The Husband:

My Name Is Earl 4.26 “Inside Probe, Pt. 2”

A continuation of last week’s Geraldo probe into what caused the disappearance of Ernie Belcher, owner of Ernie’s Crab Shack, we as viewers are pretty much left with the second half of the episode instead of a full story. Which is fine. Just give us next week’s finale and end your fourth season on a high note, and I will continue to hope that you get a fifth season, despite the idiots who misunderstand the show as “just a redneck show” in the vein of Blue Collar Comedy Tour (it isn’t) and pray for its quick death.

So what happened to Ernie Belcher? Despite Randy’s forced confession, the Hickeys had an alibi thanks to a NASCAR champion (whose word counts for three average American citizens), so Geraldo has to “stick his probe even more inside” to find out the truth. But what does he discover but a nearly town-wide belief that aliens were involved in the night of his disappearance, thanks to a series of blinding white lights that lit up the sky that night and confused all of Camden’s creatures, gay and whore. But what caused this confusion?

Claws of death unknown.

Claws of death unknown.

But lo, there’s another element to the case, and it was the episode’s saving grace. Apparently, Camden County (which we find out, finally, is located in the Central Time Zone) was hesitant to take either side during the Civil War, and instead chose to become its own individual country and fight for the Central Cause, which demanded both the North’s industrial progress and the South’s reliance on slavery. Jefferson Washington Hickey, Earl’s ancestor, even created a Central flag, but, unfortunately, the Central Cause was eliminated on the same day as its creation as soldiers from both the North and the South shot Jefferson Washington Hickey to death in an outhouse.

But, you see, Ernie was a patriot, and still kept the Central flag flying above his business year-after-year, and tasked Darnell with taking it down each night. But on the night Ernie disappeared, Darnell went up to the roof only to find a vandal trying to steal the Central flag, and after some hand-to-hand combat, accidentally knocked the flagpole into the electric pole, which in turn produced a great amount of sparks and explosions across town. It also shut off the power, which is what did Ernie in. You see, he was in the newly remodeled bathroom downstairs, changing a tape in the wall connected to his hidden bathroom cams (he produced some fetish videos, btw), but when the power went off, he fell back into the wet concrete and sank into it, leaving only a nose to stick out of the floor. How did nobody notice this nose before? They all just thought it was a nose-shaped doorstop.

…K…

I think the image of the nose is funny enough to make up for the rest of this fairly unfunny two-parter. Otherwise, let’s just finish up the season with style and grace.

The Office 5.25 “Café Disco”

If I was just going to judge this episode based on the first five minutes, I would have called this an unfortunate return to non-plot silliness that sometimes works with The Office, but most of the time is just kind of a waste of talent and 30 minutes of my time. Now that Michael’s back as boss, he has returned to his old tricks of trying to unite his employees to have a good time, which as usual is met with blank stares. This time, it’s that he has turned the Michael Scott Paper Company office (as he still has the lease) into a Café Disco where people can drink java and dance their cares away. But the people of Dunder Mifflin would rather work, and so we’re left with another episode of people hating Michael.

But by the end, something very nice happens, as small factions of employees make their way down to have a good time (except for Phyllis, who throws out her back almost immediately), and learns, once and for all, how strong they are as a group. Almost as if acting as a series finale, everybody ends up in a very good, very happy place (even Phyllis), made even better by the fact that the party, in turn, reminds Jim and Pam that they and their friends deserve an actual wedding, and not just Jim and Pam driving to Ohio to get a non-waiting-period marriage license. Even Angela is a blast, despite her proclamation that she doesn’t agree with music and what it does to people.

I don’t really know what the deal with this episode was, or why it made me feel so good after making me feel so disappointed, but I’m glad that this show continues to surprise me.

The Wife:

Parks & Recreation 1.5 “The Banquet”

“The Banquet” was a mixed bag for me, but a some of it was trying too hard or coming too close to certain clichés, yet, as far as plotting is concerned, it was pretty entertaining to watch. Even if the jokes fall flat or hackneyed, Parks & Rec is amusing when there’s an element of plot to it, otherwise it’s just nothing.

