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Back from Vacation

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"Back from Vacation"
The Office episode
Episode no. Season 3
Episode 12
Directed by Julian Farino
Written by Justin Spitzer
Production code 311[1]
Original air date January 4, 2007
Running time 21:10[2]
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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The Office (U.S. season 3)
List of The Office (U.S. TV series) episodes

"Back from Vacation" is the 12th episode of the third season of the American comedy television series The Office, and the show's 40th episode overall. It first aired on January 4, 2007, on NBC, and was the first episode to air after the December holiday hiatus. "Back from Vacation" was the first script written by Justin Spitzer for the series. Julian Farino served as the episode director.

The series depicts the everyday lives of office employees in the Scranton, Pennsylvania, branch of the fictional Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. In this episode, Michael Scott (Steve Carell) returns from his vacation in Jamaica and has a luau in the warehouse to celebrate. It is revealed that he went to Jamaica with Jan Levinson (Melora Hardin) when a racy photograph of him and Jan is circulated. Meanwhile, Karen Filippelli (Rashida Jones) and Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) have an argument over Karen's living situation, leading to Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer) offering him advice.

According to Nielsen Media Research, the episode was watched by an estimated 8.80 million viewers. Among the 18–49 demographic, it earned a 4.3/11 ratings share and helped NBC finish in first place for the night. "Back from Vacation" received generally positive reviews from critics, with Carell's performance receiving positive attention in particular .


Michael Scott (Steve Carell) returns from his Jamaican vacation rejuvenated, and directs the Party Planning Committee to throw a luau-themed party in the warehouse to accompany the annual inventory. When Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer) notices Jan Levinson (Melora Hardin) in the margins of a photo from Michael's vacation, he admits to the documentary crew that he and Jan went to Jamaica together.

Michael attempts to send another vacation photograph to Todd Packer (David Koechner) as proof of the trip, but mistakenly chooses "Packaging" instead of "Packer" from the address menu, sending the photograph to the entire shipping warehouse, including Darryl Philbin (Craig Robinson), the warehouse supervisor. The photo is quickly forwarded throughout the office and beyond. Michael enlists Dwight Schrute's (Rainn Wilson) assistance in preventing its spread, but these efforts are largely ineffective.

Karen Filippelli (Rashida Jones) has been upset with Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) because he expressed objections to the prospect of Karen moving into an apartment two blocks from his own. Pam convinces Jim that he is being unreasonable, and Jim accepts her advice and apologizes to Karen. Pam tells the documentary crew that she was glad to help Jim, but Dwight walks in on her crying in private. He awkwardly attempts to console her, although he misunderstands: "So, you're PMSing pretty bad, huh?"

During the luau/inventory, Jan arrives at the office to speak with Michael in private. Michael is terrified that Jan is there to confront him over the widely spread photo, but she appears to be unaware of it, instead confessing her attraction to him against all reason.


"Back from Vacation" was written by Justin Spitzer,[3] a staff writer who joined The Office in its third season.[4] The episode was his first script for the series.[5] Spitzer found Jan's final scene with Michael – in which he expects she will yell at him for their circulated picture but instead informs him they are staying together – especially tricky to write. Spitzer was unsure how to craft the scene, and eventually requested advice from the other series' writers. They decided that Jan would give a "psychobabble" response to Michael. Sitting on a panel of television writers at Northwestern University, Spitzer briefly described her reasoning, "Jan’s nuts. She has some bad psychiatrist giving her bad advice."[6] He praised the benefits of a "good writers room," in which "scenes go to this place you never could have gone to alone."[6]

"Back from Vacation" was directed by Julian Farino,[3] who later was responsible for directing "The Deposition", a fourth season episode that featured some of the ramifications of Michael's circulated picture.[7] Recurring actors Creed Bratton, Ed Helms, Rashida Jones, Craig Robinson, and David Koechner appeared as guest stars in "Back from Vacation".[3][8]

The season three DVD contains a number of deleted scenes, such as Michael arriving from Jamaica at the airport, wearing warm-weather clothes, Dwight, Meredith, Angela and Kevin separately reacting to the news that Michael took Jan to Jamaica, and Jan maintaining the ruse that she was in Scottsdale while talking to a coworker at Corporate, who is viewing the photo on his computer. Additional scenes include Dwight complaining about Jim's pranks while Michael was on vacation, Roy helping Ryan with inventory, Andy challenging Dwight to a box-stacking race, and Meredith climbing on a shelf, which falls and traps her.[9]


Steve Carell's performance in the episode was a particular source of praise.

