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'It's a Date'
2007-05-17 22:36
by Jon Weisman

Before watching tonight's season finale of The Office, I watched an episode of The Wonder Years entitled "The Accident." A few years after the death of her older brother in Vietnam and the separation (and subsequent shaky reconciliation) of her parents, Winnie's family has moved to another town. She had been dating Kevin but was no longer. Breaking down emotionally within but unable to express herself outwardly, she sees Kevin simultaneously as the only person who can truly understand her but also an integral part of a past she truly wants to bury.

There have been times over the past three seasons of The Office when I have looked at Jim and Pam and wondered, or at least wished for their sake (as I know many others have), that they would cut through all the crap that doesn't matter and just wrap themselves in each other's arms and not let go. But Jim and Pam, as long as we've known them, have never been fully formed. Pam never made the leap for Jim because she was simply not a leaper. She has waited for love and happiness to find her like we wait for the mail to come, understanding that there are days that the deliveries will be light or won't come at all, but willing to tolerate the ebb and flow because it would be simply be too risky to go out and try to get what you need on one's own.

Jim, for the first and second seasons, was the same way. And I think he understood intuitively that to make a play for Pam was to beg rejection, and it was only when he reached the limit of lovesickness that he made his biggest leap at the end of Casino Night last season.

Except for the great looks and personality, I identify with Jim. In my 20s, I took a beating when it came to romance. And when I found the person who I thought at the time was the love of my life, while living in Washington D.C., I had been hard-knock schooled in the notion that you should not sacrifice your own dreams for love, because you'd just end up with neither. The actual plot points are not parallel, but the bottom line was that I left the girl I loved for Los Angeles and Jim left the girl he loved for Stamford. Tonight, Jim told Pam with clarity why he left Scranton, and on one level it made complete sense, and yet it was heartbreaking to think back upon.

Last week, Pam finally made a little leap. It wasn't as bold as saying that she was going to steal Jim from Karen, but it was enough to indicate that, after it had been building all season, that Jim was more than just a friend to her. He was the reason she called off her wedding. Jim being Jim, it took some time to process that. One of the great truths The Office presents is how long it takes some people to process what might seem obvious to anyone else.

Jim went to New York this week not really sure what his future held. He was in a place where he was still being carried along by fate. And Pam was in a holding pattern as well. Even after the big moment at the beach, neither one of them was yet ready to run into each other's arms and not let go.

I think one of the things I love about this show is it takes the idea that there are hard and fast truths in life and throws them out the window. After all this time, Jim and Pam finally came together not because they had truly evolved, which seemed to be the life-lesson direction the show was guiding us, but because their true Jimness and Pamness finally, inexorably, at last fused with fate. Pam left a little sweet note with Jim, a gesture not unlike hundreds she must have made toward him over the years. Jim returned and didn't swoop her up, but with his usual deadly casual charm, asked her to dinner. "It's a date."

There are no rules to love. Yes, basically you have to love yourself before you can love someone else, but you can have doubts about yourself too and rely on your partner to fill them, and try to sneak by on that for five months or 50 years. There's no "too similar" or "too different." Love is much more of a gamble than we grow up believing - there's truth to the notion of chemical attraction, but don't forget that the chemistry of each individual can change over time, remaking the combination for better or worse. And the chemistry can always be beyond your comprehension from the inside. Karen was a lovely girl who fell in love with the right guy and the wrong guy in the same guy.

I like to think that Jim and Pam will be sitting in easy chairs half a century from now and cherishing their love while still wondering what took them so long - but knowing that there is no second-guessing the path that they took. The real love of my life, the woman I married, turned me down the first time I asked her out. I think in some cases, the way you live your life when you're not with someone has as much to do with whether you'll end up together as how you live your life while you are together. But mostly, I think, we just never know until we know.

I don't think this is going to be Kevin and Winnie, or Sam and Diane. I really do think Jim and Pam are together forever. And trust me, that doesn't kill the show. There is plenty of Office joy to be had from a working relationship. There is plenty going on at Dunder-Mifflin to carry this show. My biggest worry for this show is whether it can keep the writing staff together, or whether the show's success will send the writers off in different directions, leaving a project they love out of fear that they can't turn down a bigger opportunity for themselves.

