this is the most pressing issue in my life right now
December 29, 2010 11:23 AM   Subscribe

In the last episode of The Office (Classy Christmas, Part 2), did Jim love or hate Pam's gift?

Here's the clip.

In the bit after she gives him her gift, he's speechless. I assumed this was because he was so overcome by the awesomeness of her gift. And then the next day, my friend said "So... did he actually like the gift?" and I was all "What? You're crazy! Of course!" but then I brought up my friend's craziness with my boyfriend and he was all "YOU are the crazy one! Jim obviously hated her stupid gift!" and now I've rewatched the clip more times than was necessary and I just feel lost and confused.

So... overcome with awe or overcome with disappointment???
posted by logic vs love to Media & Arts (34 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
He liked it. He was so overwhelmed by it that he got choked up trying to talk about it.
posted by theredpen at 11:27 AM on December 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Overcome with awe, definitely.
posted by a.steele at 11:27 AM on December 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

He was touched, impressed, awed, and so forth. Plus the whole set-up throughout the episode was Pam worrying about the gift not being good enough, and everyone else in the office being a jerk about it, so of course the heart-warming resolution had to be that he loved it.
posted by tetralix at 11:27 AM on December 29, 2010

Yes, I thought he liked it.
posted by tommccabe at 11:29 AM on December 29, 2010

He loved it.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:29 AM on December 29, 2010

He loved it and was deeply touched by it, and the whole point was that nobody else liked it because nobody else is in their marriage, it was a unique thing only for the two of them.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:29 AM on December 29, 2010 [9 favorites]

He was really touched by it. I think the ambiguity is supposed to be with whether Pam liked her simple store-bought bracelet or not.
posted by Think_Long at 11:29 AM on December 29, 2010

He adored it.

(Yeah, was there a story behind the bracelet? I felt like I should have known that it was a reference or something....)
posted by tristeza at 11:31 AM on December 29, 2010

Loved it.
Part of the episode was setting up the fact that Jim always goes all-out on Pam's gift, super creative, etc., while Pam can't ever thing of something like that. This year, the roles were reversed.
posted by inigo2 at 11:31 AM on December 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

He loved it.
posted by elpea at 11:36 AM on December 29, 2010

He loved it.
posted by TooFewShoes at 11:41 AM on December 29, 2010

He definitely loved it. He teared up when he tried to talk about it. As did I.
posted by essexjan at 11:45 AM on December 29, 2010

There's no doubt about it: Jim loved it.

tristeza: Yeah, was there a story behind the bracelet?

Not directly, I don't think. But, it's kind of an oblique reference to the fact that Jim's been doing very well financially this year (they had an episode where he hit his commission cap). From Pam's comment about the pebble from the beach and I think earlier in the episode she talks about how he makes the best gifts, it seems like they've traditionally had kind of a low budget for gift giving that's more than made up for by thoughtfulness.
posted by mhum at 12:09 PM on December 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: My heart is warmed by the unanimity of these responses. Obviously, I need to reconsider my relationships.
posted by logic vs love at 12:14 PM on December 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

I had no doubt that he loved it.
posted by Ardiril at 1:00 PM on December 29, 2010

I think the ambiguity is supposed to be with whether Pam liked her simple store-bought bracelet or not.

I thought Pam loved her bracelet, too. She seemed moved as well. No?
posted by amtho at 1:09 PM on December 29, 2010

I thought Pam loved her bracelet, too. She seemed moved as well. No?

I was confused by this, as she seemed almost more moved than I would expect from a store bought bracelet. Is there some reason she got so emotional about it?
posted by andoatnp at 1:20 PM on December 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

They both definitely loved their presents. It was a really touching scene. I don't know how someone could get "too" emotional about a store-bought present. I think she was emotional because it was a really nice present, she wasn't expecting anything that extravagant, and she was touched that he got it for her. So, successful present giving all around.
posted by Kimberly at 1:32 PM on December 29, 2010

Is there some reason she got so emotional about it?

