The Office: The Convention

Teaser.

Pam is sitting quietly at her desk typing, probably dreaming of a day when she won't have to endure an early morning conversation like the following.

Michael enters and asks her if she saw Oprah yesterday. He catches After the Show on oh!Oxygen, I'll bet, while he eats light microwave popcorn and downs a Michelob Ultra in a special frosty mug. And Pam must either be bored, not fully awake or nursing a cold, because she takes the bait. She did not see Oprah yesterday. Michael ignores both his original question and her subsequent answer and announces he is going to be a father. Far out! Pam ignores this and asks him what Oprah was about. There's just no way he can appreciate her as much as he absolutely should. Turns out Angelina Jolie was on—no doubt tipping the Oprah sainthood needle deep into the red—and she inspired Michael not with her ample female charms or witchy cat's-eye liner but with tales of the life-changing virtues of adoption. So now he wants Pam to "see how much a little Chinese baby would cost." Lucky it wasn't a show about sex change operations or gun running or something.

Pam hesitates and tells him that's a really big decision. Maybe he should wait before he adopts? Or not adopts? It's clear which side she stands on. But he's ready. He wants to cross this off his to-do list for the day: Wake up, drive to work, be stupid, adopt! Check, check, check, and check. But Pam knows his dreams rarely outlast his willingness to pay for them, so she tells him Roy's sister looked into it and the application alone cost a thousand dollars. Nice try, Pam! But no: he argues with himself (wordlessly but vocally) for a moment, then says, "Find out if there's a cheaper—less expensive baby out there." Always trying to control his own brain, to little or no effect.

She tells him the waiting list is also at least eight months. "Eight months?" he says. "I don't even know if I want a baby in eight months." D'oh! Michael Scott 1, brain 0. "Probably won't," she says. He sighs heavily and she does the same; I like how she accepts that empathy is her albatross. Until: "You know what Pam? If in ten years I haven't had a baby, and you haven't had a baby—" She shakes her head. "No, Michael." He tries again: "Twenty years." No again. "Thirty?" "Sure." They shake on it.

I'm confused. In thirty years won't she be in her sixties or something? Or is she counting on him being dead? What the hell did they just agree to here?

Act I.

Ryan is in Michael's office, running through a checklist: three pairs of pants, three pairs of socks, three packs of condoms. Hello, sunshine! Michael grins and pitches a "Yesssshhhh" at the camera along with a naughty grin. "Fun jeans," Ryan reads. Cut to Michael's office door, where his Fun Jeans hang starched and pressed, still cocooned in their plastic dry cleaning bag. Even worse: they're white jeans, which means that wherever he's going, he definitely won't be needing condoms. He's wearing a gray Dunder-Mifflin polo, though, which is all the fun I need. God bless well-shaven boneheads in corporate casual wear.

Enter Angela to dole out a handful o' cash (!), and on to Michael's talking head. "Guess where I am going. I will give you a hint. It is a booze-fueled sex romp, where anything goes." Well that could be anywhere, really, including Wisconsin Dells and Dubuque, Iowa. I don't even think he actually needs a camera for this stuff; I'll bet he supplies his own voiceovers when he's home alone, too. In front of the mirror maybe, but still. He keeps going: "You are correct, sir! I am headed to Philadelphia for the Annual Northeastern Mid-Market Office Supply Convention. And Jim Halpert is going to be coming, which will be fun. Poor little guy. He's been stuck working under Josh, the poor man's Michael Scott, as he is known around my condo." See? He sits alone at home and talks to his mirror about himself.

Dwight and Angela are in the break room. He is also sporting a Dunder-Mifflin polo, which means he'll be attending the ANMMOSC, too. Dwight and Jim reunion! I hope they swap friendship bracelets. But for now he's standing at a vending machine and Angela's at the water cooler, backs to each other, which allows them to talk while not making eye contact. Wink, wink: that way no one will know they're lovers! They probably have these rules written up at home. He tells her not to be mad, it's just a business trip, but she's mad anyway. Although mad is her natural state, so I'm not sure why he's trying to change her. She tells him the convention is for managers and he says, "Monkey, I am an A. R. M. Assistant Regional Manager." It's a little sad when you need to remind even your girlfriend of that. Pet names are revealing, though, aren't they? I can't see him using a "Muffin" or "Sugarplum," but "Monkey" maybe says more than I care to know about either of them.

