Phyllis shows a devilish side of herself we haven't seen before - she's holding her knowledge of Dwight and Angela’s torrid affair over the former party planning committee’s head in order to boss her around and plan her own parties, while Meredith’s hair catches on fire in the conference room and Dwight runs a lucrative black market from his desk on the hot toy of the season.

Episode 10: Moroccan Christmas
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Christmas comes early
Dwight walks in one wintery morning to find his entire desk, including his keyboard, pencil cup, monitor, etc., has been wrapped in decorative Christmas wrapping paper.  “Happy holidays, Dwight,” Jim says, smiling, “but don’t open till Christmas.” Dwight laughs Jim’s prank off and dumps his briefcase onto the desk – instantly the entire thing falls apart, as it was apparently just wrapping paper – disguised as a desk.  Classic cold open, and an instantly classic Dwight and Jim moment – this episode is starting out strongly.

True holiday spirit
Phyllis shows she has mad skillz when her Morocco-themed Christmas ends up being a big hit, and, with the party in full swing and Meredith getting very drunk off of Michael’s “one-of-everythings”, Creed smoking hookah, Kevin banging on a drum, Michael exclaiming with pride that he’s created a new drink – vodka and orange juice, and Jim rubbing a magic lamp, flames erupt from Meredith’s hair in the conference room.  Dwight rushes in and soaks Meredith with a fire extinguisher, and afterwards Dwight, Oscar, Toby, and Jim discuss how to do at intervention – or as Michael calls it, “a surprise party for people with addictions.”  Michael takes charge of the session, despite Toby’s attempts to stop him, and asks everyone in the circle to describe how Meredith’s drinking affected them – Michael describes how he was sad that their party had to stop because of her drinking, and Kevin then describes how she gave movie tickets that she had bought to Kevin because she had been too drunk to go, and that it was awesome.  “You’re missing the point, Kevin,” Michael says.  Meredith refuses to admit she has a drinking problem, and Michael asks her very solemnly.  “What if you came into work tomorrow, and you were dead?”  Dwight instantly looks at the camera.  “I would stab her in the brain with a stick.”  As should anybody who wishes to protect our society from the walking dead.  After more hemming and hawing, Toby just declares, “Okay, this is over.”  Michael accuses all of them of being “enablers,” then calls Meredith into his office to talk to her about her problem, for more than 45 minutes.  He emerges silently with her and tells her to wait for him downstairs, then asks Toby for the number for the rehabilitation center – in the car on the road, we find out that Meredith thinks they’re going out to get more drinks, and Michael is going to take her to the center without her knowledge.  When they arrive, Meredith screams as loud as she can and runs away from Michael; he catches her and drags her by her arms across the floor into the building and tells the receptionist, “I have a deposit.  Alcoholic.”  Unfortunately, as Michael finds out, you can’t check someone into rehab against their will – only if they’ve hit rock bottom.  Michael’s decision?  Push Meredith to rock bottom.  As he puts it, “I did it with Jan.”

Toys for Tots
Dwight has bought out the hot holiday toy, a “Princess Unicorn” doll, from all the stores in the area, in an effort to capitalize on desperate parents’ last minute purchases.  Of course, Dwight scorns the idea of a unicorn princess.  “Did a king have sex with unicorn?”  he scoffs.  During the party a man comes in and pays him two hundred smackaroos for one of the dolls, and in a talking head scene, Dwight lounges like a king on a throne in front of his display of princess dolls.  “Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-ka-ching.”  Throughout the episode more parents drop by and pick up more princesses.  Even Toby and Darrell get in on the action – Toby’s buying one for his daughter, and he laughs.  “This is great.  My ex-wife’s gonna be so pissed.”  When he finds out that Darrell bought the last one, he begs and pleads and nearly cries to Darrell to sell him the doll – which Darrell does, for $400.  When Toby flips ove the box, though, a huge silence follows.  The doll is black.  “Something wrong with the doll?”  Darrell asks.  Toby gulps.  “It’s even better than the one I wanted.”  Dwight selling “Princess Unicorns” was an interesting choice by the writers – though at first I suspected it would backfire on Dwight, he ends up making bank in the end, and we close the little vignette with Toby – which was unexpected, but still kind of nice; and it was especially sweet to see him all happy that he was gonna be able to buy his daughter the best gift ever.  The awkwardness with Darrell was even better.

