Justin Spitzer answers ‘Moroccan Christmas’ questions

This season’s holiday episode, Moroccan Christmas, generated strong reaction from fans, and is now addressed by a thoughtful and often hilarious Q&A from its writer, Justin Spitzer. (Wait until you read what could have taken the place of Princess Unicorn!)

A big thank you to Justin for taking the time to answer questions during what must be a super busy week!

Q: I noticed that there was a sequence of shots of the characters enjoying the party, when there haven’t been a lot of these kind of “slice-of-office-life,” dialogue-less sequences in a while. It was really nice to see– did you decide to do this as a specific throwback to earlier episodes, or just for the sake of humor? Also, there was relatively little Pam in this episode. Was there a reason for that? | Michelle in NY

Justin: Those short party shots are really useful to have in editing. Since we’re not a show that does montages, they’re one of the closest things we have to give the sense of time passing. It gives you a general feel of the party without tying you down to a specific sequence of events.

So I’d say it’s not so much that we did it as a throwback to past episodes as that this episode and past episodes did it for the same reason. As well as for the sake of humor — nothing wrong with throwing some extra jokes into the mix when we can.

As to Pam. There was originally an entire Jim/Pam plot for the episode, but there was just too much other stuff going on, so we pulled it and tried to pepper them in as much as possible through the rest of the episode.

It’s just as well — who really wants to watch Jim and Pam elope right there in the office during a Christmas episode!

Q: It was interesting that this Christmas episode had almost nothing to do with Christmas itself. Was that intentional? | Toby started the Fire
Q. How did you all come to decide to make this Christmas episode a bit dark, instead of festive? I imagine it took a bit of creative courage to do that, since in a way it kind of goes against what the audience expects. Can you speak a little about the reasons for the rather dark-ish content choice for this episode? | Sarah

Justin: The amount of creative courage it took to write this episode was not only impressive, it was frankly downright magnificent!

But yes, we did make very deliberate decisions in terms of tone and content. This was a somewhat darker episode for us, or at least an episode dealing with potentially more serious subject matter. We thought the contrast with the jolly expectations of Christmas would make it all the more unsettling. (And whether you find unsettling to be funny or just plain… unsettling… is up to you.)

I always figured this was an episode people would either love or hate, and that’s an exciting show to produce.

Q: Since last year’s Christmas episode got cut because of the strike, did you recycle any of those ideas for this year’s episode? If so, what parts? | Elena

Justin: Unfortunately, because of the different character arcs in place this year, we weren’t able to use any of the ideas from last year’s unproduced Christmas episode (outside of a cold open that also involved Jim wrapping Dwight’s desk, but done in a different way). I can’t give any of the stuff from that script away, although some of the plots are really good — I hope we’ll get a chance to use elements from it in future episodes.

But I do think it’s safe to say that originally, Phyllis caught Dwight and Angela having sex in the office during that episode. When the strike hit, we reconfigured the season so that it happened in Goodbye, Toby.

Q: This episode seemed kind of different from the regular episodes. The normal stupidity of Michael’s character seemed to be missing. His character in this particular episode was portrayed as a slightly violent and at times “normal”. Also the awkwardness of other characters at the end of this epi made me sad when they see an ignorant Andy. Is this shift in all the characters’ behavior deliberate? | Dee

Justin: I think it wasn’t that Michael’s character changed as much as it was that his motivation was very simple, identifiable, and as you say, “normal” — to help an employee who he perceived to have a problem. The way he did it was over-the-top, badly timed, and generally idiotic, but it’s not unheard of for coworkers to have an intervention for someone.

As for the other characters’ awkwardness around Andy, I don’t know who would jump up and tell him what they’d just learned. I know I wouldn’t.