Here, Leslie’s mom, Marlene, is being honored with a local government award and Leslie wants to use her time at the banquet to not only honor her mother, whom she clearly admires and imitates, but to drum up a little bit of buzz for her pit project. Unfortunately, in her attempt to follow in the footsteps of other stars of local government, Leslie gets her hair done at a men’s barber shop and turns up at the banquet looking like a tiny Trump. Also, everyone at the banquet thinks she’s a lesbian because she brings a pink-clad femmy Ann as her plus-one, in an attempt at a joke that I think could have been done without. It was so obvious from Leslie’s ridiculous hair that lesbian jokes would arise and, thus, none of them were funny.

Or maybe they weren’t funny because we’ve moved past a moment in our culture in which we can identify someone’s sexuality just by looking at them. At least, I’d like to think we have. But what the fuck do I know, since I live in a state with a giant gay population and we still can’t let them get married. (Thanks for rubbing that in our faces, Maine and Iowa.)

It also wasn’t funny that Ann was overdressed. But the lesbian hair jokes and the dress were the biggest clichés about the episode, so I guess it’s good they got them out of the way at the beginning.

This game of got your nose has gotten way out of hand.

This game of "got your nose" has gotten way out of hand.

Anyway, at the banquet, Leslie sees the zoning chairwoman and wants to get on her good side, but doesn’t know how. When she finally gets up the courage to talk to her after “buttering her up” with some odd sentiments in her speech about Marlene (and after a strange nose-holding conversation with Mark and Ann that was funny by way of being totally, completely weird), chairwoman Janine suggests Leslie call her secretary and set up something for the next month. Leslie is proud of this, because she’s generally clueless, but her mother, the Iron Bleepedy Bleep of Pawnee, tells her that a call to a secretary is basically a diss and suggests her daughter blackmail the chairwoman to get an earlier appointment. So Marlene tells her that Janine’s husband got a DUI out of state last month, information that Leslie unsuccessfully uses to leverage a meeting with Janine, which gets a drink thrown in her face before she scurries off apologetically.

Some funny bits:

  • Tom and Mark’s date with girls in real estate post-banquet, because I think working in real estate has to be exactly that uninteresting. (“Sometimes, I forget to bring my keys when I show a house.” “Oh, yeah, that’s the worst because you have to drive all the way back and get them and then be all like, ‘Oh, I forgot my keys!’ Hehe!”)
  • Clearly, the joke about the slaughter of a settler when he tried to sell the Native Americans a baby and all of the things they used his mutilated corpse for. (“That’s the great thing about Indians back then. They used every part of the pioneer.”)
  • Ron Swanson’s speech of facts about Marlene. (“So, Marlene, it is true that you have won this award.”)
  • “Thank you, Tony, for those inspiring twitches and blinks.”
  • “It’s fun to pretend to be zoning board members.” – Mark

30 Rock 3.21 “Mamma Mia”

By far, my least favorite 30 Rock of season. And it’s probably because it relied so heavily on borrowing and not entirely subverting the plot of one of my least favorite things in the world, Mamma Mia. (Although I enjoy that Liz is obsessed with it because it’s a good example of how she straddles the line between a smart, snarky singleton and a sad, lonely middle-aged woman bordering on being Cathy from the comic strip Cathy. I mean, that did print that thing she said in the paper, “Chocolate! Chocolate! Chocolate! Aak!”)

Plot #1: Jack has three potential fathers, so Liz suggests they “Mamma Mia” the situation and invent a fake contest for Jack’s potential fathers to win so he can meet them and figure out which one is his real dad. The winners are a Korean guy, a dude whose genitalia were destroyed in the war (“It’s like a bowl of Spaghetti-Os down there”) and one seemingly-normal college professor who turns out to be a bleeding heart Jewish liberal.


