The Office: Koi Pond

The Office usually has some fun nods to Halloween -- Pam as Chaplin/Hitler, Dwight and Creed as the Joker -- and last night's "Koi Pond" was no exception. The horrible haunted house the Dunder Mifflin employees set up for neighborhood kids in the warehouse was fantastic, from Michael's Dick in a Box to Darryl's unwillingness to figure out what anybody else's costume was. (Ryan's broody vampire won for best background detail, though. Between his erratic wardrobe and dialogue, they've made his character a fantastic grace note.) And does it get better than Michael pretending to hang himself in front of schoolchildren and then telling them that "suicide is never the answer"? I submit that it does not.

The main plot dealt with Jim and Michael's first sales call as a duo, and I can't stress enough how fresh the show feels by putting Jim in a management position and pairing him with Michael. It's a move that will generate tons of stories and new conflicts, especially in episodes last night's that find Jim butting heads with Michael but also pulling away from the rest of the employees. While on the call, Michael falls into a koi pond in an office lobby, returning to humiliation at the office that leads to a sensitivity training meeting where he decrees that nobody can be mocked any more. So of course the meeting backfires and leads to everyone being mocked for the thing they're most sensitive about, though Meredith stuns everyone else when she puts "sex with a terrorist" on the list of things she doesn't want used against her.

The office story of the week provided plenty of great, quick jokes, but the strength was the way the characters continued to grow and play off each other. Michael, taking Jim's advice to be self-deprecating about his slip-up, started out making cracks at his own expense and wound up practically shouting about how alone and pathetic he was. But even after the twist -- it turns out Jim saw Michael start to fall and, somewhat pettily, let it happen -- Michael was still ultimately loyal to Jim. They're almost bonding, in a way, over being managers. Nicely done.

The secondary plot was killer, too, as Pam and Andy were forced to spend time together making cold calls. It's really the first time they'd spent together since he jacked up his scrotum and slept on her floor the night before the wedding. Putting the two characters together again like this led to some great energy, some good fights, and their weird plan to act married in order to try and curry emotional favors from potential clients. Andy's rejection of Pam ("I date models. Face models.") was rivaled only by the creepy ease with which he sang to her pregnant belly in a business meeting. Plus the tag at the end gave me hope that he and Erin will wind up together and have very idiotic but sweet kids. I don't wanna jinx anything, but The Office hasn't had a bad episode this season.

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