The Office: "Ultimatum"
    Photo courtesy of NBC.

    A possible engagement, some New Year’s resolutions, and typical antics make for a surprisingly mediocre episode of The Office.

    The first episode of the new year, “Ultimatum” reprises the twist that started in December: Holly Flax, Michael Scott’s kindred spirit and currently unrequited love interest, has returned to Scranton. The office is all abuzz with the question of whether or not she is engaged to her Nashua branch boyfriend, AJ (who is still a woefully undeveloped character), after giving him an ultimatum to propose by New Year’s.

    The suspense certainly piqued my interest, but only for the first five minutes of air time. Soon it was obvious that Holly wasn’t engaged, all was well and Michael could go back to pursuing her as he has been since season four. And while it was later revealed that Holly was still with her boyfriend, I have to admit that in this particular situation I didn’t feel any pity for Michael.

    As perfect as Holly seemed for him in the fourth season, I just can’t see them together anymore. As Jim put it early on, they really fit together because like Michael, “Holly is kind of a major dork” (this quote via The Office: “Weight Loss”, Season 5 Episode 1, in case you were curious). But the more I see them together, the less foundation I see to their relationship. The only way their “rightness” has been established this season has been through some very random and slightly awkward moments when they spar off each other’s pop culture voice impressions. Is that Ren & Stimpy I hear? Eh, OK.

    I really wanted to love the first show of the new year, but it felt as though comedy was sacrificed for a plot-based episode. And when The Office isn’t funny, it just isn’t The Office.

    The story was spliced into several different comedic segments, one being the office New Year’s resolutions. I admit that this concept was funny, a nice reprieve from the otherwise melodramatic story line tracing Holly’s relationship with this AJ guy that nobody really knows much about.

    Different employees choose resolutions all very characteristic of themselves. All except Creed, who simply wants to learn to do a cartwheel. Odd. Eventually he learns how to do a sort-of-cartwheel, with his legs bent in the air, in a scene used as a tag to salvage an otherwise only moderately funny episode.

    In a less exciting but equally (and unnecessarily) time-consuming segment of the plot, Darryl convinces Andy and Dwight (I must question how anyone, other than Michael perhaps, could ever coax Dwight into anything) to go with him to a bookstore to hit on girls. While Andy and Dwight attempt and fail to find women, Darryl (the successful liar) is fulfilling his own New Year’s resolution of reading more.

    This is all well and good, until Andy and Dwight suggest that they take Darryl to a roller rink to find more girls to flirt with. Now I’m the last person to say Andy and Dwight aren’t two of the best characters on The Office, but this was just not a funny scene. Dwight inexplicably heads off, still roller-skate-clad, to a strip club and Andy ends up roller-skating alone, with his choice of music from the roller rink DJ. Now perhaps I’m just not with the times, but I wasn’t aware that roller rinks still had DJs standing next to the rink taking requests, much less nice DJs who will play a string of Dave Matthews Band songs for some lonely guy skating by himself.

    On a completely different note, I have to ask: What on Earth happened to Jim? While he doesn’t necessarily carry the show, I have to admit that an episode sans Jim antics is pretty disappointing. And he was surprisingly absent from this one (other than a few brief appearances, including one in the teaser). Serious bummer.

    As much as I love The Office, “Ultimatum” did not stun me with the brilliance and hilarity that I’m so used to from this show. Despite occasional good moments, I think this show could have been better. The writer’s New Year’s resolution should be to connect their stories more fluidly and humorously. I hear Ricky Gervais is making an appearance next week? I’d venture to say that’s a good start.


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