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:

Due to many personal appointments and dinners, Bush’s farewell address pre-empting certain shows, a crazy busy week and a shitload of work to do at the office, we the Children of Saint Clare, decided to take our respective NBC Thursday night comedy write-ups and double (and even triple!) them up. Here we have the last two weeks of the beloved The Office.

Last week, we finally saw the repercussions of the Dwight-Angela affair and its effect on Andy, as Michael, just on his way out to Corporate for the day, drops that bombshell on Andy extremely hard. It was about time, too, since it had been 17 days since Phyllis revealed the secret to everyone else in the office. (You’d think Andy would have figured that something was wrong when nobody had RSVPed to the Andy-Angela wedding, and it was now the day after the deadline, but this is The Office, and just as in real life, a lot of people are ignorant about a lot of things.)

“Meredith: I knew something bad was gonna happen.

Oscar: You said that yesterday.

Meredith: Yeah, my neighbor got murdered.”

Completely destroyed by the news, Andy challenges Dwight to a duel, choosing to use his own fists as his weapons. Dwight, however, thinks that choice is stupid…

“I will use a sword and I will cut off your bare hands!” – Dwight

…until Jim goes around the office and puts each and every one of Dwight’s poorly concealed weapons into a box and keeps them all very far away from Dwight.

When the duel is finally about to happen, they agree to fight in the parking lot, but when Dwight gets there, he finds nothing but a long, hand-written note attached to the shrubs. As he reads, Andy slowly drives his Prius, silently, up to Dwight and traps him between the car and the shrubbery, where they commence the most pathetic fight ever. (I drive a Prius, and while they do tend to stay pretty silent under five MPH, he would have had to have just started the car, otherwise it would have become somewhat noisier and less ninja-like.)

Death by Prius!

Death by Prius!

In the end, however, Dwight is shocked to discover that while Angela was having an affair with him, she actually slept with Andy twice, and so he breaks up with her. Both Dwight and Andy agree – you just can’t sleep with two people, Angela. So Dwight throws out his beloved Dwight bobblehead (which I also have, albeit in two pieces thanks to my bitch-ass cat Calliope), and everyone goes about their day.

Michael, meanwhile, finds out from Corporate that despite his complete incompetence at doing pretty much anything, the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin has been easily outselling the other branches. Nobody knows how, but perhaps Michael does, in his own way, inspire confidence in his employees, even if they are bumbling or sad about their soul-sucking job. I always appreciate it when Michael turns out to be not such a bad guy, even when there’s no reasonable explanation how. It just keeps the show’s sporadic cruelty at bay, because misery can’t always be interesting.

This week, with nary a mention of the Dwight-Angela-Andy love triangle, the show decides to take on two very ho-hum stories, one of which succeeds emotionally, the other somewhat unfunny filler.

Let’s start with the unfunny and unemotional story. While Michael and Dwight are out spying on another Pennsylvania paper company (more on that later), the office gets into a heated debate on whether or not Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank is hot. First, some ground rules have to be covered in order to proceed with the debate, such as making sure that the discussion is about hotness and not beauty.

“A painting can be beautiful, but I don’t want to bang a painting.” – Kevin

The office is split right down the middle, though, so the debate turns into outright arguments, both pro and con, including Angela’s reaction at Kevin’s complete misunderstanding of the movie Boys Don’t Cry in which he thought there would be a final twist that she really was, in fact, a man.

“She’s a female Boris Becker.” – Angela’s bizarre way of saying that Swank is hot

(Me? I don’t think she’s hot, but I do think she can be very pretty, especially in period attire like in The Black Dahlia. Also, she only deserves one of her Oscars – the first – because everyone at the 2005 Oscars in her category of Best Actress were better. Million Dollar Baby can suck my nuts.)

Wait, did all of you just raise your hands for both questions?

Wait, did all of you just raise your hands for both questions?

Meanwhile, Michael and Dwight visit Prince Paper, a small paper company run by a very nice elder gentleman, along with only his loving wife and son, and has run it ever since he got back from Vietnam.

“Ooooh…Vietnam. I hear it’s lovely.” – Michael

Michael goes undercover as just a local business owner looking for a paper company that, unlike Dunder Mifflin, will treat him like a priority, and is shocked to find out that Prince Paper has at least 80 satisfied regular clients, a list of which Mr. Prince is perfectly willing to give up. After Dwight comes in, pretending to apply for a job that he will, of course, never get, proceeds to attain the rest of the necessary information they will need to report back to Dunder Mifflin Corporate.

Michael, however, sees how happy and lovely the Prince family is, and decides that he is unwilling to be a shark and put them out of business, simply to succeed at his own job. Back at the Scranton branch, Michael decides to take the list of Prince Paper clients and destroy it, but after a very pathetic footchase sequence – yes, this show is very good at portraying the pathetic – Dwight gets a hold of the list and convinces Michael to follow through with his task. Michael, having done his job, is crushed, but now has more clout with Corporate.

I dug the final bits of emotion felt by Michael and appreciate the gray area in which this show is willing to travel, but I can’t say that the episode was particularly funny. The last one more than made up for that, though, so I’m still satisfied.

My favorite line of the second episode, though?

“You will have pancakes, and you will like it!” – Michael forcing Dwight to eat at IHOP

The Wife:

I’m going to be honest here: I thought the first twenty minutes of this episode were terrible. A hostage taker with no confidence at all is not a threat. There was no sense of danger at all because he was so non-threatening and, therefore, no real drama. I thought to myself: Really, Schwartz and Co.? Really? You know how to tell stories better than this! You know that the threat of death/danger is essential to making the action of Chuck work. That, combined with the sentimental montage of the Buy More hostages calling their loved ones, made me think that this was going to be the worst episode of Chuck ever. (And the worst hostage episode on TV this year, to boot.) But then: enter Michael Rooker as a hostage negotiator who is actually a Fulcrum agent in a nice end-of-act-one twist that really shook this episode up and put it back on its trajectory to being a great addition to the Chuck cannon.

I eat my tongue, Schwartz and Co. I should have never stopped believing in you.

The set-up for the hostage situation went a little something like this: the Buymorians are preparing for Christmas Eve last minute shoppers, with nearly everyone dressed as elves (and Anna as a sexy Mrs. Claus), Big Mike and Emmett are ready to gouge lazy last minute shoppers by marking up prices by 15%. Not wanting to participate, the Buymorians would rather spend their time taking bets on the results of the high speed chase they’re watching on the local news. That is, until that high speed chase crashes through the front of their store and the driver takes everyone in the store, including shoppers Ellie and Awesome, hostage. Family Matters Reginald VelJohnson is the officer on duty in charge of working with the hostage negotiator (Rooker), and he’s also Big Mike’s cousin.

The hostage taker, Ned, is so incompetent and unconfident that he makes Chuck do most of the talking to Rooker on the phone. Eventually, Sarah and Casey sneak in from their secret entrance and get held hostage, too. Ned “accidentally” shoots Casey’s toe off out of “surprise” when he sees the two of them in the back room with Chuck. (Fortunately, Ellie and Awesome were there to patch him up, with Ellie assuming Casey that people survive on 9 toes and Jeff announcing that he’s survived his whole life on only 8.) After said sappy phone call montage, Ned agrees to let two hostages go, choosing the injured Casey and, because of Chuck’s loyalty, Sarah. After the two agents are released, Rooker comes in and speaks with Ned personally. Chuck then flashes on Rooker’s watch, immediately knowing that he’s Fulcrum. Chuck, fearing for the safety of his sister and his friends, tells Ned that he should let all of the other hostages go, keeping only Chuck because he’s the thing Fulcrum wants, after all.

Its okay, John. People have survived on 9 toes for centuries now. Wait, what? Were supposed to have ten?

It's okay, John. People have survived on 9 toes for centuries now. Wait, what? We're supposed to have ten?

Rather than letting the rest of the hostages go, however, Rooker insists that Chuck tell him the location of Bryce Larkin and the Intersect, or else Ned will kill Ellie. Not wanting to lose the only family he has, Chuck tells Rooker that he doesn’t know where Bryce is, but admits that he is the Intersect. Rooker agrees to let Chuck say goodbye to Ellie, but only if he comes quietly with Rooker into Fulcrum custody. As Chuck hugs Ellie goodbye, he tells Captain Awesome that now is the time to rally the remaining hostages and take out the gunman. As Chuck is escorted off the premises and placed in an ambulance with Rooker as Sarah and Casey, realizing that Ned didn’t call his wife during the montage like he said he did, try to track Chuck’s location from inside the Castle. Once they get a lock on Chuck’s location, they are able to intersect the ambulance, allowing Chuck to escape and Sarah to give chase to Rooker through the foggy haze of a Christmas tree farm. Alone with Rooker, Sarah tells Chuck to find Casey and go back to the Castle.

