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.