This Christmas, the halls of Dunder Mifflin were decked with Holly. Decked BY Holly is probably more accurate, given the metaphorical punch to the face she delivered to Michael Scott by revealing she’s maintaining a long-distance relationship with her boyfriend. The fact that she refused to date Michael from afar years ago adds insult to injury, but luckily he’s got his merry office family to help keep his holiday cheer alive.
Family seems to be the underlying theme of this season, and this week’s episode was no different. Michael kicks things off by asking how the Christmas party planning is going, and he’s surprised to find out everyone’s getting along. If anyone had any doubts about his father figure role around the office, Michael smiling like a proud parent and saying, “My kids are growing up” probably cleared things up. Subtle? No. Warm-fuzzies-inducing nevertheless? You bet.
Michael’s worry-free Christmas flies out the window, however, when Toby announces that he’s taking a leave of absence to serve as a juror in the Scranton Strangler trial and that Holly will be returning to fill in for him. She comes back just in time for the Christmas party, and she and Michael immediately greet each other as if not a day has gone by since they last saw one another, with enough goofy voices and awkward jokes to make your head spin. Are these two made for each other or what? Don’t get too excited, though: Holly soon breaks the news to Michael that she’s still dating AJ, sending Michael into a funk.
If Michael’s the office dad, that makes Holly the estranged mother, and the Dunder Mifflin gang treats her accordingly, siding with Michael. Kevin even yells at her for eating most of the candy she brought on the way over. However, to Erin, who has never met Holly, she’s Daddy’s new girlfriend. Erin’s father-daughter dynamic with Michael has already been established, so naturally, when her pseudo-dad brings home a strange woman she’s never met before, she’s going to act up to hilarious effect. Seeing Erin, who’s usually the friendliest ray of sunshine you’ll ever meet, making comments about Holly’s looks (“Is she like an amazing cook or something?”) was definitely one of this week’s highlights.
While Erin was busy playing the overprotective daughter, Jim and Dwight had the whole bickering siblings thing down pat. When Jim nails Dwight with a snowball inside the office, Dwight vows revenge. He eventually gets it (and then some) by ambushing Jim outside, pelting him hard enough to draw blood. His attacks continue throughout the party, causing a fearful Jim to make a retaliation attempt that results in a broken window and earns him and Dwight a lecture from dear old Mom and Dad. Could it get any more familial than Michael and Holly sternly telling the two of them “What you did was very dangerous. You could have hurt someone” and pleading for them to get along?
Ultimately, this episode reminded us that all is not lost. Whether it’s Darryl spending the whole party trying to impress his daughter only to discover it’s as simple as letting her play with the vending machine or Pam revealing to Michael that Holly’s unhappy in her relationship (after Dad-Michael tells her, “Don’t run, you’ll slip and fall”), things always seem to have a way of working out, even if it’s not how we expected. It’s an idea Office fans should take to heart: Our wish that Steve Carell stay forever might not be coming true, but as we get closer to the end of Michael Scott’s story, we’re being gifted with some of the show’s best writing in a long time. And that’s a Christmas compromise we’re happy to make.
-If anyone ever asks you to define “ensemble comedy,” show them tonight’s cold open with everyone struggling to time their jumps for the Christmas photo.
-Pam’s method for making the fake tree smell real by hanging an air freshener on it actually strikes me as a good idea.
-Dwight, after being hit with a snowball by Jim: “There’s a pebble in there! You could have killed me!”
-The revelation that Angela’s dating a state senator who might be gay has some serious promise. What’s the Scranton version of TMZ, and who’s gonna call them?
-Meredith, trying to guess whose trial Toby’s judging: “Was it the post office guy who rubbed his penis all over the mail?”
-Dwight dressed up as Pam, Meredith and Stanley was pretty much the greatest thing ever.
-Michael, on Holly’s return: “Thank you, Scranton Strangler. I love you. You just took one more person’s breath away.”
-Andy, on family: “If my grandmother ever dies, I will kill myself.”
-Dwight, teaching us all an important Yuletide lesson: “In the end, the greatest snowball isn’t a snowball at all. It’s fear. Merry Christmas.”