Nor is she so easily placated: she tells him she was hoping they could spend some time together. Which throws him for a loop: how can he fulfill his A.R.M. duties and be a caring boyfriend at the same time? Beats him. So he says nothing, which forces her to say, "Are you still there?" And now she's even madder. He answers, "Yes, Monkey." Again: ew, and only partially because I'm reminded both of that ickity short story and Homer's Treehouse of Horror II take on it. And she's still pissed. "Don't 'Monkey' me, you can't wait to get out of here, A.R.M.!" That's exactly what I'm talking about! It's all coming together, and creepily.

Angela's talking head: "In the Martin family, we like to say, ‘Looks like someone took the slow train from Philly.' That's code for 'check out the slut.'" She stops suddenly and bats a hand at the air.  "What is...why are there flies in here?" This might be my favorite non sequitur of all time, and I hope we find out it was just an accident in the course of filming the scene.

Kelly bounces over to Pam's desk in her general Tigger way: she's so excited! "Oh my God! Are you so excited for tonight? I am so excited. You guys are going to click, I can feel it. So what are you wearing?" Pam has a date! And is far less excited than Kelly; in fact, she has no plans to change clothes at all. Dating Roy must have killed her shopping spirit—isn't dressing up at least 3/4 of the fun of a blind date? Maybe 7/8, or 7/8–1/2, or maybe the whole damn thing. Kelly's girl-power heart is weary; she gives Pam a slow up and down appraisal, then decides it's better to kill with kindness: "You look so pretty." Her face, however, does not agree with her voice.

Pam tells the camera that her date is a cartoonist for the local paper (such bad news), which is neat because she also likes to draw. She's nervous, though, because she hasn't been on a first date in nine years. She wasted nine years on Roy? Oh my God, go buy yourself a fucking ballgown, sweetheart. And a bright, sparkly tiara, and maybe some shoes that light up all red hot when you strut down the street. Then head to Vegas and have the kind of weekend you can't tell anybody about.

Now Kelly is warning her not to sleep with the cartoonist on the first date, because "it gives them all the power." She's so right, and I'm not sure cartoonists have much experience with power, so that's guaranteed to go badly. But it is the perfect time for Michael to step out of his office: "Sleep with who? Whom—whom, whom?" It's like he's begging somebody to stop him, or kick him in the head. So Kelly does, metaphorically: it's her neighbor, Alan, she says. You've got to love the middle-Americanness of all the names on this show, don't you? Nobody's "Kayla" or "Jaden" or "Butterfly." "Creed" is about as far-out as they go. As is Creed.

Now Michael is preoccupied with wardrobe matters. "I have a great idea. Know what you should do? Be hilarious? Wear your wedding dress." But would that be funny to anyone but Michael? And Dwight: the camera pans over to reveal him standing by, giggling. I'm glad to see he's prepping his neck with an inflatable pillow for the long ride to Philly. He breaks in to suggest Pam should wear her veil, as well. The two of them laugh about this longer than necessary, and Pam says she'll probably just wear what she's wearing. Really? Michael says. "Word of advice: unbutton that top button. Let those things breathe." I can think of few things skeevier than hearing something like that from your boss, even if he is a major (dimwit) fox. But he mercifully distracts her from his own inappropriateness by asking if she has anything to say to Jim, and she hesitates, giving the rest of us time to fill in all the blanks with sweet words of love and neverending devotion. How differently we all wanted this to go. Unfortunately, her answer to Michael is a simple "Um," which he and Dwight turn into a rousing Gilbert & Sullivan number as they bumble their way out the door. Good riddance! says Pam's face.

