the office sex ed1 'The Office': To all the girls Michael's loved beforeYou hear an “Office” logline like “Michael thinks he has an STD and contacts all his ex-lovers” and you think squirmy, awkward, hilarious vintage “Office.”

Well, Thursday’s (Oct. 14) episode was vintage “Office,” but in a way that was kind of unexpected. “Sex Ed” — the A-story involving Michael and his exes, anyway — turned into a bittersweet tour through Michael’s past and issues and a surprisingly adult moment for our permanently arrested branch manager.

The bit with Andy turning back into a college RA and trying to teach the branch about STDs? Wrong on several levels, from learning how Meredith can recognize a cold sore to Andy explaining why he needed a pencil to demonstrate putting on a condom. So we’ll agree to ignore that if you will, and get on to Michael’s journey.

It starts on the phone with Donna (Amy Pietz), and it goes about as well as you’d expect after Dwight badgers Michael into tracking down (and possibly getting revenge on) whoever gave him the cold sore (which, for the record, doesn’t have to be transmitted sexually). But then he calls Holly, and even though Amy Ryan doesn’t appear on camera in the episode, the chemistry she and Steve Carell (and Holly and Michael) have is immediately evident. So it crushes Michael to hear Holly tell him he tends to over-romanticize things (true) and what they had was just a fling (not buying it).

So Michael’s herpes (spelled H-I-R-P-E-E-S) tour instead turns into Michael’s relationship post-mortem tour, featuring Jan (still toxic, still hilarious), Pam’s mom Helene (appropriately short and harsh; Michael really has glossed that one over) and Carol. The final visit is somewhere in between the first two, but it seems to turn a light on for Michael. Enough of one, anyway, that he’s able to call Holly again and leave a message telling her how he actually feels, and pretty rationally at that.

It’s a good, graceful moment for Michael, and makes us that much more eager to see Amy Ryan’s on-camera return later this season.

Some other bits and pieces from “Sex Ed”:

– While there wasn’t much to love about the B-story tonight, Stanley, Phyllis and the others rolling their eyes at Andy’s latest “Can I have everyone’s attention” was pretty great.
– “This is Holly.” “No, this is Holly.” “No, this is Holly.” “No, this is Holly.” “No, this is Michael Scott.” “Busted.”
– It’s good to see Jan has her life back on track, and also good to see that despite that, she’s still kind of a nutcase: “How do I do it? How do I raise my daughter, work as director of office purchases for this hospital and release an album of Doris Day covers on my own label? If I knew, I’d tell you.” As always, Melora Hardin played Jan just on the edge of crazy, and it worked beautifully.
– Darryl: “I don’t know what got you upset, but my advice to you is to stop crying.” Andy: “I’m not crying — I’m sweating.”
– OK, so that might not have been the greatest thing Darryl could have told Andy, but the rest of it, the manning up and “it’s all about heart and character” stuff? We’re totally stealing that as the go-to pep talk.”
– And we’ll never get tired of the visual of Michael and his Fu Manchu ‘stache.

What did you think of “Sex Ed”? It’s a pretty good moment for Michael, isn’t it?

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Photo credit: NBC

Posted by:Rick Porter