Pam is driving Michael on a roadtrip around to all the Dunder-Mifflin branches so that Michael can give presentations on how to make other branches as successful as his, and they run into an old friend at Utaca.  Dwight and Jim also have to deal with an emotionally distraught Kelly, who’s pissed at the entire office for having forgot her birthday. And Andy fixes his eye on a young, hot client of Stanley’s.

Episode 14: Lecture Circuit, Part 1
Full Episode Online: TV Dome

He must be stopped

The episode opens with Michael having discovered that he has intercom access to the entire office, and of course he’s taking full advantage of it. He even leaves it on while he’s on the phone on some personal call.  Once he starts pretending to be a principal calling Toby to the office because he needs to go home because he wet the bed again, Jim discreetly snatches some scissors from his desk and goes into Michael’s office, pretending to look for something under the desk while cutting off the phone cord.  He walks out and closes the door, and Michael talks on, oblivious and greatly pleased with himself.

On the Road Again

Michael’s on a lecture to all of Scranton’s branches, except one, Nashua, because of Scranton’s top sales record, so he’s going to explain to everyone his recipe for success.  Well, good. The last few episodes weren’t just teasing us – this little road trip fulfills the promises made by the plotlines.  As he talks to the camera, explaining that Pam is his hot roadie, he lets her lug the heavy suitcases into the trunk of a car all by herself without lifting a finger, including a toboggan.  Michael says they will be sleeping in motels together along the way, and Pam adds quickly, “in separate rooms.”  Michael says that goes without saying, but Pam insists she still wanted to say it.  He gets in the backseat and tells Pam she should take off the shirt under her cardigan, which Pam politely declines – she’s in this for time and a half pay, three days straight 24 hours a day.

Party-Planning Pains

Kelly storms into the office, shouting out, “screw you!” to both Jim and Dwight, because they forgot her birthday. Apparently, it had been the previous day, and since both Phyllis and Angela had to step down from the committee because of “incidents,” Michael appointed Dwight and Jim co-heads of the committee. This is awesome. Dwight and Jim planning a party together?  Clever idea, and it will probably lead to some pretty funny moments – which it does, when they approach Kelly and apologize, then ask her what she wants.  She says that she guesses the only thing she could really ask for is for this to never happen to anyone again, and Dwight sighs, then says, “What kind of cake, imbecile?”  “Ice cream,” Kelly responds. When Jim comes in to the conference room where Dwight has set up the party, he sees a sign, “It is your birthday.” The balloons Dwight has inflated are small enough to fit in Jim’s hand, and brown, gray, and black to “match the carpet,” as Dwight explains.  Later, Jim calls Dwight and asks him Kelly’s age, because at the grocery store they only have numbered candles.  Dwight says, “24. 37.” “Do you think I’m calling you for your best approximation?” Jim asks.  Dwight says he’ll call him back, and goes to retrieve Kelly’s personal and confidential file, which he shares freely with the camera.  Apparently she’s been in juvie, he says smugly, but then trails off when he starts to read that it in no way affects her job performance.

What NOT to expect when you’re expecting

On thei drive, Michael asks Pam directly about being worried about seeing Karen in the Utaca branch. She says no, but looks nervously aside at the camera.  When they arrive at the next branch, Michael awkwardly introduces them, but he gets even more awkward when Karen comes into the room, obviously pregnant. He asks directly, “Is it Jim’s? I’m trying to figure out the last time you two had sex…”  Both Pam and Karen stare on in shock until Karen just tells them calmly to move on into the next room.  Before the presentation, Michael stands outside on the room, on the phone with somebody and obviously shocked at whatever news he’s hearing.  He hangs up and tells the room that it will be difficult for him today because he just learned that his father died.  There are murmurs of sympathy from around the room, and then Michael reveals that the “phone” was a calculator, and that he sold them the story like they need to sell a product, and when Karen points out that now they all think he’s a liar, he brushes her comment off. Later, he explains how he knows everybody’s name in the room. “Baldy,” Sugar Boobs,” and “Black Woman,” to name a few.  He says he knows Baldy’s name is Mark, because his head is shiny, like Mirrors, and it turns out he’s right.  When Karen calls the meeting to an end and asks Michael to come to her office, Michael points out that Karen works because she’s “Knocked Up.”  In her office, Michael reveals a bunch of power tools that be brought as visual aids, which Karen doesn’t like the look of.  Michael then asks her directly, “So how did you get pregnant? Sperm donor…” Karen cuts him off before he can go too much further, and says it was her husband, Dan, and she shows him and Pam a whole row of pictures.  She then asks Pam how Jim’s doing, and Pam responds, “We’re engaged.”  Karen at first looks awkward, but then hugs Pam affectionately, as Michael says audibly, his face two inches from the camera, “Old hatreds dissolve into new friendships.”  Karen and Pam part awkwardly and stare, horrified, at the floor. 