Cut to the kitchen, where Angela is enjoying what appears to be a bowl of Rice Krispies. I could be wrong. Also: that deep majestic purple is not her color. Is it anyone's color? I think not. It's sucking the life right out of her. Anyway: Creed walks in. "There's my girl! Noticed you handing out some shekels. How would one get on that train?" With a matching Dunder-Mifflin polo and a neck pillow, dude.

Angela tells him that was per diem for Philadelphia. Meredith, sitting with Angela, complains that Philadelphia smells like cheesesteaks. As if that's a bad thing. For some reason Angela takes offense: "That town is full of history!" Hang on. What happened to the sluts? Angela needs a continuity check, stat! Either that or she's trying to convince herself that Dwight's love will remain true, even amongst all the sluts. Regardless of her motivation, she overreacts by storming from the room. Creed takes her seat and digs into her cereal. "Andrea's the office bitch," he tells Meredith. "You'll get used to her." Then he introduces himself and reaches over to shake her hand. Which is so good you need to watch it at least 25 times to appreciate exactly how deep runs the comedy goldmine known as Creed.

Next: Michael and Dwight are on the slow train to Philly. Michael is wearing headphones, and Dwight's neck pillow. Probably just yanked it right off of Dwight's shoulders when he turned his head. Dwight asks if he can have it back. Michael pretends not to hear. Oh, the endless sacrifices of a DM A.R.M.

Touchdown Philadelphia. Michael is greeting Josh in the lobby when in walks Jim. Jim! Come home, Jim! The office is a foreign and vaguely hostile environment without you in it, and The Temp took your desk, and Pam has no idea where to spend all day looking anymore! Michael, feeling for all of us, calls him a traitor, then hugs him and says, "The prod—the progidal—my son returns." Michael at his finest: both sweet and stupid. He tells the camera he was shocked when he found out Jim was transferring: "It's like with firemen. You don't leave your brothers behind, even if you find out that there is a better fire in Connecticut." Analogies not being his strong point. I wish we could have seen that, though. Jim's leaving. Pam's heart was not the only one broken.

For now Jim is all smiles: "It's really good to see you, man!" he tells Michael, and I secretly hope for a quick reprisal of "Islands in the Stream." But alas, ‘tis not to be. Michael is flattered out of all proportion by this; Jim is still who he wants to be when he grows up, which is funny, because Michael is exactly what Jim is afraid of becoming when he grows up. They should probably go have a beer and a long talk about this sometime. But Dwight interrupts their reunion by saying, with a conspicuous lack of sincerity, "Oh, hey, how's it goin' up there?" He asks Jim if he's made any sales yet, and Jim tells him he's sold about $40,000. Dwight: "Shut up, that's impossible!" No go on the friendship bracelets, I guess. Dwight says he did $40,000, too, and Michael shakes his head no.

Jim's talking head: "You know, when I saw Dwight, I realized how stupid and petty all those pranks I pulled on him were. And then he spoke. I wonder how hard it would be to get a copy of his room key." With that long manly gait and lopsided schoolboy smile? Not hard at all, my friend.

Back in the office, Kevin tells Toby that Pam has a date. They're both standing in the background watching her, which feels a little invasive. Then Kevin says, "If I weren't engaged, I would so hit that." Go perv on somebody else, Kevin! Toby looks thoughtful as he formulates his next move. Everybody really does love Pam.

In Philadelphia, all the boyz (I know, right? Me with the hip lingo!) are rolling their luggage to the elevators. Dwight asks Jim what kind of commissions they get in Stamford, and Jim drapes a hand across his shoulders. "Oh, Dwight, I missed you so much." I missed the way he puts that "uh" in "Duh-wight." Dwight tells him he's immature and does a full-body shake-off. They really need to get this band back together, stat!

Michael and Josh are following behind. Steve Carell's kinda short, huh? The best kind of short, not freaky or anything, just solid. And Josh is way too movie-star handsome to be a good guy; you can just tell he's going to turn out to be a major league dick. It's written in his chiseled features and dimpled chin. And then he proves it by telling Michael that if his branch absorbs the Scranton office, he'll find a place for Michael in Stamford. Awesome! Michael gives the camera a "whatever, jackass!" look and we hear Jan's voice. Jan! Ever the taskmaster, she's here to make sure they're all checked in, then tells them to meet back in the lobby in half an hour. I love the way she tries and fails to avoid staring at Michael. "Casino Night" looms large, no? Passed over by Michael Scott! This won't be pretty. She looks pretty, though; she should always wear cornflower blue. Brings out the Paul Newman in her eyes.

