The second season of The Office begins with an iconic episode known as “The Dundies,” a 21-minute play on an awards show (that takes place at a Chili’s) full of jokes that riff on the idiosyncrasies, talents, and racist stereotypes that characterize the people we’ve gotten to know during the first season. The episode is a mess in the best way—Roy leaves Pam stranded at the bar, Michael makes Ryan (and everyone) very uncomfortable, and Pam gets a little too drunk—but it’s perhaps the first in The Office’s run that captures what made it such a wonderful show: the combination of awkward hilarity with a true sense of the deep bonds that exist among this group of coworkers.
Five years ago today, The Office came to an end, closing out its ninth season with a twice-as-long episode that allowed the Dunder Mifflin employees to discuss the documentary that had been filming them for nearly a decade. It was a beautiful episode that marked the end of an era not only for its characters, but also its audience, which had to bid farewell to a show that was equal parts funny and heartwarming.
In the five years since that series finale, The Office’s cultural relevance has only grown, thanks in part to Netflix, SNL parodies, The Ringer’s Shea Serrano, dozens of BuzzFeed posts, and, of course, memes. It’s as fun to watch an episode now as it was when The Office was still airing.
Like all good things, it deserves recognition. So on this momentous anniversary, here are some Dundies honoring a smattering of highlights from the series. Let’s jump right into it. (That’s what she said.)
Most Improved Award: Pam Beesly
In the Season 2 episode “Boys and Girls,” Pam talks to the camera about her dreams before telling herself that they’ll never come true. “Dreams are just that—dreams,” she tearfully remarks. It’s sad watching her throw in the towel and continuously give up one opportunity for growth after another, whether it be a leadership program through corporate or the various chances to make a serious career out of being an artist that she misses. Fast-forward to the end of Season 3, though, when Pam begins standing up for herself unapologetically and bravely. She calls out her coworkers for skipping her art show, her boss for underestimating her, and Jim for not fully coming back to her. (She’s also the only one who does the fire walk in “Beach Games,” which is just impressive.) We were all proud of Pam, but more importantly, she was proud of herself. This was a powerful Pam. A post-Beyoncé Pam, one capable of burning Utica to the ground, one whose horn could pierce the sky. Just don’t call her Pammy.
Reverse Bald Award: Michael
Shout-out hair plugs.
Wild Wild Country Award: Creed
I could see Creed in that cult. I could see Creed leading that cult.
Biggest Boss Award: Toby’s Daughter, Sasha
When Michael meets Toby’s daughter, Sasha, in Season 2’s “Take Your Daughter to Work Day,” he’s very awkward and upset that people have brought their kids into the office. In the context of the whole series, Michael’s demeanor is confusing: He’s generally a character who really likes kids. He holds a stranger’s baby at one point; he goes out of his way to act like he’s coparenting Astrid with Jan; he even once suggested that a baby should become president. Michael unabashedly loves kids, but once upon a time, clearly he did not.
What causes this change? Sasha. When they first meet, Sasha wanders into Michael’s office while he is on a business call. They make awkward eye contact for a few moments, and Sasha walks out. She laters walks back in uninvited and touches the toys on his shelf, like any kid would. Michael ends the call early, and there’s a moment when you’re not sure how he’s going to react. Is he going to be annoyed and tell her to stop touching things? You see him hesitate, and it becomes clear he’s not sure how to react himself, before he says, “Hello. Can I help you?” which is a very grown-up-who-doesn’t-know-how-to-talk-to-kids thing to say. Sasha ignores him—an appropriate response—until he tells her she can pick up his toy. He allows her to bring the toy over to his desk, and they begin to play. It’s a moment in which an adult learns how to interact with a child, and seemingly from this day forward, Michael becomes a character who is great with kids.
Sasha arguably makes Michael love kids, which is powerful enough in and of itself. It’s an even more impressive feat when you consider that she was the spawn of Toby—a man Michael often compares to the devil—and that for a moment, she is able to get Michael to be vulnerable in front of her dad.
