, mostly, until Michael spilled the beans that Andy used to be engaged to one tiny blond puritanical accountant. As Michael gaffes go, this was actually pretty reasonable — I mean, Erin asked. Michael himself copped to being unwilling and unable to keep secrets, after all. Given all the artificial-seeming roadblocks Erin and Andy have faced so far, this seemed like the most credible issue for the new couple. Erin’s restaurant meltdown –including the unbelievably awesome line “in the foster home, my hair was my room” — juuuuust toed the line of too far. But what held it together was the fact that Michael of all people was the voice of reason: Someone can freak Michael out with their awkward conversational skills and strange personal questions? Just when I thought this show was running out of steam…

Gabe decided he needed to lay the smack down on everyone relentlessly teasing Kevin, but his too-bossy style and weirdo “ciao” rubbed everyone the wrong way. Plus that Cookie Monster video was pure magic. Gabe tried to assert himself, but it was clear that the poor guy is still way outside the tight-knit group. Kevin’s return to the fold, via his triumphant move of shifting the scorn towards the newbie, was a quintessential moment of The Office‘s emotional core: Sure, everyone’s a total bozo, but they’re bozos together. And deep down, most of them like each other.

I know the cake-smushing scene was supposed to be the big dramatic showdown, but the best part of this entire episode was the opening segment. Dwight’s exquisitely strange way of describing Sesame Street — “Is that the program where puppets live in the barrio?” — was topped only by Angela’s perfectly joyful “this is my favorite day!”

What was your favorite line from “Secretary’s Day,” PopWatchers? Are you starting to worry that Michael and Erin might have something going on, or do you think she and Andy will work things out? Would you use a breast pump after Meredith gave it a go? And which Muppet would you cast as Dwight?

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