The Office recap: Connect Four
After a botched shower for a baby that isn't his, Michael winds up in Holly's arms, while Jim and Pam struggle to maintain their long distance relationship
If you’re at all like me, binder clips, you were completely scarred by the opening of tonight’sOffice, in which Jan’s “terminal” pregnancy led the Dunder Mifflin crew to throw her a baby shower. Oh, holy God, was I ever scarred. Was it because of Dwight carrying a buttered watermelon in an apron to simulate pregnancy? Or Dwight saying, “My cervix is ripening”? Or Dwight screaming, “I’m crowning!” while Andy groaned and squatted behind him? Or Dwight’s “water” breaking over a trashcan? Maybe it was Dwight explaining that he performed his own circumcision? Or Dwight “delivering” said watermelon, which Michael then ate? I do not know. It was like the worst hour of ERimaginable, compressed into three minutes. And if the least objectionable thing that happened during those nightmare three minutes was Dwight instructing Michael to mark his ex-girlfriend’s sperm-bank baby, who’s related to him only through delusion (as Jim helpfully charted out for us), with a Sharpie upon its emergence into the world, I’d say that’s a pretty uncomfortable show opening indeed. Not to mention all the places my brain went while pondering the long history of the Schrute clan in relation to the short history of the Sharpie and what Dwight’s ancestors may have used to mark their children, back in the beet fields of early America. Shudder.
I got an e-mail from one of my coworkers tonight saying this may have been the best Office episode ever. And while I have to respectfully disagree with that assessment (I’m going “Office Olympics,” if not “Christmas Party”), I will go out on a limb and say it was the most Office-y Office of all time. You kinda got it all: ambiguous conference room party, awkward dialogue, hysterical behavior, circumstances so heightened it’s unlikely they’d occur in the realm of reality, and a painful gap between Jim and Pam. (We’ll get to that at the end.) Whether it totally satisfied as an episode depends on your personal tolerance for all those things.
So, Jan’s having a baby, and Michael’s forcing Phyllis and the party-planning committee to throw a shower. Things are, shockingly, not going so well. Phyllis didn’t get the live storks, for example, though Angela ordered personalized M&Ms with baby names: Chevy for a boy, and Astird for a girl. (Wait. Astird? Don’t you mean…um…Astrid? Cause “Astird” kind of sounds like…”Ass-turd?” Yes. Thank you, Meredith.) To make up for not getting storks, Phyllis started walking around the office, collecting money for a sheet cake from her reluctant coworkers, then stopping off in the confessional to grin about how good it feels to be out from under Angela’s grape-headed reign of party-planning terror. Here, she was cut off by Michael banging on the window and yelling, “Make a party, Phyllis!!” Yet perhaps the single most important aspect of the party planning was done by Michael himself, when he went to Holly and, after engaging in a little pirate-voiced back-and-forth, explained to her that because Jan is fat and bloated and Holly is attractive, he was going to have to be cold to her (and Ryan) while Jan was in the office. Holly, poor crashing-and-burning Holly, decided to take this as a compliment. And it was in that moment that Jan walked through the door, pushing a stroller…WITH A BABY INSIDE.
NEXT: Oh, baby, baby
So Jan already had a baby! Yet Michael forced the shower to go ahead! Surprise, surprise, things didn’t go so well. First, Jan would only let Michael hold Ass-turd while she was still in the car seat, then he went for a Lion King lift and Jan flips out. Nevermind that he’d already introduced Ass-turd to the Dunder Mifflin crew as her “family” — there’s that word again — or that he’d gloriously bottomed out with a speech about how if a baby was president, there’d be no war (or government; see the cratered logic in its entirety via the video at the end of this recap). The very presence of birthed baby also proceeded to ruin all the shower games, and the gift everyone pooled their cash for turned out to be a stroller that paled in comparison to the $1,200 stroller Jan already owned. Upon learning Jan’s stroller’s market value, Dwight decided to strap in the watermelon, take the stroller outside, and attempt to destroy it. That’s about when I stopped paying attention to Dwight this evening, despite Rainn Wilson’s priceless delivery of “Playtime is over!!!” It was just a bit too much, really — until the final disastrous moments of the biggest party disaster of the Dunder Mifflin conference room’s ignominious existence, when Jan sat on the floor and started singing Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man” a cappella and for absolutely no discernable reason. That’s about when I stopped paying attention to Jan, maybe for good. I mean, really? What on earth? Not that she was ever particularly identifiable or believable as a character, but I think this all took it just a smidge far, if for no other reason than I honestly think in the real world Oscar would have called Child Services by about the second verse.
At least Jan’s crazy pushed one momentum button, in that she got Michael to start thinking about his priorities. After she finally let him hold Ass-turd out of her seat — mostly so Bipolar Mommy could go take a nap under a plastic tablecloth — Michael realized he felt no biological imperative toward the child, and he retreated to the warehouse to consult with his life coach, Darryl, about being a “baby daddy.” Darryl did his typical best to talk some sense into the man about why exactly he felt nothing when he held little Ass-turd: “It’s not your baby. You wanna hold me, see how you feel?” Meanwhile, upstairs, Angela had taken Ass-turd and was trying to turn her into an Ann Geddes model. (Two thoughts here: 1. Did you catch Angela referring to the child as “it”?; and 2. I sure hope those veggies weren’t left over from the weight-loss-challenge snack-machine replacement program.) Jan soon awoke, acted like a total bitch to Holly (best line of the night: “Where’s Astrid?” “I think she’s on a sales call.”), reclaimed her child, and headed home. On her way out, she took the time to ask one more thing of Michael: “Don’t date Holly,” she said. He stuttered and fumbled. How could she know?!? he had to be thinking, especially after he’d gone out of his way to mention that Holly smells “like old tomatoes and dirt.” But for whatever reason, this out-of-the-blue request — and really, it was kinda out there for ol’ Dusty Levinson to be suddenly so perceptive — caused sense to at last land in the too-oft-vacant patch between Michael Scott’s ears. He marched inside and straight up to Holly and then moved in tenderly, yet awkwardly, to wrap his arms around her for a hug that lasted just long enough. Her eyes were widened in surprise, then crinkled into an almost relieved smile, then began to tear up. “Wanna go out?” he mumbled, when he finally let go. She said yes. I choked up a smidge. “I didn’t feel so much when I held Astrid,” Michael concluded, “but I got a good feeling from Holly.”
Um. WHY IS AMY RYAN LEAVING THIS SHOW????
Sorry. Had to get that out.
NEXT: Jam trouble
Anyway, on the final frontier tonight were Jim and Pam, whose long-distance relationship continues to be boringly, predictably complicated. Tonight, they were unable to call each other at appropriate times, or understand each other when they did get through, and for some reason the documentary crew followed Pam to the laundromat. I can’t tell if the voicemails-passing-in-the-night bit at the end was cute or just really, really sad given the inevitable end product of the fact that the writers think they’ve got to keep these two apart or we’ll lose interest. I personally think they’re wrong, and what The Office needs more than anything else right now is a nice chewy, stable center. Bring back Pam! Do I need to get my friends Claire and Lindsay to make more T-shirts?
Your turn: What did we think of tonight’s ep? Did we buy Michael’s sudden burst of courage in asking Holly out? Did we believe her emotional response? Did Hyper-Hyper Dwight start to bug you, too? Is it just me, or did the camera catch Phyllis (the actress, as opposed to the character) totally break during the birth of the watermelon baby? Do you know the quickest way to the hospital? And am I the only one totally annoyed by NBC’s promos, WITH. words! that appear. In different. SIZES! as. someone reads. THEM to us?