‘The Office’ – ‘PDA’: Too close for comfort

A review of tonight’s “The Office” coming up just as soon as I list all the kinds of honking…

There have been episodes of “The Office” this season that I’ve liked with reservations or caveats. Not so with “PDA,” a screamingly funny episode that still managed to have plenty of heart, and that reminded me of both vintage “Office” and why I’m going to miss Steve Carell so much when he goes.

The Andy/Erin subplot suffered just a bit from me not being nearly as invested in that relationship as the producers want me to be (it’s hard to do Jim & Pam redux stories with a character as simple-minded and cartoonish as Erin – and I say that as someone who usually likes Erin), but everything else was clicking perfectly: the cold open with Darryl shedding a tear for his dead grandmother, drunk Jim and Pam, Kevin doing his monkey face (and then carrying the impression through to its logical, feces-hurling ending) and, of course, every single ridiculous, disgusting, hilarious moment involving Michael and Holly’s inappropriate public touching.

This was Steve Carell, Amy Ryan and the creative team (including a script by Robert Padnick, and Greg Daniels directing his first episode since last season’s “Murder”) taking Michael and Holly to their logical, horrifying, funny and yet completely logical endpoint. Everytime I thought I couldn’t be more creeped out and yet amused, they kept giving me something new to cringe and laugh at, whether it was them stroking hands while meeting with Oscar or Michael sitting on Holly’s lap during the meeting designed to get them to stop making everyone else want to barf. Michael and Holly are so in tune with each other, and Michael is so often oblivious to how his behavior will be received by others, that I 100% bought that they would both do this and not recognize how people were responding until pretty deep into a meeting(*) that had them as its only subject.

(*) And what a meeting! This show’s had some classics over the years – Michael kissing Oscar, Michael claiming his burnt foot as a disability, Dwight hijacking the CPR course – and that was definitely up there. Drunk Jim & Pam added a whole different flavor of heckling to it, and any time you ask Kevin and/or Creed to discuss sex, you know you’re going to get gold, and Dwight’s list of all the people who have had sex in the office and where was a nice touch, and an acceptable level of reality for Mr. Schrute. The only disappointment was that Meredith didn’t get much to do – even if it was just her shrugging the whole thing off as acceptable, even tame, behavior.

Yet as much as I enjoyed all the squirmy PDAs, the episode’s high point came after that meeting, when Michael finally came out and declared his “love love” for Holly, and she warily returned the sentiment. A great moment for those characters, and yet also a funny one because of how Michael insisted on doing nothing more than a handshake to prove a point to his killjoy co-workers. Petulant Michael Scott is often one of my least favorite flavors of that character, but like so many things about Michael, it becomes so much more acceptable and funny when Holly’s involved – when he has a partner who’s so much like him and who understands him, so he’s not just hurling his personality out into a world that neither likes nor understands it.

Add in a host of callbacks – to Michael’s screenwriting ambitions (“Saving the world has never been this hard”), to the sleep nook in the warehouse, even to the existence of the camera crew as a practical entity in this world – and you have an episode that had me consistently smiling on those few occasions when I wasn’t doubled over in laughter.

Bravo, “The Office.”

What did everybody else think?