Meanwhile, at the Buy More, Awesome and Big Mike invent a football play in which Lester and Jeff attack Ned with candy canes as a first line of defense. Lester, unfortunately, is no match for Ned and gets taken out quickly, allowing Morgan, hidden in a pile of fake snow, to enact the true diversion: spraying snow all over Ned to blind him temporarily while Awesome and Big Mike (dressed as Santa) body slam the gunman from both sides, effectively taking him out and removing the other hostages from the real threat of danger. Anna, seeing how hurt Lester is, completely misses Morgan’s act of heroism – an act he thought would win her back after he balked at moving in with her. Lester, taking advantage of Anna’s kindness, tries to put the moves on her, unfortunately right in Morgan’s line of sight. Ellie, meanwhile, is relieved to hear that Awesome has decided to cancel his potentially dangerous skydiving trip, not needing any more excitement after playing hero by saving her and the Buymorians.

Back at the Christmas tree yard, Chuck couldn’t bear to leave Sarah, so he hides behind a tree as she corners Rooker. Rooker tells her that he knows Chuck’s secret and that he will willingly go into CIA custody, warning her that he’s not just any other Fulcrum agent. His people will find him and in the process, they will all learn of Chuck’s identity. Still wearing the charm bracelet Chuck gave her as a cover Christmas gift, Sarah decides that she would rather not follow protocol than lose having Chuck in her life. With Chuck looking on from the treeline, she shoots Rooker square in the chest.

Merry Christmas, Rooker. Youll get no vampire lap dance from me. That offer was only valid on Scream Queens.

Merry Christmas, Rooker. You'll get no vampire lap dance from me. That offer was only valid on Scream Queens.

Chuck returns to the Buy More before Sarah does, living with the weight of what he has just seen. When Sarah arrives, she tells Chuck that Rooker has been arrested and that Casey is driving him to a secure location. She assures Chuck that everything will be alright, but Chuck, in the back of his mind, doesn’t believe her. Morgan asks Chuck if he could possibly imagine what it’s like to see someone do something so terrible (like kissing Lester) that it changes the way you look at that person forever. Solemnly, Chuck can only agree with Morgan, still unsure of how to process Sarah killing someone for him.

I think this is a great emotional weight to end the show on before its lengthy 6-week hiatus. For once, the real moral quandaries of his spy vs. spy lifestyle have come into focus for Chuck. Sarah’s actions at the end of this episode hang over him like an albatross. On the one hand, her break in protocol is an assurance that Sarah, somewhere inside her, has very deep feelings for him. But on the other hand, it’s a reminder that his life is constantly threatened and that any minute he could lose the people he loves. Shooting Rooker is also very likely to become a catalyst for a variety of other Fulcrum baddies to pop up, knowing that Agents Casey and Walker are closely guarding the Intersect. From here on out, even with Rooker dead, Chuck just isn’t safe. And neither are his friends and family.

Good work, Schwartz and Co. This episode could have been absolutely perfect with about 5 fewer minutes of the first act, but I’ll forgive that, just for the wounded looks on Zachary Levi’s face at the end of this episode.

The Husband:

What did I say about my opinion on hostage episodes?

Yeah, I still feel that way. They are still desperate attempts at ratings and false drama, so thank God that this episode tried its best to infuse the plot with something involved in its serialized story. I don’t think it succeeded nearly as well as my wife thinks it did, but I will accept the righteousness of the final bits of drama involving Sarah and the issue Chuck has with her license to kill.

Otherwise, it was only mildly fun to spot the references to Die Hard – the hostage situation during Christmas, Reginald VelJohnson, the Twinkies, some of the music choices – and not much else. Casey and Sarah, for the majority of this episode, didn’t act like the badass spies they were, where even if Ned really was involved with Fulcrum and therefore at least somewhat trained they could have easily taken him down, missing toe or not.

And yes, you do know that Ned guy from somewhere. His name is Jed Rees, and he was by far the best and funniest alien (better than Enrico Colantoni, funnier than Rainn Wilson) aboard the Protector in Galaxy Quest. I’ll never forget that chubby face. Maybe y’all should rent that movie again. It’s better than you think it is.

The upcoming 3D episode, airing the day after the Super Bowl, better be fucking amazing, because the show may need a quick recovery to regain all the viewers it may have lost after this week’s episode.

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.

The Husband:

My Name Is Earl 4.12 “Reading Is A Fundamental Case”

We find Earl at the episode’s opening reading a book out loud to the young people of Camden (plus Randy), a book taken from the recently found Bookmobile. (Since Camden didn’t have it in their budget to buy the actual Classics, they have knock-off choices such as Chuckleberry Flynn and the book Earl is currently reading from, Trazan The Ape Man (who has a pet cheetah named monkey). We rewind back in time in order to deal with #219 on Earl’s list — stole the Bookmobile.

This is way better than that Disney movie with the Phil Collins soundtrack.

This is way better than that Disney movie with the Phil Collins soundtrack.

Earl and Randy are doing roadside community service as a result of the “Humiliate & Rehabilitate Program,” which takes the criminals and gives them shirts that tell their current crime. (While Randy has “Flasher” on his shirt and “Pulled Down Randy’s Pants” on Earl’s, my favorite is the guy who has “I Love Hookers” slapped across his chest.) Another criminal is Raynard (Ewen Bremner from Trainspotting, although I remember him best from the underseen film Naked), a Scottish loon who becomes very attached to the Hickeys when he can’t find a place to live. The problem is, his way of life is so free and open, with very little rules or boundaries, that people can’t really seem to get behind his way of life. For instance, when asked why he has a bathtub in his former living room, he replies:

“The news isn’t so depressing when you’re surrounded by bubbles!”

After Earl, Randy and Raynard convince three sluts that they were in a band opening for U2, they steal the Bookmobile (because it kind of looks like a tour bus) and drive it out to the woods for some sexin’, and then just leave it behind.

In the present, it turns out Raynard has been living in the Bookmobile ever since then, becoming feral and hallucinating due to a heavy diet of “crazy berries.” (One major drawback of “crazy berries’? He thinks he’s married to a hot woman, who is actually a raccoon.)

The Hickeys try to bring him back into society, but he simply doesn’t fit, ending up arrested and put into a psychiatric ward because of his diagnosed Anti-Social Personality Disorder. Earl realizes that while Raynard is not right for the world, he doesn’t belong to be institutionalized due to his free spirit, so they bust him out, give him all the hiking/camping gear he’d ever need, and take the Bookmobile back.

Sometimes episodes of Earl live and die by their guest stars, and I’m happy to say that Bremner was cast for being such a fucking loony individual and perfect for the role and not because he’s, say, just a A-to-B-list actor (Burt Reynolds) or one of Jason Lee’s many Scientologist friends (Juliette Lewis, Jenna Elfman, Giovanni Ribisi, etc.). I’ve always liked Tarzan stories, so this was a good modernization of the same tale, done with enough Earl kookiness to work just right. I did think the episode was missing something, though — not enough Crabman. There’s always room for more Crabman.

The Office 5.9 “The Surplus”

Dunder Mifflin is thrown into a civil war when Oscar discovers that the branch has a surplus of $4,3000 and must spend it by the end of the day or have it deducted from next year’s budget. Oscar rallies people behind getting a new copier (because the old one sucks) and Pam gets people behind getting new chairs (because the old ones suck). Things become extra awkward when Jim decides to back Oscar’s plan, leading to a miniature (and cute) war between he and Pam, including goofy veiled threats and Pam throwing out the leftover tiramisu Jim brought her from lunch.

Oh, there are a couple other options, actually. Toby wants Michael to use the money to pay for a complete cleaning of all the air vents, because they could be filled with silent killers.

You are the silent killer.” — Michael to Toby

Michael, however, doesn’t want to be the bad guy, so he lets Oscar and Pam butter him up for their respective wishes. Unfortunately, he still can’t make a decision, so he brings up the building’s security guard to decide (and then throws him out of the office for taking too long in making said decision). Things get thrown for a loop when Michael calls Corporate and discovers that if he personally gives the surplus back to Corporate, he will receive 15% of the surplus as a bonus. Set on getting that $645, he tries to convince the office to pick neither of their choices and let the money slide. (Trying to get Pam off his case, he describes the crap chairs as “urkelnomically correct.”) Oscar figures out Michael’s sneaky plan, though, and calls him out on his douchebaggery.

In the end, Michael lets the office choose amongst themselves, and they finally settle on new chairs. Problem is, Michael didn’t think they’d ever reach a decision by day’s end, so he had already spent his bonus on a giant fur coat that got fake blood splattered on it by PETA members once he stepped outside of the Burlington Coat Factory.