Most of all, right now I am sad for Karen, worried for Michael and Jan, but absolutely, positively thrilled for Jim and Pam. May they be together forever.

Comments
2007-05-18 00:00:54
1.   bhsportsguy
Having watched way too much TV in my life, I have seen many great twosomes take the show south when they become a couple.

And since I have not watched the first few seasons of "The Office," I wasn't really clued in on all their history.

But tonight, as I watched the finale in our conference room (it was too late to go home and I did I have it set up to be recorded) I too was struck by the cleverness of the writers giving Jim this final chance to go to New York with Karen at his side and leave Scranton, Michael, Dwight and yes, Pam finally in his past and really start his new life in Manhattan.

But as he sat in that office and pondered that question, where did he seem himself in 5 years, it all became clear (we think) to him that for him, everything he wanted was sitting at a reception desk, answering the phone and always there with a smile and a big heart.

Did he take the easy road, was Jim ever really happy with Karen, did he even want that job?

Time will tell perhaps but I like Jon hope that they continue to torment Dwight (though Pam perhaps will harbor a sweet thought, she was his unnamed assistant to the assistant manager), play practical jokes on Andy and share smirks and glances from their desks.

Would it have been better if that was the closing scene of the series, maybe. But that would have been too easy.

Now about Jan's ummm enhancements, that's at least deserves one or maybe two more entries.

2007-05-18 00:45:10
2.   overkill94
I agree with your sentiments Jon, this was the perfect way to handle the love triangle. It sucks for Karen because she's a cool chick as well, but eventually we all knew that Jim and Pam had to be together. Jim just seems to be the type of guy who prioritizes pure happiness over money, status, etc. and he knew that he would be truly happy snuggling up with Pam on a cold Scranton night instead of trying to make a good impression as the hot shot new employee at corporate in the big city.
2007-05-18 00:48:22
3.   overkill94
As for Scrubs' finale...they're really beginning to piss me off. It's bad enough that they continue to be only occasionally funny, but now they're trying to play the JD/Elliot card again? I don't care if it fits their personalities, it's a played out scenario and I don't think anyone even wants them to get back together at this point.
2007-05-18 01:04:58
4.   Agronox
This was a good episode that resonated a little too close. I'm writing this from Scranton, and I'm taking a hot-shot job in Manhattan in two weeks, leaving a lot of good, deep relationships behind.

And this is neither here nor there, but next season could see a big return to the more depressing Office storylines, as our book-smart incompetent Ryan enters management. He's pretty much the epitome of the know-nothing assholes that populate a great many offices in the world...

2007-05-18 04:33:03
5.   Mark T.R. Donohue
3 I agree with you, I had a sinking feeling for most of the second half of the "Scrubs" finale too. I saw where they were going and I hoped they would catch themselves at the last minute. It's difficult to watch a show where the characters seem incapable of growth -- the last couple seasons of "Gilmore Girls" were like this too. Although "Scrubs" is still funny and sharp; I loved poor Doug's attempts to get back into the "brain trust."

The ending I would have liked to see is J.D. and Elliot pulling up just short of kissing, acknowledging to each other that they're too old for this nonsense, and moving on with their lives. I suppose that could still happen, since the episode ended on a cliffhanger, but that doesn't make a lot of dramatic sense. Well, I'm glad there's going to be another season, anyway, since all of my other favorite shows are biting the dust left and right.

2007-05-18 06:13:53
6.   Penarol1916
Now that everyone has finally seen The Office while I'm awake, I can finally talk about what bothered me. Most of the show was great, the part that ruined it for me was what the writers have done to Jan. It didn't come from out of nowhere as they've been setting it up for the last couple of months, but they have taken probably my favorite secondary character, someone who was smart and competent and fell for an idiot in spite of herself and possibly because of her loneliness more than her actual feelings for him, and turned her into a lovesick lunatic who is also a terrible girlfriend. I hate, hate, hate what the writers did to Jan over the last couple of months and it just culminated with this episode.
2007-05-18 06:44:49
7.   Benaiah
Great analysis, I am going to responded fully in a minute, first though, I think there are two typos in the article. In paragraph 5, it should read "steal Jim from Karen" not "steal Pam from Karen." In a paragraph 7 (I think) it should read: "gesture not unlike hundreds" not "a gesture unlike hundreds." You rarely make typos, so obviously this episode rocked you to your very core!
2007-05-18 06:58:09
8.   Benaiah
6 - I agree with you. I keep seeing people say they love it, but Jan always seemed complicated, conflicted and perhaps just a little bit wonderful. Her rigid behavior hinted that she kept herself in check to control her real insecurities and issues. I loved that she gave Michael a chance because even though it was risky, she wanted happiness. Michael has his flaws, but he is a true romantic and he would make a great father, if not much of a husband or boss.

