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RECAP: The Office ‘Goodbye, Michael’

April 29, 2011
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Goodbye, Michael!

I’m not sure which one we all knew was coming: Michael Scott leaving, Steve Carell leaving, or The Office pretty much getting cancelled now that they’re gone. Maybe my emotions gauge isn’t properly calibrated, but I wasn’t tearing up during this one; of course we’ve all known about Michael/Steve’s departure since before the Eisenhower administration, so it’s no big reveal, and many other writers have given him a far more lugubrious analysis than I. I’ve lost a good deal of interest in the show over the years and gotten progressively more annoyed with Michael’s character, but I still maintain an appreciation for all the good things the US Office and Steve Carell have accomplished over the last six years—they did, after all, take a British favorite and put their own distinct spin on it, creating a show that will go down as one of the ‘00s best.

And, to it’s credit, “Goodbye, Michael” doesn’t dwell on the loss and is actually pretty damn funny. One of its many smart moves is to play down Imbecile Michael and play up Caring Michael, who’s leaving the office on a good note by dispensing gifts and compliments, including his neon St. Pauli’s beer sign to Ryan, a velvet pool table to Stanley, the ten best accounts to Andy, and not telling everyone about Phyllis’s long-lost child.

Michael gets scenes with each of the cast (and an extended bit in the warehouse where he spends, presumably, the better portion of his day trying to score a basket from behind his back), and there’s a nice return to form of the show’s trademark character-based humor—Oscar is placating, Kevin is awkward, and Angela is offended when Michael gives him an intentionally shoddy scarecrow (and cackles at its warm reception); rips up a caricature of him as a pig-man and gives a motivational speech on how Kevin doesn’t need to be fat; and asks if she ever pictured them having sex, respectively.

The B plot deals with Andy’s abysmal performance and sets up the departure of Will Ferrell’s Deangelo when the two go on a sales call and the latter turns out to be an even lousier salesman than everyone expected. Andy steps his game up and salvages the client (despite almost immediately losing one of the Big Ten Michael gives him earlier). There’s also a B1 plot that pits Andy against Gabe, who’s recently broken up with Erin, or, rather, she’s broken up with him, and among the episode’s highlights is seeing the usually flaccid Gabe threaten Andy in the men’s restroom and then try to patch things up with Erin in the women’s (with some nice comments from Jim and Creed, also respectively). I’m not sure why Andy gets so much screen time, but I suspect it’s a subtle indication that he’s going to become a larger part of the show now that Michael’s left. I don’t have too many feelings on the matter if that’s the case, but so long as it means we get more Erin, I’ll be for it.

Back at the office, the big farewells, of course, are saved for Dwight, Jim, and Pam. Dwight’s still angry at Michael for not recommending him as a replacement, but Michael patches things up with a letter of recommendation (is Dwight leaving, too?), which Dwight reads in a confessional scene that, damn, Rainn Wilson nails. In the past few seasons the characters, especially Michael and Dwight, have become more and more cartoonish, but the weight carried in the sequence is well earned. Glad they left that relationship on a sweet note. And paintball.

Jim and Pam’s goodbyes are saved for the end, and they’re the only two in the office who realize that Michael is actually leaving a day early to forgo the pain of officially saying goodbye (a plot point I evidently missed—did they say anywhere that this was supposed to be Michael’s second-to-last day?). Their goodbyes are sweet and simple: Jim assures Michael that he’s making the right decision when Michael, naturally has his freak-out moment (and calls Holly who likewise assures him in a bit that I thought would be played for conflict but is actually more of a reassurance and affirmation that the two are meant for each other), and Pam, who’s been out all day making preparations for tomorrow’s farewell party, finally catches up with Michael at the airport for a final hug and a handful of tender Lost in Translation whispers.

Like I said, it’s a good episode that ends the beginning of Steve Carell’s breakout on a decidedly upbeat note. It’s not as depressing as the last episode of the UK Office’s season 2, nor as uncharacteristically happy as the Christmas special—it’s more balanced. Michael’s request that the “documentary-makers” inform him if their work ever actually airs and his mouthing a last “That’s what she said” strikes two perfect notes in succession. And Toby has a brother.

So, again, goodbye, Michael!

 

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