It's not that I'm not a fan of "The Office," but it's not a show I write about regularly or even semi-regularly. That's Sepinwall's terrain. After all, he doesn't go and write about... I dunno... "The Vampire Diaries." That's all me, baby.
But Alan's off the grid and Thursday (April 28) night happened to be a pretty momentous evening for "The Office," what with the departure of Steve Carell's Michael Scott, an event that was four or five episodes (or 150) in the making.
So I'll do the best I can to set thing up, because I'm betting people have opinions on the 52-minute emotional extravaganza. Sepinwall'll surely write something when he's back.
A review of tonight's "The Office" coming up just as soon as I figure out the name of the town I'm moving to in Colorado... [That was fun!]
"They say on your deathbed, you never wish you spent more time at the office. But I will."
Those weren't quite Michael Scott's last words on "The Office," but part of me wishes they had been his very final sentiment.
A lot of the people who worked at Dunder Mifflin have had interesting lives outside of the office, whether they've fallen in love, operated a beet farm or done the myriad things done by Creed Bratton. But for Michael Scott, the office was everything. His romantic pursuits fizzled. His movie took a long time to complete. And if he had friends without any connection to the paper company, we rarely (if ever?) saw them.
"The people that you work with are just, when you get down to it, your very best friends," he said on Thursday's episode.
You can question Michael's aptitude at his job or his success at interacting with his co-workers on the level of their choosing, but you can't ever question his commitment. In Amy Ryan's Holly, though, Michael found somebody and something real, a new best friend. He found something that was even more important to him than the place and the people that previously meant absolutely everything.
Thursday's episode wasn't flawless, but it was an appropriate disentanglement, as Michael put together a list of the people he needed to say good-bye to and he aimed to have moments with everybody, all with a Michael-esque catch: He planned on leaving on day earlier than announced, one day before his actual good-bye party, set up by a super-team of former heads of the party committee.
We could stop to wonder if the Michael Scott we knew would miss the opportunity to have a day dedicated entirely to him, but that might force us to recognize that the Michael Scott who left Dunder Mifflin on Thursday was a changed man. He has, if nothing else, found an outlet for his insecurities, which is a pretty romantic notion.
"I can't do this. All the channels are gonna be different there," Michael said, in a classic Michael Scott freak-out. "I'm not gonna be able to find my shows. And I'm not going to start improv at Level One. I don't think my credits are going to transfer. And you know what? I just figured out where I was supposed to go to vote."
But Holly's voice was enough to calm him.
The episode was full of "Awww" moments:
*** Things got off with a good start with Michael disarming Dwight's outrage at not getting a recommendation for the manager job (after Dwight served Michael some fresh bull's testicles) by asking his advice on the best way to ward off black bears. It turns out that keeping salami in your pocket is a bad idea. But Rainn Wilson got to have a terrific moment reading the actual recommendation Michael wrote, going from sarcastic to touched, before uncovering a note to meet in the parking lot for paintball. Michael crossing Dwight's name off his list with paint in his hair was aces.
*** We've seen Michael serve as a father figure to Ellie Kemper's Erin a couple times this season, always effectively. Tonight, Erin sought advice about her love triangle with [an increasingly psychotic] Gabe and Andy, lamenting the lack of a mother to give her the right answer. "You don't need a mom, because you have my number and you can call me any time," Michael responded. "Extension 147," agreed Erin. I loved that extension both because it showed how much the characters meant to each other, but also because it was Erin, usually verging on "simple," making a joke intended to reassure Michael that she'd be OK. It's maybe the most capable we've ever seen her.
*** John Krasinski got me. I hadn't gotten teary until Jim came in to talk to Michael, Jim the only person to realize that Michael was planning on leaving without really saying good-bye. "It's just that sometimes, good-byes are a bitch," agreed Jim, red-eyed. Knowing the meal wouldn't happen, they agreed to have lunch the next day, with Jim saying, "And then tomorrow... I can tell you what a good boss you turned out to be. Best boss I ever had." Awww. If we think rationally, would we really believe Jim's sincerity here? I dunno. Krasinski sold it. Totally. This will be Krasinski's Emmy reel. And it goes without re-mentioning that you could isolate any episode from the last month and it ought to earn Carell his first acting Emmy. This episode will probably be his showcase, though he may have done better work at the end of the proposal episode. Great work either way.
