In Steve Carell's penultimate episode, the Dundies return, and Gabe and Erin's relationship hits a wall
Credit: Chris Haston/NBC
Michael Scott, The Office (Steve Carell)
S7 E21
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“The Dundies,” the first episode of The Office‘s second season, was a massive turning point for a then-fledgling show. Season 1 had been fairly funny but inconsistent; it also seemed a little too mean-spirited for a mainstream American sitcom. (Maybe that kind of stuff will fly across the pond, Ricky Gervais, but in the Land of the Free, we like the protagonists of our comedies to be lovable. At least on some level.) The premiere of season 2, however, revealed that over the summer, the series had undergone fairly significant retooling — tertiary characters were starting to be fleshed out; the humor was less discomfiting; there was a lot more heart — and that it was much better as a result.

So it should be no surprise that The Office elected to bring back the awards ceremony to mark another important milestone: Steve Carell’s second-to-last episode as a series regular. Though the Dundies themselves hadn’t graced our TV screens since 2005, we learned tonight that Michael’s still been holding them every year — and that hosting his last Dundies ever is a huge deal to him. It’s also a huge deal for Deangelo, who will be responsible for taking over Dundie duty once Michael has left for Colorado (a.k.a. the Sunshine State).

Speaking of Deangelo — remember last week, when the new manager played by Will Ferrell gradually revealed himself to be kind of a jerk? Apparently now he’s back to being the bumbling, Michael Scott Lite doofus of “Training Day”‘s cold open. While I’m not totally sure that’s a bad thing — as I said, we like our comedic leads likable here in the U.S. of A. — I do wish Deangelo were less erratic. We still don’t know what this guy’s personality is actually like, which makes it difficult to care about him. Maybe it’s for the best then that he’ll only be sticking around for another two episodes.

That said, the duo of Deangelo and Michael did provide some of tonight’s biggest laughs. Of course Michael Scott, lover of pop culture that everyone else got over a few months ago, would turn to The King’s Speech for ideas on how to help his successor get over his stage fright. Deangleo’s missteps — casually asking Jim where he was on September 11th while practicing banter, reading everything printed on the cue cards (“Ad-lib masturbation joke”) — also elicited plenty of chuckles, despite his sketchy character. I was also happy to learn that the new boss’ middle name is just as ridiculous as the rest of his name.

The tacked-on subplot within tonight’s episode — Erin suddenly reveals to Jim and Pam that she can’t stand Gabe anymore, then dumps him while giving her Dundie acceptance speech — was less successful. We all know Erin and Andy, the bizarro versions of Pam and Jim, are going to end up together again, probably by the end of this season. Still, the breakup came out of nowhere. Gabe’s been annoying lately, but not any more annoying than he ever was. What was the straw that broke Erin’s back? Because she went and detached herself from him without giving her decision any context, the event had less of an impact than it should have.

NEXT: The Office/Rent mash-up you never knew you needed But as in “Garage Sale,” an incredibly strong ending made all the difference for this episode. After Deangelo’s screaming gets the gang kicked out of their Dundiedome, Pam casually suggests to Michael that they keep the party going back in the good old Dunder Mifflin offices. There, Michael presents another award to Andy, who responds by saying that everyone would like to thank their boss for the past 19 years. That was everyone’s cue to surprise Michael with a sweet song set to Rent‘s “Seasons of Love,” which was so heartwarming that I’m just going to reprint the lyrics below:

9,986,000 minutes

We actually sat down and did the math. [They did! 9,986,000 divided by 525,600 is 18.99. Thanks, calculator!]

9,986,000 minutes

That’s how many minutes that you’ve worked here

In costumes, and impressions

In meetings and cups of coffee

In birthdays, more meetings

And email forwards you made us read

9,986,000 minutes

That’s like watching Die Hard 80,000 times.

[Meredith:] You hit me with your car

[Ryan:] You helped me get off drugs

[Creed:] I watch you when you sleep

[Oscar:] I forgive you for kissing me!

Remember to caaaaaaall! [Cue ad-libbing from Darryl, Erin and Kelly, and, finally Deangelo.]

Excuse me, I think there’s something in my eye. Like Michael said, “Well, this is going to hurt like a motherf—–.”

More highlights:

– Instead of handing him a nomination certificate, Michael eggs Toby’s house. There’s only so much maturing a man can do in one season.

– Meredith’s home is so dilapidated that it reminds Deangelo of New Orleans after Katrina.

– Michael says the Dundies are “like the Golden Globes, but less mean.” Ricky Gervais just choked on his crumpet.

– