I started off this week's "Office" totally on Team Pam. If Michael Scott were my boss, and he hooked up with my mom at my wedding, I'd be foaming at the mouth too.
By the end, though, I had come around to Michael's side of things a little bit. It's Michael, so I think we all know that the relationship is doomed. And while it was rather amusing to see Pam more worked up than she's ever been, she crossed a line.
But man, it was fun to watch her step all over that line. The meeting scene, where Pam lets the whole office in on the fact that Michael has started dating Pam's mother, had an angry energy that "The Office" rarely displays, and it was interesting to see the tables turned a little, with Michael playing the grown-up (more or less) while Jim stood by helplessly (dude, I know you're new at being married, but you need to step up your game. More on that later).
Jenna Fischer was great throughout, from her growing panic as it dawned on her who Michael's new girlfriend was to her barbed remarks as Toby tried to mediate ("What's the matter? Can't fight your own battles?"). There was also just enough of the regular, sweet Pam in there -- recognizing that she went a step too far in trying to argue with Oscar, letting Jim comfort her at the end of the episode -- to keep her from going too far off the rails.
The episode also had a lot of funny at the margins while Pam and Michael were engaging in their battle of wills. Go back and check out Stanley during some of those scenes: his delight as Pam tries to start a "No more meetings!" chant in the conference room, his disgust when Michael says "I'm sensual" and his chuckle when Michael says, "You're just as stubborn as your mom -- when you don't want to do something, you just don't do it." Fantastic stuff.
I also really liked how quickly the office swayed to one side or the other during the meeting, first collectively backing Pam's revulsion and then siding with Michael after what you have to admit was a pretty effective argument (except maybe the "I'm sensual" part).
And Jim -- he's a great guy, but he needs to get a little better under stress. I can understand his not wanting to breathe a word of the situation and his hope that Michael would show the same restraint (which, to his credit, he at least tried to do for a moment), but since Michael is involved, Jim should know by now to have contingencies at the ready. For starters: Fessing up to your wife that you knew about this before someone else spilled. Charm and getting Dwight to wash your car will only take you so far.
That said, it was nice to see both Jim and Pam recognize that maybe they overstepped and getting back to a better place by episode's end (nice touch, also, to show Michael hesitating and ultimately, correctly deciding to leave well enough alone as he's headed home). It's too early in the marriage to get too heavy.
Notes and quotes from "The Lover":
* I'm not sure how I feel about the capper to B-story of Dwight bugging Jim's office. I feel like it tilted a little too heavily toward Dwight as creepy, paranoid weirdo -- but I could turn around on that if the show decides to make this an ongoing bit. Given the utterly mundane nature of what Dwight had on the pen recorder, it might be fun to see him frustrated at the lack of good material.
* The espionage story also gave us a couple of the night's best moments, like Andy giving Jim advice on opera and Ryan negotiating the return of the duck mallard from Kelly. And also, Ryan being his usual d-baggy self, pocketing Dwight's tenner and then asking Kelly to pony up for gas money.
* I find it hard to believe, but also sort of touching that after this long Toby could still think Michael was being genuine when he asked for help with Pam (or for that matter, that he'd care). Better still, his wounded "What did I do?" after Jim snaps at him in the break room.
* Erin's concern over whether she could have candy on the counter was a total throwaway, but that and her reaction to Michael's parrot rum ("Fun!") probably said more about her character than anything we've seen from her since she came aboard.
* Man, Angela is mean: "So, Pam, how's your day going?"
* Frank and beans.