office-halloween-2011.jpgWe have seen many an “Office” Halloween episode in the past, some focusing entirely on the festivities at Dunder Mifflin and some barely giving a nod to it.

We have never seen an “Office” Halloween episode with James Spader in the cast, though, and for that reason “Spooked” is elevated to the top tier of the series’ Halloween pantheon.

Robert’s episode-capping ghost story — crafted after he spent pretty much the entire Halloween party observing, uncovering or just outright asking about people’s worst fears — managed to weird out just about everyone in the office while amusing the heck out of his hurricane-tracking son Bert. It wasn’t super-funny, but it was a brilliant bit of theater/lesson-teaching on Robert’s part about not letting fear rule.

The show’s M.O. with Robert (and Spader) so far seems to be drop him into Scranton, make everyone (especially Andy, but most other people too) nervous for a while, then exit before anyone quite figures out his point. That’s going to get old if the other characters don’t at least start to get a bead on him, but when it works as well as his ghost story — and the talking head “What am I up to?” before he started telling it — I’m willing to let this current mode ride.

While Robert was gathering material for his turn, the show spent a little too much time on the Erin-Andy front for my taste — although, again, if Robert’s prodding makes them a little more comfortable around one another, that’s to the good. The two characters are good individually, and in smaller doses they work together too, but this particular beat of self-imposed awkwardness doesn’t really add much.

Much better was Jim and Pam’s running argument about whether she did, in fact, once see a ghost. “The Office” has really carried off their growth as a couple extremely well — they’re no longer the moon-eyed, star-crossed lovers but a very believable married couple who clearly love each other very much but also like to tease each other and sometimes get on each other’s nerves.

(And for the record, I don’t think Jim’s ritual non-washing of his Eagles jersey during the playoffs is really any different than Pam believing in ghosts, even though I’ve engaged in similar sports-related superstitions in the past. It’s slightly more socially acceptable, but it’s not really different.)

And as usual, the Halloween notes the show hit — Gabe’s “cinema of the unsettling” nonsense, Dwight’s litany of weapon-neutered costumes (and Toby’s “one lucky turkey” response), Creed’s au courant Bin Laden costume and the dueling Kate Middletons — all landed solidly. The writers and crew really seem to love Halloween, and it comes through on screen.

A couple other notes from “Spooked”:

  • Anyone else getting ready to call shenanigans on Angela’s pregnancy? The joke has of course been that she’s ultra-competitive with Pam, but I’m starting to feel like something’s up.
  • What did everyone think of the tag, with Dwight getting Bert to tell Toby he’s fired? It’s certainly in character, but it felt a little bit cruel. Or maybe the idea of a Dwight-like 13-year-old is just kind of scary to contemplate.

What did you think of “The Office’s” latest Halloween episode?

Photo/Video credit: NBC

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