I could buy Jan as an imperfect girlfriend, even role reversed as the male-sex-aggressor, but absolutely batcrap crazy? It might be funny, but it didn't seem right.

2007-05-18 07:23:04
9.   Penarol1916
9. Exactly, outside of Jan, I really did like the episode, I love Creed's blog, Dwight being in charge of the office and the secret assistant to the Regional Manager, I even like how they handled inevitable Karen and Jim coming apart. Jim is just not a New York guy, from what I've gathered, Karen really wants to be there. She doesn't turn out to be a bad in any way, they just seem to prioritize different things in their life and its done very well and realistically, although I really did like her character a lot more than many others.
2007-05-18 07:24:45
10.   Jon Weisman
7 - Thanks. It was late.

8 - The whole thing with Jan turned on that scene I wrote about here ...

http://screenjam.baseballtoaster.com/archives/577516.html

... see comment 12 for the actual line: "My psychiatrist thinks that I have some self-destructive tendencies and that, for once, I should indulge them. You following me?"

It was strange advice to be sure, but the clear implication was that the old Jan who was rigid was also profoundly unhappy. She decided to take a shot at happiness, with the risk being, as someone else just reminded us, that she would collapse upon herself like a dying star, which was one of the great lines of the entire season.

I think Jan has been a great character. I don't have a problem with what the writers did with her - I only hope she sticks around at least periodically and continues to her search for happiness.

Of course, my prediction that she would be demoted to Michael's job if and when Carell left the show went out the window. But promoting Ryan was pretty brilliant.

2007-05-18 07:45:09
11.   Benaiah
10 - Since it was I would mentioned that quote in one of the approximately one million posts I put up before I passed out, I will take all due credit. Even those two quotes, "indulge them" and "collapse in on myself like a dying star" show her as a person who is extremely self aware. This episode paints her as a borderline delusional. Plus, has there ever been even the slightest hint that she was bad at her job?
2007-05-18 07:50:57
12.   Penarol1916
10. Yeah, they set it up from back there, I just don't like that they did it. She still seemed like someone who could retain some control over herself, and even after that she maintained a lot of her rigidity, if her character had changed that much, I would have expected much more change in her over the last couple of months. I'm just disappointed because before, she seemed like a messed up person in a realistic way, last night and Michael's description of their relationship at the mall with girls just seemed over the top. Or maybe you were originally right in that old post, her therapist is the Michael Scott of the therapy world.
2007-05-18 07:57:40
13.   Jon Weisman
11 - "Has there ever been even the slightest hint that she was bad at her job?"

David pointed out her faults, all of which rang true. She had been really distracted. But maybe she deserved a warning.

It's funny that they pulled a McCourt-Evans, interviewing others for the job before firing her.

"This episode paints her as a borderline delusional."

No, I think it paints her as extremely troubled and upset. That's different.

12 - "Yeah, they set it up from back there, I just don't like that they did it. "

Well, it was such bad advice, or it was advice that she so misinterpreted, that you kind of had to get on board or not. But I think last night's meltdown was completely set up. The fact that she could be that into Michael made just about anything possible, frankly.

