Holly has finally returned to Scranton in the return episode of "The Office," the harbinger of beloved manager Michael Scott’s exit and, for all intents and purposes, his soulmate. It’s not all roses and romance for the reunited ex-flames, however, despite Michael’s magnificently childish preparation for her arrival, complete with a pre-taped video for either of the two possible scenarios (the 2010 cliffhanger was whether or not Holly’s boyfriend AJ would propose by her Christmas deadline).
“Now if she’s engaged I’m going to go crazy and I’m going to start attacking people. If she’s not engaged, in all honesty, I may just burn this whole place down out of happiness. Either way, I am going to need some talking down. And nobody talks me down like myself in a video talking me down.”
When Holly first arrives back at the office, Kelly, Kevin, Dwight, Pam, and Michael are all-too-eager to discover whether she had a ring on her finger or not, as the last episode before winter break left off with Holly’s ultimatum to her boyfriend AJ that he propose by Christmas or else. As technicalities would have it, we discover that Holly isn’t engaged. She and AJ are still together, however, a fact that Michael only discovers after celebrating with his happy box and creepy pre-taped celebration video.
Holly proves her lack of engagement by mischievously flipping her ring fingers in the air, to which Kevin stupidly/angrily responds, “Hey, right back at you, bitch!” with a middle finger. It’s an overly aggressive reaction, but directly in line with Holly’s original assertion that Kevin was a bit on the retarded side. The guy’s just a stupid oaf, but that’s why we love him. Well, some of us.
The lack of a clear green or red light in romance causes some inevitably conflicted feelings in Michael, as his relief that AJ didn’t ask Holly to marry him gave way to disappointment that she didn’t stick to her ultimatum and break up with him. The purgatorial result is a frustrating experience for Michael, which leads to some massively uncomfortable moments, particularly when he takes his anger out on Kevin with a head of broccoli and attempts to shame the geriatric Creed into doing a cartwheel in front of the staff. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves on that one…
Pam’s fictional office administrator position has become an apparent reality, and she takes the initiative by putting up a New Year’s resolution board in the office, designed to help motivate people to keep their promises to themselves. Each 3×5 card bearing the resolutions is put up on the board, showing the world that Ryan wants to live life like an art project, Creed wants to do a cartwheel, Kelly needs to "get more attention by any means necessary" (the mind reels just imagining what she’s done so far), Kevin wants to eat more vegetables and Dwight wants to “meet a loose woman," among others. Naturally, this backfires and dissolves into cattiness as people immediately begin to break their resolutions in plain sight, and call others on the same offenses.
Ever the dream-maker, Daryl takes Andy and Dwight to the bookstore since both of their resolutions were to meet women (“Hey what book is that? Cool, lets hang out tonight. Sex already? Whoooa”). The former warehouse worker has taken it upon himself to help Dunder Mifflin’s two most hopeless souls become the best he can be, but when Dwight and Andy strike out, they look for other options. Dwight wants to go to a strip club, but they settle for the roller rink across the street after Daryl’s wise words: "The day shift at a strip club. You can’t unsee that."
Michael’s post-freakout attempt to make amends with Kevin and Creed was a squirm-worthy affair, more for the subtext than the actual humility Michael must show with two of the office’s biggest degenerates. Since an HR rep must be present for mediation purposes, Holly was on hand for the apology, which we quickly came to understand was directed more at Holly than the two buffoons. She read between the lines and understood what was unfolding (though Kevin & Creed clearly did not), and her self-denial unraveled rapidly as a result. The next time we see her, there’s a very short line drawn between her feeble insistence that everything with AJ is going to be "just fine," and a phone call to put the relationship on hold, "at least until I get back to Nashua." It’s a little too quick and tidy, but we’ll take it.
The episode ends with Michael actually helping Creed execute a cartwheel – the most mangled and half-assed cartwheel anyone has ever seen, but a cartwheel nonetheless. Creed’s gushing with glee as the shot fades to black, refusing to shake Michael’s hand and beaming "that’s all I had to do all year!"
It’s been little secret that Holly will be both the harbinger and soft-hand of Michael’s exit, and with series shot-callers promising that our office hero will get "the ending that he deserves," it’s clear the ball has been set in very real motion. As for his replacement, the increased role of Daryl as mentor makes it appear as if he’s the frontrunner for Michael’s position. Craig Robinson’s got the chops for the job, as he’s proven with razor-sharp comic timing and a nonchalant delivery that hits far too many bullseyes not to be the mark of a sleeper genius. Time will tell if Steve Carell’s massive shoes will be filled by a familiar face or someone within the camp.
CraveOnline Rating: 8.5 out of 10