“I will not be spoken to this way! I am a contest winner!” – Milton Green


Of course, after arguing with Milton, Jack realizes that he must be Milton’s son because family is supposed to be that aggravating. When Jack reveals this to Milton, he is thrilled to have a son because he needs a kidney.

Plot #2: One of Tracy’s illegitimate children found him three years ago and has been asking him for money. His experience with this additional child in his life is what prompts him to encourage Jack to find his dad, but Liz and Pete are sure that bastard son Donald is scamming Tracy . . . in part because neither of them are very good at telling how old black people are. (Liz thinks Samuel L. Jackson is 33, and is surprised, as I was, to hear that he was 61. Dude looks good for 61.) Barring acquiring Donald’s birth certificate, they try to devise some tests to determine whether or not he is scamming Tracy, one of which is having him spar with Lutz to see if his alleged Dojo is real. (It is, because Donald is wicked good at karate.) Because Cerie is pretty, she is able to get Donald’s birth certificate, which proves he’s actually one year older than 39-year-old Tracy. When Liz presents Tracy with this information, he says he already knows and that when Donald first started scamming him, he was a low-life but, with Tracy’s help, he’s actually turned his life around and become a small-business owner.

I liked the twist on Tracy’s plot a lot, actually, because it was so completely different than what we’ve come to expect from Tracy Jordan. Unlike the “I need a kidney” reveal, which was neither clever nor funny.

Plot #3: Unrelated to notions of family, Jenna’s “That’s a dealbreaker, ladies!” Millionaire Matchmaker-esque sketch becomes a catchphrase-wielding hit and gets her named Funniest Woman in New York. Liz, however, is jealous and wants to share credit because she writes that sketch with Jenna. (Or, technically, the entire sketch, while Jenna just texts her gay friends.) She demands that she be allowed to do the photoshoot with Jenna, and spends most of the time looking awkward while Jenna looks hot. Then the photographer brings out the prop box, which Jenna warned Liz not to use because the photographer will always choose a shot of a celebrity looking like an idiot for the cover while holding a rubber chicken rather than choosing a shot in which the celebrity actually looks good. Desperate for credit, Liz offers to hold the rubber chicken when it’s thrown at her, and quickly becomes the star of the photoshoot for her complete lack of vanity, eventually ousting Jenna from the cover entirely when the photographer chooses Liz’s “birthing the chicken on the toilet while wearing a Grouch Marx nose-and-mustache” shot for the cover.

While the Liz-and-Jenna plot was nice in that we all know Tina Fey is very hot and she deserves magazine covers, whether or not she’s birthing a rubber chicken on the toilet, I feel like desiring credit and loving the limelight are a little out-of-character for Liz. But that said, I appreciate an actress without vanity, and I’m glad that Tina Fey is totally willing to do ridiculous shit with rubber chickens for laughs. Can she make a movie with Anna Faris? That’d be killer.

All in all, a middling episode, devoid of 30 Rock’s usual madcap humor, non-sequiturs and the other stuff I love.

Little bits of funny:

  • Donald sucking on lollies.
  • The Tracy Jordan Institute for Black Karate.
  • “Are you not telling me something, Jack? Let me guess. You bought a motorcycle with a sidecar, but your dog won’t stay on it?” – Tracy
  • I’m glad that Liz’s knowledge of Italian American culture comes from Mario Brothers.

The Husband:

My Name Is Earl 4.24 “Gospel”

As My Name Is Earl comes close to, perhaps, ending its four-season run, it gave us this spiritual throwback to earlier seasons, when the plots may not have been as intricate as they grew to be over the show’s evolution, but relied enough on character work to make everything seem like it’s working hard for your money. A “hick show” this isn’t, but one based on a quite varied concept of spirituality and faith, without any of those religious implications that get in the way of what really matters – being a good person.