In the B-story, Angela and Andy visit Schrute Farms to plan out the specifics of their wedding, but things do not go as planned. Dwight spends most of the time bickering with the both of them in different ways, including when he is to slaughter the meat in time for the wedding, as well as my favorite line of the night:

“Have you made a decision on the butter sculpture?” — Dwight

After a small rehearsal ceremony, Angela goes up to Dwight and tells him that she made the wrong decision in picking Andy over him. Dwight says he knows, and that the fake ceremony that just happened was actually real and bonded Angela and Dwight together in holy matrimony. (This involves the priest speaking only German, as well as Andy thinking he’s signing a receipt but actually signing that he was witness to the marriage.) Angela is not happy with this betrayal, though, and ends up choosing Andy yet again to be her man. (Whether or not the Dwight marriage is valid wasn’t really concluded, but let’s just assume it wasn’t.)

Thank you, you have now officially signed your bride over to me, as well as six chickens and some 8-track tapes.

Thank you, you have now officially signed your bride over to me, as well as six chickens and some 8-track tapes.

This was a solid episode that felt more like the early seasons than anything more recent for this show. This is both good and bad. Good because the earlier seasons were still hilarious, but bad because the show, I feel, has evolved to the point where it can do a whole lot more than just providing a few goofy workplace laughs and actually going deep into its many complex relationships. I know it’s a shit stance to take — that is, viewing this episode as inferior when it’s still very good — but I rightly expect a lot from such a good show. Point is, this will not be seen as this season’s highlight. Construe that however you will.

The Wife:

Kath & Kim 1.7: “Sacrifice”

Wow, you know what show I really didn’t miss very much over the course of Thanksgiving break? This one.

My biggest issue with this episode is that the show went back to exploiting Phil’s eating disorder for laughs as it previously did in “Jealousy.” Reviewing that episode, I wrote:

“Honestly, Kath & Kim, the jokes about how big Phil used to be before hand were funny, but having a character dig at his wounds so much that his eating disorder resurfaces is not funny.”

I stand by that statement. The set-up for that tragic end of Phil pigging out in the dark was actually all right. Kath is suddenly unable to sleep and after sleep-partying, sleep-playing basketball, sleep-driving and sleep-parking her car on the lawn when trying some sleeping pills Kim orders her from the almighty TV, Phil signs her up for some appointments with his spiritual adviser, Athena (Maya Rudolph). Phil magnanimously hands all of her Athena appointments over to Kath (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays) to get her “healed” faster. During the course of her “therapy,” Kath and Athena become good friends, chatting about their relationships with men (and that bear Athena got “closer than that” to) and taking dance lessons during their therapy times. I thought Rudolph was really funny in this role. It’s definitely good to see her doing something other than raising Paul Thomas Anderson’s baby and starring in the FunnyorDie video “Prop 8: The Musical.” Also, she looks surprisingly good in a caftan.

If only you knew the things that bear did to me . . .

If only you knew the things that bear did to me . . .

Of course, Phil needs his Athena appointments so that he has the power to resist the temptation of food. There’s a funny sequence where Phil walks through the food court at the mall, surrounded by people eating greasy mall food as if it were the 14-course tasting menu at The French Laundry. The funniest part of this sequence are the things Phil mutters to himself to help him resist the temptations of pizza, ice cream and a giant cart of cheese, none of which I wrote down, unfortunately. But then Kath and Kim come home and find this:

Kath: Phil, are you okay?

Kim: He’s eating pie from a salad bowl in the dark.

The line from Kim is funny, but the act of Phil eating in shame in the dark is not. Is this all you’re going to do with Phil, Kath & Kim? Make fat jokes? You’re reducing this character to have all the depth of a pie dish, and that’s really not good. There is no way you’re going to convince me that an eating disorder is funny, because its not. Like I said the other week, there are ways you can make jokes about it, but the actual sight of someone giving in to a disorder they’ve fought very hard to control is not funny. It’s just sad.

Yeah, I kept the gnome. Isnt it cute?

Yeah, I kept the gnome. Isn't it cute?

As for Kim, she gets a boot stuck on her Mustang due to having over $700 in unpaid parking tickets. The meter maid turns out to be a girl she was mean to in high school who has a giant crush on Craig. Kim pimps her husband out to Marjorie the Meter Maid in order to soften her and get her to remove the boot. Craig feels violated when Marjorie molests him, but Kim tells him it’s his husbandly duty to take care of her “for better or for worst.” I didn’t care much for this plot either, but it did allow Mikey Day to outshine that radiant beacon of comedy known as Selma Blair in certain moments. I’d also like to give a shout out to the actress who played Marjorie the Meter Maid. She was fantastic.

30 Rock 3.5: “Reunion”

Liz Lemon gets invited to her high school reunion and doesn’t want to go because she remembers high school being absolutely awful. Everyone was mean to her and nobody liked her. The entire staff urges her to go — Kenneth because he had a great time being the only white kid at his all-black high school, Tracy because he didn’t make it to his own reunion to shame and humiliate those who hated him in high school with his newfound wealth (he wound up at a girl’s school for the deaf instead) and Jenna because she couldn’t attend her high school reunion because the boat she was educated on sank.

Hello, Jack. Im sorry to inform you that youve been voted off MILF Island. A beam of energy told me to say that.

Hello, Jack. I'm sorry to inform you that you've been voted off MILF Island. A beam of energy told me to say that.

Don Geiss (Rip Torn) wakes up, which leads Jack to believe that Don will finally rectify the CEO terror that is Don’s daughter Kathy Geiss (who takes her CEO photos with a giant stuffed unicorn and a chalkboard that says “Kathy = CEO” surrounded by stars) and name him CEO. Jack encourages Liz to go to her reunion to show up all those losers who made fun of her while he’s riding high on the possibility of being named CEO. But when Geiss calls him to the roof, he reveals that he’ll be staying on as CEO, with Jack slated to take over when Geiss dies, of course, because a beam of energy told him to. In despair, Jack offers to escort Liz to the reunion and drop her off in Pennsylvania while he flies to Florida to recover from the strain of not being named CEO.

“You tell that Kelsey Winthrop that the ugly ducking has turned into a mildly ethnic swan.” — Jack

Unfortunately, the plane gets grounded in Pennsylvania due to a snowstorm and the only place in town (and dry county) that Jack can drown his sorrows in alcohol is Liz’s high school reunion. At the reunion, Liz realizes that she was actually the bully in her high school class and everyone hates her now for the years of emotional torment she inflicted on her classmates, especially her first gay best friend that she said was “gayer than the volleyball scene in Top Gun” and who now has married an Asian mail-order bride and raised three dogs in an effort to look more straight, despite his exaggerated lisp and super gay dancing. Jack, meanwhile, envies “simple high school losers” for enjoying life because they’re not hindered by the responsibilities of running a giant corporation. Jack envies them so much that he pretends to be Larry Braverman when a reunion attendee mistakes him for that man. Jack quickly becomes part of the cool crowd with all the reunion attendees coming up to him and reliving high school memories he obviously knows nothing about.

An old flame of Braverman’s (Janel Moloney from The West Wing) tries to seduce him again by playing Seven Minutes in Heaven, but Liz ruins the game by showing up and having Jack’s bottle land on her. She makes him cry in the closet when they discuss their current failings: Liz uses humor to alienate people so that she doesn’t feel bad about herself, whereas Jack is pretending to be someone else so he doesn’t have to be sad about a job he’s never going to get and already wasted his money having business cards made for. After seeing their beloved Larry Braverman cry, the reunionites decide to pull a Carrie on Liz Lemon, dumping a bucket of pig’s blood on her head when she accepts an award. (Who can get pig’s blood on such short notice?) But just before she goes to accept her gift certificate to Outback Steakhouse, Jack stops her and delivers a speech to his classmates about how they should accept Liz for her failings. She doesn’t mean to be mean. (“We all have ways of coping. I used sex and awesomeness.”) Humor is just how she relates to people, but deep down, she’s actually a really nice person. The speech is so rallying that Braverman’s former flame decides to unveil Braverman’s illegitimate son, at which point Jack declares that he is not Larry Braverman and he and Liz flee the reunion as the pig’s blood falls.

Lemon, lets get our Outback gift card and go.

Lemon, let's get our Outback gift card and go.

Back at 30 Rock, the B-story this week involved Tracy being jealous of Kenneth stealing his thunder by making people laugh in the elevator. Tracy complains to Jenna, who assures him that no one would ever try to steal the glory of an actor and that he has nothing to fear in Kenneth . . . until she takes an elevator ride with Kenneth and sees for herself. In an effort to draw attention away from Kenneth’s jokes, Jenna bursts out into song (“Wind Beneath My Wings”), which Kenneth takes to mean that the entire elevator should sing “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.” Jenna, furious, schemes with Tracy to give Kenneth a taste of his own medicine. Tracy starts leading NBC tours and Jenna starts delivering Kenneth’s sandwiches. Kenneth is confused and hurt that someone would try to take his job, which Jenna and Tracy claim he was doing to them by “acting” in the elevator. Everyone agrees not to take each other’s jobs and all is well.

