I thought I'd have a little summer fun by listing my top ten Office episodes of all time (there's 65 of them now.) Feel free to list yours here as well. Spoilers ahoy.
#10 Business School (Season 3, Episode 16)
"May your hats fly as high as your dreams."
A-Plot: Michael makes a speech for Ryan's business class.
B-Plot: Pam's art show.
This episode would later turn out to be a pretty big milestone in the series in regards to Pam. It was the episode where Pam finally was able to turn the corner and change her life for the better. She and Roy are back together, but she is much more assertive this time, demanding that he show up to her art events and do more boyfriend types of things. The fact that Roy, Oscar and Michael were the only ones to support her showed that she really had very few friends outside of the office because of her passive nature. When Oscar pointed out to Gil that being honest was something she lacked, instead of confronting Oscar she actually spent the rest of the season proving him wrong. Without this episode there would be no Jim and Pam.
Ironically, Michael also has arguably his most touching moment ever while continuing to bury his head in the ground about himself and his job. In Michael's world, Dunder-Mifflin is king, and Ryan took a big dump all over the kingdom. Michael bought Pam's drawing of the office to prove a final point to Ryan that the best work is done on paper. Not on computers. Now write that down *click clack click clack.*
#9 Traveling Salesman (Season 3, Episode 12)
"I'm not falling into a chocolate river."
A-Plot: The salespeople of Scranton go on sales calls.
B-Plot: Pam and Angela bond.
I like episodes where the characters are actually working. This episode shows us why certain people have the jobs they do in the sales department. Michael and Jim are an awesome team, as most rivals usually turn out to be. I'll take the hug at the end of the episode against most any other love scene on television. Stanley and Phyllis show that they know what they're doing, schooling the children they're with.
Also, this is the first of Andy's two episode tour de force. You can see Michael start to be turned off by Andy here, and it'll only ramp up later. In the meantime, Andy sees his plot to get rid of Dwight actually succeed and in one of the best Office moments, sings up a verse of Oompa Loompa.
#8 Diversity Day (Season 1, Episode 2)
"If you're a racist, I will attack you with the North."
A-Plot: Michael forces Scranton to sit through two diversity meetings.
B-Plot: Jim tries to retain a client.
This is when I fell in like with the US version of the Office (I fell in love later in the list.) First, "Niggas vs. Black People" is a really long sketch to get across to begin with. The fact that Michael really gets to get out every word, all the way to the cookie joke, really establishes his character in the best way possible. Michael Scott just wants people to have fun, even if it's a little racy. After all, the office is R-Rated to him.
This episode also reminded me of my favorite UK episode, "Training." What I liked about this episode is that Mr. Brown (I'm not going to call him that), unlike the trainer in Slough wasn't going to like Michael run all over him. He even yelled at Michael a couple times.
Also, we see why Dwight might be the best salesman in the company (poaching) and the Michael-Toby relationship is born.
#7 Goodbye Toby (Season 4, Episode 14)
"I am totally gonna bang Holly!"
A-Plot: Toby leaves Scranton.
B-Plot: Michael and the new HR rep hit it off.
This season was a bit of a let-down. It really wasn't anybody's fault. After two pretty successful years, they boldly tried to make a whole mess of hour-long episodes. Then the strike hit right when it seemed that they were back on track. I think this episode showed that if it wasn't for the strike, this could've been a pretty epic season.
This marks the departure, at least for now, of Michael's worst enemy, Toby. Ultimately Toby leaves with a bunch of fanfare, but none of the good kind. Michael's just happy he's gone, and everybody else (Jim, Pam, Kevin, Andy, Angela, and Dwight) are all too involved in their respective love lives to really care about Toby leaving at all. In fact, Ryan gets a bigger send-off (on YouTube no less) than Toby.
Oh, and a nice Arrested Development-esque take on Kevin. Maybe he has been slow all along and we never took it seriously.
