Christmas episodes are a staple of many TV shows, and The Office is certainly among those shows. More than that, the Christmas episodes tend to be standout episodes. The Office has done five Christmas episodes, there wasn’t one during the strike shortened fourth season, and I’ve enjoyed each one. So, with no new episode this week and with Christmas right around the corner, I thought I’d rank the five Christmas episodes of The Office.
5. “Christmas Party” – The original Christmas episode from season two, it is definitely a good episode. Michael buys his secret santa recepient, Ryan, a video iPod (back when this would have been a particularly impressive gift) to show off. However, since everybody else stuck to the agreed upon $20 limit, the gift creates a stir. When Michael gets a handmade oven mitt from Phyllis, he decides to turn the gift exchange into “Yankee Swap,” which just creates a bigger mess.
Gifts bought specifically for people go to the wrong person, in particular Jim’s gift for Pam, a teapot with inside jokes stuffed inside. In the end, Michael tries to make amends by buying a ton of booze with his Christmas bonus and a big time party ensues. Also, Pam trades Dwight for the teapot, but Jim takes his note professing his feelings for her away before she can see it.
The Office was still finding its feet early in the second season, and this episode shows it at times. It’s still funny and harkens back to a simpler, more emotionally resonant time for Jim and Pam and back to when Dwight wasn’t quite as cartoonish as he is now. The episode didn’t reach major highs, but it is still enjoyable. It just happens to be the least good Office Christmas episode.
4. “Secret Santa” – From season six, this episode is from that period of time when Michael and Jim were co-manager. As such, Jim had the ability to allow Phyllis to be Santa, which makes Michael quite angry. As such, he tries to control the whole Christmas party. First, as a rival Santa, and second as a catty, hurt, petulant Jesus. However, there is also trouble brewing within the company, as Dunder-Mifflin might be sold and so everybody’s job is up in the air.
So now, Michael is trying to raising people’s spirits even though they don’t even know what is going on. Naturally, Michael can’t keep a secret, and so suddenly the party takes a dour turn, until they all find out that only the executives will lose their jobs and all the branches are safe. Now they can party, and Phyllis can be Santa. Also, Oscar has a thing for a new guy in the warehouse named Matt. Whatever happened to that?
The Office likes to go a bit dark, or at least bleak, with their Christmas episodes, and certainly this one features aspects of that. Michael’s actions at the party were funny, and I enjoyed them tying in all the Dunder-Mifflin’s future stuff into the Christmas episode. Plus, Andy’s quest to impress Erin with his “12 Days of Christmas” themed presents was enjoyable, and it gave the episode a nice coda. However, I would have really liked to see how he finagled the maids-a-milking and the lords-a-leaping. A really good outing for the show.
3. “Classy Christmas” – This episode just aired a couple of weeks ago, so it is probably fresh in our minds. Holly’s return to the branch while Toby is on jury duty leads Michael to try and put on a really fancy, some would say classy, Christmas party. Of course, while Michael still pines for Holly she’s with A.J. and that causes problems. A Woody doll is prominently involved. Meanwhile, Pam and Andy help Darryl connect with his daughter and Pam also gives Jim a comic book for Christmas.
All of these storylines were enjoyable, especially Michael and Holly’s storyline, as it was able to bring out the best in the character of Michael. This was a very good episode, not so much for the laughs (though there were some) but because of the plot and the emotional heft. The only thing keeping this from being a great episode was the Dwight and Jim storyline, in which Dwight is really awful to Jim and receives no reprisal for his actions.
2. “Moroccan Christmas” – Speaking of bleak Christmas episodes on The Office, this is certainly the bleakest. What starts off as a fabulous Morocco themed party thrown by Phyillis is brought to a halt when a drunken Meredith catches her hair on fire. Michael them decides to make the party an intervention for Meredith and her drinking, which goes poorly. Eventually, he tricks her to going to a rehab center, where a fantastic scene unfolds as Michael chases Meredith around the parking lot.