(Husband Note: This was the episode that was to have guest starred Gossip Girl‘s Blake Lively and Leighton Meester, presumably as high school friends of Liz Lemon in flashback, but I guess when they dropped out for whatever reason (they say scheduling, I say a lack of screentime wouldn’t really be helpful for anybody’s career), the story was changed a bit. My wife did point out, that one of Liz’s grown-up classmates was played by Robyn Lively, Blake’s real-life sister.)

The Husband:

My Name Is Earl 4.11 “Nature’s Game Show”

For the second week in a row, a natural disaster strikes Camden. This time it’s a series of tornados. That’s right, not one, not two, not three but four tornados, leaving the town a mess, the people cranky and some of our favorite characters seeing it all as a sign from God.

When the first tornado hits, Earl loses his precious list, and outside we discover one of Camden’s most cherished rules – a tornado is “nature’s game show,” so if something ends up on the ground after the storm, it’s up for grabs for anybody, essentially adopting a “finders keepers” mentality.

Ive got a gun and a teddy bear and Im not afraid to use either of them!

I've got a gun and a teddy bear and I'm not afraid to use either of them!

Catalina gets a gun and forces people to give her back all her materials…

“Gun rules trump tornado rules.” – Patty The Hooker

…but when a bible hits her and knocks the gun away, she and Patty the Hooker (who we find out got a 1500 on her SATs, proving that “life just ain’t fair”) decide that the floods are coming and that they need to get everyone they can onto a tiny boat.

Randy, on the other hand, loves the whole situation, having been lifting by the tornado into the air and deposited on the motel’s roof, which has a smorgasbord of free stuff.

Earl: Dammit Randy! What have I told you about throwing guns?!

Randy: Oh, right. Not to do it.”

Randy, having thought he was capable of flight, as well as being able to deflect bullets (actually, the gun was a starting pistol that only shot blanks), Randy thinks the tornado has given him superpowers, but by the end he realizes his foolishness, also revealing that he had found Earl’s list almost immediately but decided to keep it from his superpower-denying attitude.

Joy and Darnell have more problems than just the tornado, however, when Joy becomes pissed that Darnell holds his intellect way above her “street smarts” (which he describes as something dumb people say just to say they’re smart). They start a battle of wits with Darnell coming out on top every time, including hooking up the ubiquitous abandoned boat’s battery to their television, while Joy decides to tether their children to herself to prove that she’s a good mother.

“Baby, look what we’re doing. I’m pimping out a fishing boat. You turned the boys into some kind of love yo-yos. This doesn’t seem like good parenting.” – Darnell

Children do make for great love yo-yos.

Children do make for great love yo-yos.

The six major characters all end up outside the local church’s storm cellar, which unfortunately happens to be locked. Unable to rely on Darnell (he got knocked on the head pretty hard), Joy relies on her “street smarts” and uses her knowledge of MacGuyver to blow open the doors and lead them to safety.

Overall, a better episode than last week, but I sincerely hope they return, at least for a couple episodes, to Earl simply seeking forgiveness from all those he did wrong in the past. Formula or not, I’m beginning to miss just a good old regular morality tale.

The Office 5.8 “Frame Toby”

It’s never really been explained why Michael hates HR representative Toby so much other than the fact that Toby is smart and, most of the time, is usually right about everything. Michael’s seething detestation has always been one of my favorite things about the series, a non sequitus series of vicious insults planning the many ways Toby can die or just simply go fuck himself, but it’s always, to me, seemed to exist outside the realm of normal human (or character) behavior. It’s just a level of cruelty so high that its mere existence is funny on its own.

But yes, now that Holly has been transferred, Toby is back at the Scranton branch – having been on vacation in Costa Rica, which if you’ll remember from the end of last season was spent mostly in a hospital bed – even though Michael hasn’t noticed that Toby has been there for a full week already.

Michael, of course, will not put up with having Toby around – his reaction upon seeing him was something to the effect of “No! God! God! No! No! No! – so he calls corporate and asks for them to fire Toby.

“I have cause. It’s because I hate Toby.” – Michael

I hate that Im sitting next to you right now.

I hate that I'm sitting next to you right now.

Likening his plight of having to be around Toby to feeling “like Neve Campbell in Scream 2, Michael then bands up with Dwight to frame Toby for a crime, any crime, so he will have to be fired. His first attempt is to incite a sexual harassment case, but Pam, realizing her role as a pawn, stops it before it even goes down. The second attempt, Michael knocks down Toby’s pictures from Costa Rica and tries to get Toby to punch him. No go.

His final plan, the big one, is to plant drugs on his desk. Michael, having heard something from someone at some time (probably not) goes to the company’s delivery men and asks them to sell him some weed. Charging him $500 for a tiny bag, he is happy to pay and then sets the trap. When the cops show up, though, they discover that it’s not weed Michael bought, but a caprese salad. Michael owns up to his crime and accepts Toby into the workplace.

“Welcome back, jerky jerkface.” – Michael

Meanwhile, Jim has a surprise for Pam – he finally bought his parents’ Scranton house for he and Pam to live in together. Unfortunately, the house is basically a piece of shit, (located near not only a quarry but very near Creed’s house, covered in shag carpeting and paneling, has a clown painting that’s nailed to the wall so hard it can’t be taken down) and so he’s not sure if it would be a make-or-break situation with Pam. Luckily, she loves it despite its flaws, especially now that Jim converted the garage into an art studio for her, and that being near Jim is what’s important.

I have no idea how Ive accomplished this in a crumbling economy, but I bought you a house!

I have no idea how I've accomplished this in a crumbling economy, but I bought you a house!

Many bloggers are right – this was a very “sitcomy” episode that felt less like The Office and more like many lesser shows, but a so-so Office episode is still a treat, still hilarious and still emotional. Michael can be a complete monster when he wants to be and it often makes for some very uncomfortable television, but I dare you to tell me that his back-and-forth with Toby was still hilarious.

The Wife:

Kath & Kim 1.6: “Gay”

Kim, in desperate need of having her cable fixed because she wants to watch a Denise Richard’s marathon (it really is complicated), calls over the cable guy, who turns out to be the cable lady, Kim’s former classmate Penny Peterson. Penny is a bit masculine and gruff, so Kath and Kim assume she’s gay. Kim develops a little bit of a girl crush on her when she delivers an impassioned monologue about the importance of cable, Kim’s favorite thing, and the two ladies become friends. Kath, unfortunately, overhears the two women talking about how amazing switching from analog to digital is and thinks that they’re having lesbian sex in the living room. Jarred by this and seeing two happy older lesbians (perhaps being a worse gay stereotype than the hot but masculine cable girl Penny) show her their wedding invitations at the stationery store, Kath struggles to accept the idea of lady on lady love (she likes male gays just fine) and the possibility that her daughter might be into some “lesbionic” activities.

Ill show you some lesbionic activities.

I'll show you some lesbionic activities.

When Kim and Penny head out on the town, Kim realizes that Penny isn’t a lesbian when she initiates some guy pick-ups. She’s just kind of a tomboy who is really frustrated with the fact that everyone thinks she’s gay. Meanwhile, Kath tries to break the news to Craig that Kim may have left him because she prefers lady love, which Craig has trouble understanding due to the sheep metaphor Kath employs. (Word problems are hard, yo, even when you’re a dude with perfect ears.) He busts in on Kim and Penny at the bar, and Penny starts the real life equivalent of a Facebook poke war with him. One of the dudes she wanted to pick up at the bar comes over to her defense and starts a fight with Craig, with Penny joining in to wrestle the boys on the floor.

Just dont fuck with my ears, man!

Just don't fuck with my ears, man!

The next morning, Craig has been welcomed back (somewhat) into Kim’s life because bar fights are super hot to her. Also, Phil has hair on his butt.

As far as creating a cohesive sitcom plot, this might be one of Kath & Kim’s best episodes in that department, but it was still a tired and sad plot relying too heavily on tired comic misunderstandings that weren’t funny at all. This episode mostly made me sad that the state of Florida, home to fabulous Miami gays, also did not pass a gay marriage vote. But I was pretty amused that Kim and Penny attended Franz Ferdinand Magellan High, a combination of two important dead guys – one the Duke of Austria, the other a Portuguese explorer – neither of whom had anything to do with the state of Florida at any point in their lives.