I presume because it was beautiful, expensive, and suited her tastes.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:59 PM on December 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

I definitely felt that he loved the gift. Loved it to the point of being emotionally overcome and therefore speechless. Also as I recall, there was a running plot in that episode where Jim was being bullied to the point of terror by Dwight and the snowballs. So that probably increased his joy and pleasure at being portrayed as a hero in his own comic book.

I also saw that Pam loved her gift, the bracelet. The brief ambiguity when she opened the present came from the fact that it momentarily increased her anxiety over the worthiness of her present. But she did love it as far as I saw.
posted by katyggls at 2:06 PM on December 29, 2010

Okay, I'm the friend who first asked logic vs love about this.

When I first asked her about this, I was pretty much on the fence about how to correctly analyze the scene, and I accepted her answer as pretty reasonable. However, after noticing that no one here agrees with my original interpretation, I feel my heels digging in and a need to support the alternate reading.

Jim's whole schtick is always having some kind of witty rejoinder to everything absurd that happens in the show, even if that witty rejoinder is simply giving a wry glance to the camera. Here, he looks at the camera, tries to respond, and comes up empty-handed.

This, I think, is the main issue for me. Jim does always have a witty response. If he had truly, definitely loved the gift, then it seems like it would have been natural for him to have easily been able to comment to the camera about it. So, that implies to me that the witty responses that have come to his mind are all about how, well, he doesn't exactly like the gift, and he certainly cares more about Pam than to badmouth her clearly thought-out gift to the camera. So, being unable to think of one of his normal, witty comments for the camera, he instead stays silent.

See, for me, it's part of the Jim-and-Pam relationship that Pam isn't really as good at the silly/quirky stuff as Jim. Jim's generally slick -- no one can prank Dwight like Jim, no one comes up with the most thoughtful gifts like Jim. It's like his superpower (although one, we know, that has its limits). Pam isn't like this. She's a little bit dorky, when it comes to the silly/quirky stuff... And that's part of why Jim loves her. He loves that dorkiness to her. So, I originally read the scene like this: she tries really hard to do something Totally Awesome, but, given her well-established dorky side, sort of falters. The gift, itself, kind of sucks. Jim recognizes that it kind of sucks, but he's still so touched and appreciative about the aspects of Pam that led to it existing at all even if it does suck (namely, that lovable dorkiness, the effort, the careful planning, etc).

I guess I can understand the reading that everyone ELSE thought the gift sucked, because no one else is in the marriage except Jim and Pam, so of course Pam was able to make something so especially attuned to Jim that no one else would get it... All the same, I just can't really buy it. They really pushed on us that it was a dorky, not-greatly-executed idea, so I just see Jim's reaction as, "That was a great idea, yeah, but it was dorky and not-greatly-executed... But, man, I love so much that Pam's the type of person who'd make such a gift, albeit in a dorky and not-greatly-executed way."

Beanplates? Why, yes, I do have some beanplates, and I'd be happy to hand them over, if you think I've overthought them too much..
posted by meese at 2:26 PM on December 29, 2010

Well, *I* feel like an awful human being, because I didn't think he liked it.

(I am a casual watcher of the show, and I didn't see the rest of this episode - I'm just going on the clip.)
posted by mrs. taters at 2:31 PM on December 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

I thought he loved it. But, I also believe Thelma and Louise made it over the canyon, so I'm not sure my opinion is worth a hill of beans.
posted by fyrebelley at 3:01 PM on December 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

See, for me, it's part of the Jim-and-Pam relationship that Pam isn't really as good at the silly/quirky stuff as Jim. Jim's generally slick -- no one can prank Dwight like Jim, no one comes up with the most thoughtful gifts like Jim. It's like his superpower (although one, we know, that has its limits).