After meeting a preacher at a local fair, Earl decides to take on #34 on his list – stole an organ from a church. Why? He and Randy completely misunderstood the concept of “selling organs on the black market.” Whatever. To make up for it, they bring the organ back to the church, and Earl learns more of the preacher – he was once known as Hash Brown, a violent, short-tempered gangbanger who found God while in prison. Oh, and one more thing – Earl has done more than one unkarmic thing to this preacher. First, he stole his tool kit while Hash Brown was a construction worker, and to add insult to injury, Earl knocked over the port-a-potty Hash Brown was using. The preacher is a forgiving man, though, and simply asks that Earl and Randy attend the church’s next service.

And I shall strike down upon thee with great vengeance!

And I shall strike down upon thee with great vengeance!

At the service, the preacher and his congregation forgive the Hickeys, and then moved by the spirit confess transgressions of their own. This is fine, until the preacher’s wife stands up and declares that she slept with Earl with Hash Brown was in prison. (At the time, Earl had realized that picking up women outside of jail was a great idea.) The preacher, in turn, reverts back into Hash Brown and beats the shit out of Earl, grabs some valuable items from his lectern and goes out to his truck, declaring that God owes him ten years of missed income from Hash Brown’s business of selling crack. Earl, struggling to save the situation, notices that Hash Brown’s truck has a busted taillight. In fact, Earl had once tried to have Randy catch a bullet as a magic trick, a bullet that went through Randy’s hand and broke the truck’s taillight. Fortunately, this busted taillight got Hash Brown pulled over by the police so many years earlier, which in turn led to his incarceration and reawakening. No harm, no foul, and the preacher understands it as divine intervention.

In the B-story, Joy had become so drunk at the church fair on wine in Dixie cups that Darnell won’t let her drive him, so she wanders around Camden until she comes across a sit-down lawnmower. Now drunkenly driving quite slow around the neighborhood, she sees Catalina and runs her down, jealous of all the prizes she won at the fair that Joy wanted for herself. Realizing that she has two strikes and can’t get in trouble again (sort of the focal point for season 2’s court case that put Earl in jail), she drives the unconscious Catalina to a shed and pins her against the wall, figuring out what to do so that Catalina doesn’t call the cops.

“That psychic was right – I am going to die in a shack, pinned to the all by a lawnmower.” – Catalina

When Joy comes back the next day, she has Darnell in tow. Usually the voice of reason, Darnell can think of no other solution but to kill Catalina, and just as he is about to slash her throat (as Joy’s husband, this is in some ways the most reasonable solution), Joy knocks him out with a swift shovel blow to the head. Moved by Joy’s own intervention, Catalina promises to keep her mouth shut.

While not a great episode, I’ve always been drawn to the stories where one of Earl’s transgressions turns into several, and like an episode of a Larry David show, the decks get stacked so high against Earl that it’s fun to watch him flail.

The Office 5.23 “Broke”

Despite having taken a good deal of business away from Dunder Mifflin, the Michael Scott Paper Company (MSPC) seems to be approaching bankruptcy, thanks in no small part of Michael’s ignorance of how much it costs to expand a business beyond three employees who do all their early-morning deliveries by themselves in a van bought from a Korean church. (And as the logo is still on the side of the van, so every once in a while a Korean member of the Scranton community will hope on board.) By the way, what does Pam discover is Michael’s drink every morning? Milk and sugar. Nothing more. (Lufthansaaaaaa…)

“Ever since I’ve gotten clean, something about fresh 5 a.m. air makes me sick.” – Ryan

The important thing, however, is that Minor and Wallace at Dunder Mifflin don’t realize how close MSPC is to going belly-up, and as a result decide that it’s probably the best idea to simply buy them out. As Minor is starting to realize that Dwight, while possessing the best intentions, is a complete embarrassment through and through, he lets Jim go down to MSPC to propose a buy-out meeting.

Oh, no, this is a completely unfavorable situation.

Oh, no, this is a completely unfavorable situation.

