The Husband:

And lo, Holly re-entered Michael Scott’s life, and the world of The Office was complete again. For this season finale, several stories came crashing in on each other, and what better place for that than the company-wide picnic, full of food, games and seeeeeecrets

Aside from learning, for instance, that all Human Resources leads talk with the same joylessness and boring tact as Toby, the biggest event of the day is not the competitive volleyball game (more on that later), but Michael and Holly finally reuniting after her relocation to New Hampshire after it was discovered that she and Michael were fraternizing (boss + employee + sex = no good). Still with boyfriend and coworker Rob Huebel, she and Michael nevertheless still have major chemistry, but they must put that aside in order to do a comedy sketch for the picnic. After going through several bad ideas (a Jaws parody that would have them muttering “Dun-der, dun-der, dun-der”), they settle on a deliriously weird take-off of Slumdog Millionaire, complete with the torture scenes. The questions are based around the origins and history of Dunder-Mifflin (it seems Dunder and Mifflin met on a campus tour of Dartmouth, and one of them shot himself in the head), the sketch finally makes waves when one of the Millionaire questions reveals that the Buffalo branch is about to be closed, a piece of info David shared secretly with Michael.

Why David told Michael I’ll never understand (what were you expecting from someone who recently defected and battled your company), but I think the revelation might have done a very good job in revealing some of Corporate’s misdoings, and that Michael has become the kind of person to not go down without a fight.

Having a moment.

Having a moment.

Post-sketch, Michael and Holly have another moment, but alas, it cannot be, as she and Rob Huebel exit, leaving Michael to understand, in a stunning bit of maturity, that he is willing to wait for her and not force his hand too much.

“I think that today was just about having today.” – Michael

Meanwhile, on the field, Dunder-Mifflin is rising up in the ranks of the intramural volleyball tournament, thanks mostly to Pam rocking the ball hardcore. (She never revealed to anybody that she played in middle school, high school and some college, as well as attended volleyball summer camp frequently.) But when they go up against the Corporate team, led by Charles Minor, the game gets nasty.

On the sidelines, one of Dwight’s newest friends, Rolph, is relentlessly haranguing Angela for breaking his friend’s heart.

“What does one fiancée plus one lover equal? Answer: a whore!” – Rolph

Finally, Rolph goes too far, Dwight forcibly tells him to back off, and Angela realizes that she and Dwight may not be a lost cause after all.

(I don’t know if this was intentional, but I find it extra funny that Dwight says he met Rolph at a shoe store. The actor playing Rolph, James Urbaniak, is a wonder at playing terrible creeps, from being R. Crumb in American Splendor to voicing Dr. Venture on The Venture Brothers, but he will always be the foot fetishist shoe salesman on Sex and the City.)

But back to the volleyball game. During a particularly aggressive defense, Pam trips and busts her ankle, prompting Jim to take her to a nearby hospital (ever the paranoid naturalist, Dwight knows exactly how many miles away it is) and Dwight to stall the game as much as possible. But at the hospital, a busted ankle becomes something else, and in a scene respectable not just for its emotion but for the fact that it’s done in silence, Jim and Pam find out that they are having a baby, prompting Jim to call Dwight back and uttering the best line of the week:

“Hey Dwight, send in the subs.” – Jim

I realize I’m in the minority, but as I’ve mentioned many times on this blog, I think this is the best season of The Office yet. No longer insistent on simply telling a bunch of goofy office stories, the world has opened up even bigger than before, willing more than ever to turn up the drama when it’s necessary. Jim and Pam may seem irrelevant to some, but that couldn’t be further from the truth, as we see this beautiful flower emerge from the cracks within the concrete that is Dunder-Mifflin. Michael and Holly’s relationship was top-notch, helping turn Michael, finally, into an actual human being and not just a caricature who would sometimes change personalities just to service each week’s plot. Ryan’s return was handled well. Pam’s failed attempt at art school was realistic and understandable. The entire Michael Scott Paper Company arc worked better than I would have expected. How is this not a great season?

I leave this season with two more good quotes from the episode, the first just goofy, the second a cheap, easy joke for Dwight, but a funny one nonetheless.

