On ''The Office,'' it's just like old times when Jim reconnects with Michael and Dwight at a Philadelphia convention; meanwhile, Pam gets a taste of Scranton dating

September 29, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

”The Office”: Just like old times

”Ain’t no party like a Scranton party!” Michael and Dwight beat-boxing while wearing matching shirts: priceless.

For some reason, tonight’s episode of The Office was satisfying on a whole different level from last week’s. There were, of course, the regular belly laughs (Stanley chiming in about Pam having to put out on her date) and plenty of awkwardness (Michael, surrounded by colleagues at the Philly convention, pretending to also have gotten an e-mail from Jan, only to have Dwight call him out). But I think I was wrong last week about one thing: It may not have been the Pam-and-Jim banter I missed as much as the Jim-and-Michael banter. Or maybe it’s just the Jim-and-everyone-else banter.

Jim is the show’s salt — he makes everyone else seem just a little better. He’s the perfect straight man to showcase Michael’s insanity (the paper airplane ”contest”) and his queasy vulnerability (Jim actually cared that Michael was hurt that he’d switched branches). Dwight is 10 times more fun to watch when he’s perturbed that Jim’s around (did you see the loathing on his face when Jim and Michael hugged?). Plus, I can’t get enough of those faces Jim makes, and not just the ones he does for the camera. In this episode alone, there was the ”I can’t believe you just said that” face, the ”I think Dwight’s got a hooker!” face, and who can forget the ”Oh my, I almost said Pam’s name” face? He’s still so heartbroken (sob!).

You’d think that Pam would be speed-dialing Jim now that she’s gotten a whiff of what’s happening on the Scranton dating scene (freedom fries, anyone?). But wait: Did this episode start a whole new unrequited-love story, or am I forgetting previous signs of Toby’s interest in Pam? He’s been divorced long enough to make it okay to date, right? Now if only he could spit out the words. Not that I want them to hook up or anything — Toby’s cringingly awkward himself — but it might make for a funny scene when Pam inevitably shuts him down. (Sort of like she did with Michael and the whole let’s-have-a-baby-together-in-10-years thing, to which she responded with a lightning-speed ”No.”)

Speaking of weird love connections, I’m really starting to worry about Ryan, who’s now letting crazy Kelly force-feed him. What happened to him? For so long he seemed normal, that he planned to make Dunder Mifflin just a pit stop in his career. What happened to the business-management courses, Ryan? Was it prophetic when Michael said that you reminded him of himself?

And then there’s Dwight and Angela/Monkey/Jane Doe, who showed up at the convention to save her big, strong ”D” from those slutty Philadelphia girls. What can I say except ”Oh my god!” and ”Who knew she had such sexy legs?”

But back to Michael: I know that the show wouldn’t be anything without his combination of heavily guarded low self-esteem (sure, Michael, people have been streaming in and out of the ”party” all night) and his efficient ineptitude (you come up with another term for his Rain Man-esque sales ability). Did he really steal away the Hammermill account from Staples? Or was he once again trying to one-up Jim’s Stamford boss Josh, also known as ”the poor man’s Michael Scott” around my house? In any case, I say hurry up and merge the two offices. We need more Jim.

What do you think? Is the show perfect as is, or is there someone you’d like to see more of? How do you feel about this whole Pam-and-Toby thing? And is it just me, or is Creed getting waaaay creepy?

Jim, Pam, Michael, Dwight and the rest of the Dunder-Mifflin employees hold down the Scranton branch
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Steve Carell,
John Krasinski,
Jenna Fischer,
Rainn Wilson
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