Michael pulls her aside and tells her they should set some ground rules. She says "What are you talking about?" in a way that sounds just like "What the fuck?" and he says, "The eight hundred pound gorilla in the room? Carol? I'm still dating her, so nothing can happen between us at the convention." I think he just called Carol a gorilla. And wow—I'm surprised that one lasted this long. Unless he's lying. Jan just looks pissed: "Step away from me, Michael." Aw, she totally wants him. Give him your room key, Jan! You know he has no self-control. And why else would he bring all those condoms? He thanks her for being so brave with all of this. She still looks pissed about how much she still wants him. Or am I projecting? You tell me.

Cut to Pam in the kitchen, reading the newspaper. She gives a half-hearted little laugh at the lameness of one of Alan's cartoons. Kelly walks in. "Alan's cartoon's so funny, right? And they're, like, so smart. I don't even know what they mean half the time." Maybe that's because they're lame? Pam nods, then sets the paper aside. Pam is no dumbbell, even if she did waste nine non-refundable years on Roy.

Toby walks in. Shy, gentle, emotionally bespectacled Toby, with his head down, already defeating himself. He says nothing, just gives Pam a quick wave, then continues through the room without a word. Of all the characters on this show, Toby is the only one who actually knows and accepts that he's a loser. Encourages it, even. It's like this white flag he's always flying in front of his own face, so he can never really be surprised or disappointed by anything.

Back in Philadelphia: Michael and Dwight are partifying Michael's room. Dwight is hanging a Velcro dartboard on the TV cabinet while Michael stocks the cocktail bar. Enter Jim and Josh, who are also dangerously matchy-matchy and maybe close to gay in their light-colored button-down shirts. Jim says something snotty about the dartboard and all the liquor, and Michael tells him, "That's how we party in Scranton, or did you forget?" Which is all he and Dwight need to launch into another sing-song: "Ain't no party like a Scranton party ‘cuz a Scranton party don't stop!" They bust a couple middle-aged white-guy moves together while Jim and Josh look on, looking both dazed and confused. Jim, don't become the enemy!

Finally Josh cuts them off: it's time to go meet Jan. Michael asks if they want a drink for the road. Josh shoots Jim a sly look and says, "A shot of MIDORI, perhaps." They chuckle together and Michael quickly joins in, displaying perhaps a shade too much enthusiasm for a line he doesn't understand. Dwight, who takes all his cues from Michael, does the same. Jim tries to explain the joke, then says "You'd just have to be there." Michael: "I wish I was! I love inside jokes. Hope to be a part of one some day." The clue to his genius is all right here, in his absolute obliviousness to his own failings, both great and small. He's both Toby and Toby's polar opposite: he occasionally senses but will never admit to himself that he's a loser, so he can never be surprised or disappointed by anything. He has endless reserves of false self-confidence and misguided bravado to see him through to the darkest times, and it's in this way—and this way alone—that he is able to survive the absolute fucking tornado of a mess that is himself. It's also why, when he does crumble, it's almost unbearable to watch: his defenses are so thin yet so necessary. They're all he has. And so he's able to smile hopefully (desperately) at Jim and Josh, just long enough for them both to turn sad. They finally give up and leave, and Dwight says, "I'll do a shot with you, Michael." Dwight is so man's best friend. Only not Michael's, who just says, "Yech, don't be gross. It's not even lunch yet."

Act II.

Michael and Dwight stand huddled together on the convention floor, surrounded by random conventioneers as they wave at the camera like the first dorks off the bus on a class trip to the Smithsonian. And then we see Michael alone, wearing a branded hat, a windbreaker, and a giant Verizon styrofoam finger, carrying at least three bags filled with branded crap. "SWAG!" he announces. "Stuff We All Get. I basically decorated my condo for free with all of my SWAG!" I hope this isn't true, while fully understanding that it is.