“Yeah, you don’t grab these for balance.” – Pam

“I have an appointment with a horse doctor. How that horse became a doctor, I’ll never know. I’m just kidding. He’s just a regular doctor who shoots your horse in the head when his leg is broken.” – Dwight

The Husband:

My Name Is Earl 4.17 “Friends With Benefits”

Now that Darnell and Joy are in the Witness Protection Program, Earl and Randy move back into their old trailer, where they are joyous to discover that Mr. Turtle has returned after being lost so many episodes ago. But where did he go? According to the narration, he escaped “from pet-loving nudists, participated in a marathon, got into a little trouble with drugs and alcohol, then he saw some things he shouldn’t have seen, and even took a lover for a few days.”

Earl wants to send Mr. Turtle to wherever Darnell is now, but his plans to simply ship him over is blocked by Catalina.

“You can’t just ship a turtle, Earl. It’s not like a vase or a person.”

But soon Earl notices that, inside Mr. Turtle’s food canister, is a special note in case they ever found Mr. Turtle, a note to call Darnell on his secret hair phone. Making contact, Earl decides to visit the newly minted Cristals (I didn’t catch what Darnell’s new first name was), only to be surprised to find them in a very sunny, very rich place.

But Joy, with all of her trailer park-ness ingrained in her, cannot seem to fit in amongst the rich trophy wife neighbors (Morgan Fairchild, Andrea Parker, Joan Van Ark), and especially cannot relate to their problems. It seems that they feel their lives are empty, and that is forming into terrible insomnia for each and every one of the women.

Joy, afraid that having Earl around will blow her cover and expose her “white trash” nature, she tries to get him out of town, but as he turns on his car, the backfire exhaust temporarily blinds Morgan Fairchild’s dog, but instead of getting blamed for it, Fairchild takes her tiny dog back from Earl (the dog’s name, of course, is Gucci) and becomes fascinated with his seemingly New Age way of dealing with life – karma and something intriguing called “The List.”

Earl, as a result, pretends to be Joy’s former spiritual guide, and imparts his “do good things for others” on the trophy wives, who find their lives slowly becoming better. This includes apologizing to all those who they did wrong, including their maids.

“The boys kept crying for brown mommy.” – Morgan Fairchild

Earl begins to freak out when he accidentally promises them that all their good karma will bring them all their wishes (including a private jet and new fake breasts), but all that changes when the women, conscious cleared, finally get the good night’s sleep they had been craving.

Meanwhile, with Earl gone, Randy is befriended by a burly guy (Eric Allan Kramer, Little John from one of my favorite 90s comedies, Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood: Men In Tights) who mistakes Randy’s Earl-longing as a broken heart over an ex-lover, and that Randy is gay. Randy agrees to have sleepovers with the man, unaware of the guy’s true intentions, leading to some silly sitcom nonsense, until Earl comes back and Randy ignorantly shuns his “lover.”

While the Randy plot was pretty unfunny and predictable, I really liked seeing Earl out of his element once again amongst the trophy wives, and thought Joy showed some marvelous depth this week as she tried to work through her childhood issues of being poor amongst the rich kids at school. The Witness Protection Program is really softening this woman, and while I would have loved to see her kids appear simply to discover how the new location has affected them, I feel as if I was rewarded well enough.

The Office 5.14 “Lecture Circuit Part 2”

Starting with what I believe is The Office’s first “Previously On” cold opening, we pick up where we left off last week, with Michael and Pam on a Dunder Mifflin lecture circuit, canceling one appearance so they can go to Nashua, NH in order for Michael go to see his former lover Holly. Arriving there, Michael learns three things, one disappointing and two horrible:

1.) Holly is gone for the next three days on an HR retreat

2.) She has a new boyfriend

3.) Her boyfriend, Rob Huebel, is a coworker

Michael attempts to do his presentation – with a very bizarre opening joke that references that priest in The Princess Bride who had the speech impediment – but he overtakes it with several inappropriate questions aimed directly at Huebel, finally leading to him completely losing it and leaving the room. Pam, trying to save face, takes over the presentation, which is both easy and humiliating as Michael actually writes down all the stupid impersonations he will use (i.e. Forrest Gump) on flashcards.