#6 The Return (Season 3, Episode 13)
A-Plot: Dwight, struggling in the real world, returns to Dunder-Mifflin.
B-Plot: Andy goes crazy.
This episode is jammed full of plot, as nearly everybody has something to do. Angela finally thinks of somebody besides her cats. Jim jumps from Karen to Pam without batting an eye. Oh, and Oscar's back too!
But first, let's talk about Dwight at Staples. Despite saying it was just a job he took while in between jobs, he really seems to work out pretty well there. He's still a grade A salesman, and it kind of begs the question of why Jan didn't talk to him about staying like she did with Jim. Things clearly fell apart without Dwight, and not just in sales. Plants started to die, Michael's toys were not aligned right. Eventually when Michael realizes the GOB-like mistake he made, he does everything except carry Dwight off in his arms.
Meanwhile, the other best thing is that Andy goes crazy and started yanking on the thread he's been pulling on Michael for the last few episodes. Andy drives Michael to the point where HE is asking how somebody could be so unaware of themselves. And then Andy punches a wall.
#5 The Injury (Season 2, Episode 12)
"Oh my God, Dwight's kind of my friend!"
A-Plot: Michael burns his foot on a George Foreman grill.
B-Plot: Dwight suffers a concussion.
Michael Scott IS Wile E. Coyote. For all the prep work that he does just to wake up to the smell of bacon, I can't imagine how he forgets it's right there. Just like the last episode on the list, I like this episode because it really develops the relationships in the office. Michael and Dwight go into the catscan room together. Jim knows Dwight middle name (to his chagrin.) Michael orders his slave Ryan around in many different hilarious ways (The gas station in Carbondale did not have fresh yams.)
Most important is the relationship between Pam and Dwight. Early on in the series, Pam sees Dwight as the idiot to make fun of, along with Jim. Jim will have you believe that Pam warned him about Dwight and was a pain long before Jim showed up, but I'm of the opinion that most of the hazing on Pam's part was just to spend time with Jim. When she did it on her own, it seemed to be more good natured. This is the first episode that they really form a friendship, and it would warm over the years, especially in season 4 where Pam tried to get Jim to stop picking on Dwight.
#4 Christmas Party (Season 2, Episode 10)
"What line of work you in Bob?"
A-Plot: Michael throws one of the worst, and then one of the best Xmas parties.
B-Plot: Jim almost reveals his love for Pam (by card).
If Thanksgiving was Friends' holiday, then The Office has claimed Christmas as its signature holiday. Even so much that the Xmas episode that never happened (due to strike) was still referenced to. This is also an important episode for the show because of the product placement for iPod, which really helped take the show to a new level of popularity, and while managing to enhance the plot rather than take away from it.
The presents were fun as well. Kevin managed to keep his foot bath, even ducking the YAAAAAAAANKEE SWAP that came later. Angela's love from babies in human clothes fit in perfectly with her cat-lady persona. Jim had a teapot full of plot advancement that he snatched away at the last second, And that was a terrible oven mitt Michael, I'll back you up on that.
#3 Casino Night (Season 2, Episode 13)
"Oh, I steal things all the time."
A-Plot: PB&J OMG!
B-Plot: Michael ends up choosing Carol over Jan.
This is probably the general population's favorite episode. Michael manages to "Schrute It" by making a date with two beautiful women at the same time. Most horrible sitcoms would've had him going away empty at the end of the night, but the Office, kind of like real life shows you that the best way to reel is the ladies is to act like a complete ass to them. And maybe drop a deuce on em as well. But Jan's not only there to have sex with Michael. She ends up having a touching scene with Jim outside that left him with the out of leaving to Stamford in case his move on Pam didn't work.
Also, Kevin sure manages to keep himself busy between playing in his Police cover band, and winning a World Series of Poker bracelet in Razz, all while keeping a girlfriend and her kid (well, not anymore...)
Oh, and I guess Jim and Pam kiss too.