Meanwhile, Dwight buys up a huge selection of the most popular Christmas toy and sells them at ridiculous prices. Toby, desperate to try and buy his daughter’s affection, tries to buy one, only to find out Darryl bought the last one. This leads to Toby pleading with Darryl to let him buy it, and then he finds out it is the black version of the doll, which he is quick to point out is, “Even better than the one I wanted.” Then, late in the episode, Angela and Phyllis’ resentment for one another comes to a head. Phyllis is blackmailing Angela due to her affair with Dwight, and so she is now head of the Party Planning Committee and rules Angela with an iron fist. Angela tries to call her bluff, but then Phyllis tells everybody, except for Andy, about the affair. Andy then obliviously enters to try and impress folks with his sitar playing. It is a bleak, dour tableau of humanity.
This is a great episode. It is the right mix of comedy and drama, and it plays the dark comedy card well. The intervention scene, as well as the aforementioned chase scene, are both excellent. Dwight’s plan was amusing, and the end with Andy and the sitar really works well. The Dwight, Andy, Angela love triangle did a lot for the show, including reining Dwight in.
However, despite all this one Christmas episode is still better…
1. “A Benihana Christmas” – An hour long extravaganza, this is my favorite Christmas episode of The Office, and perhaps my favorite Christmas episode of any show ever. Once again, one of Michael’s romantic relationships drives the episode. This time, it is with realtor Carol, played by Steve Carell’s wife Nancy Walls. Michael has sent out a Christmas card where he has superimposed his head on Carol’s ex-husbands body, which is the final straw for her, even if Michael is planning a trip to Sandals Jamaica for the two of them.
Michael is so distraught he proclaims Christmas cancelled, and then he listens to a portion of a song repeatedly on a computer. Andy then decides he’ll cheer Michael up by taking him to Benihana, with Jim and Dwight tagging along. Pretty much everything that happens in Benihana is awesome. Michael starts drinking and acting foolish. Michael and Andy try and pick up a waitress named Cindy. Dwight gets stuck down at another end of the table, giving Jim the chance to mess with him. Then, Michael and Andy show up at the Christmas party with two waitresses that aren’t the waitress they were talking to.
Here’s the kicker: Michael can’t tell the two waitresses apart. He does his best to try and find out which is his date, and when he does he marks her arm. Also, he gives her a bike, which she keeps even when she skips out on the party and turns down Michael’s trip to Jamaica. In the end, Michael gets some sage advice from Jim, and then he calls a woman who accepts his trip to Jamaica. We of course later find out that woman was Jan, which brought us the thoroughly excellent relationship between those two.
This is also the first party at Scranton for the Stamford transfers, which means learning the ways of Angela and her Party Planning Committee. Karen gets kicked off said committee, and although she’s dating Jim, Pam decides to try and befriend her after this. They then start a rival committee and throw their own party. Their party has margaritas and karaoke. Angela’s has music from The Nutcracker and brownies.
Some sabatoge is tried, some folks defect from one party to the other, but in the end the two parties come together and things really pick up. Also, Pam’s Christmas present to Jim involves an elaborate prank involving Dwight and the CIA. At first, Jim tries to resist falling back into his old ways, but he can’t, and thus he eventually helps Pam finish off the prank, much to her enjoyment. Lastly, I’m pretty sure this is the episode where Dwight brings in a dead goose and wants to clean and cook it for the holiday. That was great.
When The Office tried to go for hour long episodes week in and week out to start the fourth season they struggled a bit, but this was an hour long outing that worked. It was really funny, with a nice mixture of bleakness and positivity, and it was plotted well and it had emotional resonance. The Benihana stuff was great, Michael’s interactions with the waitresses was excellent, and Pam and Karen working together was a nice thing to see as well. Of course, that couldn’t last because it didn’t fit into the whole Pam and Jim storyline, Karen had to become an obstacle, but at this point in time it wasn’t needed and so we got some enjoyable stuff with the two of them working together.
That’s my ranking. Feel free to disagree. Or, feel free to agree. With no new episode this week, perhaps you will take the time to watch one of these episodes. Either way, enjoy Christmas if you are going to celebrate it. I’ve included a video for your enjoyment as well.