Pam is especially excited for the deal to go through, because she has noticed that, on her quest to get some weekend work, she can’t even get call-backs from the likes of Old Navy, Target and Walmart. She and Ryan convince Michael to go through with it, as well as to do the best he can not to bring up the company’s financial situation. After all, she can’t really blame him for his failure:

“When a child gets behind the wheel of a car and runs into a tree, you don’t blame the child. He didn’t know any better. You blame the 30-year-old woman who got in the passenger seat and said, “Drive, kid. I trust you.’” – Pam

Upstairs at Dunder Mifflin, Michael stands up and gets Minor and Wallace to increase their offer from $12,000 all the way to $60,000, and in a moment of complete loyalty, Michael demands that all three members of the MSPC be allowed to work at Dunder Mifflin again. And this time, Pam is to be a salesperson.

(This is even despite Dwight’s warning that the company is, in fact, going under, as he has discovered that the MSPC made a round of calls to their clients asking for more money. However, Jim frustrates Dwight so much in front of Minor that Dwight ended up looking like an idiot.)

I’m not really sure why Wallace agrees to all the terms, but it definitely avoids a headache down the line. Michael had made a good speech moments earlier that even if the MSPC fails, he’ll just start another paper company, and then another, then another, so I guess that even if Michael is clearly a terrible businessman, his determination is enough to cause Corporate some discomfort.

A very forceful, very triumphant episode that more than makes up for a few lags over the last few episodes, as it proves that the show is completely incapable of spinning its wheels anymore. Comedy is one thing, but story is another.

Other funny bits:

  • “Come along, afterthought.” – Dwight
  • “Well well well…how the turntables…[pause]…” – Michael

The Wife:

Parks and Recreation 1.3 “The Reporter”

This episode was Parks & Recreations foray into having a plot, which was fine and all because plots are generally good things to have, but this one never really got any momentum behind it. (The first two episodes of this show I’d consider pretty plotless, and yet both moved toward some kind of denouement that actually, I felt, went somewhere.) In an attempt to drum up publicity for her pit-into-park project, Leslie sets up an interview with a reporter. Naturally, because everyone involved in this project but Ann (and maybe Mark Brandanawicz at times) is an idiot, they say things during the interview that they probably shouldn’t have said, like Chris Pratt’s revelation that he was drunk and searching for a toaster when he fell into the pit and broke his legs. I had kind of assumed that, but apparently Ann didn’t and now there exists a tape recording of his admitting to drunkenness which he didn’t tell the hospital when they gave him anesthesia in the ER.

Oh, God. Thats so great that they have that on tape now. Thank you.

Oh, God. That's so great that they have that on tape now. Thank you.

Leslie asks Mark to ameliorate the situation and charm reporter Shauna into writing a more positive article than the interview would lead her to. So Mark sleeps with her, which completely destroys Leslie when she realizes what has happened. Shauna quotes something Mark said to her about the park never, ever, ever going to come to fruition and Leslie asks him to get her not to write that, but she does anyway when he tells her that he doesn’t want to be in a relationship with her. The article remains mostly negative.

I guess my issue with this plot is that I find Leslie’s obsession with Mark too based in insane delusion than actual affection to care what he does one way or the other. I’m sure this has something to do with the way Poehler plays Leslie as perpetually optimistic, even to her determent, but in cases like this one, it’s really difficult to connect to Leslie’s feelings. She comes off as completely insane rather than completely human. (Husband Note: To be fair, Michael’s obsession with boss Jan over on The Office was also based primarily in insane delusion, but ultimately led to something much, much bigger.) I did, however, think her automatic response to Shauna sleeping with Mark was pretty great though, as she takes a breather from the interview to go lay down inside her government-issued vehicle, which in some way reiterates a theme her about bureaucracy being a way Leslie protects herself from being wholly human. It was also amusing.

Anyway, things that were very funny in this largely blank episode were:

  • Raccoons, which are never unfunny. They’re nature’s bandits.
  • A third joke about the brutal slaughter of Native Americans, this one a mural featuring a chief about to be shot by a cannon at close range. And yes, the fact that I find these jokes so funny does inherently disturb me. Who the fuck am I?
  • Tom Haverford’s approach to making his boss like him by intentionally losing at Scrabble. How badly does he play? With enough tiles to play FISHING for a bingo, Tom just plays his S next to an open I for a two-point play of IS. Man, I love Scrabble jokes!


