The Office: Yankee Swap

In The Office Season 2 episode, Christmas Party, the office originally plays Secret Santa, but when Michael is unhappy with the gift Phyllis gives him (a homemade oven mitt), he changes the game to Yankee Swap.

Jim: What is Yankee Swap.
Michael: One person chooses a gift. The next person can either choose a gift or steal that person’s gift. If your gift gets stolen, then you can steal someone else’s gift or choose a new gift.
Jim: I thought that was called Nasty Christmas.
Pam: Yeah, we call it White Elephant.

Here’s the sequence of events.

Before Secret Santa begins, we learn:

  • Jim got Pam a teapot
  • Toby got Angela a jazz babies poster
  • Oscar got Creed a shamrock keychain
  • Kevin got himself
  • Michael got Ryan and spent way over the $20 limit

During Secret Santa, these gifts are presented:

  • First present, Oscar gets a shower radio from Kelly
  • Jim gets an old shirt from Creed
  • Pam gets a teapot from Jim
  • Ryan gets a video iPod from Michael
  • Michael gets a homemade oven mitt from Phyllis

Michael changes the game to Yankee Swap, which leads to:

  • Meredith steals the teapot from Pam.
  • Pam steals the iPod from Ryan.
  • Ryan picks a new gift: a nameplate for Kelly (which Stanley originally got for Kelly)
  • Kelly picks a new gift: jazz babies poster
  • Angela steals the jazz babies poster from Kelly
  • Kelly steals the iPod from Oscar
  • Phyllis steals the shot glasses from Oscar
  • Oscar stealst he teapot from Meredith
  • Meredith wants the iPod but it’s already been stolen this round, so she takes the oven mitt from Michael
  • Michael picks a new gift: paintball pellets and lessons
  • Kevin steals the foot bath from Pam
  • Pam steals the iPod from Kelly
  • Kelly steals the book of short stories from Dwight
  • Dwight steals the teapot from Oscar

After Yankee Swap ends,

  • Jim ends up with the shamrock keychain, and tries to trade it for the teapot from Dwight
  • Pam trades the iPod for Dwight’s teapot

In the deleted scenes, we learn:

  • Pam originally had Meredith and gave her one of her drawings
  • Ryan originally had Toby, gave him the book of short stories
  • Ryan ends up with Creed’s shirt
  • Creed ends up with Oscar’s shower radio

Yankee Swap trivia

In an awesome Q&A with Mike Schur I did in in 2007, he talked about the challenge of writing Christmas Party:

tanster: Which of your scripts was the most challenging to work on and why?

Michael: On my own, I’d say the “Christmas Party” from Season Two. The mechanics of that gift exchange was like calculus. And I got really scared when I realized that a huge part of the episode was just people sitting in a circle. Fortunately Charles McDougall directed the heck out of it, and the actors were at the top of their game.

tanster: The gift exchange was like calculus? Yeah, I guess I can totally see that! That must have been crazy, trying to figure out all the permutations.

Michael: All we really knew at the outline stage, as I remember it, was Jim’s gift for Pam, and Michael’s gift for Ryan. So I wrote all the other characters’ names on slips of paper, and actually did a mock-selection, to get a truly random Secret Santa list, and then just tried to figure out what everyone would get their intended giftee. The only thing I changed was making Kevin get Kevin, because I thought that would be funny.

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