All of that diversity training pays off when Michael accepts an invitation from Kelly on behalf of the entire office — albeit under the conception that it is a chance to don costumes and celebrate a Hindu Halloween. Instead, the lavish Festival of Lights becomes a setting of triumph for some, disappointment for others, and the worst kind of disgrace for one man who will never learn to not play with fire. Meanwhile, two-thirds of the Stamford sales staff enlist the help of alcohol to burn the midnight oil, thus ensuring “one cra-azy night” all around.
By now we’re well aware that cultural sensitivity is a field laden with landmines where Michael could no more avoid wreaking havoc than he could cease to breathe. Introducing him to the holiday of Diwali has predictable results and, just as predictable, he’s quick to deflect the accusations elsewhere.
Michael : I love the people here. And if there’s one thing I di– don’t really care for, is that they can be terribly, terribly ignorant about other cultures. And I don’t want them embarrassing me in front of my girlfriend, Carol.
As well he shouldn’t. Not when he can do it so effectively himself.
[Carol arrives at the festival dressed as a cheerleader]
Carol : I thought you said this was a costume party?
Michael : [Pointing] What does that look like to you?
Carol : An Indian woman in a sari.
Michael : No one’s even gonna notice it.
Kevin : [Smirking] Nice outfit.
Michael : Hey, Kevin, it’s a costume, so why don’t you just cool it, okay? Carol? Carol.
If only Carol had a way to know that this was to be the highlight of the evening, the one mildly salvageable moment before events take a devastating turn, she might have saved herself by bolting for the exit then and there. However, if the silver lining in the cloud of dating Michael is watching him repeatedly make a fool of himself, well, then she was right to stay for the spectacle to come.
Mr. Kapour : How long have you been married to the cheerleader?
Michael : Oh… she’s not a cheerleader. She thought this was a costume party. Um, no, we’re not married… yet.
Mrs. Kapour : She’s very fair.
Michael : She is very fair. Very fair and very kind. So, um, tell me, is your marriage the kind of thing where when you die, she has to throw herself on a fire? No? Okay. It’s still very cool.
From this moment on, you can literally see the wheels turning. Michael, for the love of God, don’t.
[Michael commandeers the microphone from the less-than-pleased DJ]
Michael : Um, everyone? I’m sorry, could I have your attention please? Thank you. Ha, ah– hi. Sorry, I just have an announcement to make. Um, okay. I have learned a lot about Indian culture tonight… but I have learned even more about love. And I know you’re all thinking, “who is this crazy gringo and what is he talking about?” Well, I’m not crazy. Maybe I’m crazy in love. So, without further ado… Carol? Carol Stills? I would like you to do me the honor of making me your husband.
Carol : Oh, Michael…
Michael : What do you say?
Carol : Can we talk about this in private?
Michael : I didn’t hear you.
Carol : Can we talk about this in private?
Michael : You gotta to be kidding me.
And there you have it, the detonation of a bomb that’s been ticking since May and the self-imposed obliteration of Michael’s love life. Which, since we’ve had to rely solely on his version of events, turns out to be just as delusional as expected. The precarious “relationship” — by rights still in quotation marks — is severed after nine dates and a misfired declaration. Still, the aftermath provides evidence of that lost little boy who wanted to be married and have 100 kids so he could have 100 friends, and gives the grown man a small defense for a night of irrational hope.
Unlike his boss, and occasionally his co-workers, Dwight is not one to be caught in ignorance of any subject and therefore leaps at the chance to share his knowledge of cultural symbolism — at least that which involves epic mythology reminiscent of Tolkien lore.
Dwight : Kelly, I’ll take this one. Diwali is a celebration of the coronation of god-king Rama, after his epic battle with Ravana, the demon-king of Lanka. It symbolizes the battle between good and evil…
Michael : [Interrupting] All right, all right. This isn’t Lord of the Rings.
However, like his boss, and occasionally his co-workers, Dwight too is profoundly deficient at navigating the waters of interoffice relationships.
[Pam is trying to excuse herself from the Diwali celebrations]
Pam : I just feel kind of tired, you know.
Dwight : Maybe you’ve got mono.
Pam : Maybe. It’s just that… I don’t really have anyone to go with.
Kelly : Well, go with Dwight. He’s single too, right?
Dwight : [Casts a glance at Angela] Yeah, totally single. 100% available.
The fact that Dwight is still alive is scientific proof that looks can’t kill.
Jim picks the wrong day to save the environment by biking to work, as it’s time for quarterly order form consolidation and Andy has come prepared for the occasion. A few rounds of late-night shots leave Stamford’s Assistant Regional Manager in a drunken state more suited to The Dundies, and a sober Karen must endure musical persecution at the hands of her office mates for the second week in a row.
Andy : [Singing] I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains, I looked to the children…
Karen : Andy, no a cappella.
[A moment of silence, Karen is relieved]
Andy : [Singing] I looked to the children, I drank from the fountain…
[Jim is passed out on the desk, but stirs and joins in]
Jim and Andy : [Singing] There’s more than one answer to these questions, pointing me in a crooked line…
Karen : Oh, come on, guys.
Jim and Andy : [Singing] The less I seek my source for some definitive, the closer I am to fine… the closer I am to fine…
Andy : Tuna! Are you kidding me?!
I’ve been growing more attached to the Stamford office with each passing week, and this is the moment I realized how much I would truly miss Jim’s new co-workers if they failed to survive the rumored downsizing. Fortunately, it looks like they’ll be around for a while, adding a new dimension to the old office politics. Bring it on.
