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There's something both brutal and hilarious about Darryl turning to the camera with a single tear in his eye, suffering at the hands of his coworkers, who mistook a sympathetic greeting card for his grandmother's death for a birthday card and filled it with cheerful messages while Andy delightedly pretend-punches him. But that was just the opening, the real episode is about Valentine's Day, on one of the only occasions that a sitcom has made the use of that particular holiday seem like a good idea.
Last week Michael and Holly got back together, and the main plot of this episode revolved around that. In the past, while still liking the performances, I haven't been the biggest fan of the two characters when they're together. Even if Holly isn't maximizing Michael's cringe-inducing ability with things like poorly conceived office skits, there's just something about them together that's weird. I think I figured out what was bothering me - a lot of Michael's worst attributes are based in how he's like a child even though he's a man in his forties, and so the two of them together is like watching a really bad teenage romance get played out by two adults, which is very weird. But this episode made the relationship work by pointing out how ridiculous this aspect of it can get. Reunited after a lot of time apart, the two can't keep their hands off each other, much to the chagrin of the rest of the office. Their public displays of affection, or PDAs, are completely over the top. They hold hands during meetings, which turns into an absurd mutual hand massage thing, they sit in the same chair during meetings, they kiss goodbye repeatedly even if they're just going to separate rooms, and possibly the most hilarious was them doing an odd shuffling hug-walk into Michael's office.
It's some of the best pure physical comedy the show has done, and it has a story purpose, as after an office meeting about PDAs gets them only to admit that they love each other and annoy their coworkers by going out of their way to avoid physical contact, Gabe calls them into his office and asks them what the truth is behind their actions, citing a few reasons why they might be going too far with the touching. They pretend it's just because physical sensations aren't as strong at their age, but as soon as he lists the second reason he comes up, you know it's what the problem is: they both know that sooner or later Toby will get out of jury duty and Sabre will send Holly back to Nashua. This sends Michael into a depression deeper than he was even in when he found out Holly's engagement ultimatum disappeared, which even Kevin's monkey impersonation can't pull him out of. But when he tries to break things off with Holly because the thought of losing her again is too much, she proposes an alternative - they make their own future and move in together. It's a nice step forward to the relationship, and possibly points towards the end game in a few weeks when Michael leaves Scranton to be with her.
Elsewhere in inevitable romantic pairings, the show is kicking the Andy/Erin bandwagon back into full gear. Gabe is less of an out-and-out villain this time around, but it's still obvious at this point that he and Erin just don't work. He sets up an elaborate treasure hunt for her to solve, leaving clues around the office she has to find and decipher, starting with a crossword puzzle. She's not good at them though, so she enlists Andy's help. It's okay after all, since he's apparently seeing a new girl now. While they solve the puzzles together, two things become clear. Their chemistry is still much stronger than hers with Gabe, and while Gabe obviously put effort into constructing the treasure hunt, there's no real emotion or feeling behind it. He understands the grand gesture of putting together something like that, but at the end of the road, all there is is a kiss blown through a window. None of the clues have any special meaning or relevance to their time together. He just did it because that's what he thinks a good boyfriend does. I don't hate the guy, and it was nice seeing him agree with the others in the office about something for a change with regard to the PDA, but his robotic demeanor just isn't a match for sweet, dopey Erin.
And again relegated to the smallest subplot, Jim and Pam accidentally get drunk on champagne during a Valentine's Day lunch out, and after realizing during the PDA meeting that they're among the few in the office not to have had sex there, set about attempting that. It's not exactly brilliant stuff, but the two are very amusing when they're tipsy and it's some of the better material they've had this season. Tidbit-wise, I liked the pains everyone went through in the break room when discussing Michael and Holly to note that they were happy they were together before complaining about all the kissing and touching, and the way Ryan handled finding Jim and Pam in his little closet office was pretty great. Again, I found myself marveling at how The Office was the best show on NBC of the night. They've had a nice resurgence, especially lately, possibly the show's last gasp at relevance before the first season without their biggest star.