Let this be our final battle
Due to her party's success, even with the usually skeptical Michael, Phyllis has developed a rather large head, which has Angela a little more bitchy than usual, and it certainly doesn’t help that Phyllis dumped all non-Moroccan themed figures from her nativity scene unceremoniously into her desk drawer.  Phyllis even makes her take down the Christmas tree – and Angela can’t say a word, as Phyllis has a little secret having something to do with Dwight and Andy hanging over her head. Geez. Have we ever seen Phyllis so devious?  She’ll do anything to get the head of the party planning committee, what’s next? The world? It is about time, though, that we saw some more Phyllis action in the office – since her wedding episode last season she hasn’t had much to do other than react to other people in the office.  Later in the episode she has Angela leave the office to go make appetizers for everyone, and when she goes to check up on her later, Angela begs Phyllis, “Please. It’s the season of mercy.”  “You never showed me mercy when you were in charge,” Phyllis points out. Then she smiles daintily and demands that Angela put her hairnet on, because of course she’s preparing food and you can’t be too careful.  Wow.  Phyllis can really be a bitch.  At the end of the party, Phyllis tells Angela to move the Christmas tree back into the office, but Angela flatly refuses knowing Phyllis won’t have the guts to reveal the secret, because then she won’t be able to plan her parties anymore.   Phyllis gives Angela a look that could kill a deer, then says in the smallest voice, “I’ll go do it.” Angela smirks and saunters off, before Phyllis interrupts her swagger with an announcement that the whole office can hear. “Angela’s having sex with Dwight!”  OH SNAP!!  Go Phyllis, go Phyllis, it’s your birthday.  It’s a relief too, because by the time Phyllis was demanding that Angela take the tree down she was getting less likeable and not so much like the Phyllis we all know and love – good for your, Phyllis, for sticking to your guns.  The entire office goes completely silent – until Andy walks in the room, carrying the instrument he’s been practicing with all night, and, planting himself on a pillow beside a nearly tearful Angela, plays and sings “Deck the Halls.”  Nobody says anything, or barely even breathes.  Andy is unfazed. “Tough crowd,” he quips.  Angela looks at Andy, “I think I’d like to go home now.”  Andy walks her out, and before he leaves the office, shouts out, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

In my humble opinion, Christmas specials (heck, any holiday special) are usually a bad thing – the show turns it into some typical sappy “giving is more important than receiving, love everyone” bull shit that every single other show has done many times over, and if there’s kids involved there’s usually some talk about Santa being real. The Office, on the other hand, has had two excellent Christmas specials in previous years, and this year is no different.  The conflict between Phyllis and Angela was deftly written into the Christmas party, and Dwight cashing on parents’ desperation was a brilliant move. The weakest part of the episode was Meredith’s intervention – though there were plenty of reliably funny moments, it seemed a little excessive that the entire office would just stop the party and sit down to talk to her – why not just take away her drink?  Yes, I know her hair erupted into flames, but worse stuff has happened in the office, and it’s not like it got completely out of control.  Seems like the writers were just trying to find a central story for the episode – and it doesn’t help that Meredith is one of the weaker character in the office – the show constantly makes jokes about her alcoholism (sure, WE know she’s an alcoholic, but the rest of the office doesn’t necessarily), which cheapens other aspects of her life that are only ever touched on occasionally.  This isn’t to say that the episode isn’t worth watching, though – it’s reliably a riot, and you have to wonder what exactly Michael’s going to do to push her to rock bottom.  Of course, it could be that this was just a funny closing line not meant to start up another story thread, but you never know.

-Thomas Anderson
aka MBRD. Check out his blog here.