Tonight’s Mindy Kaling-penned episode of The Office pitted Kris Kringle against Kris Kringle in the Great Santa Claus Wars of ’09. Ah, but that wasn’t the end of it; a battle royale between conflicting Santas (thankfully, this is one skirmish that did not end in Santa-on-Santa violence) morphed slowly but surely into a war between a figure Michael indelicately dubbed Tranny Claus and Hurt, Petulant Jesus. Even with the specter of downsizing and mass unemployment looming over the Dunder-Mifflin gang tonight was all kinds of silly and all kinds of fun.
The holidays have been kind to The Office. Some of my favorite episodes take place on Halloween and Christmas, holidays that afford the show an opportunity to break up the visual monotony of business attire and workaday drudgery and indulge in killer sight gags involving Dwight dressed as a malevolent, mean-eyed elf, Michael as a half-assed God figure and geese running amok in unlikely places.
Tonight’s episode was accordingly packed with incident. Andy, ever the myopic romantic, lobbied hard to be named Erin’s Secret Santa. Then, in a display of misplaced romantic devotion on par with his comically elaborate plans for his aborted nuptials to Angela, Andy decided to surprise his crush with the most pointlessly extravagant present possible; all the gifts listed in “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. The gifts prove not only unnecessarily involved but counter-productive; it’s unclear whether Erin will even survive Andy’s generosity.
Meanwhile, Oscar finally gets a potential love interest in the cute new gay guy at the warehouse. I hadn’t given the matter too much thought, but Oscar has been relatively asexual throughout much of the show. For a while he had a steady boyfriend but I’m not sure that we ever actually saw him. Then again, Oscar is awfully repressed and buttoned-up so it makes sense that the show is slowly, deliberately setting up a possible future boyfriend.
The show’s main plot involved Michael growing apoplectic upon discovering that Jim has promised Phyllis that she can play Santa Claus that year. She’s got the disposition and the girth but Michael isn’t about to accept the setback with dignity. He loves dressing up, role-playing and playing the good guy, so he looks forward to slipping on a fat suit and beard the way twinkly-eyed children look forward to Christmas morning. First Michal engages in a nasty war of words with his holy, jolly doppelganger (“When you have two Santas in a row things get ruthless” Michael explains by way of justification).
When Phyllis refuses to relinquish her right to play Santa Claus Michael decides to switch characters and portray an unrecognizable Jesus as an angry, sarcastic jerk who heckles Tranny Claus and her allies in a bitter, sardonic rant condemning Stanley to hell for his adultery and making bitchy comments about Angela’s dowdiness.
The episode veered into darker territory when Michael discovers that Dunder-Mifflin is on the verge of being purchased, a development that could put all of their jobs at risk. In a trademark fit of bad judgment, he spills the beans to his co-workers only to discover that only the jobs of key bigwigs are in peril.
It was an emotional rollercoaster with laughs aplenty and an appropriately sweet resolution that found Michael and Phyllis reconciling (joined by Bob Vance as a third Santa), Kelly getting the Robert Pattinson Twilight poster of her dreams and Andy gets a little shot of redemption when Erin seems genuinely surprised and delighted by his climactic gift of twelve drummers drumming, accompanied by an ingratiatingly geeky little dance. Was it realistic? Of course not, but I long ago stopped demanding, expecting or really even wanting verisimilitude from The Office. Tonight was funny and sweet and thoroughly entertaining. That’s all I can really ask for. Oh, and I must say I prefer Hurt, Petulant Jesus to the more conventional version.
—I love the elaborate subterfuge Michael employs to get David Wallace on the phone
—Have we seen the last of David Wallace? I hope not
—“This was a successful unveiling!”
—“It’s a good thing Russia doesn’t exist anymore.”
—“What if I tell you what I don’t want?”
—“I just want to try Phyllis”
—“His last name is Christ. He has the power of flight. He can heal leopards”
—Michael’s speech on the roles his co-workers play in the Dunder-Mifflin family was awesome, as was everyone’s simultaneously bewildered and irritated reaction
—“Christmas isn’t about Santa or Jesus. It’s about the workplace.”
—“Stanley, you’re our mailman”
—That awkward semi-hug between Ryan and Toby? Also awesome