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The Office: Give Michael a Break Already!

For a year-plus, pretty much since he took Jan in after she was fired by Dunder-Mifflin, this show has been making Michael's life miserable. In the first three seasons, the pickles he found himself in were of his own making. But — perhaps because Steve Carell is so skilled at playing hangdog — the writers have had it in for the guy. Jan was an albatross around his neck, which felt mean and wrong even before she reemerged to mock his desire to be a father. Then Holly came, and we saw the self-realized Michael, only to have her ruthlessly torn away. Michael's never seemed sadder than at the end of this episode, after being forced to do the walk of shame by a Winnipeg hotel concierge who’s not eager to fall in love. (No one's less well equipped for a one-night stand than Michael.) By the time he passive-aggressively harangues Wallace and questions his Dunder-Mifflin career, you’re not sure whether to give Michael a hug or a pink slip and plane ticket to Holly in Nashua, New Hampshire.

The other major development: Pam’s decision not to stay in New York for twelve more weeks (she failed a class in her art school). It’s not 100 percent clear, despite what she says, whether she’s coming back for Jim, because she’s scared, or because she truly misses Scranton. But she admits that she’s giving up her dream … so obviously, we haven’t heard the last of it. It might be amusing if art-school friend Alex — Jim’s doppelgänger — comes to Scranton to “save” her the way Jim did when she was with Roy. But the “resolution” of this story line was too pat to resolve much of anything. So hold those awwws; this is far from settled.

More highlights: The disturbing, yet somehow comforting, revelation that Andy still has not slept with Angela. The budding bromance between Andy and Oscar. Kelly and Ryan starting their relationship again, to Darryl’s indifference. And, of course, beautiful Winnipeg. It’s so true to The Office that its main character would have a breakdown in an international place of intrigue such as that.

Photo: Courtesy of NBC