30 Rock 3.4: “Gavin Veloure”

Steve Martin was wonderfully subdued in this episode and a perfect choice of guest star to play Liz Lemon’s dream guy, an agoraphobe who can’t leave his house and cannot be physically intimate with anyone, but who is secretly not an agoraphobe because he’s under house arrest for tax fraud. And arson. I enjoyed the Tina Fey-Steve Martin chemistry in Baby Mama and enjoyed seeing it again here. In fact, when Liz leaves the party at Gavin’s house the first time she meets him and he announces that he cannot touch her to give her a proper goodbye because of his severe agoraphobia, I thought he was going to instead reward her with five minutes of uninterrupted eye contact. (Nonetheless, having his assistant/bodyguard give her a kiss on the hand and say goodbye in his stead was pretty funny, too.)

We can indeed just skip to 12 years into the relationship and sit at home goofing on TV shows and then going to bed without any funny business.

We can indeed just skip to 12 years into the relationship and sit at home goofing on TV shows and then going to bed without any funny business.

“Of course, that was back when Jet was actually about jet ownership. That magazine took a weird turn.” – Jack

At the party, Gavin baits Jack with an investment plan, and Jack, in turn, takes Kenneth’s $4,000 to invest, telling Kenneth it will help him double his money (so he doesn’t have to do laundry anymore and avoid looking at t-shirts with off-color logos, like ones that say “California”) and save his family’s pig farm. (The inbreeding has made the pigs unruly. Jack wants to build the Parcells a pig moat, which would be great, except that pigs are excellent swimmers.) Of course, Gavin, being a fraudulent agoraphobe, has taken Kenneth’s money to fund his failed escape. He reveals to Jack that his company, Sunstream, was not a real company at all because their advertisements never actually sold a product, all their commercials simply stated: “Innovation – Tomorrow – America – Sunsteam.” Kenneth refuses to take money from Jack, claiming that the Parcells have long survived on rock soup and squirrel tale, but that they’ve had their lean times, too. He then gets Kenneth to take the job as floor safety marshal (because NBC Universal is worried about fires, terrorist attacks and Cloverfield monsters), which Jack claims comes with a $4,000 bonus in order to pay Kenneth back without him noticing a handout.

My favorite part of this episode, however, was the B-story in which Tracy Morgan thinks his kids want to murder him for his newfound wealth, just like the Menendez Brothers did to their father. He coins the phrase, “Don’t Menendez me!,” effectively creating my new favorite verb. He even goes so far as to use his Tracy Morgan life-size sex doll as a decoy, just in case his children should try to kill him in his sleep.

One of these things is not like the other . . .

One of these things is not like the other . . .

Then he catches one of his sons telling the sex doll that they’re afraid Tracy will get too rich and that he’ll want to buy a whole new family, which warms Tracy’s heart a little bit and puts an end to thinking that his sons want to Menendez him. The sex doll gets repurposed for yet another use as a decoy in the episode’s final standoff with suicidal Gavin Veloure, allowing Tracy to sneak up to the rafters and tackle Gavin before he can jump.

“Toronto is just like New York, but without all the stuff.” – Gavin Veloure

The Office 5.7 “Business Trip”

I’ve never really been certain about Ed Helms as Andy on The Office. I definitely respect him as an actor, no doubt, but I was never entirely behind him leaving his post at The Daily Show to become the obnoxious blowhard that is his new character. Oftentimes he simply seems to be a dramatic foil for everybody else, a cipher simply meant to press other people’s buttons and get in the way of Angela and Dwight being a happy couple. Not much more.

But this week, the show decided to let him really shine, showing the soft underbelly of this rageaholic Cornell graduate.

Michael, as one of his job “perks,” is sent on a business trip to sunny and fabulous…Winnipeg. Bringing along Andy and Oscar and respectively a translator and a numbers guy, Michael and the two learn something special about the others or about themselves during the short trip, gaining clarity into the lives of these lonely, depressed Scranton employees.

O, Canada!

O, Canada!

Michael, hurting over Holly’s transfer, decides to hook up with the hotel’s concierge lady (Wndi McLendon-Covey from Reno 911!), but when she uses him for sex and kicks him out of her hotel room, he learns a very valuable lesson about the complications that love and sex bring. With newfound understanding, he calls up his boss and finally shows some chutzpah, complaining about the miserable business trip as well as how “sucky” it was to send Holly off, thus perhaps ruining the only chance he had at happiness.

Oh, but Andy gets the really good stuff this week. Still doing wedding planning with Angela, Andy sees this trip as an opportunity not to hook up with somebody else, but to help Oscar find a willing male lover, even if it’s simply a one-night stand.

“I don’t care if you’re gay, straight, engaged, whatever. A guy needs…intercourse.” – Andy

Andy ends up not getting anybody for Oscar, but not for lack of trying. So the conversation shifts to Andy’s engagement to Angela and how Oscar thinks that the two are completely wrong for each other. We learn, most pressingly, that Andy and Angela haven’t even had sex, and her version of “first base” is a kiss on the forehead. Oscar inspires Andy, in a drunken haze, to call up Angela and reveal some of his pent-up feelings, especially in regards to really, really wanting sex.

Angela [on phone]: We’ll talk about this later.

Andy: Naked.

Angela [on phone]: What?

Andy: We’ll talk about this later…Naked! [pause] I want to see you naked

The next morning at the airport, Andy doesn’t realize that the call actually happened – he thought it was a dream – but his conversation with Oscar has given him the courage to stand up to her better. And, likewise, Oscar really appreciates Andy’s attempt to get him laid the night before.

“Are you kidding me? It’s what I do. Get the whole nine nards.” – Andy

I’ve always felt Andy to be very grating, so it’s nice to see him loosen up and reveal the inner Andy, a sweet, confused man who just wants somebody to love, and if all else fails, at least he can help get somebody else someone to love. Maybe he and Dwight – the office’s two biggest blowhards – can finally come to an understanding with each other. (Although that is unlikely if Dwight is to steal Angela, his one true love, out from under Andy right around wedding time.)

Back in Scranton, Jim finds out that Pam is failing her Flash class at art school, so to graduate she will have to retake the class, which would mean another 12 weeks in New York. He accepts this scenario sadly, but knowing that it’s probably for the best. In the end, though, Pam surprises Jim and returns home to Scranton, declaring that she just really hates graphic design and that it wasn’t worth being away from Jim any longer.

Oh, and Ryan is back with Kelly, much to Darryl’s hilarious relief after putting up with that prattling bimbo for so long. Actor Craig Robinson has had a very big last few months in movies (Pineapple Express and Zack & Miri Make A Porno), and his final goofily joyous reaction to seeing Ryan and Kelly back together was just the cherry on top of the cake that was his stellar year.

The Husband:

My Name Is Earl 4.9 “Sold A Guy A Lemon Car”

The title says it all. When Earl gets a new neighbor in room 230 – after getting Catalina to move a boring, talky tenant to another part of the motel where “when it’s windy, you can get HBO” – he and Randy become very suspicious of all the mechanical noises next door, starting to believe that a terrorist has moved in and he is making a bomb.

Turns out, Earl was directly responsible for turning this man sour. Years earlier, he and Joy did a con where bought a shitty car for a very low price and made it look all spiffy (including writing “Air Bag” in sharpie on the driver’s wheel), found a house that was unoccupied during the day and sold a nice young man the car with which he can explore America (complete with the Simon & Garfunkle tune). By the time the car broke down, the Hickeys had left and, since the man didn’t realize they did not live there, he never found them again.

Now, however, this man, Lloyd, does not want Earl to save him because he is content with his view of the world that everybody is scum.

“You don’t owe me anything. You showed me the way of the world.” – Lloyd

Earl attempts to teach him the moral that not everybody is scum and so he tries to track the long line of people who were sold the car in question. Unfortunately, as each sucker was conned, they then turned around and conned the next person, so Earl gets Darnell to step in as “Pookie Johnson,” another one of the car-buying suckers, and try to convince Lloyd that “Pookie” didn’t sell the car but instead melted it down and built playgrounds for sick children. Lloyd sees through the lies, though, and declares his project is nearing completion.

Goodbye, cruel world!

Goodbye, cruel world!

Worried about the safety of all of Camden, Earl breaks into the motel room, only to see that Lloyd isn’t building a bomb at all, but a rocket that will blast him into space. Lloyd realizes that Earl actually risked his life to save other people, so Earl accidentally proves his point, thus getting Lloyd to focus on the good things in life, give up his rocket and do the cross-country trip he always planned.
Meanwhile, Joy wants the $500 prize in the local children’s science fair in order to get a Jane Seymour-advertised diamond necklace, so she needs to come up with something to do herself and foist upon Earl, Jr. She has a vision, complete with Jane Seymour doing a cameo showing up in Joy’s mirror, that even though science is not one of Joy’s strong suits…

“First time I ever used birth control, I put them inside me.”

…she should look into evolving as a person. Joy mistakes Seymour’s words as telling her to prove that evolution is actually false, so Joy grabs a small fish from the motel pool and puts it in a tank, saying if it doesn’t grow legs, she wins. Unfortunately, that small fish was a tadpole, so of course it was going to sprout legs in order to become a turtle.

