The first few seasons of The Office are remembered fondly not just for their ongoing plotlines but also the amount of time and care that went into those ongoing plotlines. Recall that it took Jim and Pam three seasons to finally go on a date. Based on tonight's episode, the producers will take their time unraveling (or at least greatly testing) that union. Sure, the producers won't have three seasons, and we all know the Halperts won't break up forever, but it's good to see that Greg Daniels and company are taking their time with this one.
"I think the only weird thing about going to your wife's ex-fiancé's wedding on a weekday at 8 a.m. is that it's your wife's ex-fiancé," says Jim, astutely. But Roy, Pam's ex, has grown up since we've seen him last. He has a fancy new house, a fancy new gravel company, and a fancy new ability to play the piano. John Krasinski doesn't overplay it, but Jim is clearly embarrassed to be shown-up by Roy. Note that he doesn't tell him that he's still a paper salesman but that he has a few things in the works. The emasculation of seeing the man he once bested (not that Jim would think that way normally, but we all have a reptile brain in times of stress) lap him career-wise only strengthens his resolve to go forward with the new business he's working on with his friend.
But while it may be stupid of Jim to let another man's career accomplishments bother him, Jim is not so stupid as to think that he's not going to have to answer for deciding "yes anyway" to the new business without telling his wife, whom, it should be noted, probably would have supported her husband if he had dropped his pride and just been honest. She knows what it's like to see your ambitions go unfulfilled, after all. "I'm thinking there's another conversation coming," Jim says with a wince. The first of many, no doubt.
If Roy's wedding makes Jim feel like a failure, it makes Pam feel boring, which is just as deadly a fear for thirtysomething married types. She's both a great real mom and a great office mom (despite charges in the cold open that she doesn't understand spinning, she made a chore wheel that brought delight to all and at least got the toilets cleaned. The shot of Stanley eating Erin's lunch more than justified this bit), but watching Roy surprise his fiancée by revealing that he had been taking music lessons instead of boxing instructions (David Denman has pipes! Who knew?) makes her feel insecure about the lack of mystery in her own relationship. So she digs for dirt, desperate to see if there's anything at all about her husband that she doesn't know. Turns out she had already heard that story about how his brothers tricked him in to thinking he won the lottery. "Give it up, Beesly; you know me too well." But when Jim keeps disappearing to answer phone calls and becomes flippant about having secrets, Pam begins to wonder if there "is something, actually something, I don't know about Jim." Jenna Fischer nicely plays Pam as just starting to become concerned but not yet overly paranoid. That's probably coming up, and it will be painful to see. But, you know, painful in that funny Office way.
If the main plot was about slowly serving the upcoming Jim and Pam confrontation, the B plot helped to define the New Guys. While Clark was initially branded the New Dwight, turns out he's more like the New Ryan. Which is good, as the plot structure of this show probably calls for a guy like that. Turns out that New Ryan is less of a smug worm and more of sleaze bag, though. After noticing that Erin reads Newsweek and is also attractive (the new haircut is a hit all around), Clark invited her over to his apartment to have some wine, loosen up, and audition for a newscasting gig. The things Clark must do to help his friend Duncan.
It also turns out that Plop might be a bit more like Jim than we thought. He has less patience than Tuna ("Clark's not my friend. He's the douche who sits next to me in the office") but the same willingness to derail a bad idea. After noting that Andy is far too eager to help his girlfriend with an audition at some overly helpful guy's house ("the camera makes everything seem higher cut"), Jake tells Andy that it would make the most sense if he auditioned along with her, as rapport with your co-anchor and the ability to make jokes about people burning to death is more important than a background in journalism. (This is probably true.) Of course, Andy agrees and comes along for the audition and then demands several more takes. There are things to quibble with here, but it's the final season, and the "is Erin really that naive?" train left the station a while ago. At least we got some good Walter Cronkite mustache jokes out of it, and a preening Andy is usually a funny Andy.
As is usually the case, the C story was just straight silliness that had nothing to do with anything, and your enjoyment of it will vary depending on your enjoyment of Rainn Wilson going big. Nellie has started a charity initiative, as it's the only thing she can do that Andy won't piss on. The staff gets a say as to what to support, but Dwight will have none of this, as he has little use for the nanny state. (Between this, a similar Ron Swanson tirade and a totally harsh Obama sketch on Thursday Night Live, NBC had more red meat for the red states than usual last night.) Dwight derails "Operation Power Grab" by pledging to support the Global Relief Foundation, a.k.a. the Taliban. (Say what you will, but Creed stands by their heroin. I'm going to miss that old creep come next year.) This inevitably leads to Nellie calling Dwight's bluff about living via Taliban codes, and before long, Dwight is trying to psyche himself to cut off Nellie's hands with a meat cleaver. It was one of those kinds of story lines. But watching Catherine Tate and Rainn Wilson try to out-weird each other had its charms, and it's always nice to see Daryl enter a room and leave just as quickly. Ongoing plotlines are great, but it's still the little things on this show.