“Life In The Office” features recaps written by a revolving corps of four. We four writers often feel “lucky” when our turn comes up, and the episode coincides with a subject that we are particularly fond of, or close to; Donna, a Halloween aficionado, recently had the privilege to review that always-fun episode; Suri has gotten many of the pivotal, “bigger-picture” one-hour episodes, that she gleefully tackles. Kevin has also gotten many of the more “introspective” relationship shows, that he is able to skillfully dissect. And me? I feel lucky, because as a bartender, I got “Christmas Wishes,” the episode where people get drunk and act stupid, and I get to comment authoritatively on the poor judgment of those that are pouring the drinks, along with the over-indulgers. I would have cut Erin and Meredith off long before, but then we wouldn’t have had much of an episode, would we?
The show starts off in the conference room, with a Santa-suited Andy trying too hard (as usual) to grant everyone’s “Christmas Wishes.” All too soon, Andy’s attempts at good cheer are seriously derailed by a seriously annoyed Stanley. I was puzzled by Stanley’s over-reactionary rant, but then a Jim Halpert talking head provided the clue: He laments buying Stanley tickets to see Lewis Black. I had to look up Lewis Black, and I see he is a comedian with a “schtick” involving near out-of-control rants on nearly everything. So, now I “get” the cold opening, but it took some research to figure it out. Now I wonder; are most of “The Office” viewers familiar with Lewis Black’s act? It wouldn’t be the first loop that I was out of, and it won’t be the last.
Andy calls Jim and Dwight into his office, and informs them that their constant “pranking” of one another is seriously annoying Kathy, Pam’s temp. Andy issues an ultimatum to stop the pranking, which (as usual) is toothless and in fact (as we all know) it will actually accelerate the pranking. I’m probably not the only one that thought that Jim’s reaction to this news was a little odd. He didn’t seem at all concerned with Kathy’s uncomfortable feelings, which seems to me to be rather “Dwight-ish.” I’ve been a big advocate of the writers not making Jim Halpert out to be too holy of a saint, but this selfish, cavalier attitude of his caught me by surprise. Meanwhile, Robert California arrives at the office, and he appears to be in need of a pick-me-up party, as we learn his wife has left him. Then, Andy’s girlfriend Jessica walks in, and Erin is obviously not pleased to meet her.
Anyway (as expected), Jim and Dwight’s quickly pick up the pranking pace. Both are now in full-on “prank” mode, spending all their time and energy setting elaborate traps for one another. There was a certain childish charm to these goings-on, as Dwight and Jim playfully punch each other’s arms like junior high school goons. Meanwhile, as Robert tends bar at the party, I was finding no childish charm in blatantly over-serving a simpleton like Erin. When Andy shows enough concern to warn her that “maybe she should slow down,” Erin responds with a confrontational “Maybe you should mind your own business…” followed by a sugar-coated “Just kidding.” Wow. As a bartender I deal with these situations a lot. I like my job, but this is sure an ugly part of it that demands attention, and careful handling. I found myself being taken “out of the moment” of the show, wanting someone to step in and take charge. I love the many awkward moments on The Office, but I almost felt like I should do something!
Erin’s over-service inevitably leads to her telling Andy that she wishes Jessica was dead. And not metaphorically dead, but “in the graveyard, with worms crawling out her mouth” dead. Andy walks away at that point, leaving Kevin to inquire of Erin about the possibility of oatmeal being served. Meanwhile, Dwight trashes the iPod that is playing Vince Guaraldi’s soothing “Charlie Brown Christmas” music, and replace it with his own boombox, which is booming the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. That was a nice touch, as Dwight got to show off the many heavy metal moves that you know he busts in his mirrors at home.
That led to my favorite part of the episode, with a montage of goofy office gift-giving, soundtracked by an absolutely ominous version of “Carol Of The Bells.” This was a perfect balance of the sweet Christmas spirit with the somewhat subversive nature of the show. And it leads into another beautiful touch: the possibly budding romance of Darryl and Val. Val misinterprets Darryl’s invitation to the party, and she arrives in a gown, dressed like she’s ready for “Dancing With The Stars.” Darryl apparently zoomed home unnoticed, and he returns wearing a snazzy tuxedo. Now, he is seriously over-dressed, just like Val, and his entrance was the kind of visual payoff that a great show can deliver. That was a feel-good moment!
Andy, as he promised as a “Christmas Wish,” drives a drunken Meredith home in her van. Robert California became Erin’s designated driver, and Andy surreptitiously followed his boss’ Corvette to make sure that nothing untoward took place. Whew, was I glad that nothing untoward took place; that would have been seriously creepy. The episode ends with Dwight unaware that Jim has written “idiot” boldly his forehead while he inexplicably “napped.” (At his desk, with his forehead up?) This “prank” will probably not be going into any “best-of-Jim” montages any time soon. (Edit: Since this recap was posted, it has been “gently” pointed out to me that I didn’t “get” the very clever “reverse pranking” antics of Dwight and Jim. Well, I “get” it now and I regret the error. Sorry!)
Right after the show was over, I knew I was gonna have to watch it a second time. That usually makes it get better for me, and indeed it did. There was good stuff, for sure, but there were also enough clunky moments that I have to rate this a disappointment, especially after last week’s stellar episode. I may be in the minority here, because from what I’m reading on the internet, a lot of people liked “Christmas Wishes” a lot. Well, I guess after a second viewing that I can say I kinda liked it. Now, I am anxious to see what LITO-ites thought of it. Did this episode answer your Office “Christmas Wishes?”