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TV Review: The Office Season Two Finale

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Call it the Kiss of Death.

Any time a TV show ends or begins the season with some kind of development in an unrequited romance, the show traditionally plays its dangerous “love card.” NBC’s The Office pulled out their Kiss of Death in the final seconds of Season Two.

In the 40-minute season finale which aired Thursday, May 11, 2006, the Scranton regional manager of Dunder-Mifflin – Michael Scott (Steve Carell) – hosted Casino Night in their warehouse to raise money for charity. The cause? AIDS. Specifically, Afghanistanis With AIDS. Or Afghanis With AIDS. Or is it Afghanistaninis With AIDS?

This episode had all the elements that consistently make me giggle loud enough to wake the neighbors, provided they were folks who slept at 9:30/8:30 Central. It was all there. The smug self-importance of Michael Scott. The deadpan excitement of Kevin the accountant (Brian Baumgartner). The mind games Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) plays with his desk neighbor and dweeb incarnate, Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson). And Michael trying way too hard to impress his boss and one-night fling, the recently divorced Jan Levinson (Melora Hardin).

Michael invited both Jan and his realtor Carole (Nancy Walls) to Casino Night. Much to his surprise they both said yes, giving Michael the impression that he’s in some sort of love triangle. So his personal office minion Dwight attempts to keep Carole and Jan away from each other the entire night so they don’t get hurt, and by doing so, Dwight says in a soliloquy, “we honor them.”

But while Casino Night was the title of the episode and the main setting of the episode, much of the sitcom drama happened away from the poker tables.

It all begins with Jim helping his friend, the office secretary Pam (Jenna Fischer) watch some band audition videos to find one for her upcoming wedding with Dunder-Mifflin warehouse employee Roy (David Denman). Immediately after they see a tape of a band called Scrantonicity, featuring Kevin the accountant as the drummer singing a cover of “Don’t Stand So Close To Me,” they instantly know they have to book those guys.

Later, Jim confides to the camera that he met with Jan to discuss transferring to a different branch because, as he puts it, “I have no future here.” Clearly the cards are dealt for a classic season finale. (Get it? Casino? Cards? Hah!)

Outside Jim runs into Jan, cigarette in hand, because she’s a little nonplussed after driving two and a half hours to find Michael and Carole on a date. They talk more about his transfer request. Jan asks if he told anyone about it yet, to which he said he didn’t.

So when Roy leaves Casino night, leaving Pam behind with Jim (he’s such a trusting lad), Jim has something to tell Pam. “Oh, I bet it’s about transferring,” we are all led to believe. Those clever writers.

Jim: “I’m in love with you.”

(Forgive me for getting sucked into the love story of a hilarious sit-com, but I’m only human.)

The Jim-Pam friendship/romance had been simmering all season, but they were unable to take a chance on each other (Get it? Another gambling reference! I’m hilarious!) because Pam was in love with someone else. The scene ended awkwardly, to say the least, between the two. And although Michael was bragging to the camera about the two women that were fighting over him, Pam was the real one left with a choice.

So in the final scene she’s in the dark office room at night talking to her mother for advice. When Jim comes in she quickly ends the phone conversation and hangs up and turns around in an attempt to make things right.

And then, pow. Kiss of Death. The episode ended abruptly with lips still locked. (EDIT: Actually, a few seconds elapsed of them staring at each other.)

It was an amazingly funny 40 minutes of my life well worth it after a stressful week. But why give us the kiss this season?

Normally I’m a bit busier writing about other topics but the Blogcritic in me has finally come out, so here’s how the ending may have been improved: Cut the last 20 or so seconds. The camera would have stopped rolling the instant Pam spotted Jim and hastily clanged the phone down on the desk. How’s that for a summer cliffhanger?

But I’m not a writer for the show, and those who are typing up the script had them kiss. So let’s all sit down with our cappuccinos and start gossiping about the show. Omigod, are Jim and Pam gonna hook up?[ADBLOCKHERE]

They better not. The Kiss of Death followed by a full-fledged romance usually spells untimely doom for any show. (Exception: Friends, a show that somehow stayed on for exactly 63 seasons with as many romances between the six main stars). Wings got stale after Joe and Helen got married. Same with Ed and Carol in Ed. Relationships also killed Frasier, Cheers, Who’s the Boss and several late-night movies on Cinemax.

I’m not saying the show’s going downhill (it won’t — it can’t) but my money’s on The Office lasting two, maybe three more seasons if Jim and Pam become just that — Jim and Pam. Although I would probably get a kick out of seeing Kevin’s reaction to his band not being able to playing a wedding when there isn’t one.

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  • http://midnightcafe.wordpress.com/ Mat Brewster

    The kiss sucked. It kinda pisses me off because the show will lose that bit of tension. Love isn’t funny or interesting in a TV show (ok, Sam and Diane were funny but that was because they were always fighting) It will be good for half of next season while Roy tries to kill Pam then it will start to suck.

