Late last night, I was reminded that it was the 10th anniversary of The Office (U.S.) second season finale, which aired on May 11, 2006. So I watched the episode again, and ten years later, despite knowing what else happens in the rest of the series), “Casino Night” still holds up as my favorite single episode of any TV show.
There are other shows I have liked a lot, which probably were more consistent start to finish: Breaking Bad, The West Wing, and Friday Night Lights immediately come to mind. Those shows had their own outstanding episodes: “Ozymandias” from Bad season 5, and many more. Parks and Recreation was consistently terrific, starting in the second season. Maybe Brooklyn Nine-Nine will get there too. Mike Schur has been on fire for about 11 years now, carving out his niche as a master of heartfelt comedies and occasional baseball commentary, but it was Michael Scott himself, Steve Carell, who wrote this particular Office episode.
To jog your memory, here is what went down on Casino Night:
Toby tells Michael all the reasons it would be inappropriate to invite actual Boy Scouts to receive the charity money they are raising. Dangerous warehouse, school night, etc. Michael in his irrational hatred tells Toby, “I hate so much about the things that you choose to be,” loses to him in poker, and Toby tells the cameras he’s going to “chase that feeling.”
Michael tries to delicately handle his unplanned double date situation with Jan and Carol, neither of whom seem all that concerned with the other, even though we learn that Jan brought an overnight bag. Michael utters this line after realizing he has “two queens” for Casino Night: “I’m going to drop a deuce on everybody.” Indeed.
Dwight wears the tuxedo from his grandfather’s burial (“so, family heirloom”) and progresses his weird relationship with Angela by kissing her after a lucky roll at the craps table. She slaps him but smirks at the camera as she walks away. Dwight rationalizes helping Michael cover with Jan and Carol with this wonderful line: “Michael said, ‘We must deceive them, so as not to hurt them. And in that way, we honor them.'”
Michael explains his understanding of which types of jokes are and are not appropriate. “AIDS is not funny…believe me, I have tried…the Lincoln assassination just recently became funny.”
We are introduced to Kevin’s Police cover band “Scrantonicity” and learn he is great at poker. Kevin eventually loses to Phyllis on a hand where someone else had to tell her she had a flush, and after she had previously called clubs “clovers.”
Creed steals a lot of things and wins the grand prize, a refrigerator from Bob Vance (Vance Refrigeration), which he reveals is the first refrigerator he has ever owned. “I stopped caring a long time ago.”
Then of course, there is the main event, the brilliant and gut-wrenching roller coaster ride of Jim and Pam, which had been building for the entire series to-date. In this episode:
- They have a great time pranking Dwight over Jim’s supposed mind control abilities.
- They review wedding bands together because Roy wouldn’t (Jim knows what Pam’s mom would want!).
- Jim jokes about the bands reminding him he doesn’t have dreams, when that couldn’t be further from the truth.
- Jim talks to Jan about his impending transfer (which seems entirely the result of Pam’s continued engagement) and tells the cameras: “I have no future here.”
- Pam talks about how well she gets along with unspecified “people” at the office, later admitting to her mom that Jim is her best friend at work.
- Roy is none the wiser about Jim’s intentions, telling him to look after Pam as he is leaving.
- Jim drops his bomb outside the office building. No more beating around the bush—he flat out tells Pam he’s in love with her: “I just needed you to know. Once.”
- Pam unconvincingly shuts Jim down, claiming he misunderstood their friendship, despite all her body language suggesting she is crushed. “I…can’t?”
- This scene immediately cuts back to Michael inside talking (bragging) about his own “love-triangle drama”—if only he knew what just happened outside.
- Back inside the office, for the final scene, Pam is talking to her mom on the phone in the dark. The series ended without giving us any indication what Pam’s mom told her to prompt this response: “Yeah, I think I am.” Am what?!?!? In love with Jim too? Going to marry Roy anyway? WHAT?!?!?
- Jim follows Pam back into the building, kisses her, and Pam reciprocates after a brief hesitation. Cut to black.
Thanks to this episode, anticipation of season three of The Office was probably the activity that consumed me third-most during Summer 2006, but only because that was also the year I got married and found a job. Which reminds me, I have an anniversary coming up…