‘Christmas Wishes’ is perhaps the strangest holiday episode of ‘The Office’ ever. Written by Mindy Kaling and directed by Ed Helms, the story features (obviously) Christmas wishes, drunkenness, a strange musical montage and more-than-ever awkward moments.

Let’s start with Jim and Dwight. Their new deskmate (more on that in a minute) gets sick of their constant pranks, so Andy tells them to knock it off, or the offending prankster will get the other’s bonus. This leads to many a trap, including Dwight leaving his wallet and keys out, and Jim loudly announcing his credit card number. Neither takes the bait, but Dwight continues to try to make himself look bad (thanks, porcupine) while Jim is the only one privy to Andy’s decision to call the whole thing off.

Now, on to Cathy, Pam’s replacement. Does anyone else find it odd that the writers haven’t given her a line of dialogue since Pam left? Speaking of Pam, why was her departure so abrupt, and why have the writers barely addressed their new baby? The birth was only mentioned in passing in the last episode, and little reference has been made to Pam since. Perhaps Jenna Fischer’s pregnancy caused an abrupt maternity leave?

Anyway, the episode really concerns Andy and Erin. Andy brings his new girlfriend, Jessica, to the Christmas party. As much as Erin would not like to admit it, the situation bothers her. She wavers between being overly nice (giving Jessica a hug upon meeting) to making rather bold statements (“I wish she were buried under the ground!”).

This change in attitude is thanks to the newly-single Robert California, who plays bartender and encourages Erin to do shots. The night ends in embarrassment as Andy yells at Erin for the graveyard dig (hehe, get it?) and Robert ends up driving the intoxicated woman home. (Nothing happens between them, much to Andy’s relief.)

Darryl, meanwhile, invites Val to the party and encourages to “dress up.” She arrives in an evening formal, while Darryl was expecting something more along the lines of a sweater. He makes up for it in the end, though, by changing into a tuxedo. Aww.

What do you think? Is the season picking up, or is the show continuing in a downward spiral?