Awkward Andy Bernard
Stanley brings a young hot black girl into the office, a client of his, whom Andy instantly ogles, but Phyllis warns him that she’s “out of her league.”  Andy then brings them coffee and sings a little tune about sugar in coffee to show off his skillz, and in the other room later, Stanley says, “Are you out of your damn mind?” He then realizes Andy is serious, and says he’ll giver her clientele to Andy, if he gives him two clients.  They go into the next room and Stanley introduces him to her, Julia, then leaves.  Andy asks a bunch of questions, always ending it with something relating to her having a boyfriend, to which she eventually responds, “I actually don’t have a boyfriend.” Andy stutters out, “Really?”  He pops into the office later, breaking from his meeting temporarily, and asks advice on what to do, because he’s about to ask this girl out on a date.  Oscar excuses himself, rushing hurriedly back to his desk, while Creed tells him he just has to show her show’s boss, and kiss her.  “Have I ever steered you wrong, Jim?”  he finishes.  “Wait, what?” Andy says.  After the meeting, he and Julia walk out of the building, and thanks to Creed’s advice, Andy goes in for a kiss, to which she says, “What the hell?”  Andy backs off and apologizes profusely, and says that he was nervous around her because he had just got out of a relationship, and she was very pretty.  She says that she just got out of a relationship too, and Andy asks if she would like to go to the mall and talk about it, which she politely declines, getting into the car and closing the door in his face.  In a talking head, Andy informs the camera that they lost the client.

Pam and Michael leave Utaca, while Michael comments that he thought Karen was mean, but Pam says she’s glad she came, because now she has closure, and she’ll never wonder if she did something wrong again. In the car, Michael confesses to Pam that hers and Karen’s closure had him thinking about Holly, who works in Nashua – the one Dunder-Mifflin branch they were not lecturing at.  Pam decides right then and there, that they’re gonna go to Nashua, and ditch the next lecture. At first, Michael is incredulous, but then he accepts, and shrugs. It’s the end of the episode, and a good note to end on – this is exactly in character for Pam – when Michael’s down, she’s likes helping him, and she does just gets the occasional adventurous streak.  Plus, like I said, it’s finally good to see that the Scranton branch’s performance lately has led to something significant, and it’s just a plain old bonus that we may get to see Holly again.

It’s been awhile since The Office has had a two parter, and this is shaping up to be a good one. We’ve already started off with seeing one old Scranton employee, Karen, and now it looks like we’re seeing another one, Holly, in just the next episode.  Karen’s cameo was handled pretty well, too – plenty of hilariously awkward moments with Michael and they didn’t go the easy drama route by having Pam and Karen have a cat fight.  Plus, stuff going on back at the old branch isn’t just filler for the main event, but actually solid, good comedy – the best part obviously being Jim and Dwight’s roles as heads of the party planning committee.  Some may accuse it of being a bit of a gimmick, but it gives us a good chance to see some hilarious Dwight and Jim moments and birthdays are always ripe for some solid comedic writing.  Andy and his short crush may have seemed a bit random, and even if it did feel like filler, it was plenty funny, and certainly short and sweet.  Overall, simply a great, solid episode.

-Thomas Anderson
aka Movie Buzz Review Dude. Check out his movie/media/pop culture blog here.