Next they stand in line to meet Jerome Bettis, formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers. After a quick introduction, Michael invites Jerome to his big party, naturally expecting him to accept. It's a Scranton party! Jerome says, "All right, maybe. If I can." Which can't really be misinterpreted by anyone but Michael, who says, "Well, cool! Okay, so—can I tell people you're gonna be there?" Jerome: "No, you cannot." Michael: "So maybe. See ya." Michael's kind of a human version of a Weeble. As they walk away, Dwight asks why they call Jerome "The Bus," and Michael tells him, "Because he's afraid to fly."

Next he's having Dwight take his picture while he stands next to a human BlackBerry. And the way Steve Carell is standing, dressed in all his logo-covered detritus, with his arms hanging loosely at his sides and looking both slouchy and paunchy, is like fifteen different kinds of pathetic. Just—pathetic, because he's having the time of his life out here. A showman on the show floor. And even more pathetic: he's inviting the human BlackBerry to his party. "Tonight! Be there," he says. To a person dressed as a BlackBerry.

Later. He and Dwight have circled back up with Josh and Jim. Josh, checking his actual real BlackBerry, has a message from Jan. She wants them all to meet her up front. Michael pulls out his phone and checks the screen. "Yep. Yeah, she's up front." Dwight: "You don't have email on your phone." Michael says, "I don't have to, I just know." Know what? He holds it to his ear and says, "Yes, hello?" Dwight: "No one just called you." Oh, Dwight; we don't need you here making us feel bad about ourselves.

As Josh and Jim walk away, Michael asks Dwight for a moment of his time. Excellent: a new mission! "I want you to dig up some dirt on Josh. Find out if there are any skeletons in his attic." I'm afraid you've got some skeletons in the old attic, honey, but let's set that aside for the time being. Dwight says he'll talk to his buddy down at the station, stat. Dwight has buddies? And which station would that be? It probably doesn't matter, or exist.

In the office, Pam is sitting at her desk when Toby approaches. "Hey Pam," he says, sounding startled by his own voice. She asks him what's up and he mumbles something ("It's, uh—how are—wanted to ask if you wanted—"), putting forth all the bravery one sad little human resources rep can muster, and then the phone rings. Pam answers. And in the space of no more than three seconds we watch Toby physically deflate, just fold right in on himself, unsure what to do with his hands, or himself. She doesn't need to say no; he'll shoot himself down all on his own. He waits until she hangs up and turns back to him. "Sorry. What's up?" she says. He hesitates; she smiles. In Toby's world, even Pam is scary. He tries mumbling again and says, finally, "I just completely forgot what I was gonna say. That's—so weird." Yeah, and painful to watch, too. She tells him to come back if he thinks of it, but I don't think he's ever coming back. He walks away, mentally punching himself in the gut. Of all the Charlie Browns in the world...

Philadelphia: time for a buffet lunch! Oh my God, I used to waitress at stuff like this when I was in college, at a resort called Chula Vista that was owned by the biggest family of assholes you could ever meet in your whole life. What a fucking nightmare. Weddings were the worst, because brides were involved, but "professional functions" were never a picnic, and there was always salad dressing everywhere at those buffets. People are animals. Anyway. Michael and Dwight are plotting in the beverage corner. Dwight says, "I called my buddy at the station today. Had them run a background check on Josh Porter. See if there's any known aliases, et cetera." Michael waits for something big. Something good. "And?" And Dwight says, "He wasn't volunteering today." Dwight would like an A for effort, but no dice. Both Michael and his disgust walk away in a huff.