“Stupid fish-frog!” – Joy

I hate amphibious things!

I hate amphibious things!

In the end, Joy receives Lloyd’s rocket and uses it in the competition, only to discover that the $500 prize is simply a certificate. Luckily, Darnell is a good guy and has already bought her the diamond necklace.
I keep on saying it this season for this show, and I’m not sure how many times I’m going to have to repeat it, but Earl works best when it finds a nice, laid-back rhythm and goes about its business while infusing moments of very dark and absurd humor, it’s a small gem of a show, and this week did exactly that. Lloyd did come into his moral a bit too abruptly, but I’m glad the show is beginning to feel the need to mix up its endings again after stumbling out the gates at the beginning of this season.

The Office 5.6 “Customer Survey”

In a solid, top-notch half-hour – directed by one of the two creators of the original UK show, Stephen Merchant – it’s time once again for Dunder Mifflin’s annual customer survey report. Everything seems to be okay except for Dwight’s reports (he is considered “aggressive, hostile and difficult) and, oddly enough, Jim’s (“smudge [sic] and arrogant”). Jim tries to convince Dwight to not be so incessantly rude over the phone, leading to this jewel of a conversation.

Dwight: You’re an idiot.

Jim: There’s that charm.

The whole time, Jim is on the phone with Pam. How? Since they can’t technically give up so many of their work hours to talk to each other, Pam has found two of the tiniest Bluetooth devices available, fitting snugly and secretly inside their ears. In fact, the entire episode is spent with them on the phone with each other.

John Krasinskis unaired guest appearance on Chuck.

John Krasinski's unaired guest appearance on Chuck.

Michael decides to take matters into his own hands and do a two-on-one session regarding customer service with the two, but that only opens the door for Jim to torment Dwight as well as he can (including posing as a customer by the name of Bill Buttlicker).
Dwight is sure that there is an inside-the-office conspiracy to sully his name, so he confronts Kelly, who gathered the reports, and demands that she admits to her crime.

Kelly: Dwight, get out of my nook!

Pam: [Over the phone, more excited than she has ever been before] That’s what she said that’s what she said that’s what she said!

I will defend this nook to the death!

I will defend this nook to the death!

Jim begins to believe Dwight’s paranoia, though, when he discovers that everyone in the office has a personalized coffee mug with their face on them…except for Jim and Dwight. Turns out they were party favors at Kelly’s recent America’s Got Talent finale party, which neither Jim nor Dwight attended, and as Jim calls around to all of his clients, they have nothing but good things to say about him and his over-the-phone protocol.
They bring this information up to Michael – who spent the earlier part of the day trying to convince people that he and Holly were engaged, which Darryl was delighted to point out was completely not true – and they have a meeting with Kelly, who quickly understands that she has been found out. Her solution? Blame somebody else.

Kelly: I was raped!

Michael: You can’t say you were raped and think that it will solve all your problems. Not again.

In the AA world (“AA” meaning “Andy and Angela”), they are fighting over their wedding and the use of a tent during the ceremony. Angela relents, but demands, slyly, that Andy must find a hand-cropped field on which to put the tent. The only farm like this in a 6-8 mile radius? Dwight’s family’s beet farm. I’ve been a little confused about Angela and Dwight’s on-again-off-again love affair, but I guess that this intentionally transparent setup is pretty much the final word that they are really into each other again, and this time hopefully forever.

As far as Jim and Pam go, Pam is surprised at work when her art school buddy (Mad Men’s Rich Sommer looking all young and cute) comes into her office and takes her aside to talk about something important. Jim, on the Bluetooth, quietly demands to talk to him, but Pam ignores Jim and listens to what we all believe is going to be a profession of love. But that’s not what it is…not exactly. Rich (forgot his character’s name) wants Pam to reconsider moving back to Scranton when she’s done with art school, because nobody can entirely “do New York” in only three short months, and that she should consider staying in the city. Jim, as we learn from this episode, is saving his money so he can buy his parents’ house in Scranton, so we once again are approached as viewers with trying to figure out how best this wonderful couple can get through their very important (and realistic) problems.

It’s true, both should live in New York, but where does that leave Jim as a bread-winner, considering that Pam will without question have to struggle to make money as an artist for some time? The long-distance thing just doesn’t seem like it can work out for too much longer between the two of them, so I fear that they may be taking a break from each other by the end of this season.

Sad face.

The Wife:

Kath & Kim
1.5: “Dating”

Soooo . . . I guess Ginger the Rottweiler is no longer pregnant with mutt-puppies? Because Craig is busy putting her in doggy day-care and still choosing his dog over Kim (at least that’s how Kim thinks of it). I get the feeling that Kath & Kim is never really going to have a through storyline for Kim, instead choosing to let her stew in her own idiocy and allow Kath to have a single, non-dynamic throughline about her relationship with Phil. Craig and Kim are never going to get back together, and they’re always going to have episodic plots that ultimately amount to nothing, which is a shame. I was pretty sure television wasn’t really like that anymore, but apparently Kath & Kim has proven me wrong. It’s lucky it’s wedged between all of NBC’s good Thursday shows so that it will at least survive the season. Without that, I don’t think it would stand much of a chance.

Let me give you a quick summary of this episodes two plots:

1. Kath hides her strawberry allergy from Phil, which leads her to question how much she really knows about him once she discovers that he cultivates rare orchids for fun. Phil takes her to his old neighborhood and gives her a tour of his past. They make out in his convertible and almost get arrested for public indecency. There was nothing about this plot that was funny.

[Husband Note: I did think Phil’s ad-lib about his nose was funny, but that’s about it.]

All this stirring just doesnt seem to get me anywhere.

All this stirring just doesn't seem to get me anywhere.

2. Kim, still mad at Craig about Ginger, has made up with hairstylist Tina and the two decide to go speed dating together in order to make Craig jealous. Tina hooks up with a tree trimmer and Craig tries to ban Kim from speed dating, which drives her to make a second trip to Sarasota in order to do so. Tina’s car breaks down on the way and Kim busses to Sarasota by herself, only to realize that she doesn’t want any of the guys she meets at speed dating because Craig is her boo. She calls him to come pick her up and she has to share the front seat with Ginger, to her chagrin.

The return of Melissa Rauch was the best part of this episode for me, as I am a big fan of hers. She also had two of the best lines of this episode:

  • “Wow, what happened to your face? Nothing personal, but it makes me sick to look at it.” – To Kath in regards to her strawberry-induced rash.
  • “Once I sold some of my eggs to buy a guy a Playstation.” – On the crazy things we do for love.

And a good one from Craig:

Selma really has that look of disdain down, doesnt she?

Selma really has that look of disdain down, doesn't she?

“I’ve checked with my other friends, Kim, and none of their wives go speed dating!”

Finally, a solipsism from Kim about how little her mom knows about Phil:

“He could be evil in carnage!”

You’re just treading water, Kath & Kim, and I’m really beginning to feel like you’re a waste of your actors’ talent. I do still get a few good laughs out of you, though, no matter how much I hate your stagnant plots.

30 Rock 3.2: “Believe in the Stars”

This week’s 30 Rock had three really-well honed plots tonight that offered various levels of amusement.

1. Jack reveals that we faked several Olympic events in order for Americans to win more medals in events such as Tetherball, Synchronized Running and Octuples Tennis. Tyler Brody, a tetherball finalist robbed of the Gold by another American tetherballer, wants to go public with the news, until Jack bribes him not to. Through this, Kenneth unfortunately discovers the Tetherball hoax and loses his faith in Jack and his respect for the man. Jack tries to explain the point of the hoax to Kenneth via a hypothetical situation in which there is only enough food for 8 people, so a ninth person must die in order for the others to survive.

“I don’t believe in hypothetical situations, Mr. Donnaghey. That’s like lying to your brain.” –Kenneth Parcell

Jack ultimately tests Kenneth’s morals by creating such a hypothetical in an elevator, but Kenneth chooses to sacrifice himself rather than another passenger. Ultimately, Jack rewards Kenneth with a brand new plasma screen TV (one of the two things Kenneth loves in this world is television), but no cable, effectively giving Kenneth the moral dilemma he faced in his youth: to steal cable, or not to steal cable?

2. Liz Lemon has to go to jury duty back home in Chicago, which she apparently always does dressed in a Princess Leia costume to guarantee that she will never be selected for jury service. Jack insists that she should fly under the influence because:

“Nobody flies without medication anymore. Why shouldn’t you have the same comforts as a dog?”

Are these dog tranquilizers?

Are these dog tranquilizers?

