The Office's Last Christmas Episode: More Impish Than Admirable

By Nick Campbell

Dec 07, 2012

The Office S09E09: "Dwight Christmas"

Welcome, friends, to the final edition in the rich tapestry that is The Office Christmas episodes. Next year, look forward to the final Valentine's Day, Arbor Day, and final season finale episodes!

Anyone who's deigned to watch NBC programming this past week has been inundated with promos begging you to look back at what actually is a rich history of winter-holiday-themed Office offerings. Think back to Yankee Swap and Jim's tea kettle of memories, Meredith's intervention, the time Michael was a jerk and ruined Christmas by playing Jesus. One of my personal favorites: the snowball massacre during "Classy Christmas" and how no one told Jim to go home and get a shirt that wasn't stained with blood and shame.

So where did this episode fit in with the rest of those? Did it aspire to the heights of Christmas chicanery displayed in "Benihana Christmas" or was it uneven like the rest of this Farewell Season has been?

Well, it didn't have Andy in it, so that's a check in the "nice" column.

It did have mention of him, however, in a lazy, manhandled sequence. In case you'd stopped watching The Office and just came back for a Christmas special, the show really, really wants you to 'ship Pete and Erin over that Jim and Pam shark and they want you to be okay with it happening at the cost of Andy. They've been laying it on thick all season with awkward flirtation (and the vilification of Andy), but none of it has been so lacking in subtlety as it was during "Dwight Christmas."

It's the lack of subtlety that made this episode a bastardization of the winning formula employed by The Office first few seasons. Maybe we're an educated audience now after watching Jim and Pam hurdle their obstacles, but the way Pete and Erin ended up cuddling in front of Die Hard was uninspired. My love for Erin wasn't enough to let her "I'm still Andy's girlfriend... but you can leave your arm" lines slide. The groundwork was weird and clumsy: Andy, who just last season risked his job to declare his love for Erin, is now so neglectful and selfish that he's keeping himself busy on a boating journey into some mainstream-movie-inspired vision quest, switching off that overly attentive wannabe lover who courted her with like 30 birds and a marching band in favor of being a literally absent lover.

It's almost like the writers hate Andy just as much as we do. He's been so over-the-top villainous this season, his return would require tying Erin to some railroad tracks just to be consistent. After a few consecutive weeks of seriously truncated or completely absent opening themes, I'm starting to think this is a personal thing against Ed Helms.

Since Pete and Erin are more of a footnote to the season right now and not the heart of the show, we had to look for that core elsewhere and we found a better suggestion of it in the Jim and Dwight bromance. Rivals, sure, but these are two men who understand each other with uncanny accuracy, as knowledge of your foe is important in a war of pranks. These guys are frenemies who often tend to lean more toward the friend part. So Dwight's violent reaction to Jim leaving (it was kind of impish afterall) was touching, even if the moment meant Jim being caned by a dude in a Belschnickel outfit. Sometimes you just have to beat the man you love with a switch to show him how much you love him.

There were, however, whiffs of an invented cliffhanger. After Dwight freaked out about Jim leaving, Pam walked him out and they said their goodbyes, which, you would assume wouldn't need to be drawn out since Scranton is a mere two hours away. But they dropped lines like, "Well, this is it" and "I'm never going to see you again" and "I can't believe this is actually happening"—all of which were obfuscated by humor but, sarcastic or not, those are things that characters on their way out would say. The knowledge that NBC would bombard the universe with "Jim's Last Episode on The Office" advertising if that were the case is what shook the doubts from my mind that there was any chance he was actually exiting. But I believed it momentarily and immediately felt kind of stupid for it, especially when Jim returned almost instantly.

So where does the episode rank in the pantheon of The Office's Christmas specials? It's not without merit (Darryl getting wasted, Nellie and Toby starting their makeout initially just because she wanted to shut him up, Meredith bending over to take a switch) but it was never as cohesive as even episodes of the recent past, and it navigated the seasonal warmth and attitude with all the grace of a captain drunk on nog. While I don't think anyone misses Kelly terribly, the show really could've used their perennial holiday episode writer Mindy Kaling.


NOTES


– CreedWatch: "Tapas Swiss Miss." I felt like Creed was trampled on in this episode. While I liked the quick hit of Creed agreeing to nonsense, it felt like he was just parroting (he might as well have said "purple monkey dishwasher"). The explanation for it ("Spanish tapas and Swiss Miss hot cocoa. What's so hard to understand?") didn't improve a line that was hard to understand. Not sure what could've been done better but the writers didn't really give Creed great service this episode.

– Kevin, however, did have a couple of good moments, particularly in the early part of the episode. His rant about the minification of cakes gave me pause for how much I like cupcakes, and his visible hurt when he got the line from Die Hard wrong was priceless. Not to mention he and Angela were adorable together once he donned the Santa suit. Maybe a little too adorable. Hm. How many of you are Kevin/Angela 'shippers?

– Toby played interference for us by occupying Nellie with stories about the Scranton Strangler case, and somehow that made things a little more interesting with the makeout session. It's a weird culmination of the flirty thing they've had this season (remember Nellie dressed up as Sexy Toby for Halloween?). Well played, Toby. Well played.

– When Erin suggested that she and Pete watch Die Hard, Pete asked her if she was sure, like they were in high school and he was laying his virgin girlfriend down into bed whiie her parents were out of town. They weren't about to have clandestine sex; it was watching an action movie in the breakroom at the office. Maybe check those hopes a little, Peter.

– Dwight: "You quit on Christmas, Christmas quits on you." Awwwwww. He's the sweetest, most petulant coworker a guy could ask for.

– Darryl, drunk on moonshine punch, discussing something he realized about Meredith: "She has, like, an Emma Stone thing." And that's how she has children.