Next he's bellied up to the salad bar with Jim. Things are crazy around the office, he says; Ryan has Jim's desk now. Jim tells him to say hi. "I will call him later with that message," says Michael. I trust Ryan won't be picking up. Then Jim smiles to himself and says, "Hey, how is—" He looks at the camera, then says, "—Toby?" Meaning Pam. But Michael is blinded by the mention of his own archenemy: "Toby Flenderson is everything that is wrong with the paper industry. Is he why you left?"  Jim says no, it was a good opportunity, a promotion, but Michael doesn't buy it. Nobody leaves Dunder-Mifflin Scranton—and him—just for a promotion! "You know, Jim, those are just words. Have you taken into account other factors, vis-a-vis bosses? Is Josh funnier than I am? Does he even have a girlfriend? Because I have two, basically." Or zero, probably. Jim tells him it's not a competition, but he knows better than that. Everything's a competition, Jim!

At the lunch table, Josh and Jan are talking business. Michael is determined to impress her in a totally Michael Scott way: "Hey Jan, don't worry, I have got the tip." He hands a hundred bones to the waiter, who is having the kind of day I never had at these things. Bastard. We used to have to steal dry English muffins and eat them behind the dishwasher, where it was like a million degrees. That was a very long time ago, though, so I should probably get over it. Back to the $$$: Dwight asks Michael if that was his per diem, and Michael says, "No, that was a different hundred dollar bill." Jan narrows her eyes (you know the look) and asks him what he's generated. "I have generated a lot of interest in my party this evening," he tells her. And he's got three packs of condoms! "What party?" she asks. "The party I'm having tonight in 308. Obviously, you are invited." She doesn't look excited about this; maybe he should mention the Fun Jeans! She says, "Michael, um... Jim and Josh are in meetings all day. And I am in and out of meetings. I can't stay on top of you 24/7." Oh, Jan, how easily you fall into these wicked, wicked webs he spins. He laughs at her, into the camera. His make-believe girlfriend.

Pam and Phyllis are busy taking a break in the office; Pam is sitting in Dwight's chair. Oh good: I love girl talk!  Phyllis tells her she should order the most expensive thing on the menu tonight, "so he knows you're worth it." Phyllis, you frisky little minx! Stanley overhears this and offers a man fact: "If you do that, you're going to have to put out." Pam rolls her eyes at Phyllis, who nods and says, "Oh yeah, you'll have to put out."

Back in Philly, Angela is at the check-in desk picking up a key for "Jane Doe." She's wearing dark glasses, which is how Michael doesn't know it's her when he approaches the desk. Maybe he wouldn't have known anyway; he seems like kind of guy who operates mainly by context. He asks the desk lady if she has any messages for room 308. She shakes her head. Not generating much interest in that party, huh?

The convention resumes: Michael joins Dwight, Jim and Josh, who announces, "Jim and I have a meeting with Uni-ball in about forty-five minutes, so we should probably go now." See? That's just mean. But Michael spies a paper-airplane contest at the Hammermill booth, which means it's time for a challenge. "A little friendly competition. Stamford versus Scranton." Josh tries to decline but Michael will not be denied. They start folding and suddenly his phone rings: it's Pam! Jim looks simultaneously excited and sad. Michael says, "Tell him I will give him general specifics tomorrow, okay?" then holds out the phone to the group: "Say hi to Pam!" They all call "Hi, Pam!" Jim still looks sad. Michael tells her to have fun on her date. Now Jim looks extra sad, with a heavy helping of mope on the side. Cut to Pam, staring sadly at Jim's old desk, where Jim should be. Come home, Jim! Please. Save us all from bad blind dates with cartoon-drawing geeks, unless he is literally Seth Cohen or that Dilbert guy, and even then I'm not so sure.

Josh steps up first to the free-throw line and shoots: his paper airplane falls short of its mark, but it's in the general specific vicinity. Michael's turn: he pitches his plane and watches it drop at his feet. Oh well. No matter! He challenges Josh to double or nothing. Josh tells him they'll do it later; he's lost all patience with this. It's bad enough when Michael's own employees—his family—ignore him, but being dissed by another DM regional manager is totally starting to get him down. Josh and Jim walk away as Evan from Hammermill offers to tell Michael about some exciting advances to their product line. Michael, out of boredom more than anything else, says fine.