But that's the thing about that episode -- it was a Bizarro Jim episode. Dwight beat him at pranks and Pam beat him at amazing, personal gifts. It doesn't work if he ends up giving the better gift.
posted by Rock Steady at 3:04 PM on December 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

I can see where people would get the "he's humoring her" idea, but I just don't see it in this case. Jim gives great gifts because he's a sentimental guy- he keeps pebbles and candy wrappers. So when Pam uses her talent to do the same thing in comic-book form (his bike! his messenger bag! etc!), he is moved because it sort of proves to him that she really did like all his sappy, sentimental gifts. She gave him something that only she could give him- thoughtfulness and creativity (when she probably didn't have nearly as much time to devote to it with the baby around).

As for the other characters not liking it, that's part of the setup- those characters are weirdos and don't "get" the Jim and Pam dynamic.
posted by gjc at 3:50 PM on December 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

He's totally blown away. Who wouldn't be by a gift like that?
posted by wherever, whatever at 5:10 PM on December 29, 2010

There's no doubt about it: Jim loved it.

This is a fascinating question and the responses are, to me, equally fascinating. Before going into why I think this, let me state up front that my knee-jerk response is the same as the response I quoted, full stop. In a lot of ways, it's my response even after I'm done jerking my knee. So I heartily side with most other people in this thread.

But if I take the question really seriously, really literally and think about it, I can't say "there's no doubt about it." The IS doubt and there has to be. I contend that's not my opinion -- that it's simply fact. I also contend that, if this was a court of law, I'd find Jim not guilty of hating Pam's gift. I have reasonable doubt that he hated it. But reasonable doubt doesn't mean no doubt.

If there was a way of being 100% sure of whether he liked the gift or not, and if the answer was in an envelope, I would happily and confidently bet all the money I have, double or nothing, that the envelope will say he loved the gift.

But not having a reasonable doubt does not mean you have no doubt at all. For instance, I would also bet all my money that my wife will still be a blonde tomorrow. But I have to admit, there's a tiny chance she'll suddenly, out of no where, decide to die her hair purple -- and that she'll make that decision tomorrow. That doesn't violate any laws of physics.

We get into an interesting quibble here about the word true. If something is SO likely that you'd stake your life on it (all your money, your mother's life, etc.)... if something is SO likely that you don't even waste any time considering the alternative (or even think to consider the alternative), do you call that thing "true"? Is it true that there won't be a nuclear war tomorrow? Is it true that the stock market will be open tomorrow? Is it true that you'll still like your favorite song tomorrow? To falsify any of these statements, you don't need to violate any laws of nature. It's remotely remotely possible that you'll have a stroke tomorrow and the effect of it will be to make you hate a song you've always loved. In some ultra-literal sense, it's not true that you won't hate your favorite song tomorrow. It's unknown. But in casual conversation, don't you think of it as true?

How do we know what's going on inside Jim's head. Answer: we don't. We can't, because we can't read minds. In fact, even if he said, "I LOVE this gift," we'd have no way of knowing -- for sure -- that he wasn't lying. We can be really confident that he's not lying, but we can't know 100% for sure without cracking his head open and looking at his thoughts.

What we're doing, when we watch this fictional character, is what we do in real life when we watch each other: making predictions about internal states based on external behavior. It's all we can do. These predictions aren't stupid. We've had many years to practice making them, during which we've gotten all sorts of feedback from what people have reported about themselves ("Are you sad?" "Yes."), from what people have reported about others ("Trust me. I've known him for years. He's sad.") and from fiction. We also can compare our own internal states with how we physicalize them.

So these predictions are really, really good. But they are not infallable. One famous example is Lindy ("a dingo ate my baby") Chamberlain, who people "knew" was guilty because of her reactions (or lack of them), even though she was innocent. And there are famous experiments in which if you make a movie in which a man is looking at something, and then you cut to what he's looking at, say a banquet table, viewers will say he looked hungry, even if the actor wasn't actually looking about food or being told that was what he was supposed to be looking at. And have you ever heard someone say, "When you saw your ex walk into the room with her new boyfriend, I could tell from the look on your face you were jealous," when you knew you weren't?