Pam gives a good first impression.

Pam gives a good first impression.

While Pam finishes the presentation, Michael goes to Holly’s desk, cuts a sleeve off of the sweater she left, and when he accidentally bumps into her computer and smiles as he sees her Ed Grimley wallpaper, he notices a document titled “Dear Michael,” which he quickly puts on his flash drive.

At a nearby diner, Michael tells Pam of his theft, and she tells him that while him reading the unsent document would be an invasion of Holly’s privacy, she tries to make him feel better by offering that she read it instead. A few minutes later, all Pam tells Michael is that…dun dun duuuuun…Holly isn’t completely over Michael. Whether or not Pam is being honest or not to Michael isn’t revealed (not that I can tell, anyway), but it’s intriguing nonetheless. It’s a downer ending to an episode, though, and while I’m quite aware this show deals with very sad and relatable ideas, I’m always taken aback by a story so depressing and humiliating. It’s a rough show, to say the least.

Back in Scranton, Dwight and Jim continue to try to throw Kelly the best birthday party ever, but as usual their polar opposite personalities get in the way of any progress. An example would be all the ideas Dwight had for a birthday party, which are as follows:

  • Beer
  • Fights to the death
  • Cupcakes
  • Blood pudding
  • Blood
  • Touch football
  • Mating
  • Charades
  • Horse hunting

Under intense pressure (and a very sad Kelly), they finally do something creative and present her, finally, with a cake that actually has her name on it (while they misspell it as “Kelley,” at least it has writing on it this time) and a tiny chiclet on it, which apparently represents a choice for her special birthday present: either she can watch TV at work for one hour, or take a one-hour nap. She chooses the latter, and is very happy that they worked so hard to please her.

In a rare C-story, Angela has bought a new cat for $7000 (its mother was in Meet The Parents), and sets up a webcam at her house connected to her work computer to monitor its interaction with her other cats.

Cats make everything funnier.

Cats make everything funnier.

“[$7000] for a cat? I could get you a kid for that.” – Creed

But Oscar and Kevin notice some strange sounds coming from Angela’s computer and find that her new cat is getting all kinds of raped by her other cats. Aghast, Angela goes home (forgetting to turn off the streaming video), and as Oscar and Kevin look on, she starts cleaning her cats with her tongue all over (stranger parts implied, too). Oscar is forever scarred, wondering what kind of psychological damage was inflicted upon Angela at such a young age to make her such a bizarre cat-lover and person-hater.

Other bits from the episode:

  • We learn that Kelly was in juvie from age 14-15 for stealing a boat
  • “Stop. Forever stop that story.” – Jim to Dwight re: the story of his birth (complete with his mother biting his umbilical cord)

The Wife:

Kath & Kim 1.14 “Celebrity”

For once in its entire run, Kath & Kim managed to create a memorable episode highlighting the absolute absurdity that this show should have always been striving to achieve. Kath moonlights as a makeup artist and hair/wig stylist for the local community theatre organization, which is apparently the closest she’s ever gotten to achieving her dream of performing on “the American stage.” The theatre troupe’s resident diva, Lenore, played by guest star Jennifer Coolidge, who is never bad in anything ever, scores every choice role, from Lady Macbeth (she later performs an impromptu rendition of the “Out, damned spot!” scene at Sandwich Island, which is hilarious because its truly, truly terrible) to Maggie the Cat in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Speaking of Cats, the tackiest musical ever made, that’s what the next play will be and Kath is desperate to play Grizabella and sing that one obnoxious Andrew Lloyd Weber song admired by every first grader in Kevin Smith’s Jersey Girl and notably ruined by American Idol‘s Jason Castro who, to wit, “didn’t even know that song was sung by a cat.” Lenore informs Kath that she also plans to “audition” for Grizabella, which means she will get the role.

