It’s no secret that Christmas movies are overrated. They’re always silly, melodramatic or as sickeningly sweet as gingerbread house icing. But there’s one piece of media that balances all these elements out masterfully. And it’s not a movie — it’s the blessed, brilliant season six, episode 13 of “The Office” (2005-2013) titled “Secret Santa.”
We begin with poor Andy and his constant miscommunications with Erin. The 12 Days of Christmas sure sounded like a great idea for a Secret Santa gift for his crush, until all those birds cut open her sweet, adorkable face. Meanwhile, Oscar meets the one gay guy who works in the warehouse — and as we all know, nothing brings out a budding romance like homemade pâté. Anyway, as expected, Andy is found out and has to regain Erin’s favor in the span of a Christmas party. Can he do it? I dunno, will that poor, unloved “Home Alone” kid violently injure the bandits in the name of Christmas cheer? Either way, it’s funny and almost believable this time.
Nothing puts you in a feel-good mood like a redemption arc. As in a lot of episodes of “The Office,” Michael experiences a rise, a fall and a rise again. When Phyllis finally gets permission from new co-manager Jim to be this year’s Santa, Michael predictably loses it. Early attempts to be the superior Santa fall flat and insincere — he shakes off Kevin from his lap for being too heavy and then tries to pin other employees on his lap, a classic “don’t” of office Christmas parties.
Another “don’t?” Sacrilege. Dressing up as Jesus doesn’t win many favors when you damn your coworkers to hell during the gift unwrapping. But by impersonating your boss’ daughter and finding out corporate secrets, you can become the office hero in no time. If you’re Michael, you crowd dive into your 15 employees. If you’re George from “It’s A Wonderful Life” (1946), you save your brother from drowning, save a child from poisoning, save your dead father’s business and still whine for a whole movie until an angel comes down to congratulate you. Congratulate yourself! Follow self-improvement. Choose your own destiny.
Finally and most importantly, this episode is actually funny. What could ever top Dwight singing Green Day karaoke, or Christ’s ability to fly and heal leopards? Definitely not a gun-loving 9-year-old à la “A Christmas Story” (1983), or that cool line from “Die Hard” (1988). (You know the one, because there’s only one amusing line in the whole movie.) This episode combines everything great and hilarious about “The Office” — like “Elf” (2003), minus the stupidity. We don’t want to spoil the episode, but ask yourself this: Is your favorite Christmas movie actually better than the best episodes of “The Office?” If not, hop on Netflix this holiday season, click on your favorite seasonal episode and finally free yourself from the clutches of Christmas movies.