2007-05-18 07:59:28
14.   Jon Weisman
So, in the cool light of the morning, how evil was it for Jim to leave Karen in New York. Obviously Karen has friends to comfort her and can get on a train or something, but still. Do you think he broke up with her first and offered to drive her back, but she was so angry that she didn't go with him? Or did he just bail on her?
2007-05-18 08:01:58
15.   Benaiah
14 - It has to be the latter. If he broke up with her, then no way she would take the car trip of doom with him and she had friends that could take her home.
2007-05-18 08:04:15
16.   Jon Weisman
15 - Right, so it could be either.
2007-05-18 08:07:11
17.   Benaiah
By latter, I meant the former. Jim offered to drive her home. No way Jim Halpert would simply leave her in NYC without saying anything. But if he said anything, then I am sure she didn't want to ride back with him. More material for the first 30 seconds of the next season.
2007-05-18 08:09:40
18.   bhsportsguy
14 Once Jim realized what he wanted, I think he left, all that other stuff, Karen, checking out of the hotel, etc., that still needs to be dealt with was put aside so he could drive back to Scranton and say the words he should have said when he came back the first time.
2007-05-18 08:13:09
19.   bhsportsguy
How could Jan not know what the position was that Michael was interviewing for, did Corporate just make something up to tell people.
2007-05-18 08:19:49
20.   Bob Timmermann
I think Jan was too wrapped up in herself to figure out what was going on. She had been out of the office for a "procedure" and a vacation. And it's not like the corporate people were going to tell her what was going on until they had to.
2007-05-18 08:26:34
21.   Fletch
I will likely be given 50 Shrute bucks demerits for posting this, but fortunately I have 1000 Stanley nickels.

Maybe a I don't have a heart, but I am not pleased about them getting together. Not because I think it will ruin the show, but because I think Karen was way hotter!!!

Creed's blog has been posted on-line and it is hilarious.

2007-05-18 08:30:57
22.   Benaiah
21 - You don't have a heart, fortunately for you I don't quite have the cash to cover buying your Shrute Bucks and Stanley nickels back from you. If I understand the currency translation, I owe you 15 unicorns, two pennies and half a leprechaun.
2007-05-18 09:13:53
23.   Benaiah
This subject has been broached a couple times, but I was actually angry at the end of "Scrubs" last night (thought it didn't last long because I was still so happy from "The Office"). The logic that JD and Elliot are both afraid of commitment and thus should hook up to self-destruct their relationships is a tough pill to swallow. Sure, a tiny part of me wanted them to get back together, but there is so much other stuff going on that it seems unconscionable- especially for those reasons. Unlike when JD broke up with Elliot before Carla's wedding, they aren't even being true to themselves, they are knowingly self-destructing two relationships to indulge their own neurosis. I hope and pray that they don't go through with it.
2007-05-18 09:32:45
24.   Benaiah
Matt Kemp: .301/.359/.566/.925

That is pretty loud.

2007-05-18 09:33:10
25.   Benaiah
Ugh, that should have gone on Dodger Thoughts. Misery. Today is not going well.
2007-05-18 09:34:16
26.   Jon Weisman
I haven't watched Scrubs yet, so I'm just skipping over those comments for now.
2007-05-18 09:46:58
27.   ssjames
Would some kind soul be willing to post the web address for Creed's blog? Although I have a ton of work to do today, I will find time to work in reading it at some point.
2007-05-18 09:48:50
28.   Benaiah
http://blog.nbc.com/CreedThoughts/
2007-05-18 09:49:39
29.   Bob Timmermann
http://blog.nbc.com/CreedThoughts/
2007-05-18 09:51:10
30.   Benaiah
29 - My day is looking up!
2007-05-18 09:52:40
31.   Bob Timmermann
But I had already posted it in the previous thread!
2007-05-18 09:54:49
32.   Benaiah
31 - I know, that is where I got it from. If you would have provided a link to the earlier thread then I could let you off, but since you clearly attempted to participate, I have to claim victory.

There are so many people to thank, but I think I will just take a nap under my desk instead.

2007-05-18 10:00:00
33.   JoeyP
I've never read such in-depth analysis of a show that I and many others take as pure sketch comedy/satire.
2007-05-18 10:03:15
34.   Bob Timmermann
Swing low, sweet chariots.
2007-05-18 10:04:35
35.   bhsportsguy
33 JoeyP's just waiting for Jan's desperate cries for help to get away from Scranton and Michael Scott.
2007-05-18 10:07:11
36.   Benaiah
33 - Bill Chambers, the publisher of filmfreakcentral.net had this to say:

"Anyone catch 'The Office' season finale? As side-splitting as the show is, I'm starting to think it's TV's best drama since 'Deadwood'."

