Okay. It’s been an up and down season for The Office, but how awesome was tonight’s episode? The arrival of little Cecilia Marie Halpert had all the best of seasons past while sowing the seeds for future storylines. The first half hour, with Pam desperately trying to avoid the hospital until midnight because of her HMO, allowed John Krasinski to increasingly lose his cool in the face of his wife’s stubbornness. The highlight was him flipping through a series of parenting books in order to prove his point that the time between Pam’s contractions meant that they should have left for the hospital hours earlier. These frantic beats, accompanied by a conference room meeting to distract Pam (loved Andy’s dance and Ryan’s “poetry”), gave way to a beautiful scene between Krasinski and Jenna Fischer where she let slip their baby’s gender. Here each said more with their eyes than their words, and it was reminiscent of the early days of their courtship when Jim and Pam seemed constantly in love with learning new things about one another.
The trip to the hospital (Michael driving, Dwight “escorting,” and Jim and Pam attempting not to panic) was a tribute to Krasinski, Fischer, Steve Carell, and Rainn Wilson. While The Office is arguably the best example of an ensemble show presently on the air, these four, more often than not, have been the focus, and it was nice to see them play off of each other. I particularly liked Pam’s futile attempt to tell Dwight where her house key was so that he could retrieve her iPod and Dwight’s refusal to listen (who didn’t think that was a recipe for disaster in the second half hour?).
Once Baby Girl Halpert arrived, the anxiety of the new parents contrasted nicely with the awkward encounter between Michael and former lover/Pam’s mother, Helene, and Dwight’s impromptu remodeling of the Halpert kitchen. As soon as Jim and Pam were forced to share their hospital room, I suspected a baby mix-up was in the cards, but the horror on Krasinski’s and Fischer’s faces after Pam accidentally breast-fed the wrong baby still worked. The payoff to Pam’s nursing worries came at the end when her baby finally latched on in the hospital parking lot. But for my money, the most memorable moments of the second half were not about Jim and Pam but still of the rewarding and intriguing variety.
First things first, Andy and Erin are finally going on a date! Yay! I felt bad for Kevin and annoyed at Michael for getting his hopes up, but Andy’s recollection of his botany class was one of the funniest parts of the entire episode, and the bit with the fax where Andy went from goofy to tender and Erin went from tears to laughter in the span of ten seconds showcased the talents of Ed Helms and Ellie Kemper. Their chemistry is unique, not merely PB&J 2.0, and I look forward to seeing where the writers take them in the weeks (maybe years?) to come. And it was sweet to see Michael make like Cupid behind his office glass while Andy and Erin coordinated their schedules.
Another development that I did not see coming was the reappearance of Isabel, Pam’s friend and Dwight’s Niagara hook up. Dwight was so happy to see her that he made his first dental appointment in years to keep in touch! Now the previously mentioned relationship between Michael and Helene fizzled out after a very few episodes. While the show could have milked the situation a bit longer, that particular relationship was never going to last. However, Dwight and Isabel might be different, and how much fun would it be to watch Jim and Pam endure double dates with their friend and their office nemesis? A Dwight/Isabel pairing might also give the show an opportunity to play the rare but always funny “Jim and Dwight on the same side” beat, notably featured in “Customer Survey” and “Lecture Circuit,” if say Dwight and Isabel had a fight and Pam and Jim took opposite sides. Throw Angela into the mix (at the start of the episode Dwight was psyched to have a baby with her for business reasons, but his enthusiasm for the idea evaporated by the end of the hour), and there’s a substantial amount of storyline for an entire seventh season.
In short, the best show all week (the less said about Idol the better; I’m really wearying of it at this point). Sometimes a birth equals a drop in quality for a successful TV show, but if this episode is any indication, Cecilia Marie’s presence signals rejuvenation on many fronts. A blessed event indeed.