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

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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Ed Helms is filming The hangover part 3. Hence his abrupt exit.
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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!
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Ed Helms is filming The Hangover Part 3. Hence his abrupt exit.
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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.
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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
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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...
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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
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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.
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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
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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.
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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.
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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. :)
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Do you think The Office writers are aware of just how badly they've clusterfucked Andy's character?
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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.
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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.
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That would be a definite improvement! Although, anything right now would be an improvement.
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I didn't mind the episode at all, and I laughed out loud when Daryl crashed through the table. We all knew Jim wouldn't screw him over like that, though.

I liked Angela sitting on Kevin's lap, but I wouldn't want them together.

I never minded Nellie at all, and I liked Toby finally getting some. He might actually squeak out a few weeks of awesome.

The only thing better than not having Michael around is not having Andy around. I really don't care how obvious the reasons are, I'll take them and be grateful. I don't really care about Erin and the new guy, but I'd prefer him to Andy. Andy and Erin together are kind of like a special needs child that shouldn't be unsupervised for more than a few hours. I just picture them going on a 20-minute trip to the mall and never being heard from again.

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That's an interesting point about Andy and Erin being like special needs children together. Andy and Erin are the original shark-jumpers when trying to relive Jim and Pam glory a few seasons ago (before the current iteration of their relationship). It was very much like watch the slow-witted version of Jam get together. It was cute enough but never had that spark. Maybe that's what's wrong with Pete and Erin. It's like they're constantly trying to hoodwink us with this storyline every couple seasons, tweaking things and streamlining it along the way. It doesn't feel organic.
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Sure, but how organic could anyone and Erin be? She's cute and all, but she's dumber than an elbow, and with that Kenneth the Page yokel-awkwardness. Erin brings the awkward for two.
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I meant to add that I was afraid that Daryl would wake up in Meredith's bed the next morning. It might've been funny, but not funny enough.
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I realized that its kind of nice how the office just runs without a boss (like Jim pointed out it could before they made Dwight temp manager). However... shouldn't David Wallace be like... setting someone up as a manager... or going himself.... or doing something about the manager he hired just taking off for weeks and weeks with no one filling the space?

It really seems like since Jim kept Dwight from getting fired in Tallahassee their pranks (well Jim's pranks and Dwight's declaration of Jim being his mortal enemy) have really mellowed out.

I loved seeing Dwight so openly hurt about Jim leaving, he practically ran Pam over to hug him. Which reminds me, it always kind of makes me sad that Jim supports these things that mean alot to Dwight and Dwight never catches on that Jim is making fun of him.

Yay! No Andy! As for Erin and Pete... I'd be more annoyed by it, except every time their scenes come on I use the time to check my email. That has boring written all over it.

Haha... Go Toby, go! Get some!
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I agree this season has been chaotic in terms of structure Michael always ran the office and when he wasn't there they made note of it and had someone serve as temporary boss. I don't even think I've seen any work related storylines with the exception of the comment cards last week. It seems like they are throwing out any logic of a workplace and just having people sit there and do whatever they please
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I know why Andy isn't on the show right now it's because he is filming Hangover 3. Clark Duke who isn't really an interesting character is off filming a movie as well. I know that's why the writers set this whole boat thing up but they could have done it so much better. I've been re watching the past seasons and I'm currently on the episodes where Andy is courting Erin. It is just so out of character for him to be acting like this and it is a shame for the writers to handle Andy like this. A once loveable character is now incredibly annoying and oblivious to the girl he loves when all he could think about before was trying to get her to be his girlfriend. They could have came up with a way more reasonable and likeable for that matter reason for Andy's absence and it is pretty insulting to a long time Office watcher like myself. PS Holiday episodes just aren't the same without good old Michael Scott = /
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The filming explains his absence but they're making him out to be a mustache short of Snidely Whiplash. I watched most of the Christmas episodes last night before I wrote the review and I become even more puzzled by how Andy has been written this season. It's so negative it feels almost vindictive.
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I thought this episode was pretty good. I laughed out loud a lot during the episode. I like the Pete and Erin-thing, and I am glad we haven't seen Andy in a while. And I love it whenever they use the Dwight and Jim bromance.
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I've found the more they leave Andy out, the more I am liking the show again. Here's hoping he just stays away and they write him out.
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It had some decent moments. I like when they managed to break the rib, the marrow (or whatever) just spilled all over everyone.

Also, seeing Dwight actually hurt that Jim left... and then later hugged him when he returned got an audible "awwww" from me. Poor guy, even as enemies (or frenemies) Jim is probably the closest thing Dwight has to an honest-to-goodness best friend.

Darryl's little disco spin and collapse was a cheap laugh, but it was still a solid laugh.
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The best part of that fall was after he fell and the table collapsed... then the side fell down too and everyone in the office gasped a second time...
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And I think Tapas Swiss Miss worked well in the flow of the joke, because it sounded like nonsense that just rhymed but actually meant something to him.
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Yeah, it wasn't Mose. It was a warehouse worker who showed up at the party later with remnants of blackface still showing.
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You're right. It wasn't Mose. But shouldn't it have been?
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I would have loved to see a bearded Blackface Peter. But didn't Dwight arrange the party really quickly? Does Mose have a phone? Is Michael Schur, who plays Mose, that busy with running Parks and Rec?

That's a lot of questions.
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Shouldn't putting "farewell season" into every ask to any actor be enough to guilt them into coming for guest spots?
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Yeah, exactly. That's why I asked if Michael Schur was THAT busy with running Parks and Rec. It was 15 seconds of screentime!
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I could have sworn it was the hard of hearing warehouse worker dressed as Black Peter, didn't he still have the red lips at the end of the episode? Dwight upset at Jim leaving made me sad, like they are no longer enemies but real friends. The hug was great.
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yeah and his neck was still painted with the blackface... I was wondering where he got Mose from too...
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Probably wishful thinking.
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