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The Office Recap: Deck the Halls With Blows From Holly

“Here’s a question nobody’s asking: Is this worth it?” With that, Oscar read the minds of those of us who have spent six and a half long seasons with this show. He was referring of course to the staff Christmas photo, but the answer in both cases is: Yes. For the second week in a row, The Office proved it could be a dark comedy, and a really good one at that.

From the Vulture comments, it seems like Michael and Holly (Molly? Hichael?) are fan favorites. We can’t totally abide them, but maybe we just think Amy Ryan can do better than Michael — like, say, with an alcoholic cop. Anyway, Holly returned to replace Toby, who’s serving as a juror on the Scranton Strangler case. How great was Toby, playing coy about the details of the trial? And Meredith: “Is he gorgeous? He looks gorgeous in the drawings. That scowl.” Also, we totally get Stanley’s jealousy: “Judging people while my lunch is paid for — that is the life.” Yes! Exactly. Why does jury duty get such a bad rap?

As soon as Holly showed up, she and Michael went into their screwball shtick. Little did she know, Michael had canceled the previous holiday party and rescheduled it for her arrival — switching out of his fat Santa suit and going for a backwards Kangol-style Santa hat and a slimming leisure robe. Kevin’s ticked that she ate half of the candy she brought for the staff and, for once, we support Kevin. That’s like bringing an open bottle of wine to a party. Poor form. And, speaking of people not on Team Holly: Erin. Her mild aggression toward Holly, beginning with “I’d help you, but I’m waiting for my boss’s pretty friend to arrive” and including “Maybe Holly’s not in a position to be shooing guys away,” was a great elaboration of her relationship with Michael, which went too far with the paternal schmaltz a few weeks back.

So it looked like the old chemistry was still there, but Holly revealed that she’s still in a relationship with AJ. He gave her a Woody. Side note: We had not seen any of the Toy Story franchise until recently because, blah blah blah Pixar, it’s a cartoon and cartoons should not be taken seriously as films by anyone over the age of 8. But rumor had it Toy Story 3 was depressing and Depressing trumps Cartoon so long story short: It was really inappropriate of Michael to throw Woody in the garbage and pour coffee on him, especially since he didn’t have Buzz Lightyear or Slinky Dog or Jesse around to save him. Holly was understandably furious, but Michael redeemed himself later by washing Woody’s separates.

Meanwhile, all this time we suspected Darryl had a serious side — he’s one of the few not-ridiculous people at Dunder Mifflin — but he never had a serious story line before last night. Darryl’s daughter doesn’t want to spend Christmas with him because she doesn’t have any fun. And after Darryl rolled deep with iCarly knowledge and everything! Heartbreaking. Pam and Andy tried to cheer him up. “I don’t have kids or anything, but if my grandmother ever dies I am going to kill myself!” That’s Andy, and he’s making some sense — aren’t we all perpetual children until the loss of a parental figure? How that was supposed to cheer Darryl up isn’t totally clear, but the gist seemed to be that his daughter loves him. Pam suggested he bring her to the office party, which went predictably terribly until she discovered the vending machines. Those are pretty exciting at that age. Hell, even now …

Then there’s Dwight and Jim’s snowball fight — or, rather, war. Jim may have started it, but Dwight egged him on: The first snowfall of the holiday season is awesome and Dwight was a Scrooge to suggest otherwise. So Jim fired the first shot and, over the course of the episode, Dwight hit back many, many times. So many that Jim’s shirt was stained with blood. The best ambush was either when he hid in a snowman — “I have no feeling in my fingers or penis, but I think it was worth it” — or when he disguised himself as Pam and revealed that he has a wig for every person in the office.

Speaking of Pam, she was fretting over her gift to Jim, which was a comic book based on the life of Jimmy Halpert. Ryan told her it was derivative and that Bearman’s quest was unclear; Phyllis believed it suggested financial problems; but Jim loved it and, yeah, that scene prompted a little bit of an “Aww.” Her best gift, though, was the one she gave Michael, informing him that Holly plans to give AJ an ultimatum on a proposal, which is just shy of Kelly’s classic advice: “Nobody does anything for me anymore unless I threaten to kill myself.” Pam tells him to be patient. But not so patient that the season gets bad again, we hope.

All in all, a very worthwhile episode. Dwight’s closing comments standing on the roof above an army of snowmen (“In the end the greatest snowball isn’t the snowball at all — it’s fear”) don’t make for the ideal summation here, but, as he said, “Merry Christmas.”

Photo: Chris Haston/NBC