Tonight’s episode represented both a return to The Office’s roots and a bold look at what the future holds for the Dunder-Mifflin gang. We witnessed the dawning of the Michael Scott/Jim Halpern era and are on the very precipice of that halcyon moment in which Jim and Pam will be joined forever in holy matrimony. Watching a commercial for the big wedding episode I found myself getting a little choked up and realized how emotionally invested I’d become in Jim and Pam’s relationship.
I’ve found Jim and Pam’s relationship a little oppressively adorable in the past but when Jim launched into his big speech about waiting and waiting because he knew, deep down, he was waiting for the woman who would become his wife I felt, weirdly or appropriately enough, like I wasn’t watching a commercial for a television show about fictional characters so much as I watching an actual wedding speech by a friend.
I suppose that’s a testament to the depth and richness of the universe The Office has created. I’ve watched every episode and every deleted scenes for going on six seasons—though not for the last season, as I’m all about delaying my gratification—so maybe it makes sense that I, and many of you, feel such a strong emotional bond with these imaginary TV people.
If the teasers for the TELEVISION EVENT OF THE DECADE tugged at the old heartstrings, even of a hate-filled snarkitect and overseer of toxic pith like myself, the episode itself was agreeably, ingratiatingly prickly. Before we get to see them at their best, we get to see Jim and Pam at their worst.
Pam, in particular, was shameless in blatantly trolling for gifts of cold hard cash for her wedding instead of the usual attic-ready cornucopia of toaster ovens, cheese plates and Phyllis’ gift of choice, a romantic bird-feeder mailbox (or is that a mailbox bird feeder?). There is a recession on, after all, and after years of drifting and slacking, Jim and Pam have each developed a mad hunger for moolah.
Ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself now. The episode began with one of the trustiest stand-bys in The Office’s comic arsenal: Jim sadistically fucking with Dwight until he’s on the verge of bursting a blood vessel in rage. In this instance Jim seizes upon his newfound authority to playfully bully and badger his old office arch-nemesis from a position of power.
Michael, not surprisingly, used his ambiguous new role as the office’s big picture guy to passive-aggressively shirk off responsibilities and engage in silly power struggles. Jim, meanwhile, discovered an old truism of leadership: heavy hangs the head that wears the crown. Jim found himself playing the stepfather role tonight, with the office as bratty stepchildren so totally not going to take orders from some pretender to the throne.
Jim stumbled haplessly in his role as co-manager. When David Wallace announces that not everyone in the office will receive a raise Jim decides to parcel out raises in a way that manages to piss off everyone. For much of the episode, the office teetered on the brink of a full-on rebellion instigated by Dwight, who feels particularly emasculated and diminished by Jim’s new power.
By the end of the episode, Jim nursed a newfound respect for the demands of being the boss. He formed an alliance of convenience with Michael upon realizing that Pam and Michael were the only real friends he had left at the moment. At the moment at least.
Jim will undoubtedly grow into his role but he’s going through serious growing pains. Michael embraced his semi-demotion as yet another excuse to goof off and regress, as if needed any. Tonight was definitely a transitional episode but it was also funny and filled with sharp little character moments, from Oscar’s droll speech about how splitting power invariably works out best—just ask the two Popes—to the wonderful capper where Ryan smooth-talks Pam into investing in his gambling scheme involving complicated college-basketball algorithms. Has Ryan traded in one compulsion for another?
It seemed somehow perfect that Pam is seduced by Ryan’s big-money talk against her better judgment. Most cons, after all, are rooted in the mark’s naked greed and eagerness to get something for nothing, like a five thousand dollar payoff down the road instead of a cool hundred bones in the hand. The last line of the episode had a tricky undercurrent; Pam and Jim may be fucking adorable and we may all be so goddamned happy for them but it’s always treacherous beginning a life together with a little harmless deception.
—Check out the suit on Jim
—I loved Creed’s ventriloquist routine
—Michael’s drawing of Toby resembled a stick figure crossed with Edvard Munch’s The Scream