Inventory Luau: The Office is Back From Vacation

Coming back to work after a long vacation (particularly a Hawaiian-set one) is never an easy thing, so it’s usually made a bit easier by the fact that at least everyone around you is in the same boat.

Especially when that person is one Michael Scott.

So, not surprisingly, I couldn’t wait to tune in last night for a brand-new episode (thank you, NBC, for once!) of The Office (“Back from Vacation”) to see what effect Michael’s trip to Sandals Jamaica with a certain, um, mystery woman would have on the employees of Dunder Mifflin.

First off, a big congratulations for the writer of this episode, Justin Spitzer, for doing such an incredible job with his very first Office script. The writing was tight and the characterizations spot on. It’s extremely rare for a newbie writer to jump in and have their initial episode be so pithy and comfortable at the same time and manage to precisely capture the tone of the series (especially on The Office, where it’s so specific). So kudos to Spitzer for pulling it off with aplomb and to director Julian Farino (of the remarkable BBC miniseries Our Mutual Friend) for a fantastic episode.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t say how much I loved the detail of the little beads in Michael’s hair. Or, well, the two beads perched on the side of his head, clinging onto one lock of hair. It was a brilliant touch that completely fell in line with his character and was outright hysterical. Island Living Michael was a rare treat, as it gave us the opportunity to see a suddenly happy-go-lucky Michael Scott for once, even if his delusions and moronic actions (instituting a Hawaiian Luau-style inventory, sending out a rather, er, incriminating photo of him and Jan from Jamaica) still made you want to shake some sense into him.

The beauty of this episode lay in those unexpected moments. I fully expected Jan to come down to Scranton to chew Michael out over that revealing “PG-13” photo of her and Michael (send to rather than to, um, Packer), but instead we were treated with a confession of a different kind: that Jan, going through a rather severe shame spiral, is giving into her self-destructive nature by starting a relationship with Michael on the orders of her psychiatrist (good twist). And was it just me or was Melora Hardin simply amazing in that scene between the two of them? Normally so icy, Jan completely melted here, and Hardin played her with a mix of vulnerability and sincerity that was completely refreshing. (LOVED her non-reaction to Michael’s declaration of “You complete me” and her pushing him into an embrace against the door to his office.)

Another unpredicted scene was that between Pam and Dwight in the corridor. After selflessly helping smooth things over between Jim and Karen (producers, please keep Rashida Jones around for as long as possible), Pam breaks down in a lonely corridor and begins sobbing. Dwight wanders out and even offers some words of support, before taking his jacket off … and tying it around his waist, saying that it was hot in there. (Brilliant.) But Dwight proves that he does have a heart after all, even if he is so misguided as to assume that Pam is just really PMS-ing.

I thought that the little fight between Jim and Karen was also perfectly played, with Jim acting weirdly territorial, as though Karen living so close by suddenly made their relationship seem all the more real. But still, I can’t believe that Pam actually helped Jim reach a decision about Karen … and that Jim felt comfortable with Pam to discuss his issues with Karen (loved how she left that seat next to Jim painfully empty). But damn, there is going to be some serious emotional stuff coming up, I’m sure. I have this sinking feeling that Jim and Karen’s relationship is not long for this world.

(Meanwhile, has a rather funny introductory deleted scene online. But I’m hoping the deleted scenes on the DVD can clarify what Darrell was talking about regarding his missing iPod; I definitely felt something was cut here, and most likely with the entire inventory luau sequence, which was given extremely short shrift.)

What did you think of this week’s Office installment? Should Jim be with Karen or with Pam? And what do you think lies in store for Michael and Jan’s not-so-secret office romance?

Next week on The Office ("Traveling Salesmen"), Michael pairs up his sales team and forces them to hit the road for sales calls, while Dwight helps Angela cover up a potential scandal and Karen gets some surprising news. Oh, if only it were Thursday already!

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Jace is an LA-based television development and acquisitions junior exec who watches way too much television for his own good and would love a TiVo for every room in the house. (He’s halfway there.) His blog, Televisionary, can be found at