Cut to a talking head in his room: "Jim and I have different definitions of friendship. I think it's talking and being friends, and Jim thinks it's moving to Connecticut and being best friends with Josh. Well, phooey on that. I, uh, I'm done. I am not going to be speaking with him anymore. Whatevs. Long-distance relationships never work." The camera pans over and we see Evan from Hammermill, who says, "That is so true. Ready?" I like Evan from Hammermill. Michael says yes, and Evan reaches for his product binder. They're both drinking Cosmos, and ready to talk paper! There really ain't no party like a Scranton party.

Act III.

Approximately 8:07 by the big Philadelphia clock. Michael is joining the rest of his Dunder-Mifflin team in the lobby. He's wearing a yellow Microsoft Office polo and his Fun Jeans. Cute! He really looks tan today, too. "Sorry, my meeting ran late," he says, and he sits. Jan checks her watch like the chaperone she can't stop being, and says, "Really." Don't be that way, Jan. Michael tells her, "Yes, Jan, really. With a rep from Hammermill." Josh says Hammermill is exclusive with Staples. Michael: "Used to be. Evan will call you in the morning and work out the details. We can now sell Hammermill products." He says it matter-of-factly; he never doubts himself when it comes to selling. Stuff that one in your chin dimple, Josh! Dwight pumps an arm and says, "Yes! Hah!" He holds out his hand for a high-five from Michael that never comes. Jan says, "Well, Michael, I underestimated you." Michael: "Yeah, well, maybe next time you will estimate me." She's confused by this, only not really. Mostly I think she's thinking how hot he looks in the Fun Jeans.

Next we see Jim strolling down an empty hallway. He has Dwight's room key. "What can I say? Old habits die hard." He opens the door and sees a pair of bare lady legs on the bed. "D?" says Angela. Yikes! Monkey indeed. Jim turns and bolts: "Oh my god! Dwight got a hooker! Oh my God, I gotta call—well I gotta call somebody, I don't even know who to call! Dwight got a hooker!" He's so excited that this might be the cutest he's ever been.

And now we cut to the person he should be calling: Pam is on her date with Alan. And Kelly, who is force feeding French fries to Ryan. She tells Alan that Pam is "obsessed" with his cartoons: "She reads them every day." Isn't that more of a habit, or even a rut, than an obsession? But Alan looks pleased, and he gives Pam a sleazy once-over kind of smile. Pam says nothing. And Ryan is starting to fuss. "I don't want ketchup!" "You love ketchup," Kelly says, and then she turns to Pam and Alan. "He loves ketchup." It's like she's playing with a doll. Pam asks Alan how he comes up with his cartoons. Alan: "Well, I just, uh... I kinda think about stuff that I see, or dream them." He says this very seriously, like he's churning out the equivalent of War and Peace in longhand on a daily basis. Pam says, "You dream in cartoons? How fun!" It's not fun, though; it's just making all of us feel bad for Alan, who we don't even like.

Back to room 308: party time! A stranger knocks at Michael's door. "Hey, first guest!" says Michael. "You are going to have some tequila, my friend." Stranger, looking wary: "I thought there was a party in here." Michael says this is the party. Stranger doesn't believe him, though, and Michael says, "Party central! So, what can I do you for?" Which is all the stranger needs to hear. He turns and leaves. "All right," Michael says to no one.

Meanwhile, the bad date is still going badly. Kelly is snuggled up against Ryan, trapping him in the booth while she watches her matchmaking in action. Alan is drawing something on a cocktail napkin for Pam. "See, this one is great," he tells her, "because it can work on a couple of different levels." She says "Huh" in a nice, noncommittal way, and then Alan, in a shitty French accent, actually says, "Freedom fries for the table." Pam needs to announce that she has to use the restroom, and then she needs to just leave. But she doesn't. She says, "Freedom fries. Yeah." I hope she's having a conversation with Jim in her head; I hope he can hear all this. But Alan is still talking: "Yeah. I mean, people always say, like, ‘Don't be edgy.' But I don't know any other way." He takes a moment to glance at her cleavage once more, then says, "Yeah, you get it." Yuck. Even Roy is an improvement over this tool. She reaches down to button that top button again. Pam, you know better than to listen to Michael! He has two imaginary girlfriends!