Alan Sepinwall (critic for NJ.com and The NJ Herald Sun, I think) wrote a huge essay on it too:

http://tinyurl.com/yq5t3s

Though he did say this:

"I don't think the end of Unresolved Sexual Tension is the kiss of death for a show -- especially not a show where the UST isn't even the main story element."

The point being, for every person who appreciates it merely or only as comedy, there are others who see something more.

2007-05-18 10:07:55
37.   Benaiah
34 - That has replaced "You're with me, leather" as my new catchphrase.
2007-05-18 10:10:35
38.   Bob Timmermann
If a show can be enjoyed on so many different levels, then I think that the writers and actors are doing a tremendous job.
2007-05-18 10:43:07
39.   Brent is a Dodger Fan
1 The BBC show did end on that note (the final connection between Jim and Pam, who were named Tim and Dawn in the BBC version). It was absurdly sweet.

19 I found two unrealistic points about the episdoe, but they were worth the laughs. 1) I don't think they'd post and interview to replace an executive before notifying that executive (Jan) that they were going to fire her. It seems that a senior exec in the company might have a contract, rather than being "At Will", and they'd have to execute the terms of dismissal as laid out in the contract. They'd expose themselves to a lawsuit, otherwise. Toby would tell you that. 2) As funny as it was, and as brilliant as the camera angle was on Ryan's face, ain't no way they promote a temp whose fresh out of a part-time business school program into a job that supervises the branches. It is delicious, but the show has shown D-M to have a much more straight promote-by-rank method.

2007-05-18 10:47:56
40.   Bob Timmermann
Ryan was not a temp this year. He was just called that by Michael, but he had become a permanent employee.

As for Dunder-Mifflin's HR policies, they have already run afoul of dozens of employment law violations and would already be facing millions of dollars in lawsuits.

http://www.hrheroblogs.com/

2007-05-18 10:53:46
41.   Kevin Lewis
14)

I imagine we will see the scene of Jim and Karen in a flashback, just like we saw with Jim and Pam on the beach last night. Was that the first time the Office has used the flashback method? I don't remember seeing it done that way, except for the random shots at the end of the show, but nothing to be handled that seriously.

2007-05-18 10:55:29
42.   Benaiah
41 - I don't think they have ever done anything like that. Not only did they flashback, but they tipped the flashback by showing it without sound earlier in the episode.
2007-05-18 11:03:02
43.   Jon Weisman
41 - I agree.

It was definitely the most poignant flashback the Office has done, but going back in time (to augment a talking-head interview, for example) is actually sort of a regular thing.

2007-05-18 11:05:43
44.   bhsportsguy
39 I know, that is why I thought in this case, if Jim and Pam had not been dealt with before, that ending would have been too easy.

38 Agree.

And that comeback by Stanley, really could any of us given Dwight a line using the word unicorn with such agressive disinterest.

2007-05-18 11:21:56
45.   Bob Timmermann
I would also point out with Ryan that it's not all that far-fetched for a company to give a lesser-qualified person a promotion ahead of others because they have the magical MBA degree.

Fortunately, there are people at Dunder-Mifflin like Jim and Karen who actually know how to do stuff.

2007-05-18 11:43:32
46.   Jon Weisman
New post up top.
2007-05-18 19:03:39
47.   Brent is a Dodger Fan
45 Well, I disagree: he's still pretty fresh out of his MBA degree, and very little experience.

Not that I don't love the plot wrinkle, I just find it a bit unbelievable.

2007-05-18 20:38:34
48.   AlmostGagne
I know I'm jumping onto this chat way late but...
Jon, I couldn't agree more - I live in fear that the writers on this show will slowly disperse. This seems inevitable as the stars of this show are begining to appear in other projects as well (examples: Jenna Fischer in Blades of Glory and John Krasinski in License to Wed). To me, this show remains the best comedy and drama on television and I do not want to see it begin to dilute itself.
At the same time, I also wonder how many bullets are left in The Office's gun -- this is two straight season finales that have left me a bit teary-eyed for multiple reasons.

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