The flight over on her shiny new meds is fairly uneventful, but on the flight back, Liz is so high that she hallucinates Oprah Winfrey is her single-serving friend for the flight. “Oprah” acts as a therapist to Liz, advising her on the situation that has developed between Tracy and Jenna (Plot #3), as well as sharing her various new “favorite things” (including sweater capes and salt water taffy). “Oprah” agrees to come to 30Rock and help Liz with the Tracy/Jenna situation.

Back home, Liz prepares for Oprah’s arrival and the ladies on staff treat her as though she just encountered Jesus, with Jenna bowing to kiss the hands and feet of the woman who fell asleep in Oprah’s lap on a plane. However, when Oprah arrives, she isn’t Oprah at all, but a “spunky tween” with all the confidence of someone who lives Oprah’s mission.

The next in line for the Oprah throne.

The next in line for the Oprah throne.

3. Tracy and Jenna are still battling it out for appropriate compensation for Jenna’s porno voice work in Tracy’s porn video game. Liz hires a mediator from the company to help settle the dispute, but the dispute turns into an argument between Tracy and Jenna about who is more oppressed: black men or white women. (The mediator suggests that overweight transgenders are actually more oppressed, and I would tend to agree.) They dare each other to spend a day in one another’s shoes, which leads to Tracy donning a knock-off White Chicks outfit and being covered in clown white makeup . . . except for the monster claw he’s wearing as a hand because the makeup department ran out of white due to the fact that he insisted they make-up his ass. That monster claw was the funniest part of the evening for me. Any sight gag involving a monster claw is well worth the five-minute giggle-spree it spawns.

Teehee! I have a tiny dog in my purse!

Teehee! I have a tiny dog in my purse!

Jenna counters Tracy’s White Chicks act by dressing up in black face as James Brown (and imitating his signature dance moves). Liz gets back from Chicago just in time to stop these two from leaving the building and keep them out of Jack’s sight, but not to de-escalate the argument.

Is it just me, or is Jane Krakowski actually not a bad looking black man?

Is it just me, or is Jane Krakowski actually not a bad looking black man?

When Spunky Tween “Oprah” arrives, she actually manages to settle the dispute the way the real Oprah probably would.

Liz is mortified that “Oprah” is not Oprah, but Jack assures her that mistaken celebrity hallucinations happen to the best of us, revealing that he met his assistant when stoned on a plane, thinking the assistant was M. Night Shyamalan.

The Husband:

Behold, our first joint post for NBC’s Thursday night comedy block, now with four separate shows!

My Name Is Earl 4.8 “Little Bad Voodoo Brother”

It’s Halloween, so Earl decides to take on list item #94: “Ruined Dodge and Earl Jr.’s Halloween.” The only way to make this up to his kids, Joy convinces him, is to throw a big Halloween bash at the trailer park for his children and all those townsfolk who were roped into doing a search party to find them years earlier. Earl is happy to abide, but then decides to rope in another list item: “Cost Randy a little brother.”

How would Earl have even done such a thing?

“Dad made mom get fixed after he caught Earl playing a game of ‘watch Randy in the washing machine.’ I swallowed a lot of bleach. That’s why I can’t taste salt.” — Randy

Trying to do the right thing, Earl brings Randy to the local chapter of Big Bros & Little Bros, but Randy fails to qualify in order to take care of a poor Little Bro. Earl tries to tell him otherwise, but Randy sees right through his façade.

“You’re talking in your high-pitched lying voice!” — Randy

Suddenly, Catalina has an idea for how Earl can cross this off his list: she has a cousin who had been shipped to America, one boy by the name of O-Scar (“like ‘Oscar’ but with an ‘O'”), and would be fine if Randy looked after him for a while in order to be a good male role model for the child.

Actually, this shirt is really not a bad costume idea.

Actually, this shirt is really not a bad costume idea.

Unfortunately, this tiny immigrant child doesn’t like being told what to do, and when Randy scolds him for stealing tips off the tables at the Crab Shack, O-Scar begins performing voodoo in order to curse and scare Randy and Earl. Earl isn’t scared at first…

“I’ve got a cousin with Tourette’s who’s religious. It’s very similar.”

…but then O-Scar pulls out his voodoo dolls and threatens to hurt them very badly. When Earl and Randy try to return the evil child to Catalina, she runs away not wanting to deal with this problem kid anymore, so the two must live in fear. They go to Darnell for help, and are surprised that he has already created fake passports for them.

“I was trained to think three steps ahead. I saw this coming back in December.” — Darnell

At the Halloween party, Joy discovers O-Scar’s evil little ways, and since a voodoo practitioner hexed her when she was a child (the hex? To become pregnant before she got married), she tries to take out the child. When all hell breaks loose at the party, Earl realizes that he has in fact given Randy a little brother, so he crosses it off his list. Karma intervenes (well, the way it does on this show) and it is revealed that O-Scar doesn’t really know voodoo but is simply very good at using the power of suggestion, and turns out to be not such a bad little kid.

O-Scar? Oh no!

O-Scar? Oh no!

Two items down this week, a few hundred to go. The show has finally reached a nice middle-ground stride. Not great by any means, but still incredibly watchable. Keep them coming, guys.
The Office 5.5 “Employee Transfer”

It’s Halloween — did I already say that — and Dunder Mifflin is packed to the gills with costumed employees. Andy is a character from Cats, Kelly is Carrie Bradshaw, Ryan is Gordon Gekko and Phyllis is Raggedy Anne. There was bound to be some people who dressed in the same costume, and this time it’s Dwight, Creed and Kevin all dressed as (what else?) the Joker. (And of the three, Creed, of course, is the creepiest and most accurate Joker.)

Unfortunately in New York, Pam finds out too late that nobody at her branch dresses up for Halloween, so she is left dressed as Charlie Chaplin, complete with a mustache made with greasepaint.

“And I can’t even take off my hat. Because then I’m Hitler.” — Pam

The unholy alliance between the Joker and Chaplin has come to pass. Cower.

The unholy alliance between the Joker and Chaplin has come to pass. Cower.

After Halloween, the show goes a lot darker — as this show tends to do — because at the end of the last episode, a Dunder Mifflin representative caught Michael and Holly making out, and due to company policy one of them has to either transfer to another branch or quit. (For the answer, look at the episode’s title.) Michael is sad to see Holly go, so he accompanies her on a road trip to her new house in New Hampshire, with Darryl driving the truck. While they do love each other, Holly breaks down during the truck ride because she knows that their relationship could never survive the long distance (a seven-hour drive) no matter how much they loved each other and how much Michael protests.

Holly: Michael, don’t make it harder than it has to be.

Michael: [Sadly, quietly] That’s what she said.

Upon arriving in New Hampshire, Michael has the option of staying with her for a bit, but defeated, he decides to just get back into the truck with Darryl and drive back to Scranton, literally singing the blues. (Well, Michael’s version of the blues.)

At the office, Dwight is intent on driving Andy crazy, so he pretends that he is interested in matriculating at Cornell, Andy’s alma mater. Adorning his body and desk with Cornell sweaters and swag, he easily pushes Andy’s buttons, until Andy calls Cornell and gets permission to be Dwight’s interviewer for the school. The scene between Andy and Dwight as they evaluate each other in increasingly aggressive and silly ways was the highlight of this episode, basically an ode to how funny both actors truly are.

Jellicle songs for Jellicle cats!

Jellicle songs for Jellicle cats!

In the episode’s third story, Jim drives to New York to have a lunch with Pam, where he is to introduce her to his brothers Tom and Pete. Pam gets there before Jim does, though, and tries to come up with a prank on Jim that Tom and Pete would help with that involves her pretending to lose her engagement ring. They decide they want to do another prank — mock Pam’s decision to make a career out of being an artist, because they know that Jim hates it when they give his girlfriends shit. Pam reluctantly agrees, and the lunch is the most awkward the show has been this season. It didn’t really end up being any kind of funny, but Jim finally defends Pam’s career choices only to have the extremely unfunny prank be revealed. The brothers decide, via text message post-lunch, that they really like Pam, and despite Jim being very pissed off at them, is happy that they have welcomed Pam into the family.
After last week’s incredible episode, I don’t think there was any way this week to match it, so the writers didn’t even try. Let a classic be a classic, and even with a lower laugh quotient like it was this week, it’s still better than most of the programming out there.

I will be sad to see Amy Ryan go so soon, as she was a bright shining light this season and a wonderful direction for the show to go in. Hopefully she can return later in the season after the producers offer her a good deal.


The Wife:

Kath & Kim 1.4 “Money”

I’ll give you the log line version of this episode’s two plots. Kath wants to have a fairy tale wedding which necessitates the acquisition of a pumpkin carriage, while Kim realizes that people pay up to $1,000 a puppy for purebred Rottweilers and wants to breed her husband’s dog, Ginger. I didn’t care for the Kath plot very much, but I will give it props for finally bringing Kath into the level of ridiculousness she often seems so above when she falls a few hundred dollars short of the deposit for her coveted pumpkin carriage. She calls Kim crying and wailing into the phone in words that are utterly unrecognizable as words. Hilarious. So far, Shannon’s best work on this show is that moment. Luckily for Kath, Phil wants to be her Knight in Shining Armor and rents the carriage for her, a gesture that she is so moved by that she and Phil must immediately have sex in the carriage.

