The Office took a very long mid-season break between their holiday episode and this most recent one. The last new episode happened all the way back on December 9th, but I have to say, it was certainly worth the wait. In a season that has had its ups and downs, “Ultimatum” was a clear highlight. I’m not sure if it’s because we’re finally getting into the long-teased Michael and Holly situation, or we’re just in an upswing with the show, but this was not only a stellar episode, but one of the best of the season.
This episode focused most strongly on Michael’s preparation for and reaction to Holly’s ultimatum to her boyfriend A.J. during “Classy Christmas.” Holly said that A.J. needed to propose before New Years or that the two of them would break up. Michael spent the first part of the episode bracing himself for either outcome, and his preparations, not to mention his faux-sneaky method of trying to figure out the situation were great.
Erin was Michael’s right hand man in this effort, and it’s time to finally admit her into the pantheon of great characters on “The Office.” One of things I’m most impressed with about this show is its ability to bring new characters into the fold, and still make them feel perfectly natural to the setting. In addition to Erin, we’ve seen Andy, Holly, and even Gabe slip pretty seamlessly into the universe of the show. Erin’s help in making happy and sad boxes for Michael was superb, and her talking head about this being win-win because either Michael will be really happy or “he’ll avoid making the biggest mistake of his life” was uproariously funny. She’s had a real coming out party this season.
I really enjoyed Michael’s story in this episode. His initial celebration after thinking Holly was back on the market since A.J. hadn’t proposed was pure Michael. The hat, the confetti, the champagne, and particular the Michael-to-Michael video dance off were all just great fun. As was the way the show played things when he eventually found out that Holly and A.J. were, in fact, still together. Michael projecting his hang-ups in staff meetings has long been a chestnut of the show, and seeing him express his frustrations through Creed and Kevin felt simultaneously funny, dramatic, and true to the spirit of the “The Office.”
But the twist, and something that I really enjoyed from this episode, was Michael turning around and using Creed and Kevin as a way to apologize to Holly. “You loom so large in my life that I crossed the line” felt just right for him. The other aspect of this story I loved is when, at the very beginning of the episode when Holly said, “We’re gonna be just fine. Just fine,” and something immediately seemed off. It’s a tribute to Amy Ryan that she was able to deliver those lines and express the hollow ring to them without losing any subtlety. I was very pleased to see how the show followed that line up at the end of the episode.
The subplot with Dwight, Andy, and Darryl felt pretty aimless, but had a few laughs. Andy and Dwight trying to pick up chicks is always entertaining, but going from the bookstore to the roller rink felt somewhat forced. Darryl’s e-reader story just kind of sat there without any good chuckles. Andy having the time of his life while skating by himself was worth a larf though. In the end, I think I’d still like to continue to see the three of them teamed up though, so they must have been doing something right.
The subplot with Pam’s New Year Resolution board seemed to be little more than a nice vehicle for jokes, but that’s quite alright in a somewhat more dramatic episode like this one. It definitely led to some fun lines like “Wow did your baby draw that?” It’s cute to see Pam really getting into the office administrator role. On a related note, where was Jim in this episode? After the cold open he was just gone with no explanation. Perhaps he was still scared from the snowball-related assault he suffered in “Crazy Christmas.”
Overall, this was a great episode for “The Office” to come back with after its holiday break. The main story was as good as any this season, and the subplots added some good comedic support as well. We got lots of laughs and a lot of heart to boot. Just how I like it.