Using my best predicting skills, I'd say Jim is pleased as punch with the gift. I'd also guess -- and I'm backed up by this thread -- that most people would come to the same conclusion. So, if your question means, "How would most people interpret Jim's behavior?," I think we can definitively say "they'd say he likes the gift." (I also think that "he's pleased" makes sense aesthetically. It's "correct" from a storytelling point-of-view. It's in keeping with a series in which Jim and Pam either end episodes without conflict or, if they do have conflict, it's MAJOR. This would be a relatively minor conflict. However, you don't have to agree with my aesthetic rules or pronouncements.)

But if someone else says, "Well, I disagree. I think he hated it," is that person wrong? By what metric? He may be eccentric, but it doesn't make sense to say he's wrong. (And if he's not wrong, can we definitely say Jim loved the gift?) If Jim was a real person, we could ask him, and assuming we all believe he's truthful, maybe then we could put the question to rest. But we have the added complication that he's a fictional character.

I'm tempted here to say, "Come ON! He loved it. We all know that." Just as people said, "Come ON! We ALL know Lindy Chamberlain is guilt!" I think we kind of have to do this. We couldn't exist if we continually acknowledged to truth -- that we really don't know anything, for sure, about each other. But the fact that we think of predictions as truths doesn't actually make them truths.

Here's an interesting add-on: what if we asked the actor playing Jim whether he was playing "Jim's likes the gift" and he says yes. Does that definitively answer the question? (If, like me, you think he DID like the gift, imagine the actor said "no." What would you think? If the actor said, "Nope. He hated it, and that's what I'm playing," would your response be, "Well, I guess that's that. I SO felt like he loved the gift, but since the actor said that, I guess I was wrong"? Or would it be, "I don't care what he was 'playing.' I still say Jim loved the gift!")

This is where things get somewhat philosophical and hinge on your personal definition of "truth." To me, what the actor is playing (in his own head) has nothing to do with truth for the audience. (And I say that as a theatre director who occasionally acts). Once, on stage, I was supposed to be really angry at someone. But I didn't have any lines in the scene. I had trouble playing "anger," so I stared at an EXIT sign and tried to magically make it explode with my mind. I got a lot of acclaim for that. People swore I was furious. I wasn't. But it doesn't matter. My character was.

If Judy Garland had written down, in a diary, that "twenty years after 'The Wizard of Oz' is over, Dorothy dies in a car crash," does that make it true, just because she played the character.

In "Turn of the Screw," it's really important that the ghosts are ambiguous. Are they real or all in the character's head? When I directed a theatrical adaptation, I wanted to keep that ambiguity alive for the audience. I worked hard not to tip the play in either direction. But for the actors, we HAD to make a decision. THEY all had strong opinions about whether the ghosts existed or not. Were there convictions "the truth." If an audience member cornered them and said, "Just tell me: do the ghosts exist or not?" Would the audience learn any truth from the actors' responses? What if one actor said no and another said yes?

What about the writers? If they assured us that Jim loved the gift, would that answer the question? What if they assured us he didn't.

To me, he loved it. That's MY truth. That's how I WANT to view the story, and viewing it that way causes me no cognitive dissonance. I can't give "Hamlet" a happy ending in my mind, no matter how much I might like to, because that conflicts too much with the evidence of my eyes. But I can easily think of Jim as loving the gift. There's plenty of internal evidence to support what I want to believe -- even if it could also support another belief.

So if the writers told me he hated it, I wouldn't care. MY Jim loved it.

But I've met people who think that a truth of a fiction (ha) is whatever the writers say it is, even if they say it outside of the work, like in an interview. I can't say those people are wrong. They're just really, really different from me.
posted by grumblebee at 5:57 PM on December 29, 2010 [4 favorites]

meese: If he had truly, definitely loved the gift, then it seems like it would have been natural for him to have easily been able to comment to the camera about it.

I'll have to disagree here. Jim's snarkiness and sarcasm comes from a place of emotional remove. By not having a witty comment, I think they're showing him in a place of emotional vulnerability.

Now, granted, when you look at the part where he's speechless in the one-on-one with the camera in isolation, it may be a little ambiguous as to what his emotional state is. However, I think the rest of the episode (and the rest of the series) make it pretty clear that he's not disappointed at all.

