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The Office: "The Lover"

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Many years ago, back when I worked at a thrift store, a singularly unpleasant co-worker I’d had a bitter falling-out with ambled up to me and awkwardly asked for the phone number of one of my sisters. I will never forget my reaction: without thought, without premeditation I shouted “No!” and stormed away in a huff. I did not merely refuse his request: I responded with revulsion, visceral, horror and something resembling rage. I am not proud of how I reacted but if I had it all to do over again, I would respond the same way; it really was the only sane reaction.

There’s something deeply unnerving about our friends or co-workers having sex with our relatives that grows infinitely creepier the less sure we are about the friends or co-workers in question. I’m not just saying that because I am deeply, deeply repressed. So I knew exactly how Jim and Pam felt when they found out that Michael had, in his deliciously, pointlessly formal turn of phrase, taken a lover and that the lover in question was Pam’s mom.

But first Jim and Pam returned from their honeymoon refreshed and even more disgustingly in love than they were before. Upon their arrival back in the office, Michael unveiled the latest and most horrifying of the “characters” he’s been developing in improv class: The Blind Guy, a Mister Magoo-like stooge who horrifies and saddens Michael’s classmates through his groping-intensive body language. It was a cold open that smartly showcased Steve Carrell’s gifts as a physical comedian. As is often the case, there is something simultaneously funny and poignant about the child-like joy Michael exudes over coming up with the stupidest idea in the universe.

Michael wasn’t the only one with a profoundly stupid idea he’s disproportionately proud of. In perhaps his most Nixonian move to date, Dwight decides to finally congratulate Jim on his big promotion by giving him a wooden mallard with a microphone inside so that he can bug all of his office arch-nemesis’ conversations. Dwight is particularly shameless when he apologizes for “bugging” Jim but hopes his new gift will bring them closer together.


Jim, of course, instantly senses something suspicious and, true to form, proceeds to fuck relentlessly with the tool Dwight had introduced into his workspace specifically so he could fuck with Jim. Ah, but Dwight had more to worry about than a wooden mallard recording his most agonizingly dull work calls (boy, this adult education course I'm taking in clumsy segues is really paying off!) when Michael spills the beans that he’s giving the old September Surprise to Pam’s mother.

Jim reacts as we all would to the news that Michael Scott is fucking our mother, or mother-in-law: he freaks the fuck out and loses his shit, albeit in a relatively subdued, low-key way. Tonight’s episode was all about reaction shots—Jim’s mortification at the news that Michael is fucking Pam’s mom, Pam’s hysterical response to the same news and Michael’s cat-that-ate-the-canary grin at being connected to Pam in a disturbingly intimate new way.


This invites the question: what’s wrong with Michael dating Pam’s mom, anyway? He’s a nice, attractive man with a reasonably good job and a lot of love and tenderness to give. Is he really hurting anyone by fucking Pam’s mom? Yes. Yes, he certainly is. He’s hurting Pam and Jim, neither of whom are able to fathom the full horror of what has transpired and what might transpire again.

We once again got to see Jim and Pam at their worst tonight, Pam especially. The news that Michael might be her new dad caused Pam to revert back to childhood petulance, throwing a giant temper tantrum at the news that her boss and her mom were making the beast with two backs. Yet the episode ended on a moment of sweetness, as Pam asks Jim to tell her something nice and they linger over their treasured memories of their honeymoon. It was a particularly neat touch that Jim and Pam’s big inside-joke of their honeymoon involved saying “Franks and beans” in a suspiciously but delightfully Michael Scott-like goofy voice.


I suspect that when one of the Office writers pitched “Michael’s banging Pam’s mom” they knew they had a home run but the writing and the acting really sold the can't miss premise. It was a half hour of awkward awesomeness and I’m not even mentioning the niftiness of Ryan’s fedora of mystery. Ryan doesn’t get many lines these days but they’re always hilarious. I particularly liked him asking a besotted Kelly for three dollars for gas money.

I missed the last two episodes of The Office but it was great to return to these characters. I have a shit-ton of affection for them. It’s all very merited. Thanks to the estimable Leonard Pierce for picking up the slack in my absence.


Grade: A-

Stray Observations—

I like how enraged Andy was by the shittiness of the aria Jim was playing, and how choked up by it Creed seemed, and also that Dwight really, really wanted Michael to have sex with his mother.


—Favorite lines/moments?

—Have we ever seen Pam’s mom? They should get Lucy Davis to play her.


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