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'The Office': Breaking up is hard to do

November 6, 2009 |  9:28 am

It could have rivaled the classically awkward “Dinner Party” episode. But instead, this week's episode of "The Office" seemed second-rate. “Double Date” wasn’t bad … but it wasn’t brilliant. It felt like a lost episode trying to find its way home.

Pam's discovery of Michael's relationship with her mom, Helene, in "The Lover" led to a glimpse of loud and irrational Pam with Michael as a voice of reason. In this episode, Pam’s uneasiness about the relationship still came through but it softened as she witnessed Michael’s affection toward her mom on her birthday.

Jim and Pam join Michael and Helene on a birthday double date (and we learn Pam regrets not making use of her whistle exit strategy). It’s in this restaurant setting that Michael the human — rather than Michael the buffoon — is explored. He has an extravagant table of balloons and decorations set up for Helene (which he makes sure to note was all his doing, of course). And he’s put together a scrapbook of their memories — he even wrote a poem! A poem! One that would make any girl swoon: “I cannot go to school today, said little Peggy Ann McKay / I have the measles and the mumps; a gash, a rash, and purple bumps / and my teacher's really mean; Happy Birthday, I love you, Helene.” Sweet, yes. And, sure, when he discovers her actual age, it’s hard not to expect Michael’s decision to dump her would be superficial. But it’s not. Michael's choice to break things off with Helene on her birthday, though horribly timed, is based on justifiable, well-articulated reasons, especially when you consider that he is … Michael Scott.

Pam's desire to punch Michael in front of the whole staff once they got back to the office — and the staff's voyeuristic desire to see her do it — seemed forced more than funny. Maybe Oscar said it best: There was really only one outcome (Pam hits Michael).

Dwight and Andy's storyline (those are becoming the norm) of out-favoring each other, got repetitive after a while. Dwight is trying to do everyone in the office a favor so in turn they will owe him a favor. It’s his attempt to overthrow Jim (of course). But Andy can’t let him have the last word, so he keeps one-upping Dwight’s offerings. There was no payoff to Dwight’s bright idea. Just variations on the same played-out joke. The butt-clenching fitness tip was funny … but not enough.

Here’s a sampling of notable lines/moments:

  • Pam’s mom tells the staffers the story of how Michael presented his birthday gift to her; but Michael stops her, saying, “The rest of the story has been censored due to inappropriacity.” Classic.
  • Michael’s shares when age isn’t just a number: "The only time you should care about a woman's age is if she is too young for you and I am not robbing the cradle. If anything I am robbing the grave."
  • Thought oysters were the only aphrodisiac? Leave it to Dwight to reveal a far more disgusting alternative: deer penis.
  • Meredith and her detective skills. The toilet seat touching method? The folks over on CSI have nothing on her.
  • Toby’s offering of punch-throwing lessons for Pam. Has he been practicing?
  • Michael’s fear of the unknown: "Am I scared of getting hit in the face? No … I'm scared I'm gonna love it."
  • Michael’s vivid imagination: "As I watched Pam's big strong hand coming across my face, I saw my entire life flash before my eyes. And guess what? I have four kids. And I have a hover car and a hover house and my wife is a runner and it shows. And Pam and Jim are my best friends and our kids play together. And I'm happy and I'm rich and I never die. And it doesn't sound like much, but it's enough for me."

What did you think of last night’s episode? What’s been your favorite episode of the season?

-- Yvonne Villarreal