– Though I knew of Black Peter before, I did not expect a Mose-in-blackface joke to appear in this episode. But do you ever really expect blackface?

  • Comments (37)
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  • johnbourdette Jan 18, 2013

    Ed Helms is filming The hangover part 3. Hence his abrupt exit.

  • missrebeccach Dec 31, 2012

    I think I'm in the minority who liked Andy more in the last couple seasons vs when he was first introduced. He and Erin have a sweet relationship but I am disappointed by the how selfish Andy was to just up and leave the way he did, but I am also disappointed in Erin and her trapeze dating. Does anyone not notice how she jumped from guy to guy to guy? However, it's hard to dislike the girl so deep down, I am sort of shipping Erin and Pete.

    It's the final season and with most shows, whatever their track record has been, will always end on a zany, nonsensical note. And for an already zany show like The Office, I don't expect anything to make much sense for the next several months they're on the air.

    And high 5 to Toby!

  • johnbourdette Jan 18, 2013

    Ed Helms is filming The Hangover Part 3. Hence his abrupt exit.

  • ElleBright Dec 26, 2012

    I was just grateful that Andy was absent this year! It was ALMOST like a glimpse into Christmases past, without AB's character being forced into playing an extremely poor man's Michael Gary Scott. Classic Dwigt, yes, Dwigt.

  • FoxZerro Dec 10, 2012

    Though they are boring and being shipped harder by the creators than by fans, the Pete and Erin story had one moment that just made me smile... It was when he was quoting Die Hard and she had the internet up and said he made a mistake and his response was "That's just been transposed by someone on the internet." I loved how defensive he got, and Erin's "it looks pretty official" was perfect. I also liked that Pete probably had a copy or two of Die Hard in his car, beautiful ridiculousness. Forced or not at least their story had some lines and moments that were funny

  • onionringlets Dec 10, 2012

    About the last note in this article.....
    That was not Mose playing blackface.... that was the weird guy from the warehouse, Nate (Mark Proksch)..
    had to nerd out about that for a minute, signed in and everything...

  • FoxZerro Dec 10, 2012

    Well played Onion Ringlets well played... I too was about to sign in and post but you had me covered. I was glad they revealed who it was because the first time he was on screen has no idea who it was as Black Peter

  • aliciamorrell Dec 09, 2012

    It was terrible like the rest of this season, and last year and the year before that. They really are making Andy a douchebag this year.

  • tennisprocasey Dec 08, 2012

    just wanted to add that blackface was nate from the warehouse, not mose. thats why you see nate in the office later with a bunch of black paint on his face still

  • fanboy2000 Dec 08, 2012

    I'm really surprised to see all of the hatred directed at the Andy character. True, when first introduced during season 3 he was mean and a total jackbuttocks, but ever since the "Beach Games" episode he gradually became a nice guy. In fact, a lot of Office fans and Tallyheads (myself included) were totally wishing for Andy to become the boss after Steve Carell left and were thrilled (myself included) when he was introduced in the first episode of season 8 as his replacement. My main complaint with the show is that it has moved too far away from its original pseudo-documentary style into a fully fledged sitcom. At this early point season 9 does seem disjointed, but we must remember that there are well over a dozen new episodes left to air and a lot more that can happen. Sometimes things which don't make sense are merely setting up something which is crucial to the plot and appears during the second half of the season. As an aside, I hope to God that they actually make either an episode or a "special episode" where the camera crew makes their documentary, although the word is they won't.

  • DavidJackson8 Dec 08, 2012

    As others have pointed out, I too am still happy that Andy isn't around. I like Helms a bit but the writers made Andy into one of the worst characters on TV.

    As for the episode as a whole... meh. It was okay. Dwight getting as upset as Pam as Jim was leaving was pretty cute -- although I thought the hug when Jim returned was kiiiind of out of character. I understand it though. Although it's usually done for his own amusement (and Pam's), Jim's the one guy who usually supports and convinces others to give Dwight's crazy schemes a try, as he did in this one too. Dwight is just as boring as Jim when they're not around together.

    I thought the kiss at the end was odd, although I did slightly cheer when Toby got all cool taking off the glasses and went in for more. I don't have an opinion one way or the other about Toby + Nellie. Boring people to the point of pushing them into kissing you just so it wont be so boring does NOT work. I've bored plenty of women... they just walk away. I guess, maybe, I just have to keep looking for "my" Nellie?

    I agree with you about not really understanding why Pete got all scared and worried when Erin brought up the idea of watching Die Hard. I actually kind of liked their storyline in this episode, except for maybe that.

    I didn't care much at all about Daryl's plot.

  • LittleLostPup Dec 10, 2012

    I kind of thought the hug worked because Dwight has these very childish over the top reactions, and I don't think a hug is out of the question. Not to mention, when Dwight quit - he barely said goodbyes but he did hug Jim. They hugged during the volleyball game too - I don't think Dwight can control himself when he gets excited. :)

  • FringeFanatic Dec 07, 2012

    Do you think The Office writers are aware of just how badly they've clusterfucked Andy's character?

  • DavidBrunton Dec 09, 2012

    That question implies it wasn't intentional. They made him jerky so we would like nellie despite her being a total creator's pet who is only here because Paul lieberstein wants to have sex with her. And they made andy jerky so we'd root for their latest pet to win erin.

    That's how the show works now. If we don't like something, we are wrong for not liking it and they will ruin the frigging show until we agree they were right.

  • QuestionMarq Dec 07, 2012

    I'm hoping they ramp up Andy as Anger Management Andy again. The whole Erin and Pete relationship seems like they're gearing for an Andy meltdown.

  • FringeFanatic Dec 07, 2012

    That would be a definite improvement! Although, anything right now would be an improvement.

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