It’s been a strange season for ongoing plotlines — that is, they keep getting dropped. The drama of the Jim and Michael co-manager transition never quite materialized, as exemplified by the forced B-plot this week, with Dwight trying to undermine Jim, a scheme no one, onscreen or off, cares about. This week, yet another promising story line appears to wrap itself up.
The Michael-dating-Pam’s-mom plot has seemed a little rushed, but it certainly had potential. This episode looked to move the needle: Michael takes Pam’s mom out to lunch for her birthday, along with Jim and an extremely hesitant Pam, and awkwardness ensues. What is nice and unexpected about this, though, is that Pam begins to find herself won over. What Michael has always needed was a woman who appreciated his desperate, yearning attempts to be loved, and Pam’s mom, who is a little less disturbed here than she was earlier, falls squarely in that camp. She loves his little notes and poems and teenage wooing, and Pam, against her better judgment, grows more comfortable with it, too. After all, her mom looks happy, right?
This is all undercut, as it inevitably would be, by Michael losing interest once he learns how old Pam’s mom is (58). It strains credulity that Michael would JUST NOW figure out her age — how old does he think Pam is — 14? But it does set up a somewhat poignant man-boy moment when Michael realizes he’ll never be able to have kids with this woman. (Even if it’s ridiculous that it hadn’t occurred to him in the first place.)
It’s too much for Pam, though, who is furious and finally decides the only way she’s going to feel better is if she punches Michael. And, as Kelly points out, “she’s got that crazy pregnancy strength.” Michael begrudgingly agrees to be punched, and the whole office lines up to watch the “fight” in the parking lot. Michael, afraid for his life, apologizes, but he screws up the apology, of course, so Pam slaps him anyway, hard. (Watch it below!) It doesn’t make her feel better, though. And this plotline now appears over. So who’s Michael going to date next? Or are we just waiting for Pam to have her baby?
The rumors are that Dunder Mifflin is going to run into some financial trouble in upcoming episodes. There should be nothing left standing in the way of that plotline.
Alan Sepinwall says, “Its ambitions were more modest, and ... the episode didn't really know how to end.”
James Poniewozik writes that in “The Office, character drives story, but here, the needs of the story were driving Michael's character.”
The A.V. Club’s Nathan Rabin calls the episode “punishingly dark and strangely inconsequential.”