'The Office': Deck the halls with Holly Flax

office-classy-christmas.jpgThere was so much right about "The Office's" Christmas episode, including but in no way limited to the return of Michael's love Holly Flax, that the couple of wrong notes it hit -- pretty much all in one subplot -- aren't even coming up till the end. Know why? 'Cause it's the holidays, and that's how we do.

So let's get to it:

Holly!

It's fair to say that "Office" diehards have been looking forward to Amy Ryan's return pretty much since it was announced over the summer. And she didn't really ease her way back in, launching into a two-minute weird voice-off with Steve Carell almost the moment she set foot in the door. The chemistry they've had in the past has gone absolutely nowhere.

But she's not just going to fall into Michael's arms -- despite what Nora Ephron has told Michael in every romantic comedy ever made. She's still with A.J., and she tries (maybe not hard enough) to let Michael know what the score is. Michael reacts like, well, Michael, and it looks like just another Dunder Mifflin Christmas party.

But then -- it's a Christmas miracle! Michael's actually honest about his feelings for Holly, and he's completely civil to A.J. when he shows up, and he gives Woody a bath (hanging up his hat and vest on a clothesline in the bathroom -- brilliant visual touch). And then Pam, who's really the hero of this episode, does something she maybe shouldn't and tells her Holly is planning to give A.J. an ultimatum -- propose or we're done. And Michael, believing he's back in the game, gets his Santa back in time to help give Darryl's daughter a fun Christmas, which Holly notices.

And, and: She totally covers for him when A.J. asks what happened to Woody. It's just a start for them again, but we like where this might be going.

Jim and Pam

Pam throws a bang-up party, but she's also concerned about the present she got Jim: a homemade but totally adorable comic book, "The Adventures of Jimmy Halpert." She's trying to match Jim's gift-giving game -- he's got a way of turning moments and little things into great presents -- but she doesn't get very encouraging feedback from Ryan or Phyllis.

And then Jim goes and gets her a really, really nice piece of jewelry. But here's why Jim and Pam are awesome: Jim knows how much time and love Pam put into the comic book, and he's also a little bit of a nerd, so he loves it. Genuinely ("That's my bike!"). (Also? It's a 100 percent real-life, relatable story line. Just about every couple I know has gone through something like that.)

Darryl and his daughter

Darryl is supposed to have his daughter Jada for Christmas, but she doesn't want to be with him because he's not fun enough -- possibly because he already let her buy her own presents at the toy store. But with some help from Pam, less help from Andy and the magical Dunder Mifflin vending machines, Jada ends up having a pretty nice Christmas after all.

And, the bad part

I was onboard with Dwight's snowball-fight overkill through his emergence from the snowman ("My fingers and penis are numb, but I think it was worth it"), less so with the Pam wig but moreso with the rigged present. But as happens too often with the show now, the show takes Dwight about a step and a half too far into freak-show territory. After the warm feelings at the end of the episode, having it end with the field of snowmen and Dwight looking on menacingly from the roof didn't feel like the right closing note.

Other notes from "Classy Christmas":

  • Erin's weird protective streak with Michael reared its head again with her introduction to Holly. She didn't have many lines, but they were pretty much all gold, from "I'm waiting for my boss' pretty friend" to her "I just don't get it!" talking head to "Is she an amazing cook or something?"
  • Angela's new boyfriend (Jack Coleman, glimpsed during "WUPHF.com") is a senator -- and also, per Oscar's gaydar, not so into girls. Angela's a pill, but ouch.
  • Ladies and gentlemen, the return of the Creed Bratton Moment of the Week: After Michael describes Holly to Erin in his typically grandiose way, Creed pipes in with, "She's a sassy black lady."
  • Of course Stanley would love the idea of jury duty. "To get to sit in an air-conditioned room, downtown, judging people, while my lunch is paid for? That is the life."
  • "Hostess apple pie? That's my favorite breakfast."

What did you think of "Classy Christmas"? Did Holly's return live up to your expectations?
Photo/Video credit: NBC