Phil encourages Kath to audition, despite Lenore’s threat, sending her once again to Athena Scooberman (Maya Rudolph) for advice on how to prepare for her audition. Not only is Athena a certified life coach, but she’s also a vocal and acting coach and she sets Kath on the proper path to scoring the role of Grizabella. And how does Athena help her prepare for the role? By having an entire conversation as a cat. Like, full-on hisses and meows and claw swiping and snarls. You want to know how to win my heart? Have two grown women do nothing for a full 60 seconds but make cat noises. So weird, and so transcendently funny. I mean, who hasn’t done this? Right? Right?

Because of Kath’s rigorous training schedule, she has no time to deal with Kim and her desire to buy expensive kitchen gadgets (like an ice cream maker which, she rationalizes, will actually end up saving them money because then Kath won’t have to buy Kim ice cream all the time), and tells Kim to buy it herself. Kim scoffs at this because, feh, like, she doesn’t have a job and Phil, sensing an opportunity to win points with his soon-to-be-step-daughter offers Kim a position at Sandwich Island. Phil and Kath are dubious about how this will turn out, considering Kim’s natural predilection for laziness, but on the job, her natural bitchery wins out over her laziness and she becomes extremely proficient at getting the other Sandwich Island employees to do their jobs better and more efficiently. (Technically, this means she’s still not doing much, but hey, doesn’t that just mean she was born to be in management?)

Seeing Kim at work and in uniform really turns Craig on, as he harbors a pretty intense fantasy about women in uniform, and eventually, he coerces his estranged wife to fool around with him behind a dumpster in the parking lot . . . which just happens to be on Sandwich Island’s dumpster cam. Catching Kim wrapped around Craig is too much for Phil to bear, and he forces her to turn in her sullied apron.

At Kath’s Cats audition, she can barely make it through “I Enjoy Being a Girl” because Lenore keeps giving her a death glare from the front row. Athena and Phil tag along for moral support and after watching Kath falter a few times, Athena stands up and lends her voice to boost Kath’s, eventually joining her on stage, which also encourages Phil to join in, ending with the trio performing the song as the lighting guy puts the spot on them and the pyrotechnics go off. Again, a foray into the ridiculous that totally served this episode well, especially because of Athena’s extreme showboating when she makes her way to the stage.

As a result of this rousing audition, Athena, Kath and Phil all get roles in the chorus of Cats leading to yet another sublime scene in which they discuss being in the play whilst in cat costumes, and even Phil offering Kim her job back . . . while still in his costume and makeup. Truly, truly sublime. I mean like SNL‘s Bobby Moynihan as Snagglepuss sublime. I wish every episode of Kath & Kim were as awesomely ludicrous and neatly structured as this one.

Jellicle songs for jellicle cats!

Jellicle songs for jellicle cats!

I’m going to go ahead and say it: everything bad can be improved by the addition of cat costumes.

30 Rock 3.11 “St. Valentine’s Day”

In case you were unaware, this Saturday is Valentine’s Day, a holiday Jack Donaghy would approve of in that it has no value other than to make people buy expensive gifts, fill restaurants to capacity and substitute a commodified idea of “love” for actual love. Or is it? Elisa doesn’t seem to think so, insisting that she and Jack to go church for Saint Valentine’s Day before they do any of the things he wants to do, like going to Plunder, New York’s most opulent restaurant, and having a fine meal, capped off with the most expensive dessert in the world (all I remember is that its topped with edible 24 karat gold) and then to go home and have naughty playtime with Elisa’s giant breasts.

“You’re not one of those convenient Catholics that only goes to church every Sunday?” –Elisa

Meanwhile, Liz inadvertently makes Valentine’s Day her first date with Dr. Drew Baird. (He would have liked to take her out on Friday the 13th, but, you know, she’s got that stupid show . . . thing.) When she brings this up with Jack, he suggests that she avoid the V-Day awkwardness of restaurants filled with couples in love and rings hidden in pastries by having a nice dinner at home. (“Nice . . . you mean, like stew?”) Likewise, Liz suggests that Jack go to church with Elisa and then go out to Plunder so that they can both have their idea of a good Valentine’s Day.

