In "Lecture Circuit," Michael and Pam hit the road and visit the branch where Jim's old flame Karen works; Jim and Dwight try to make amends to Kelly for forgetting her birthday; and newly single Andy hits on a girl way beyond his league. As the follow up to the awesome "Stress Relief," does "Lecture Circuit" continue the momentum?
Sadly, no. I thought this was a rather tepid follow up to the best episode of the season, with some mild laughs but certainly nothing particularly memorable.
* I Even Hate Thinking That Al-Qaeda Hates Me
Pam's need to be liked by everyone comes into direct conflict with the one woman who she thinks will never like her: Karen. When Pam and Michael head over to the Dundler Mifflin branch that Karen manages, Michael notices Pam has put a little extra makeup on. When Karen comes to welcome them, we're greeted with a surprise: she's pregnant. Michael doesn't make things easier when he asks if the baby is Jim's, and then, out loud, calculates when the last time Jim and Karen could have possibly had sex (his guess is 10 months ago).
After some Michael Scott lecturing shenanigans, Karen cuts Michael's speech short and they head over to her office. There, we find out that Karen is married to a dermatologist (and had not been impregnated with a sperm machine). Pam tells Karen that she and Jim are engaged, and for that, she gets ... a hug. And more importantly, closure. The lingering guilt Pam had about stealing Jim away from Karen is gone.
But Pam's closure opens up Michael's wound. He realizes he needs to see Holly, and Pam, buoyed by her recent experience, tells Michael that she'll take him all the way to Holly's branch. That's certainly great news: I'm excited to see Amy Ryan back as Holly in the second half of this episode. I'd certainly want things to work out for Michael and Holly - I always thought they were great together - but I'm guessing that the detour will just help Michael find the closure he's looking for.
* It's Your Birthday
The DM Party Planning committee is a minefield. First the Angela/Phyllis power play that led to the breakup of an engagement and the exposure of an affair, and now Dwight and Andy as committee co-chairs commit the unpardonable offense of forgetting Kelly's birthday. First, neither Jim nor Dwight attended Kelly's party over the summer, and now this. That's two strikes for the duo. They try to make amends by preparing a party and gathering money. I loved the grey and brown balloons that Dwight made - chosen because they match the carpet - and Creed's contribution of a $3 bill was the laugh-out loud funniest moment for me. We'll see how the party goes in next week's conclusion.
* The 'Nard Dog
I thought the best part of the episode was Andy's awkward but sweet pursuit of Stanley's client Julia. That Stanley essentially bartered her to Andy in exchange for two clients was great. I also loved the showdown where the "exchange" between Andy and Stanley was made. Stanley: "Are you out of your damn mind?" Andy: "Are you out of your damn mind?" I loved that Andy didn't back down from Stanley, and then told him he was disappointed in him because he thought they were friends, and as a friend he would expect Stanley to introduce Julia to him.
Andy didn't get the girl, and because he followed Creed's advice and tried to kiss her, he lost the client as well. But it was good to see him get back on the horse. As a character, he's come a long way from the guy who punched a hole in the wall when big Tuna hid his cell in the ceiling.
So, what did you guys think? Was this a strong follow up to "Stress Relief" or, like one of Dwight's balloons, was it a little flat?