“The Office” has been going through a lackluster season, and because of that, episodes aren’t really being judged fairly. There are good episodes, bad episodes and meh episodes. Right now, if there’s a good episode then, great! If it falls below that, then it’s judged more harshly than it might be otherwise because high points so far this season have been few and far between. Tonight’s episode, in which Jim and Pam finally have their baby is kind of an anomaly because it’s an hour-long episode. Compounding further all of these caveats and qualifiers is the fact that it was an hour-long episode that went from good to bad at, surprise surprise, the half-hour point.
If tonight’s episode had been cut after the first half-hour, it would have been great. Pam and Jim have their baby. Michael, Dwight and others get some good beats in there, we allude to some romance between some other characters and we’re out. Good. Solid. Tasty. But no, the episode drags on with a bunch of “we’ve still got some time to fill” which unfortunately hurt some of the more emotional moments in the Jim/Pam story.
“The Office” has only put together a few hour-long episodes that have been very good. And the bad ones all seem to suffer from the same thing. At about the halfway mark, the episode just seems like it doesn’t know what to do with itself. This usually results in Michael taking some kernel of an idea from the first half and spinning it off into some crazy harebrained stunt that you just know isn’t going to turn out the way he expected it would.
Tonight we saw that materialize as Michael believing that, because he brought Jim and Pam together, he could do the same with other people in the office. His two chosen candidates: Kevin and Erin. I saw two problems with this. One, making Kevin weird again really took away from the nicer moments he spent eating with Pam in the beginning of the episode, and two, that storyline became so separated from what Jim and Pam were going through at the hospital that it felt like we were watching two completely different episodes. I’m not saying that there always needs to be some common thread connecting characters doing two completely different things. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. A good example of the right way would be Wednesday’s episode of “Modern Family,” “Fears.” The wrong way would be tonight’s episode of “The Office.” But maybe you already knew that was the point I was getting at.
There was much much more to latch onto during the first part of the episode. Michael was able to insert himself into Pam’s delivery without making the entire thing seem awkward. I’ve said it many times and I’ll say it again. I like seeing Michael win one every now and then. Truth be told, he’s done a lot for the people under him and it was nice to have him play a part in Jim and Pam’s story. There were still a few problems I had here, though. One was Pam’s insistence on not being taken to the hospital before midnight so that she’d be able to spend an extra day there. Pam is usually more level-headed so the fact that she would just let everyone else in the office lead her around like that, with Jim pacing outside in the hallway, didn’t make a whole lot of sense.
My second problem was that, when Jim finally man’s up and says they really need to leave, Pam starts crying, worried that delivering her baby is something she won’t be able to do. This insecurity would have played a whole lot better if they had explored it at all during the first half of the season. As it is it just kind of came out of nowhere and was gone again just as quickly. But, whatever, I guess. All of this is easily forgiven after seeing the two of them at the hospital. Seeing Jim so tired even when Pam gets the baby to breast-feed (the wrong baby as it turns out), and the two of them sitting alone outside the hospital after they’ve been discharged. These are the sort of genuine moments that have turned our wives so gaga crazy over these two.
There were some other threads introduced here that we’ll have to wait and see whether they pan out or not. Dwight and Angela drawing up a baby contract and Dwight’s obvious second thoughts when he finally signs it. Are they going to be bringing back Pam’s sister as a possible love interest? We also saw Andy finally ask Erin out. The dynamic between these two is very different than Dwight/Angela and Jim/Pam, so it’ll be interesting to see how the entire thing plays. That scene, along with Dwight talking to Pam’s sister, I liked. The Dwight/Angela thing seemed more like an afterthought.
What was good about the first half definitely overshadowed anything I felt was wrong with it. I really like “The Office” and am totally willing to go wherever it leads me. That’s why it’s that much more disappointing when it finally delivers a so-so episode. The second half of the show offered a few snickers, but I found myself tapping my foot, waiting to see what was going on with Jim and Pam at the hospital. That was the episode’s strength and really where it should have stayed. I could have done without everything else going on.
The hour-long episode isn’t a format “The Office” has ever been particularly good at, and much of tonight only furthered that point. And while there really was a lot here to be happy about (the bit with the lactation specialist was priceless), I’m afraid it’s only going to further the perception that “The Office” isn’t the show it used to be.
Stuff I liked:
- Pam accidentally breast-feeding the wrong baby. I think “The Office” only does better when it makes you laugh and feel uncomfortable at the same time, and I thought the joke brought a little of that back.
- Andy finally asks Erin out. I have to say, I’m glad that he finally just got it out there rather than doing something that was too over the top.
- Dwight building Jim and Pam a new kitchen, and his entire explanation for it being, “I couldn’t find your iPod.”
- The IT guy and his awkward joke. Are we going to be seeing more of him?