"Back from Vacation" first aired on January 4, 2007 in the United States on NBC. It was the first episode of the season to air after the end of the December holiday break.[10][11] According to Nielsen Media Research, an estimated 8.80 million viewers watched the episode. It earned a 4.3/11 ratings share among adults aged 18 to 49, meaning that it was seen by 4.3 percent of all 18- to 49-year-olds, and 11 percent of all 18- to 49-year-olds watching television at the time of broadcast. The Office and its lead-in show, My Name Is Earl, helped NBC finish in first place for the night in that demographic.[12]

The episode attracted generally positive reviews from critics. Brian Zoromski of IGN rated "Back from Vacation" 9.7/10, an indication of an "amazing" episode. Stated highlights included the opening sequence, Carell's performance, and Pam's storyline with Jim and Karen. Zoromski concluded in his review that "with so much attention to detail, realistic character reactions, and very few completely over-the-top comedy moments, 'Back from Vacation' is one of the best Office episodes yet this season. We're very glad they're back."[10] AOL TV's Michael Sciannamea expressed surprise that Jan accompanied Michael on his vacation and immediately wanted to discover more about their relationship. He was also intrigued with Dwight's attempt to cheer up Pam, until the PMS joke when he thought it "would have been very interesting if Dwight had been a real comfort to her and offered his friendship."[11] Sciannamea concluded that "this was just a terrific episode. Well written, well acted, and had you begging for more at the end. What more can you ask for?"[11]

Writing for Entertainment Weekly, Abby West focused on Carell's acting, explaining that "the way that Michael's desire to boast and his healthy fear of offending Jan played out on Steve Carell's face was fantastic. From his braggadocio on the phone with Todd Packer (Packer!) to his death march up the stairs to face Jan, it was a thing of beauty."[13] BuddyTV's Oscar Dahl believed that "Back from Vacation" was "one of the two or three best of the season", opining that "simplicity" was the key to the series' success. Dahl continued, "Each episode's premise can be entirely mundane and inconsequential. It will still mine laughs from the situation at hand. We also had some nice development in the Jim-Pam-Karen triangle, with Pam giving Jim relationship advice, then bawling her eyes out afterwards. Maybe the best scene in the episode saw Dwight comfort her."[14] Television Without Pity graded the episode with an A.[15]


  1. ^ "Back from Vacation The Office: Season 3, Episode 311". IGN. Retrieved August 31, 2012. 
  2. ^ "The Office, Season 3". iTunes Store. Retrieved August 31, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c Julian Farino (director), Justin Spitzer (writer) (January 4, 2007). "Back from Vacation". The Office. Season 3. Episode 12. NBC. 
  4. ^ Eames, Tom (August 23, 2012). "'The Office' producer Justin Spitzer sells new comedy to NBC". Digital Spy. Retrieved September 3, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Inventory Luau: The Office is Back From Vacation". January 5, 2007. Retrieved September 3, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Ryan, Maureen (May 7, 2007). "TV writers share war stories at NU panel". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 3, 2012. 
  7. ^ Julian Farino (director), Lester Lewis (writer) (November 15, 2007). "The Deposition". The Office. Season 4. Episode 12. NBC. 
  8. ^ "The Office 'Back from Vacation'" (Press release). The Futon Critic. Retrieved September 3, 2012. 
  9. ^ Deleted scenes of "Back from Vacation" (DVD). The Office: Season Three Disc 2: Universal Studios Home Entertainment. 2007. 
  10. ^ a b Zoromski, Brian (January 5, 2007). "The Office: 'Back from Vacation' Review". IGN. Retrieved August 30, 2012. 
  11. ^ a b c Sciannamea, Michael (January 4, 2007). "The Office: Back From Vacation". AOL TV. Retrieved August 30, 2012. 
  12. ^ Kissell, Rick (January 10, 2007). "Football's winning week". Daily Variety. Retrieved August 30, 2012 – via HighBeam Research.  (subscription required)
  13. ^ West, Abby (January 5, 2007). "Jamaican a Big Mistake". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved August 30, 2012. 
  14. ^ Dahl, Oscar (January 5, 2007). "The Office: Back From Vacation". BuddyTV. Retrieved August 30, 2012. 
  15. ^ Giant, M. "Back From Vacation". Television Without Pity. Archived from the original on February 4, 2013. Retrieved August 30, 2012. 

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