They really pushed on us that it was a dorky, not-greatly-executed idea

I disagree with this too. Let's go to the tape. Pam shows the comic book to two people before giving it to Jim.

1) Ryan: "There's no connection between the origin story and the quest. [..] Also, it's a little derivative of a serial called Bear-Man. Did you look that up?". Classic Ryan douchebaggery, Comic Book Guy version.

2) Phyllis: "So you went home-made this year. Money problems, is that what this is about? Dear, I don't think we can help you out." Phyllis completely misses the point and doesn't even open the comic book.

Next, look at Jim's expression when he's pointing out the different things in the book ("That's my bike. That's my desk. And that is my daughter."). He's obviously delighted.

And, furthermore, what little we see of the comic book itself actually looks really nice.
posted by mhum at 6:16 PM on December 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

grumblebee: But if I take the question really seriously, really literally and think about it, I can't say "there's no doubt about it." The IS doubt and there has to be.

Fair enough. Perhaps I should have said something like "I have not very much doubt about it".

Everyone is, of course, entitled to their opinion, especially regarding fictional entities. Some people might think that Jim liked the gift. Some people might think that Jim hated the gift. Some people might think that Jim is an android and incapable of human emotion. Who's to say, really?
posted by mhum at 7:06 PM on December 29, 2010

"That's my bike. That's my desk. And that is my daughter."

Exactly what I came in here to say. "And that is my daughter"--with such love and pride--would not be in there if Jim didn't love the gift. That line seals the intimacy and success of the exchange.

He loved it.
posted by torticat at 7:19 PM on December 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Jim makes snarky comments to the camera when he feels superior to the people he is commenting about. His snarkiness is a way of showing that he thinks they are all idiots.

When people are in loving and honest relationships, they don't need or want to be snarky or clever with each other, or about each other.

He definitely loved it. I sort of feel like alternate perceptions of the scene are based on "parsing data" rather than reading emotions and understanding the subtleties of different kinds of human relationships.
posted by Kololo at 9:04 PM on December 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Jim's always been shown to be a bit too perfect of a guy, so naturally he'd love whatever Pam gave him. I think he liked the gift a little too much and made the whole thing kind of heartwarmingly pat, but what're you gonna do. But I'm not coming from a perspective of, "Well, he didn't say anything, so he liked it." He's been speechless before about things he didn't like.

And when he pointed out things in the comic in front of Pam, there was no hesitance as if to imply he was trying to think of nice things to say at that instant. No "yikes" glances to the camera. The Office does subtlety at times, but not to this extent. So in that sense, I'd say there's no doubt.

Plus, Ryan and Phyllis were shown as being a bit jerky to Pam about the comic, and there's no way such jerkiness would have been validated by the Office writers. Not at Pam's expense. In a Christmas episode.

(But I thought it was quite cool that the writers managed to not have Jim get the last laugh with regards to Dwight, for once.)
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 12:25 AM on December 30, 2010

If you've ever had an idea that you knew was awesome, but that other people were just unable to appreciate because of their own hangups, misinformation, or lack of creativity, you know that Pam's not really dorky -- she's just very cool in a way that her co-workers are mostly unable to appreciate, and uninhibited enough to say things that they often don't understand.

Jim is more inhibited, and so seems cooler in some ways just because he doesn't share the inner workings of his mind with anyone but Pam. If he'd made a comic book, he wouldn't have shown it to anybody but Pam because he's already decided that no one else will get it.

Maybe being open and non-judgmental enough to share something she thinks is awesome with her coworkers makes Pam a little more "dorky" -- it probably both causes and is caused by her being more insecure -- but it also makes her a warmer, more generous person, and I think Jim loves that about her. I don't think he considers her dorky except as a completely positive quality.
posted by amtho at 9:00 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Late to the game, but just want to add that there are other examples of witty Jim being speechless when it comes to his love for Pam. "Booze Cruise" and "Casino Night" show this too.
posted by Ellemeno at 2:11 PM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

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