A classic staple of the sitcom, aside from the clip show (hmm, they covered that one a few weeks ago, right?) and the Big Wedding (that one, too) is the Baby Episode. Staples, yes, but also synonymous with jumping the shark.
Fortunately, The Office writers seem aware of this and made the wedding episode, Niagra, one the season’s strongest. On the other hand, the clip show, The Banker, was one of the weakest.
The Delivery, The Office’s Baby Episode falls somewhere in between. In this hour-long installment, Jim and Pam, on the verge of joy-bundling, are determined to hold off on getting to the hospital until the very last minute since their health insurance covers only two nights’ stay. As Pam begins contracting, Michael calls a conference to get her mind off the little fella inside her clawing to get out. Andy performs the evolution of dance (sans music, as it’d just throw him off), Erin recites Kentucky Derby winners, and Michael usefully suggests doing the opposite of 10 Things to Induce Labor.
Dwight wants a baby, too, to raise his sales “and fill the gaping hole in my life,” and enlists his ex Angela’s help “to bang it out.” But their plans are put on hold when Pam forgets her iPod (“I don’t want the first thing our baby hears to be the 8 Mile soundtrack”) and, against everyone’s better judgment, charges Dwight to retrieve it from Jim and Pam’s home. Naturally, once Dwight breaks in (after insisting that he doesn’t need a key), he discovers mold and gets to work remodeling the kitchen (makes sense, right?)
While the new parents struggle with breastfeeding, back at the office Michael, convinced he’s the reason Jim and Pam are together, decides to play matchmaker, pairing Erin with Kevin and making Andy jealous
The first part of the episode is classic Office, quick, funny, and full of excellent supporting character moments and classic Scottian touches. Brian Baumgartner’s Kevin has an especially funny scene as Pam’s new best friend (they share a similar eating schedule: that of a hobbit’s) and an equally funny (if not profoundly disturbing) outburst regarding spicy foods and inducing labor.
The Dwight/Angela subplot dragged a bit—he likes to do things by the book (whatever the hell that boo may be), we get it—and felt more like it was laying the groundwork for future episodes than played for humor. But it was short enough not to disrupt the flow.
However the majority of the episode focuses on Jim and Pam and surprisingly went for humor instead of cheesy tenderness. The dialogue between Jim and Michael over how little Halpert was conceived was in delightfully bad taste and makes you wonder how it got through the censors. Pam and Jim’s exploitation of their child for a sales booster was another nice touch.
The second part, unfortunately, lacks the energy of the first. Babies aren’t comedy gold, so while the idea of Pam struggling with the trials of breastfeeding, calling in a male breastfeeding coach, and accidentally breastfeeding the wrong baby may have seemed funny in the writers’ room, it feels forced. I know you have show the baby and Pam and Jim fawning over it, but not for the bulk of an episode.
The subplots involving Michael trying to set Erin up with Kevin and Dwight remodeling Jim and Pam’s house likewise fall flat. All three are built on decent-enough premises, but the character moments that made the first part so enjoyable are missing.
I hate to use the term “unbalanced,” but that’s what The Delivery is. This easily could have been an excellent supersized 35-minute episode, but the added seven minutes of this hour-long weigh it down. The first part once again proves that The Office can still deliver, but the second suggests that it can’t consistently.
“I’m halfway through the Twilight cookbook—last night I made Edward’s cornflake chicken”
“You’re not allowed to impersonate a police officer. Don’t make this difficult, Dwight”
“That kid’s going to have a lot of hair”