At Liz’s house, she makes a nice stew for Jon Hamm (her secret? replace all the water with cheddar cheese), but then things start to go horribly awry as Liz’s boob falls out of her shirt and a loose door hinge combined with an open window cause him to accidentally see her peeing. Ever the gentlemen, Drew assures Liz that these things are fine with him, as he is a doctor, after all, but she starts to freak out because these are things that shouldn’t happen until the fourth date, or, like, ever, in the case of peeing. Drew suggests that they embrace this accelerated relationship and take it as a sign that if they get through all of these things in one night, then they can definitely make it as a couple. And it’s a good thing he made that call, actually, considering that his ex-wife decided to drop his adolescent daughter, Bethany, off at his place without any warning and he gets a call from his sister about his ailing mother, who is so unwell that she’s to the point where she could go at any moment. Liz is a trouper through all of this, taking the fall for Bethany’s drinking and escorting Drew to the hospital to see his mother. Liz even gets pulled further into the madness when Drew’s mom takes her aside and tells her that she doesn’t want to die without telling someone that she’s actually Drew’s grandmother and that his sister is actually his mother – you know, a total Bobby Darin situation. And then she dies. All of this has been a lot of Drew to bear, but he thanks Liz for being there throughout it, which bodes well for at least one more Jon Hamm-iriffic episode.

Even will everything that happened, Liz’s plot was pretty tame, though sweet, and all the craziness I’ve come to love about this show pour itself into Jack and Elisa’s church date. Throughout the mass, Jack can’t take his mind off eating that expensive and opulent dessert, secretly making a call to Jonathan while uttering the Lord’s prayer, which was hilarious to me, but irritating to Elisa. By the time the priest starts blessing all the pregnant women at the mass (the first three of which are all named Alvarez), Jack begs Elisa to leave so they won’t be late for their very-hard-to-get reservation. She agrees, but insists that Jack goes to confession first. He obliges, but asks the priest to merely keep him in the confessional for three minutes, after which time he will be set free and will go on to eat the most expensive dessert in the world and fondle Elisa’s breasts, but then the priest convinces Jack to discuss why capitalism is his god, launching Jack headfirst into a screed of his misdeeds, not the least of which was running his mother over with a car, maybe on purpose. The priest is terrified by Jack and flees the confessional. Elisa sees this and is enraged, thinking Jack purposely tormented the priest because he’s a godless asshole. She takes it as a sign from God that they shouldn’t be together and storms away, telling Jack that he will never again touch her breasts or get to see the crazy “underwears” she has on.

Jack goes on to eat his expensive dessert alone, which is sad because it just doesn’t taste as good without Elisa around. Heartbroken, he heads over to McDonald’s and orders himself a McFlurry, only to hear her pop up in line behind him and order the same thing. She found another sign while praying at church: a sign that told her she and Jack should be together, eating McFlurries, the world’s greatest dessert.

Elisa: Someone’s trying to bring us together. Maybe it’s God.
Jack: Maybe it’s Ray Kroch.
Elisa: Maybe it’s the Hamburglar.

And there’s a third romance, even, in this very sweet episode: Kenneth suddenly becomes smitten with the hot blind girl who now works at TGS, but he can’t seem to find the ability to talk to her (maybe he shouldn’t have had that mouth on his back sewn up?). Seeing how sexy “Ms. Magoo” is, Tracy steps in and plays Magical Negro Cyrano De Bergerac for Kenneth, speaking in an oddly high voice and helping him woo Jennifer by taking her for a “limo ride” around Manhattan and setting up dinner at the most exclusive restaurant in New York . . . in other words, Grizz and DotCom making the 30 Rock soundstage into a restaurant through clever use of auditory props. I really loved this tongue-in-cheek version of a “blind date” (it works on two levels!) and Tracy’s performance throughout. At the date’s end, though, Kenneth confesses that Tracy has been helping him the whole time and Jennifer is suddenly put off by the fact that Kenneth now sounds white. She still thinks, though, that they might have a chance at love, and so she asks to feel Kenneth’s face . . . after which she realizes that she’s way too hot for him and leaves.

Not the funniest episode, but very sweet and just madcap enough.

Some good quotes:

  • “This just feels right, and my instincts have never let me down. Except for looking at that eclipse.” – Jennifer “Sexy Ms. Magoo” Rogers
  • “How dare you say that in front of Santa Lucia, the patron saint of all judgmental statues!” – Elisa