30 Rock 3.19 “The Ones”

In this week’s A-story, Elisa returns, but doesn’t want to marry Jack because of her terrible secret. That secret? Her first husband cheated on her and she killed him, which became a pretty inescapable fact once a pop song was written about her, making her just like Helo Pinhiero, the Girl from Ipanema . . . if the girl from Ipanema were a murderess. Liz advises Jack that if she loves Elisa, he just shouldn’t cheat on her and marry her anyway. After all, Jack says, “right now, somebody is on a J-date with Monica Lewinski,” proving that even those with sordid pasts deserve love and forgiveness. But ultimately, Elisa doesn’t want to marry Jack and they break up.

The B- and C-stories were also about love and finding “The One” or not pissing off “The One” after you’ve found them. When an accident causes an LCD screen to fall on an employee’s head, Jenna meets and falls for a cute EMT, but his phone number gets eaten by the patient before Jenna can return. She pines for him in song like a Disney princess, and Pete asks her what she would do if she met a man at a funeral and wanted to see him again. Jenna proves she’s a sociopath by saying that, obviously, she would murder the deceased’s relative to see if the mystery man would come to that funeral, followed by a few other unnecessary murders. And so she goes on a near-death rampage, repeatedly poisoning Kenneth with strawberries (which make him go into anaphylactic shock) in order to see the cute paramedic again. The staff eventually tricks Jenna into think she’s killed Kenneth to get her to stop, but when Kenneth realizes why she was poisoning him, he drinks the potentially lethal strawberry water one last time to help Jenna meet the man of her dreams. Only when she does, she finds out he has a son, which means he definitely can’t be the one. Because Jenna hates children.

I think everyone needs a tattoo that basically says, Ima cut you!

I think everyone needs a tattoo that basically says, "I'ma cut you!"


As for Tracy, he can’t decide what to get his wife for their anniversary, so Liz suggests that rather than buying her meaningless gifts, he just ask her what she wants. And what does Angie want? Tracy to tattoo her name and image on his stomach, which is problematic because his signature move to get the ladies to want him is to lift up his shirt. DotCom suggests that Tracy get the tattoo, but simply draw a mane and add a few letters to it in Sharpie when he goes out so that it appears to be a lion named Tangiers.

“DotCom, that’s a great idea . . . if you want everyone to think I own a gay lion!” – Tracy

Tracy takes Jack out to help him decide not to cheat on Elisa and although they are surrounded by beautiful groupies, Tracy reveals his secret that he has never, ever cheated on his wife. The partying is all for show, but he loves and fears Angie too much to ever betray her. “All those phone numbers I hand out?” he says, “They’re not even mine.” They’re actually Brian Williams’, who, when called, will ask a booty call to come to Connecticut. I love Brian Williams. That dude is such a good sport. So Tracy does get that tattoo for Angie . . . only he gets it on his back . . . and it’s the tattoo of Tangiers, the gay lion. Oops.

Liz returned to her role as the bastion of normalcy in the wacky world of 30 Rock, even though she spent this entire episode wearing a Slanket, which seems infinitely cooler than a Snuggie, and comes in more colors!

Other funny:


  • “She is very spirited. Like a showhorse.” – The Cartier salesclerk, on Liz when he thinks Jack is buying a ring for her before revealing the real showroom when he sees a picture of Elisa
  • “You are wise, Liz Lemon. Like a genetically manipulated shark.” – Tracy
  • “I still think that would have sold much better if he had shot me in the face.” – Jenna, on the album she cut with Phil Spector
  • Liz: What do you want me to say, Tracy? I’m sorry I made it harder for you to cheat on your wife?
    Tracy: That’s a start, Liz Lemon. That’s a start.
  • “Could the hats have feathers? Yes! Yes!” – The Pranksmen
  • “I heard you singing, ‘Night Cheese.'” – Jack
  • “Eventually, it makes me loco for chocopuffs.” – Elisa, still not totally great at English advertising slogans, especially since she just spent two months away speaking no English whatsoever


And my favorite totally weird-ass reference of the night, from Kenneth, as he chokes on a strawberry:


“Oh no! Strawberries! My real name is Dick Whitman!”

