Michael Scott, The Office (Steve Carell)

After last week’s intense departure, “The Koi Pond” was a return to form, and had all the markers of my favorite kinds of episode: weird character explanations, group activities, and A and B stories that complemented each other without being redundant. Michael got soaked, Pam and Andy got maybed, and Jim got a taste of outsiderness.

For me, “The Koi Pond” boiled down to Erin’s warning to Michael: “People are asking questions.” The questions Michael himself asked this week summed up his character pretty well, starting with “Why is Christmas the only holiday that can have a message?” He wondered “why would you date an amateur when you could date a professional?” And then as usual, he got a little more serious and emotional — “Who are your five friends?” — before resolving with “Jim is jealous of me?” That’s Michael’s whole Office trajectory right there: Silly, out of touch, and then way, way too in touch. It’s not that he’s fundamentally incapable of self-awareness, it’s just that it’s a bad idea for him.

The “Do Not Mock” list felt a little warmed over for an Office subplot, but it was completely enlivened by Meredith’s bizarre confession that she’d had sex with a terrorist and Creed knowing a “worm guy.” I wish we’d gotten to see what the insecure Kelly and Ryan put on the list, but maybe that’ll be on the DVD.

Finally, Andy and Pam’s trip to make cold calls was at turns a little creepy — Andy way overstepping personal space boundaries and kissing Pam’s stomach repeatedly as they pretended to be a couple — and kind of touching — Andy would make a really devoted father. Pam and Jim’s out-of-office escapades this week had them learning roughly the same lesson: This weirdo I work with deserves some compassion. And it’s a lesson we the audience were supposed to internalize, too. It worked for me, not only because I’m wild about Ed Helms’ under-appreciated performance as Nard Dog (ugh, seriously, people: so good) but also because the last few weeks have been exhaustingly awkward, pushing every cringe muscle I have past the point of enjoyment. This week reeled it back in, sort of explaining if not quite excusing a lot of Michael’s bad and Andy’s odd behavior by telling us that, well, it’s hard to be the two of them.

Other observations:

— I couldn’t get everyone’s costume, so help me out, PopWatchers. Here’s what I caught: Michael: dick in a box; Jim: Facebook; Erin: Fiona from Shrek; Angela: A black widow; Kevin: Paul Blart; Andy: Michael Jackson; Kelly: Leeloo from The Fifth Element; Creed: Dracula; Ryan: Edward Cullen; Oscar: Sarah Palin; Meredith: a hobo; Pam: Rosemary from Rosemary’s Baby; and Dwight: Jigsaw. I couldn’t tell what Phyllis and Stanley were despite repeated rewinds.

— Andy’s line about an “Adam Sandler and jelly sandwich” cracked me up, as did Erin’s line asking Pam if she meant Marlon Wayans. Andy and Erin are going to be so cute together.

— Finally, Meredith has a roommate?

What did you think, PopWatchers? Are you letting “The Koi Pond” fall in?

Episode Recaps

Michael Scott, The Office (Steve Carell)
The Office

The mockumentary-style sitcom chronicles a group of typical office employees working 9-5 at the Scranton branch of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company.

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