'The Office': Michael and Pam's traveling road show

Jennafischer_office_240 When NBC showed us a pregnant Karen in the promos for this week's Office, I was a little angry. Why would the promo people show us something so seemingly huge and rob us of the impact of seeing it in the episode?

As it turns out, though, it's not that Karen is pregnant that's the surprise. It's what happens afterward in another strong outing for the show that proves a worthy follow-up to the Super Bowl episode.

I'm not getting time and a half for these spoilers, but that's OK.

It's nice when the show reminds us that for all of Michael's many, many faults, he is actually a pretty good salesman. And so, since the Scranton branch has the most robust sales in all of Dunder Mifflin, David Wallace has sent Michael on a tour of the other offices to impart a little bottom line-boosting wisdom to the troops.

David Wallace should probably know better, though, than to ask Michael to try to articulate why he's good at his job. Because that means he has an audience, which means that the Michael who's a frustrated actor/screenwriter/stand-up comic will come out, and no one will really walk away from that any smarter.

So it's completely unsurprising (but still funny; see the bullet points below) that the lecture-tour stop in Utica is pretty much a disaster. What comes before and after, though, was just great.

Start with Michael's reaction to seeing a pregnant Karen: "Oh my god. Is that Jim's? ... OK, wow. Man, my head just exploded. Hoo! Thank god for everybody, right? OK ... wow, you're huge! That's incredible. ... I -- god, sorry, sorry. My head is just -- I'm trying to figure out the last time you and Jim had sex." That's just a masterpiece of discomfort right there, folks, and the look of rage on Pam's face as they walk away put the perfect cap on it.

Rashidajones_unhitched_s1_240 Michael's verbal vomiting could scarcely be more mortifying for Pam, who's still worried about what Karen will think of her and Jim ("I hate the idea that someone out there hates me," she tells the camera. "I even hate that Al Qaeda hates me"). But Karen has moved on (obviously) -- she's married, and apparently enough in love with her husband to keep a photo of them dressed as a hot dog and hamburger in her office. And if she stiffens a little when she hears Jim and Pam are engaged (Rashida Jones played the moment very nicely), you can sort of see her decide to be a grown-up and let it go and just be happy for Pam.

And Pam, as she usually does, is gentle with Michael after he starts to ruminate on the closure Pam got from the trip, which naturally leads to thoughts of Holly. "You remember Holly? Used to work in HR? ... Blonde hair, nice boobs -- not too big, not too small." Pam: "Perfect boobs -- of course I remember Holly." After Michael goes on about how much he loves Holly, Pam just says hey -- let's go to Nashua. (To be continued ... although probably not in the way we'd like to see it. The show's producers say they'd love to have Amy Ryan back this season, but it won't be next week.)

Back in Scranton, meanwhile, Kelly is pissed because the previous day was her birthday and no one threw her a party or even wished her a good one. We soon learn that in the wake of the Phyllis-Angela party planning committee blackmail scandal, Michael decided that the committee should have co-heads: Jim and Dwight (their talking head on the subject is priceless). Their enthusiasm is matched only by their skill, which is to say, they're about to throw the worst office birthday party ever. Dwight picks out black, brown and gray balloons -- you know, because they match the carpet -- and prints out a banner reading "It is your birthday." I'm not doing it justice in print, but the notion of the two of them working together on something they loathe equally just struck me as hilarious.

Their misadventures will continue next week, as will the lecture tour. But before we get to that, some more good stuff from this episode:

  • Andy's attempts to woo Stanley's customer produced some of the funniest lines of the night. Hands down, though, my favorite was Creed's advice to Andy to just go up and kiss her: "This is how I got Squeaky Fromme." I had to pause the TV for about a minute until I regained my composure.
  • Phyllis: "She's way out of your league." Andy: "For your information, I've been with lots of beautiful women." Phyllis: "Sexually." Andy: "This conversation is over."
  • And one more -- Andy's talking head about being single again. "What we have here is the ultimate smackdown between the Nard-dog and crippling despair, loneliness and depression. I intend to win." Yes you do, Andy. Yes you do.
  • Michael's mnemonic-device nicknames for the Utica employees: "Shirty, Mole, Lazy Eye, Mexico, Baldy, Sugar Boobs, Black Woman." Also, am I the only one who's a teensy bit disappointed that we didn't get to see the Utica Chain-store Massacre?
  • Dwight, after Jim denigrates his decorations: "Are you trying to hurt my feelings? Because if so, you're succeeding. Fortunately my feelings regenerate at twice the speed of a normal man's."
  • Good pre-credits bit with Michael abusing the office phone's PA system -- although if I never hear him say the words "sebaceous cyst" again, I'll be just fine with that.
  • Two more from the road trip: Michael: "So we're driving all day, and staying in hotels together." Pam: "In separate rooms." Michael: "Well, that goes without saying." Pam: "I'm gonna say it anyway." And, Pam: "I've got a mortgage now, so I have to bring home the bucks." Michael: "Don't say 'bucks.' It's not ladylike."

How'd you like this week's Office? Pretty good follow-up to the Super Bowl episode, no? And do you think Jim and Dwight will be able to pull the party planning together at all?

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