If only Jon Hamm were around for that moment . . . I get why 30 Rock would make a Mad Men joke as both are critically acclaimed shows that don’t get the kind of ratings they deserve, and Jon Hamm did, in fact, guest on the show for awhile. But why Elisa has a Battlestar Galactica tee-shirt, I have no idea.

The Husband:

Here we have the Super Bowl-sized episode of The Office, and despite some conversations I’ve had and all the other opinions I’ve heard, I still don’t think that this was really the right episode to put right after the #3 most watched program in American television history. For those who weren’t already fans of The Office, this oddly cruel, noisy and morbid episode would have only confirmed their suspicions that this show was just too weird for mainstream consumption. For those who were fans, however, they might still have been put off by the exponentially greater amount of…cruelty, noise and morbidity…as well as, aside from the Jim and Pam story, a lack of the serialized nature that makes the show so special, choosing jokes for the new viewers instead of emotion for the show’s normal viewers.

I don’t know. It was funny, definitely, but I just don’t know if it had that spark. Too much of the plot could have been seen coming a mile away, although I don’t think any of us could have seen two things coming:

1.) Angela having hidden a cat named Bandit in a cabinet at work, and what she did with it during the “fire drill.”

2.) Dwight cutting open the CPR dummy to harvest its organs, and then cutting off its face and wearing it Hannibal Lecter-style.

So what happened during this extra-big episode? In the cold opening, Dwight sets up a fake fire drill that turns disastrous, leading to many of the Dunder Mifflin employees “dying” in the process, Dwight admonishing all of them and…whoops…Stanley collapsing and having to be rushed to the hospital.

“Stay F#$%ING calm!” – Michael during the fire drill

After a sweet new extended intro, complete with every character next to their name (it wasn’t until last week that I realized the cast member named Leslie was actually the due who plays Stanley), we get into the main meat of the episode, with Dwight having to meet with Corporate over his near-fatal fire drill. (Minutes later, he’ll return to Corporate after the aforementioned CPR exercise goes terribly wrong.) Now with two strikes, he has to watch himself.

When Stanley returns to Dunder Mifflin, he says he’s fine, but as usual Michael can’t leave well enough alone and tries to make the workplace a less stressful environment. This is tough, though, when he discovers that the closer he gets to Stanley, the quicker Stanley’s stress monitor beeps.

“OHMMMMM…my god if you’re wearing a dress please keep your knees together nobody wants to see that OHMMMMM…” – Michael to Phyllis during a meditation exercise

Where the hell is Cloris Leachman when you need her?

Where the hell is Cloris Leachman when you need her?

After realizes how much his employees just don’t seem to like him, Michael decides to let them have a Michael Scott roast in the warehouse. Bad idea, Michael, and there’s no way the following hatefest wouldn’t happen and wouldn’t cause Michael a great deal of emotional harm.

“I consider myself a good person, but I’m gonna try to make him cry.” – Oscar on roast

At the roast, the insults come flying fast and furious. Here are some of the best:

  • “If you ever put sunblock on a window, you might be Michael Scott.” – Angela
  • “Michael, you ran over me with your car…you are the reason I drink.” – Meredith
  • “You don’t have any friends, or family, or land.” – Dwight
  • Darryl challenges Michael to name warehouse employees
  • Andy repurposes the Romantics classic into the new “What I Hate About You”

Michael, as can be expected, takes a personal day off the next day, but shows up late, accepts many heartfelt apologies for those who felt they went to far. But things have to be fair, and they have to follow the Comedy Central-approved order of roasting, and so he, the roastee, gets to go through a quick list of jokes at the expense of his roasters. The tension is broken and everything gets back to…well…as good as it can be at Dunder Mifflin.

