“Ultimatum” follows up on Holly’s decision to force her fiancée AJ to either marry her or leave her, and no one’s more excited to know how that played out than Michael, who’s already gone overboard before even hearing the news and prepared (with the ever-adorable help of Erin) two emergency boxes: a happy one for if Holly’s left AJ (including streamers, champagne, a rubber mallet, etc.), and a sad one if she hasn’t (gummy bears, a sponge “to dry my tears,” and two fifths of scotch).
Meanwhile, Pam, taking a cue from the evidently more chipper staff of Bob Vance’s office (am I the only one who wants to see the inner workings of Vance Refrigeration?) sets up a “resolution board” for the rest of the office. The premise is that each member of the office writes down their New Year’s resolutions on a 3X5 card and posts it on the board. Then the board will be hung somewhere ostentatious to keep everyone committed to their word.
Holly shows up, and, after a quick tease as to whether she has an engagement ring (she doesn’t), she tells the nosier element of the office that AJ has not, in fact, committed, but she’s staying with him anyway, which naturally sends Michael into another depression.
At least, that’s as far the first act of the A plot. Part 2 begins in the conference room, where Pam’s giving a pep talk to the rest of the office about sticking to their resolutions. Michael takes the opportunity to deliver an angry tirade on not following things through (naturally meant for Holly, but Creed and Kevin take some collateral damage), and the episode ends with Michael apologizing to the three and Holly deciding to take a break from AJ.
And rounding out the episode is Andy, Dwight, and Darryl’s subplot, where the boys take an extended break from the office and head to the bookstore to pick up, specifically, loose women (save for Darryl, who just wants someone to drive him to the bookstore every lunch hour so he can make good on his resolution to read more).
Finding the lusty ladies of the library lacking, Dwight suggests they head to the strip club while Andy wants to hit up the local roller disco (they still have those?). It doesn’t overflow with comic possibilities and doesn’t deliver many either, but Craig Robinson shines with some absolutely devastingly great lines: “Day shift at a strip club? You can’t unsee that.” “It’s so light, like a croissant.“ “Old lady, nasty porn.” That’s about it.
Now I don’t know how long the writers plan on drawing out the Michael/Holly will they/won’t they romantic tension, but this episode doesn’t have much to offer in the ongoing story other than repeating what was basically covered in the Christmas Special.
Still, even though it’s practically a given that they’ll end up with each by the time Steve Carrell exits the show in April, the Michael/Holly thing works for me. Knowing there is going to be some closure differs their arc from the Pam/Jim romantic tension that drove The Office’s first few seasons. That teasing bordered on cat-playing-with-a-dead-bird territory, but having a concrete deadline makes me more interested in the outcome of Michael and Holly than I ever was in Pam and Jim.
True, the romance so far exists mostly in Michael’s head, but I also buy Steve Carrell’s performance and feel every heartbreaking, hope-shattering moment he delivers whenever it seems like Holly’s about to come around and then makes it painfully obvious she’s still with someone else. Carrell’s more convincing of someone in love than Jim’s quiet brooding ever was.
(And even if things don’t work out with Holly, the dynamic between Michael and Erin played up in this episode makes it seem like they’d be a pretty damn good match, too.)
Outside of that, the Knights of the Night (Dwight’s merry band of prominently unarmed militiamen) cold open worked for me simply because they looked like Devo.
Finally, in case you were wondering, here’s the rest of the gangs’ resolutions:
Kevin: Eat more vegetables
Creed: Do a cartwheel (casuaully)
Angela: Spend more time with the Senator
Phyllis: Yoga lessons with Bob
Holly: Cross train
Jim: Bike more
Darryl: Read more
Dwight: Meet more loose women
Andy: Learn to cook for one (later amended to Meet more loose women)
Ryan: Live life like it’s an art project
Oscar: Finish dining room
Pam: Cut back on caffeine(?)
Kelly: Get more attention by any means necessary
By the way, stay tuned next week for a guest appearance of BBC Office creator Ricky Gervais.