*** And speaking of things we might not necessarily buy if we think of them rationally, do we think Pam bought a plane ticket just so that she could get through security to see Michael off at the gate at the airport? Well, she'd probably have to have, but... Who cares! Michael was so sad about not getting to check Pam off his list. And I loved how Pam and Michael got to say their good-byes without audio (more on that in a couple). So many of Pam's best scenes over the years -- the proposal, telling Jim she was pregnant, etc -- have been audio-free. This was appropriate.
*** Catch you on the flippity-flip. Nuf said.
*** Toby has a brother named Rory who lives in Boulder! Why do I think he and Michael wouldn't get along?
*** I liked, but didn't love, Michael going around giving out gifts like the Wizard of Oz. The chattering teeth to Phyllis? OK. The shredded caricature to Kevin, along with the pep talk? OK. I did like the capper of calling Oscar his scarecrow and giving him a hideously designed scarecrow, followed by uncontrollable laughter back in his office, "It looks like it was made by a two-year-old monkey."
*** Speaking of gifts, Ryan got Michael's St. Pauli Girl neon, leaving him transfixed and verging on a seizure. And after approaching Kelly when she was mid-text, Michael observed, "If I just went away right now, would that be the best gift I could give you?" Kelly agreed it would be, which was appropriate, if not necessarily "Awww"-worthy. Michael gave Andy his 10 biggest client files, but more on that later. And Creed was able to collect Michael's "World's Best Boss" mug out of the garbage, which counts as a gift, doesn't it?
The tossing of the World's Best Boss mug came in the opening scene and since that mug had been a prop since the pilot, it was a big moment. He exchanged the mug for his fresh Dundie, which somehow completed him.
Perhaps the best capping moment came as Michael got through security at the airport and bid his adieus to the camera crew.
"Hey, will you guys let me know if this ever airs?"
He then removed his body mic and handed it to an unseen techie. Said something in silence and walked away in silence (only to be greeted by Pam). [Duh, as a commenter points out and a quick re-watch confirms, Michael's last audible words were "This is going to feel so good getting this thing off my chest" and the silent words were, of course, "That's what she said." Not sure why I missed that the first time. Royal wedding fever?]
Michael left as fans would want him to leave, but what has he left the show with?
Unfortunately, Thursday's episode provided ample fodder to the "Why would we watch 'The Office' without Steve Carell?" corner of the fandom. [And the "Don't forget to keep watching the Carell-free 'Office' for at least three more episodes of wackiness" teaser package was almost a cruel joke of unfunniness.]
Abutting against all of the Michael-leaving dramedy was an excruciating B-story designed only to show us why Will Ferrell's Deangelo won't actually be Michael's replacement. It's because he's crazy. He's got food issues. He's not a good salesman. And he shouldn't be allowed near pets. There's an argument to be made that Deangelo's craziness let Andy step up and prove his confidence as a salesman and that that was supposed to introduce the idea that Andy could position himself as a plausible manager. I wouldn't mind that, but I'd have preferred not to sit through the Deangelo/Andy stuff in this episode.
And you know who might be even more insane than Deangelo? Gabe, who threatened Andy in the bathroom with, "I've seen some horrible things. I own over 200 horror movies."
There had been some theorizing that Michael's exit might be tied to a revelation about the Scranton Strangler. Maybe Gabe and Deangelo have been strangling in cahoots?
Anyway, I think I've covered all I need to cover. It was a great episode for Carell. It was a great episode for Krasinski, Wilson and Jenna Fischer. There were many excellent grace notes with the other supporting players.
Pity Deangelo had to be there at all...
What'd you think? Did you sniffle? Did you cry? Did it get a bit dusty? And, perhaps more importantly, did you laugh?