If last week’s episode was a glorious high for The Office, ‘Dwight Christmas’ is something of a letdown. It has some nice ideas and moments, but never really works as a whole, with some of it being rather depressing rather than fun or funny.
As the title suggests, it’s Christmas time in the office, but head of the party committee Angela forgot to organise a Christmas party (her husband having an affair with Oscar probably made it slip her mind), so Dwight suggests they have a Pennsylvania-Dutch Christmas, something Jim gets right behind because he can see that it’s something Dwight actually enjoys. After excusing himself from the party because he ‘has to go to my car and take a dump’ (leaving Kevin wishing he had a bathroom in his car), he returns as Belsnickel, a German Santa-esque figure. He hands out gifts too, not if people have been naughty or nice, but if they’ve been impish or admirable. Phyllis has been admirable and gets a gift, but Oscar has been impish, so Dwi…Belsnickel thrashes him with a switch (he also gives the admirable Pam a mousetrap, ‘for der kinder’).
Dwight’s clearly enjoying himself, but the party is ruined for him when Jim has to leave early. He’s heading to Philadelphia to get started properly with his new business, and wants to leave a day early so he can ‘enjoy’ a night of ‘restless sleep and nervous puking’. So as he makes his excuses to leave, Dwight gives him a damn good thrashing with his switch, because he’d wanted to fight Jim over the ceremonial breaking of the pig rib. Dwight’s not the only one upset by Jim’s departure, as Darryl believes Jim has forgotten his promise to give him a job with his new company, and proceeds to get roaring drunk on the party’s punch (it has to be said that Craig Robinson’s drunk acting is not particularly impressive).
It’s a bit of a flaw in the final season so far that the writers can’t quite follow through with their plans to give Jim something new, something better, to do with his life, and that happens in this episode too, as instead of going to Philadelphia when he plans to, he returns to the party to see it through to its conclusion. For a moment I thought he was going to announce that he’d given up on his new job completely, but instead he tells Pam he’ll get the 5am bus instead. I can’t help but think that it would make the show much more interesting if Jim was already in Philadelphia, and we were seeing more of that side of things, rather than him trying to be involved from the Scranton end. If he just quit Dundler Mifflin and went to Philadelphia to give something better a shot, it would give the show the chance to do something new, and it’s not like they couldn’t just have him come back if it didn’t work. I do think that Jim and Pam will end up moving to Philadelphia at the end of the series, but there isn’t really a good reason for it not to have happened yet.
This is another Andy-less episode, apart from an email he sends to Erin. And he’s such a bad character that even an email from him makes you want to punch him in the face. He’s sold his boat and is getting drunk with his brother, and he’s also been to see Life of Pi which depressed him. He’s going to stay where he is for a few weeks and maybe see The Hobbit too. So in this season alone he’s already upset Erin by attempting to sabotage Nellie’s hopes of adopting and then sailing off on his boat with his brother, and now he’s staying away to waste his money instead of coming home to be with her (and remember, he’s previously driven to Florida to win her back). So now Erin and Pete get to bond some more, this time over Die Hard (she’s never seen it, he knows every line from the movie). She reminds Pete that she’s still Andy’s girlfriend at one point, but doesn’t want him to not put his arm around her.
So while the idea of Dwight as Belsnickel is a fun one, the rest of the episode shows that The Office isn’t quite ready to move on yet. New story lines are being teased but not really developed and it’s losing some momentum. If The Office is to get an admiral send off, there’s work to do.