After this disorientingly civil conversation with Toby, Michael decides he wants to have kids, and so he makes himself a dating profile in order to get one step closer. He gives himself the username “little kid lover”: “That way people will know exactly where my priorities are at.” This is all Sasha’s doing—she is very impressive and also very powerful and also very adorable. She has power over the literal boss, which means she is the boss. If Sasha were president, there would be no taxes, there would be no war.
“Jet-Setter” Award: Michael
Michael is a man whose idea of a perfect island getaway is a trip to Sandals; a man who brags about a trip abroad to Winnipeg, Canada; a man who thinks Sbarro’s sells the best slice of New York pizza. I would continuing making fun of him, but since moving to Los Angeles, the place I’ve visited most is probably Taco Bell, so I really can’t.
Best Laundry Award: Jim
Pam may have the whitest Keds, but Jim deserves this award. Think about it: When Kevin has a cancer scare on Michael’s birthday, Jim and Pam sneak out to buy Kevin some of his favorite things. While at the store, Jim gets himself fabric softener—and Pam reacts with so much admiration, as if Jim were the most adorable and endearing human being to ever live. If being that in awe of someone buying fabric softener isn’t a sign of having it bad, I don’t know what is. And if the winner of the Whitest Keds Dundie being that impressed by your laundry routine isn’t the highest compliment, I don’t know what is.
Relationship Goals Award: Michael and Holly
Jim and Pam are great and all, but Michael and Holly had the best relationship on the show. There are so many moments throughout The Office that serve to highlight how sad and lonely Michael is; he proposes to Carol on their ninth date, he’s consistently desperate for companionship and any form of attention, and in one episode, he visits the grave of a desk-chair model because he thinks he is in love with her. But when Michael meets Holly in the last episode of the fourth season, things change. He finds someone who laughs at his bad Yoda impression; someone for whom he can make a mixtape that works on two levels (“The two levels being, ‘Welcome to Scranton’ and ‘I love you’”); someone who also thinks it’s a good idea to do a Slumdog Millionaire parody at a company picnic. Their relationship is the perfect union of two dorks who fit each other in an authentic, wholesome, and hopeful way. Michael and Holly >>>>> Jim and Pam any day.
Hate to See You Go, Love to Watch You Leave Award: Michael
“Goodbye Michael” is the saddest episode of The Office, or maybe television as a whole. It marks the end of an era the way the series finale does, and it manages to encapsulate a lot of beautiful relationships that developed through the near-seven full seasons that preceded this send-off.
Jenna Fischer recently revealed what she said to Steve Carell in the scene when Michael leaves and their characters’ mics are off: “That was me talking to Steve. I told him all the ways I was going to miss him when he left our show. Those were real tears and a real goodbye.” Cool, because I wasn’t already emotional enough.
Best Take on Jazz: Angela
Award for the Best Holiday Episode: “Diwali”
The Office has numerous episodes dedicated to Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and even Secretary’s Day, but there is objectively one best holiday episode: “Diwali.” I don’t know any other show that’s done a Diwali episode and I also don’t know any other show that would do it this well. Here are some highlights:
- The episode starts with Michael calling Kelly “one of our most ethnic coworkers” before explaining Diwali with the words, “a lot of gods with unpronounceable names, 20 minutes later you find out that it is essentially a Hindu Halloween.”
- Michael holds a conference room meeting so Kelly can explain to everyone what Diwali is. She says, “Um, Diwali is awesome. And there’s food and there’s gonna be dancing and oh, I got the raddest outfit. It has sparkles.” To be fair, this is pretty close to how I’d describe my own Diwali celebrations, though my family’s Diwali doesn’t include dancing the way Kelly’s does, nor are there any proposals involving cheerleaders.
- The music they play at the Diwali party includes songs from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!, two classic Bollywood films from the ’90s that are truly canon. God bless Mindy Kaling, who wrote this episode, for sneaking in these Easter eggs.
- There are jokes about Carol being fair (read: light-skinned) to which Michael comments, “Yes she is very fair. Very fair and very kind.”