The invitation of a girl’s night in with Meredith and a night out on the town with Dwight convince Pam it might not be so bad to broaden her social horizons alone. She lets down her hair and faces Diwali with her still-unaccustomed single status, and surprises herself by having a little fun along the way. It even inspires some long-distance communication and a display of compassion for her heartbroken boss — which takes mere seconds to backfire into territory for which the world is just not ready.
Michael : Pam… when Carol said no tonight, I think I finally realized what you must be going through. We’re both victims of broken engagements.
Pam : Well, you were never really engaged.
Michael : I was in that marriage arena, though.
Pam : Yeah.
Michael : Yeah. Ohh well.
Pam : I kind of thought something would happen tonight, too.
Michael : We’re so alike. So alike.
[He sighs, ponders, then closes his eyes and leans in, face puckered]
Pam : [Recoils] What are you doing?
Michael : What are you doing?
Pam : I’m rejecting… your kiss.
Michael : Ah-what? I didn’t– I–
[He scoffs, sighs, groans, a long awkward pause]
Michael : Can I have a ride home?
Pam : If you sit in the back.
Oh no, he didn’t. Oh yes, he did.
[Pam driving, Michael in the backseat as promised]
Michael : These are not my shoes.
[Pam is silent]
Michael : This is like that show, Taxicab Confessions…
Pam : You say one more word, I’m stopping the car.
Atta girl, Pamela.
After last week’s closing high, and the pending events we suspect are about to unfold, Jim and Pam’s interaction is understandably slim, relinquished to one quick and, unfortunately, failed attempt at communication. When Pam muses about Michael’s public humiliation to a new acquaintance and finds no empathy, she sneaks away to text-message the person who will most definitely commiserate. Unbeknownst to her, Jim is under the influence of Andy’s shots and the incoming message goes unnoticed mere inches away from his unconscious head, leaving Pam to clutch a silent phone the rest of the evening.
Had Jim been conscious for the message? Who knows. Even with a whirlwind textual version of last week’s phone call, these two are left with ground that’s awfully hard to cover long-distance. Pam initiating contact is significant, a small hurdle overcome with many question marks to follow. Still, it doesn’t take an unshakable optimist to believe that hope is very much alive, and the next few weeks will undoubtedly prove interesting as we continue to see what consequences absence has had for these two hearts.
In the meantime, the Jim/Pam Index is Even.
Carol, for surviving first the costume debacle and then the public humiliation with grace and dignity. Very fair and very kind, indeed.
Michael, for the most ill-conceived proposal in the history of television and then, once out of that hypothetical marriage arena, the most ill-conceived romantic overture on the most undeserving recipient.
Michael : Tonight, one of our most ethnic co-workers, Kelly, has invited us all to a Diwali celebration put on by her community. What is Diwali, you may ask? Well, to have Kelly explain it, [high voice] “it’s… blah blah blah… it’s so super, fun… and it’s gonna be great…” A lot of gods with unpronounceable names, twenty minutes later, you find out it’s essentially a Hindu Halloween.
In other words, the perfect excuse to resurrect that paper mache likeness of your head.
[Roy is deciding whether to attend the night’s events in company of the breakroom]
Angela : Don’t go. They eat monkey brains.
Michael : Hey, hey, hey. Stop it. That is offensive. Indians do not eat monkey brains. And if they do, sign me up. Because I am sure that they are very tasty, and nutritious. It’s important that this company celebrates its diversity. You know what, Stanley? Come Kwanzaa time, I have got you covered, baby.
Stanley : I don’t celebrate Kwanzaa.
Michael : Wha– really? You should. It’s fun.
349 days til the next Pretzel Day.
Andy : We have such a rollercoaster thing, Karen and I.
Jim : Excuse me?
Andy : Rollercoaster-y friendship. Hot and cold. On again, off again. Sexual-tension-filled type of deal. It’s very Sam and Diane.
Jim : Wow.
Andy : From Cheers.
Jim : Yep.
Andy : Yeah.
Phyllis : Isn’t this fun, not wearing shoes?
Angela : I wish some of us still had our shoes on.
Kevin : Stop it. It’s a disease. I’ve… told you.
The mutual disgust is overwhelming.
Ryan : Well, I was a temp, but I got promoted, so the compensation is a lot more competitive.
Mrs. Kapour : So you’re saving money now for a family and home?
Ryan : Oh… um… or… travel. And, um, buy an X-Box.
Mr. Kapour : Is there anything you wanted to ask us tonight?
[Ryan is speechless and vaguely horrified]
Well, we know someone who won’t be following Michael’s example anytime soon.
[Pam goes into the hallway, runs into Angela and tries to make conversation]
Pam : Uh, it’s hot in there. How’s the naan?
Angela : Dry. Looked like you were having fun.
Pam : I am. You should come dance with us.
Angela : I have to watch our shoes to make sure they don’t get stolen.
Angela, ever vigilant against improbable crime. Exactly the quality an ex-volunteer sheriff’s deputy would look for in a mate.
[Jim and Andy are soundly drunk. Jim gets up to leave, Andy unrolls an air mattress.]
Jim : Hey, can I have a ride, man? I, uh, have my bike.
Andy : No way, dude. I am not driving home. I brought an inflatable bed for just such occasions. You’re welcome to share it, though. It’s a roomy twin.
Andy, meet Meredith.