  • http://www.iamcorrect.com Lono

    This is a great show, but can’t imagine where they will go with the romance. I am suspicious that someone is being written off the show.

  • johnsonina

    Actually, they didn’t end the episode abruptly while they were still kissing. Pam starts to pull away a little and they stop and look at each other, and it looks like Pam is about to say something. Then it fades to black. It’s on YouTube if you want to see the last couple seconds.

    I thought it was an amazing moment of television, and the majority of the fans I’ve seen online were absolutely thrilled with it… even some non-‘Jam’ fans were happy about it. Also, the kiss doesn’t mean they’ve ended up together yet… they’re going to mix things up a little next season, just wait!

  • http://dracutweblog.blogspot.com Mary K. Williams

    Damn I totally forgot to watch last night. Grr. I was busy getting ready for some sort of phone call with some sort of person, fancying himself to be a DJ of sorts. You know the type, bans anyone at the drop of a hat, or a curling brush.

    I love the Office. Didn’t see ‘The Kiss’. Darn. But as much as I love a romantic moment – you do gotta wonder why now?

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    Nice detective work, johnson. Guess I was a bit shocked from the whole ordeal.

  • Chad

    what i bet happens in the new episode is Pam will tell Jim the kiss shouldn’t have happend and it was a mistake. maybe she would say this because she is not the kind of person to start “an avalanche”. (i.e. cancelling her wedding, breaking up with Roy) then Jim would transfer to the other branch but the cameras will still follow him around or something of the nature. maybe he will stay at scranton. i dunno but i do not see the show going downhill in the future.
    i cant believe we have to wait until next season.

  • Tara Lane

    I luuuurrrved the ending. But I am worried for the same reasons everyone else is…while I totally wanted for them to kiss, did I really want this whole cat-and-mouse thing to end? So, I’m going to be the optimist that I am and say that even if Jim and Pam become JimandPam, I think they’ll be able to keep all the funnies going because Jim and Pam aren’t the nexxus of the show.

    My thinking is that we’ll come back and Pam will have cancelled her wedding but won’t tell people why. Not even Jim. And it’ll take a while for them to talk about it…a few eps…and then it’ll be weird, and we’ll all wonder if she’s going to eschew men forever, or what…?

    But there’s still a part of me that wanted to see what happened after the kiss….

  • Suzanne

    My predictions:
    Jim will transfer to the other branch. Things will be awkward with Pam. At first, he will be calling Scranton because he is inventing new, remote, ways of tormenting Dwight. He will call via the receptionist, thereby getting chances to say hi to Pam. He is getting used to his new job and responsibilities (sales manager) and Pam will start agreeing to meet him. Yes, she will be having an affair, in slow motion. This slow motion is because she is like many of us, who Thoreau described as living lives of quiet desperation. (Jim is the more active go-getter type. So everyone has someone to relate to.)

    It is a lot to try to get her head around the idea that she can have a real friendship and love, not settle for a best friend she only knows from work and a fiance she does not share her thoughts and feelings with. This will take time and there will be many false endings to the relationship and suspense.

    Anyway, that’s the way I hope it goes because that way the show doesn’t tank via immediate resolution of the tension and does not become all about Jim and Pam (love them, but it wouldn’t work if it were centered on them, with him out of the office it can’t), other things in the office get to develop, a central theme being the continued toe-curling, disgusting Michael Scottness.

  • Lee

    That’s exactly how I feel; the kiss almost certainly seals Office’s fate, but the romantic in me almost shed a tear when Pam and Jim had their moment (right in the office, no less!). My guess: Pam will force herself to write the incident off as just that: an incident. Jim will move to the Stamford branch and be completely bored with his new coworkers (akin to Tim’s situation when David and Dawn left on the BBC’s Office). However the Jim and Pame story line is handled, I hope the show follows the Michael-Jan-Carol story.

  • Angela

    In my opinion, the way that the season was playing out, they had no choice but to end it that way if they were going to keep with the documentary format (that is, if they choose to continue with the real-time format that they are supposedly abiding by now). Pam was supposed to get married on June 10- if she got married, the tension between her and Jim would be a bit creepy-something had to happen to throw a wrench in those plans. I don’t think Jim’s admission of love was enough- he had to show her. This way, the wedding will most likely not happen and next season will leave Pam and Jim sorting out what happened between them and dealing with the Roy situation (I don’t think the writers will get the two together immediately- I could be wrong). I certainly think that there are some interesting (and sexual-tension-filled) stories to tell with these two, and, because they are not the central focus of the show, if the relationship gets ‘boring,’ they can explore other characters. What has been the most enjoyable part of the show to me this season has been the expanded use of the entire cast (could Creed, Kevin, and Toby be any funnier?) as well as the amazing writing. Jim and Pam are secondary in my love of The Office, which is remarkable to me because I’ve watched shows before just to see two people get together (*cough*…Caroline in the City…*cough*). This just shows (me) how good this show really is. All in all, I have faith (and I hope my faith is warranted) in the writers. I know that many people were worried prior to the season finale that the show would have Jim and Pam get together in a cliched way, but the way they ‘got together’ (I guess we’ll see if that’s the proper term next season), from Jim’s confession (amazing) to the kiss at the end (chaste yet emotion-filled), was the most realistic and beautiful depiction I’ve ever seen on TV of something like that happening. If they (well, Steve Carell but I’m sure with the help of the other writers) can pull that off, I’m confident they can pull off anything.