- There’s another moment in which Kelly’s sisters make fun of Ryan in Hindi by saying Kelly likes Zach Braff. Kelly comes to Ryan’s rescue and said, “Rupa, Neepa, Tiffany, stop acting like such little losers and just be cool.” The Ryan-Braff comparison is funny enough, but the suggestion that Indian parents could name two daughters something so traditionally Indian (Rupa and Neepa) and two others something so … white (Kelly and Tiffany) is amazing. It’d be like my parents naming me Virali and then my brother Chad.
There are plenty of moments in “Diwali” that are funny for a wider audience, but Kaling’s episode is so chock-full of jokes that seem specifically intended for Indio-diasporic viewers. Indian American culture so rarely extends into the mainstream, but with this brilliant episode, The Office allows it to.
Most Likely to Abuse Snapchat Award: Meredith
Remember what she did for steak coupons?
Missed Opportunity Award: A Tie Between Jim and Pam’s First Date and Michael and Holly’s Wedding
These are things we deserved to see! You can’t spend three seasons leading up to the union between one of the most famous couples in sitcom history and not let us see what that looks like. You also can’t have us go through the will-they-won’t-they that led to losing the most famous branch manager of a midsized Pennsylvania paper company and not see the ceremony that followed that loss. If we’d gotten episodes about these two massive events, it would’ve been a true win-win-win.
Artiest Art Award: Michael
Best Chess Player: Pam
When Jim wants to be with Pam but she is with someone else, he does nothing. He hangs out with Amy Adams in a total of three episodes before breaking up with her on a boat (a very bad place to break up with someone, considering you have to spend the remainder of the boat ride with them). When Pam wants to be with Jim but he is with someone else, she flirts with Benjamin Franklin and then tells Ryan she’s ready to date his business school friends—RIGHT IN FRONT OF JIM. That’s how the game is played.
Good Talk Award: Tie Between Kevin and Michael
David, here it is. My philosophy is basically this. And this is something that I live by. And I always have. And I always will. Don’t ever, for any reason, do anything to anyone, for any reason, ever, no matter what. No matter ... where. Or who, or who you are with, or, or where you are going, or ... or where you’ve been ... ever. For any reason, whatsoever.
Truly, Kevin and Michael are the most eloquent speakers in the office.
Responsible Driver Award: Jim
Jim dutifully teaches Dwight about car safety, performing an excellent demonstration to refute Dwight’s claim that it’s safer to sit behind the driver’s seat rather than in the passenger seat:
Smoker? I Barely Know Her Award: Michael
One of the best Michael moments is when he thinks he got a contact high at an Alicia Keys concert and then goes to great lengths to (a) let people know he’s cool with drugs, (b) let people know he didn’t do drugs, and (c) let people know he hates drugs. Favorite line: “Give me some munchies.”
Best Dundie: The Flat-Screen-Smashing Dundie
The Dundie for the Best Dundie belongs to the Dundie Jan throws at Michael’s flat-screen TV in “Dinner Party.” RIP.
Secret Softie Award: Dwight Schrute
Emotional tension was at a peak in Season 3, and it made for really fun TV. By that point, the characters had developed enough to where you really knew them and understood their motivations and empathized with their struggles. You knew that Pam’s the one who said no to Jim, but you also could see how hard it must have been for her to end a long relationship, even if that relationship was with this. You knew Jim had been trying to move on, and you faulted him for not being more considerate of Karen, but you also felt bad for him and wondered how hard it must have been to love someone so much, for so long, and be unable to be with them. These sort of nuances ran through all of Season 3. Recall the moment in the episode “Back From Vacation” when Pam talks sense into Jim when he’s reluctant about Karen moving two blocks away from him. She’s gentle in letting him know he’s being a bit silly. He listens to her and makes amends with Karen, who then thanks Pam. But the next shot we get is of Pam crying on some bench in the middle of her work day. It is Dwight who then comes in for a rare, albeit brief, moment of empathy. Sure, he misattributes her tears to PMS, but he’s also there for her in a way that is ferocious and heartwarming. Dwight spends a lot of the show discussing bears and hiding weapons under his desk (and occasionally using them), and he’s often unnecessarily aggressive. But he’s also secretly a very nice and loyal guy.
Biggest Banger Award: “That One Night”
Hunter took me by the hand and made me a man. So raw, so right, all night, alright, oh yeah.