Pause for a quick cut to the hotel. Michael steps out of his room, looks both ways. The hall is empty. He steps back inside.

The date is finally coming to an end. On their way out of the restaurant, Alan is poking at his gums with a toothpick when Pam turns and says, "It was nice meeting you, Alan."  Thank God this exercise is over. He's even dumber than I thought, though, because he tells her to bring some of her illustrations the next time. "I'll let you pick my brain." With a fork, I hope. "More freedom fries," she says with a false note of cheer. "That's great." Only great = lame, and everyone but Alan understands this.

She stops at the restroom door to tell the camera, "I went on a date. It wasn't a love connection. I think when I like someone again, I'll just kinda know." I think so, too. Only I think you already know who you like.

Philadelphia. Jim follows the sound of crappy electronic robot music down the hallway to Michael's room, where Michael is sitting alone in the glow of a strobe light, staring into a flashlight. Poor lonely little man with his toys; he's finally hit the bottom of his well of self-awareness, and he's tapped out for the night. Jim turns off the music and flips on the light. He asks Michael is he's the first to arrive, and Michael tells him people have been filtering in and out. He won't look up, though, because he's busy pouting. Jim asks if he can have a drink. And Michael, as the host who knows he has a hostly duty to perform, says, "Sure. You like Cosmos?" He stands to mix, then asks Jim why he's here. "Is Josh busy?" Oh dear. "Michael," Jim says, but Michael interrupts him. "I get it! No, no, I totally get it. He made a better paper airplane, Stamford does better in sales...just, I get it. We had some fun. We had some laughs. And that's just..."

Jim sits. "Wait, wait, wait. I didn't transfer because of you." Aw. This is the Jim we know again, the Jim we trust. Not Josh's friend. Our friend. "You're a good boss. You're a great boss." I don't know about that, but the important thing is he says it, because it's what he knows Michael needs to hear.  Still, Michael says, "I'm not better than Josh." Um, let's go with different, not better. Jim tells him, "Michael, it's not about...I transferred because of Pam." There: he said it. And to the one person he always chooses to confide in when it comes to these matters of the heart.

Michael: "Oh my God. You don't even know. She's single now." He looks hopeful on Jim's behalf, but Jim says, "No, I just...I heard something about that. It's just, I kind of put it all on the line. Twice, actually. And she said no. Twice." She did, didn't she? But can't we just forget about all that? Can't we go back and do it over again, and make it turn out right this time? I mean, didn't we almost have it all? Michael tells him he's sorry, then says, "Hey, you know what? I will talk to her." It's cute, the way he believes he's the one who can solve this. Jim tells him that's okay, but Michael is determined to help. "You should at least talk to Roy. I mean, he knows exactly how you're feeling." Jim says, "Yeah. Okay, maybe." You're a good man, Jim Halpert.

They're interrupted by the arrival of Evan from Hammermill, who says, "Are we early?" Yay! I knew I was right about this guy. Michael says, "Hey! No, you know, people have been filtering in and out." He and Jim stand to greet Evan and another rep from Hammermill, who are getting themselves one hell of an endorsement in this episode. Evan asks, "Do you guys work together?" and Jim says, "No, we used to. Now we're friends." Michael: "Best friends." And you kind of believe it for a moment, just because he believes it, and he believes so hard in these things, in loyalty and true love and friendship.

He tells the camera:  "Some people need dozens of friends to say, ‘Hey, look at me, I'm popular.' But not me. I'm very picky. I need three, maybe two. When you meet that someone special, you'll just know. Because a real relationship, it...it can't be forced. It should just come about effortle—lessly." There's just nobody else like him, is there? Thank God.

Tag.

Michael and Dwight are in Michael's room, testing his black light. "Now, would you do the pleasure of hitting the lights, sir?" he tells Dwight. The room goes dark, except for their teeth and nametags, the lampshades, the pillows. And great big splotches of something rat nasty splattered all over the bed and headboard and walls.

Michael: "Whoa. What are all those stains?"
Dwight: "Blood, urine, or semen."
Michael: "Oh, God, I hope it's urine."