    Also, it’s inevitable that when shows set two characters up to be romantic interests, they have to have them recognize and react to their feelings at some point. Sometimes stringing viewers along for several seasons causes the viewers to lose interest (The X-Files comes to mind) and sometimes getting them together too early kills the show. It’s gotta be a catch-22 for the writers because unrequited sexual tension draws people into watching a show, but at some point, the writers have to deal with it. Most shows nowadays just immediately break the characters up after getting them together, which, IMO, sucks as much for the viewer as getting them together and letting them stay together can. Hopefully, the Office writers can buck both these trends of sucking (that’s what she said, hehe).

  • Erin Ashby

    Hello, you guys don’t know me but i absolutely completely agree with the above comments by Angela. Good romances are inevitably problematic on any show. I’m racking my brain trying to figure out how they’re going to play it. I don’t think he’s going to transfer at all (eh, maybe i’m wrong) but I wonder if he’ll go to Australia. Perhaps Pam will gradually break up with Roy, starting with postponing or finding a passive-agressive reason to stop the wedding. I’m wondering if she’ll attempt to take some time to figure herself out (the feminist thing) yet can’t help being wooed by Jim. Then there’s the possibility of trying to keep the eventual romance a secret…Either way, the motivating force behind this show isn’t plot, it’s character. I think these writers have a lot of integrity and if they stay in the characters brains instead of writing for the purpose of stringing the audience along, then i think they’ll be fine.

  • Genevieve

    I think it is a fair point to think the show might go downhill, but certainly, one that I don’t share. It could, but it doesn’t have to. For me, it boils down to 5 things.

    1) The show does not revolve around Pam & Jim. Even if for some reason it killed the chemistry (which I highly doubt), there are plenty of other reasons to keep tuning in to this show. As long as the writing is there, I will be too.

    2) The show is set in the office. Hence, even if Pam and Jim do start dating, they won’t really be able to hang off each other all day long. They have jobs to do. We will likely see less than more romance, and having all the action revolving around a relationship is often what kills a show (see the season of Friends where everything revolved around Monica and Chandler planning their wedding. That was painful.)

    3) As opposed to what some creators & writers may believe (to pick a name at random, oh, someone like Chris Carter), unresolved sexual tension that drags on forever becomes annoying. After a while, you care a whole lot less if the characters get together. It becomes more a “Will you just do it already or stop torturing us with this?” Besides, in this case, this declaration of love is a way to get Pam moving on with her life. It is not only a romance for the sake of a romance, but it will likely serve a purpose in terms of propelling a character forward, which brings me to point 4…

    4) Surprising plot development is what makes in fun to tune in to watch a show. Otherwise, what is the point? Nowadays, as soon as people start getting annoyed with a plotline, which often happens by episode 5, they claim the show has jumped the shark. If a show jumps the shark so quickly, well, it just wasn’t a very good show to start with or it wasn’t just not a show for you. Since The Office has been dishing out constantly outstanding episodes, I see no reason they wouldn’t use this new twist to their advantage as opposed to running the show into the ground.

    5) Too many shows last for way too long. You mention that you don’t think the show would last much more than 2 or 3 seasons after getting Jim and Pam together. That is probably plenty. I’ve come to hate a lot of my favourite shows in their last season(s). That is no fun. Most shows start running out of steam after 5 or 6 seasons. They should know when to close shop.

  • Bigtd

    I believe that what will happen is that Pam and Jim will enter a secret romance. Both of them fighting feelings but not able to stay away from each other. This way, they can keep the same dynamic between them, while also adding a kind of romantic ackwardness that could be funny (kinda like with Dwight and angela). I think like Friends, this show has plenty of characters to play off of. If you’ve noticed, the writers have cleverly set up ALOT OF DIFFERENT ISSUES with many different possabilties for plot focuses. Oscar’s closet homosexuality, Dwight and Angela, Toby’s comment about “chasing that feeling” of taking money from Michael, and obviously…Michael’s “love triangle. I believe that we will be seeing quite a bit more of Jan…because she is the one with the main issue.

    I believe this is truly the end of the Jim and Pam “awkward secret romance” aspect of the show, but that does not mean that the entire show will end. There are many more plot seeds that have been planted by the writers this season, and I think that the “kiss of death” as you put it, will eventually end the Pam and Jim plot line and refocus it to other characters and relationships.

  • nanner

    This series follows the British Series, almost to the letter, so the kiss is what happened in the original…..Just my two cents.