The Office” returns for the new year and the big question on everyone’s mind is whether or not Holly is still with AJ. While this episode doesn’t make as much headway on that situation as some viewers would want, we’re obviously getting there, and the writing is sharp and funny enough that most people were probably entertained last night, anyway. Check out our review for our full thoughts…

The Players

Episode Title: “Ultimatum”

Prior to the break, Holly made it clear that if AJ was unwilling to propose to her before the new year, she’d end the relationship. Michael prepares for either outcome–that she’s engaged, or that she’s single–and anxiously waits to hear the verdict. Although he is at first thrilled to discover that she isn’t engaged, he’s less pleased when he discovers that she didn’t stay true to her word and break up with AJ. In the meantime, everyone in the office is encouraged to make New Year’s resolutions, and Andy and Dwight’s resolution to “find a loose woman” leads them to, of all places, the local roller skating rink.

The Good:

  • It’s funny: This season started out slow and didn’t improve all that much for a long time. The writing that had been so clever and entertaining in past seasons was simply not working. Luckily, that seems to have changed with the past few episodes, and this one keeps us moving in the right direction. Sure, some of the laughs are easy–Holly displays her bare ring fingers to indicate that she’s not engaged, and Kevin, misunderstanding, gives her the middle finger–but that doesn’t make them any less humorous.
  • Roller rink: Anyone who has ever attended a middle school birthday party at a roller rink in a small American town knows how depressing those places can be, and this episode is spot on. Dwight, Andy and Darryl are literally the only customers, with a teenage DJ doing his best to keep them entertained with strobe lights and Dave Matthews Band songs.
  • Creed: Creed’s New Year’s Resolution: perform a cartwheel perfectly but not make a big thing about it. This show could always use more of Creed’s random thoughts. They come out of nowhere and are so absurd that they are always funny.

The So-So:

  • Holly and Michael: We all know where this subplot is going, and while it’s nice to have the show become emotionally engaging again, it’s not as strong as the Jim and Pam relationship simply because most viewers already know that Steve Carell will only be on the show for a few more episodes. It sometimes feels like we’re just going through the motions to get to the happy ending.

The Bad:

  • Bookstore: Darryl’s resolution was to read more, so he convinces Dwight and Andy to drive him to the bookstore by claiming that it is a great place for picking up girls. There’s some great comedy potential there, but in the interests of time, we don’t get to maximize that potential. There’s one awkward moment where Andy and Dwight pretend to work at the store in order to get to know a female customer, but the writer probably could have squeezed a few more laughs out of this situation.

Overall:

A very funny episode that delivers the goods for most viewers. If you tuned in to see where Holly and Michael stand, enough progress was made to keep you more or less satisfied. If you just wanted some laughs, those were also in good supply. It’s an episode you wish was longer, so that’s a good thing, right?

Rating: 8.5/10

“The Office” airs every Thursday on NBC!

Photo Gallery:

With Steve Carell’s involvement winding down, can this show survive without him?