On ''The Office,'' Michael attempts to rebound after Carol dumps him; meanwhile, Pam and Karen team up against Angela over the holiday party

By Abby West
Updated January 04, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST

The Office

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”The Office”: Rebounds and rivalries

This one-hour Christmas episode was even better than last year’s holiday show, as my favorite workplace (besides my own, of course) held a Christmas party that I think I would actually have liked to attend. Okay, it was two parties, but one didn’t count. This was an episode that included everybody (even Oscar popped in with his priceless ”Too soon” line), and yet, despite the divisive second holiday party, it was possibly the first time since the merger that a Stamford vs. Scranton plot device wasn’t front and center.

It did take a Stamford person to stand up to Angela’s party-planner-Nazi tactics, though. Everyone else was way too cowed. Karen was the right woman for the job (she even gave me goosebumps) and once she teamed with Pam, it was a clear path to getting under Angela’s skin. The ”way more fun” party vs. the Nutcracker-themed party was the perfect setup for all of our players to turn in great lines and scenes.

Meanwhile, Pam continued her winning streak of Dwight pranks with the CIA tease. I couldn’t believe Jim would throw away Pam’s thoughtful Christmas gift (getting to name Dwight’s final ”mission”) in the name of propriety. Why introduce that to the show now? So it was doubly nice to see Jim set Dwight up at the Benihana and then later see Dwight on the roof in his goofy red hat, pitching his phone over the edge because he got a text message that he’d been ”compromised.” Awesome.

But who couldn’t empathize a little with Michael tonight? At least at the point when his eyes widened with the realization that a breakup was looming as Carol said, ”I don’t know how to deal with this thing and the proposal…. I don’t think things are going to work out with us.” This ”thing” was the fact that on his Christmas cards Michael had Photoshopped himself into a picture of Carol and her kids on a ski trip that they’d gone on two years earlier with her then-husband. Combined with his proposal in the Diwali episode, good old real estate agent Carol had had enough.

As Jim said, ”It’s a bold move…. But then again, Michael’s a bold guy. Is bold the right word?” No, Jim. I believe the right word is lunatic. Michael is a lunatic.

The following exchange sums up Michael’s main problem when trying to have normal interpersonal relationships: ”This is so weird,” said Carol. ”I don’t understand,” said Michael. His baseline is just so screwy and self-involved that at best he realizes his own inappropriateness way after the fact. But mostly he’s oblivious.

Carol had the look of a woman who woke up and realized that she’d lost her damn mind and was hooking up with an unfathomable idiot. Was it me or was that a look of liberation on her face as she closed the door saying she knew that meant it was over? I let out a sigh of relief for her even as I wondered how badly Michael would take it. Would he act as though nothing had happened or would he sulk away? Sulk it was.

Andy was again fantastic as the slightly-more-effective-than-Dwight sycophant, taking Michael out to lunch to get over getting dumped and then helping him score a date. I let out the biggest ”WTF!” when Andy and Michael returned to the office with the two waitresses, who — please tell me you all noticed — weren’t the same two they were eyeballing at the restaurant! How the hell did they pull that off? True, those girls didn’t seem like the brightest bulbs in the pack, but how bored/crazy/hard-up were they that heading off anywhere with Michael and his clone seemed like a good idea? The hapless girls didn’t know that they would end up with Michael’s old bike or enjoying the synthesizer stylings of my man Darryl (at least until Angela pulled the karaoke machine’s power cord out from inside the potted plant where she’d hidden it). And how didn’t they notice that Michael marked his girl’s left arm, because ”all waitresses look alike”?

BTW: Waitress Cindy (Brittany Ishibashi) has been on at least one episode of a couple of my favorite shows, 24 and Grey’s Anatomy.

I love the dynamic between Jim and Michael. As easy as it is to make fun of Michael, Jim always restrains himself a little because of the flashes of humanity that Michael shows him. On some level he connects with Michael’s loneliness. Needless to say that Jim’s rebound speech, about ending up thinking about the girl you really want, wasn’t just for Michael. It seems like this is the turning point for Jim’s relationship with Karen. It’ll be subtle at first, but he’ll tire of her, get irritated by the things he used to find cute, start to long for Pam again. And just as he’s ready to make his move, Pam will go back to Roy. Oh, cute Roy, who has grown on me with his bashful bantering and spirited dance with Phyllis. I’m already in agony over the likely near-miss, but done correctly, it’ll be sweet agony.

Can’t forget to give kudos to Ryan for the rant of excuses: ”I’m not feeling so well. I’ve got a ton of work to do here. MSG allergy. Peanut allergy. I just ate there last night.” Now all I need is a Treo to store them in. Hear that, Santa?

BTW: Creed-Creep-O-Meter: 7. And a happy holiday to you!

(And don’t try to take me to task for saying that the episode had everybody in it. I’m counting Jan, who I think was the mystery person on the phone accepting Michael’s invitation to Jamaica. Who’s with me?)

Lingering questions: Why didn’t we get to see them eat Dwight’s Christmas goose? What was the movie that Karen and Jim both got? (It kinda looked like Bridget Jones’s Diary, but I couldn’t quite make out the jacket.) What was the song that Creed sang on the karaoke machine? And last, but not least.. NBC, why can’t I have a Dunder Mifflin robe for Christmas?

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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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