Sadly, this dress was the inspiration for Kaths Fairy Tale Wedding.

Sadly, this dress was the inspiration for Kath's Fairy Tale Wedding.

Kim’s dog breeding plot ended exactly how one would expect a dog breeding plot to end: with a bevy of mutt dogs gangbanging the bitch in heat, thus impregnating her with non-pedigree puppies of indeterminate breed. I did like that the stud dog was named something along the lines of Gir Von Von Frukenhauser, which I think will be the name of my next apartment. (Our duplex is called Scooter McNippleton.) The good news about this plot is that it has a.) brought Kim and Craig closer together (even though Kim still resents Craig for not being the Craig that invented Craig’s List) and b.) found a way to bring Angel back into the series. This time, Angel has taken up volunteering at a dog shelter, which gets shut down, forcing Angel to find homes for ten dogs . . . the very same ten dogs that escape from her car and violate Ginger. It’s also good to know that NBC felt it was only decent to show one dog rape, choosing only to imply the remaining nine dog rapes by showing the dogs running into the yard, and then cutting to a sky-cam angle that showed Kim and Angel’s reactions to the dog rapes, but not the dog rapes themselves that are taking place under an open umbrella. I feel like that’s a little too much censorship. But, then again, maybe it’s just really hard to train more than one dog to hump on command. So maybe it was a practicality issue? I don’t know. Either way, I feel like I learned something about American audiences and their relationships to dog gangbangs.

In some unrelated notes from “Money:”

1. Phil wants to invent a sandwich to celebrate his love for Kath. His current “meat lab” experiment has brought him to conclude that the “sandwich that tastes like our love” would be “a warm tuna salad and sausage ciabatta with curly fries.” This is a double entendre, right? Tuna salad is what I think it is? And a sausage is, um, a sausage? If that’s true, then what the hell are curly fries? Pubes?

2. This episode started of with the fucking lamest pun in the world. When Kath complains about how Phil wants a small wedding, Kim suggests that they just get it over with and elope. Kath turns around, holding a fucking cantaloupe, and goes “Kimmie, we can’t elope!” Wow. Really? Really, Kath & Kim? Really? You went for a joke I last heard on Saved by the Bell back in 1991? Only when it was on Saved by the Bell, it involved Screech and went something like this:

Mr. Belding: Screech, you can’t elope!

Screech: Don’t call me a cantaloupe, you melon head!

No one can make a “cantaloupe/can’t elope” joke without forcing me to think about Screech.

(Husband note: I did not catch the pun until my wife just pointed it out, and now it’s the funniest thing I’ve heard all week)

30 Rock 3.1 “Do-Over”

Both Jack and Liz get major do-overs in this episode. Jack, after losing his company to Devon and Kathy Geiss and returning from D.C., gets to participate in an accelerated re-do of his entire career, working his way up to the top from the lowly mailroom. (He is, after all, a man who “paid his way through Princeton by working the day shift at that graveyard and the graveyard shift at that Day’s Inn.”) In this process, which Jack estimates will take between 5 and 9 years (depending on how many times a day he gets promoted), Jack realizes that Devon is destroying the company and that he must do the unthinkable in order to regain control: sleep with Kathy Geiss. Just as Jack is about to give soap opera-obsessed Kathy everything he’s got, Liz bursts in and helps Jack recreate an even bigger soap opera trope that somehow involves murdering one’s twin at the gym and ends with two characters kissing. Well, almost. Jack and Liz care about each other, but not quite enough to put on a full show of kissing in front of a mentally challenged girl-child who loves sparkly unicorns and strawberry lipgloss.

I thought I was Kathys stawberry mouth boy!

I thought I was Kathy's stawberry mouth boy!

“Three of my nine siblings were adopted . . . and one day I’m gonna find them.” — Kenneth

Liz meets with her adoption assessor, Bev (Megan Mullaly), who immediately dislikes the curtain pulls in Liz’s apartment as well as how much Liz works. Then Bev meets Liz’s staff, who all contribute to the ruination of Liz’s chances at adoption in their own, special ways. Frank, for instance, can’t stop talking about the Mexican circus video he had planned on showing, Cerie keeps insisting that the adoption interview is a custody battle and that Liz should have full custody of her children, and Pete violently flings the babies out of the makeshift nursery that Liz claimed the office had in an effort to return them to the prop room before they were needed again. Liz’s chances at adoption are totally nixed, until Bev gets hit in the head and she wakes up not knowing that the interview even happened. Even after a do-over in which everyone tries really hard to get everything right for Liz, Bev still cannot grant Liz an adoption.

“I wish there were a box on these forms where I could check off ‘passion.'” — Bev

While Liz doesn’t get her baby, Jack does regain power at the network when Kathy makes him her personal business advisor, thus shaming Devon back into gay-sex-at-noon-in-Central-Park obscurity and Devin’s second money-making scheme, which involves him throwing himself onto the hoods of cars and threatening to sue. A line from Devon that I really liked: “You know what rumors are, Jack. They make a Ru out of Mor and S.”

Okay, now you do your Sarah Palin accent.

Okay, now you do your Sarah Palin accent.

Also, its really weird to see Tina Fey and Megan Mullaly stand next to each other, as they both bear a resemblance to a certain Vice Presidential candidate with a fondness for shooting wolves from helicopters.

A quick catch-up with The Office…

I’m really digging the direction the show is going, being more comfortable with serious scenes that they don’t feel the need to awkwardly inject humor into justifiably earned drama. I keep using that word, rhythm, and The Office has regained it in great ways.

“Business Ethics”

In this episode, Holly decides to quiz the staff of Dunder Mifflin on business ethics and is dissatisfied with the results, leading her to investigate further into the paper company branch’s misdeeds. The worst of which? It seems that Meredith — who so far is notable mostly for being a drunk, flashing Michael her tits at a Christmas party, and getting run over by Michael’s car last season — is quite the salacious one, as she has been sleeping with a supplier every month for six years now, getting paper discounts as well as gift certificates to Outback Steakhouse. This is, of course, terribly unethical, so Holly and Michael butt heads on whether or not to fire her.

What? I love bloomin onions.

What? I love bloomin' onions.

Luckily, their blossoming relationship does not go completely sour, because Holly is simply the perfect match for Michael, just as goofy and neurotic as he is. (The opening to their ethics seminar for the company? Them in neon headbands singing “Let’s Get Ethical.”) They come to decision not to fire Meredith, but Michael makes the awkward suggestion of putting her in a chastity belt. (I’ve always wondered, how does one pee when saddled with such a device? Well, I guess back in the times when it was used, hygiene wasn’t nearly as important.)

Meanwhile, Jim tests Dwight’s declaration that he does not participate in any “time theft” at work by timing his yawns and personal conversations, baiting him with intentionally misinformed discussions with Andy about Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars and LOTR.

My favorite bit of humor from the episode:

During the ethics seminar, Andy poses the question of if you would you steal bread for your starving family, to which Dwight replies, “Trick question. The bread is poisoned.”

“Baby Shower”

Michael is excited that ex-girlfriend Jan is stopping by the Scranton branch and intends to throw her a baby shower, despite the fact that he is not the father, as Jan used a sperm donor.

“Now, this baby will be related to Michael by…delusion.” — Jim demonstrating the baby’s relations to Jan, sperm donor and Michael via chart

Much to Michael’s dismay, Jan has already given birth to Astrid (or as Michael unintentionally refers to it, Assturd) and the planned baby shower is nothing but Office-style awkwardness. Not only that, some people aren’t very big on babies, including Stanley and Creed.

“I have varicose veins, too! I have swollen ankles.” — Stanley

“Must be like the tide at Omaha Beach.” — Creed disgusted at the idea of a bathtub underwater birth and the image of the afterbirth

To not make Jan feel awkward about Holly’s presence at the company, Michael warns Holly that he will be treating her poorly in front of Jan, leading to my favorite lines of the night, “I’m fine…Weirdo,” and “She smells like old tomatoes. And dirt.”

Meanwhile, Dwight decides to test out Jan’s $1200 stroller by throwing it down stairs, hitting it with his car and dragging it for several miles, only to find that it is indeed indestructible. (Fun fact from the episode: Dwight performed his own circumcision.)

In the end, Michael decides to deny Jan’s request not to date Holly and does, in fact, ask her out in a wonderfully sweet scene. I know Amy Ryan is so far only booked for a couple more episodes (I tend to avoid anything more spoilerish than that), but this story is giving Michael such depth that I wish it could last all season.