Jim and Pam get the B-story, involving Pam’s father staying with them due to tension with Pam’s mother. After a talk with Jim, Pam’s father decides to divorce his wife, leading Pam to accuse Jim of goading him on. But what did Jim actually say? He told Pam’s father how that he always knew Pam would be the one for him, and he can’t see himself ever not loving her. This admission of love made Pam’s father realize that he’d never felt that way before, and it was best to break things off.

And what of the big cameos by Jack Black, Jessica Alba and Cloris Leachman? They were in a pirated movie Andy, Jim and Pam were watching, and while it was nice to see some familiar faces helping along a show that still struggles in the ratings, I wouldn’t say any of it was particularly funny. I did like the film’s inappropriate use of pop music to underscore otherwise static scenes, and there was one good line at the expense of Cloris Leachman and showbiz in general.

“Nicole Kidman dropped out, so they went with Cloris Leachman.” – Andy

A few other laughs from the episode:

  • Kevin breaking the snack machine open during the fire drill
  • “No arms and no legs is basically how you exist now, Kevin. You don’t do anything.” – Michael
  • “Creed: Michael’s dead.
    Jim: He just sent a text.
    Creed: What’s a text?”

The Husband:

In the final episode of The Office before the new year, the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin throws yet another Christmas party (remember the one a couple years back where Meredith flashes Michael, and Michael freaks out about the White Elephant game?), and now that Phyllis is leading the party committee, she decides upon a Moroccan theme, complete with hookahs (which Creed is happy to indulge in) and sitars (likewise for Andy). While everything seems to be going well on the surface, underneath there is deceit, secrecy and disease.

Dwight, for instance, has bought up every available Princess Unicorn doll in the area so he can prey on last-minute buyers (such as Toby) and turn the dolls over for a profit. Phyllis, meanwhile, blackmails Angela into doing her bidding (including cutting perfect triangles of pita) by threatening to reveal Angela’s affair with Dwight to the office (and Andy). But Meredith, ohhhh, Meredith, she’s the crux of the whole episode.

Look at me! The driving force of this episode!

Look at me! The driving force of this episode!

Knowing how very little we know about Meredith (she once had rabies, for instance), we finally get the return of her biggest characteristic – that she’s a raging alcoholic. Upon getting trashed at the Christmas party, she accidentally sets her hair on fire, so Michael stages an intervention right in the middle of the party to get her to admit her faults (she won’t). We learn from here that Michael seems to have some odd access to Mormon pamphlets (à la the “are you an alcoholic” questionnaire), and that in addition to alcohol, Meredith is addicted to porn. (And Outback Steakhouse, as we learned earlier this season.) Michael decides to “drive Meredith to a new bar” and then takes her to rehab, but she puts up enough of a fight that the plan completely falls apart.

Back at the office, Angela finally mouths off to Phyllis, who, in her new confident mindset that I love so much, reveals Angela’s secret to the entire office. With Angela and Andy’s wedding pending, this is a good cliffhanger to go out on.

Merry Christmas, Dwight.

Merry Christmas, Dwight.

What other stuff in the episode worked?

  • Jim’s opening prank against Dwight, having wrapped up Dwight’s desk and chair in wrapping paper, only to have Dwight try to destroy it and realize that it was simply empty boxes below, leading to a major fall.
  • “They don’t give out black belts for things that are stupid!” – Dwight
  • “I will not be the big buy in the tiny hat.” – Stanley
  • “I wish…you would stop rubbing that lamp in that creepy way.” – Pam
  • “In the Shrute family, we believe in a five-fingered intervention: awareness, education, control, acceptance…and punching.” – Dwight
  • “Jim to sitar-playing Andy: You take requests?
    Andy: Sure.
    Jim: Please stop.”

I can’t wait for the show to return in what I’m definitely considering the best and most consistent season yet of The Office.