Setting things up for its season finale, this week’s The Office gave Jim/Pam fans everywhere something to talk about with some long-awaited resolution to last season’s cliffhanger, while still giving plenty of time for the usual amount of uncomfortable humor and personality conflicts expected from the Scranton employees, this time taking us beyond the confines of Dunder-Mifflin to the shores of Lake Scranton. We also got to see Andy Bernard float down a river in a giant sumo wrestler costume.
As the staff prepares for its annual “Beach Day”, regional manager Michael Scott receives a phone call from corporate informing him of a job opening that he’s being considered for at the New York office. This requires Michael to create a list of possible candidates to fill his role as manager of the Scranton branch. Michael, never missing an opportunity to make life as awkward as possible for his employees, decides to pick his replacement based on a Survivor-type competition in which all staff must participate. The only two exceptions are Pam, who is required to take notes, and Toby, who is forced to stay at the office and work.
Deciding that Jim, Dwight, Andy and Stanley are the top candidates, he designates them team captains and the employees begin the various activities Michael has planned for them. The staff, unaware of the true motivation of the games, behaves exactly as we would expect them to with Jim preferring to play harmless pranks on his girlfriend, Stanley apathetically giving up to play his crosswords, and Dwight and Andy predictably facing off with unmatched intensity. Frustrated with his workers' lack of enthusiasm, Michael unwittingly lets slip the true nature of the competition, as well as the open position in corporate he is being considered for. This leads to both Jim and Karen calling up Dunder-Mifflin headquarters to express their interest in the very same opening Michael is up for.
For fans of the show, however, this is all nothing more than the build up to the true purpose of the episode, the latest chapter in the ongoing Jim/Pam drama. While the rest of her co-workers participate in hot dog eating contests and egg races, Pam is forced sit back with her notebook and watch Jim flirt with his office girlfriend. Showing a new level self-confidence, Pam boldly participates in the coal walking competition and decides to ride the adrenaline rush to the end, first expressing her frustration with her co-workers in general, then going further and finally confessing her feelings for Jim. As longtime viewers unite in a sigh of relief, Pam admits that Jim was the reason she called off her wedding all those months ago and expresses how much she misses his friendship.
Pam’s confession will no doubt play a large part in next week’s season finale, however the final outcome may largely be determined by actress Rashida Jones’ actions rather than those of the writers. It’s still up in the air whether or not Rashida will be returning for next season, and this open position in Dunder-Mifflin’s corporate office may actually be the writer’s out for the character, should she decide to leave. Either way, I’m sure many fans, myself included, were relieved to see Pam finally show some guts and wonder how her on-again-off-again crush will be affected by this new self-confidence.
-George Freitag, Buddy TV Staff Columnist
(Photo courtesy of NBC)