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The Office recap: Exit Strategy

As the reality of Michael’s decision sinks in for everyone, both he and a surprise staffer choose to strike out on their own

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Mitch Haddad/NBC

The Office

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And that, my friends, is how The Office keeps things fresh. Michael Scott and Pam BeasleyJerry Maguire-ing their way out of Dunder Mifflin? Hubbawha? ”Two Weeks,” while not a nonstop laugh riot, highlights what The Officedoes that few other shows ever even attempt: Incredibly humane, subtle moments that contrast with the kind of chaos only ever borne of monotony. I sometimes worry that The Officedoesn’t hit its marks, either moving too far towards cringe or not far enough towards silliness, but last night’s episode hit its emotional notes so squarely I wonder why I’ve ever doubted the show. How desperate can Michael get before his patheticness overwhelms any other possible attribute? What happens when our beloved Dunderfolk get what most of them have ostensibly always wished for? How delicate is the office’s little interpersonal ecosystem?

Last week, Michael gave his two weeks notice, and we got to see him recount his magnificent Eff Ewe to David Wallace, much to everyone else’s delight. And frustration. ”He finally has a story that we really want to hear — and he knows it,” moaned Pam, as Michael dragged out the story. As great as Michael was in this opener — I particularly loved his body language as he perched on the kitchen counter, feet nervously crossed, and so obviously thrilled to be the center of good-spirited attention — the moment truly belonged to Oscar. His wistful analysis of Michael’s story ended in a quintessential Office trail off: ”…but I dream…so…” as he looked away. It’s a little sad, and a lot funny, and so completely in tune with what the episode is about: We all dream of dramatic exits, but who would ever actually go through with it?

Well, that’s a silly not-quite-hypothetical question: Michael would, drink in hand. (And that drink: Scotch and Splenda. ”Tastes like Splenda, gets you drunk like scotch.” I just got chills in my liver.) His antics, once just silly, were fully unleashed after he no longer felt tethered to productivity, and his goofing off could be foiled by only one man/nemesis: the endlessly logical Charles. Michael’s able to suck almost anyone into his orbit of craziness — and he makes it seem normal — but Charles absolutely refused to engage. Other higher-ups have tried to fight fire with fire when it came to Michael’s antics, but that only meant Jan and Ryan caught fire themselves. Charles is fighting fire with, uh, water, effectively extinguishing whatever crazy flames Michael’s trying to fan.

The funniest part of the entire episode was the brief ”wear and tear” montage: Creed putting quarters into the vent of the copy machine (Oscar: ”I think it’s 75 cents”), Angela’s kitty Bandit gnawing on the power cord, Kevin just straight-up dumping a cup of coffee across the machine. That wear and tear meant it’s time for a new copy machine, only the installation and set-up of the new behemoth fell to Pam. ”My day just got a lot more interesting,” she deadpanned, holding up a massive instruction manual.

NEXT: Pam’s bold move