#2 Initiation (Season 3, Episode 5)
"This is pretzel day!"
A-Plot: Dwight tries to make a friend and ally out of Ryan.
B-Plot: Pretzels save Stanley's sanity and maybe Michael's job.
I'd like to make this my favorite episode, but that wouldn't make sense because this is kind of a throwaway, filler episode that really centers around Stanley and his soft pretzel. Oh, but it's one hell of a pretzel. Somehow this company that gives these away can afford to put about 83 toppings on a pretzel for free. This one pretzel leads to no less than five of my all-time favorite Michael Scott moments:
1. While in line, Kelly tries explain the SNL skit Lazy Sunday to him. While this doesn't seem all that funny or big of a deal, the continuity Gods would have him follow up on this in a later episode when he does a parody of Lazy Sunday for the Stamfordites.
2. Stanley actually teams up with Michael to prevent Phyllis from cutting in line. Then they high-five! This is like Lex Luthor and Clark Kent bonding over a hot dog!
3. While the pretzel man is listing off the endless toppings, you can actually see inside Michaels head as he hopes and prays that he can get all of those topping on his pretzel. And when he finds out it does exist and isn't going to be a usual Michael Scott vs The World hassle he looks so full of joy.
4. A sugar-fueled Michael Scott makes his most driven sales pitch. "Do we have a deal? Deal or No Deal? Let's Make a Deal! What's the deal?"
5. Finally, the best one ever is when Michael Scott bursts out of his office with the "HEEEY" song in the background ordering everyone to be more productive while still on his sugar rush. Amiright? Amiright? Thankyouverymuch.
That was just the B-Plot. The rest of the show was Ryan and Dwight, showing a chemistry that they really never got to build from. Dwight only really has Angela as a friend, and can't go to her for support at the office, so he decides to make Ryan, the newly-non-temp, his new friend. However, to be Dwight's friend you have to pass some tests. Like being abandoned in a beet field (of course...). Then you have to answer various Dunder-Mifflin and Lost questions. THEN you have to wrestle FEAR (aka Mose). Just too much fun stuff continuity wise here, as Schrute Farms and Mose are debuted, and Dwight still powers up with metal music in his Firebird.
Then they actually go on a sales call, which Ryan blows (of course...) It probably would've helped if Dwight would've given him the good sales tips a little bit earlier. The look on Ryan's face once Dwight switches from usual Dwight-speak to actual useful Sales info is awesome. Then they egg the building (using Mose's apology eggs.) and celebrate their loss over a couple of bombers.
Just think, that temp agency could've sent you anywhere!
I think about that every day.
#1 The Dundies (Season 2, Episode 1)
"I feel God in this Chili's tonight."
A-Plot: The Office goes to Chili's for some awards.
This is the episode that saved the show. They needed to come out on a strong foot after surviving the first season by the skin on their teeth.
The beginning of the episode is just like a Chili's appetizer, it was good but really leaves you ready for the main course. We got a look at past Dundies video, which would be fun for continuity later with Michael's obsession over Mambo #5 and the Pam/Roy relationship. Also, Jan listing off the numerous office parties already in the year (A tsunami fun-raiser, a 5/5/5 party).
The real meat of the show is the awards show itself. Michael turns out to be both a horrible and entertaining host, including his Ping character, which despite being Office legend we haven't seen since. The supporting cast gets a lot established. Stanley (despite catching Michael in a mild racist moment earlier) seems to be a good mood, Kelly speaks, but not in character yet, and Kevin Wins foulest bowel movement.
This will always be remembered for Pam and her binge drinking though. Once she got rid of Roy for the night, it was time to get smashed. Second drinks, stealing drinks, falling off chairs. She ended up getting banned from Chili's. PAM. And the fact that it was one of the nicest, quietest, most stable characters in the show so far really showed you that The Office was going to be something special.
Oh, and I guess Jim and Pam kissed somewhere here too...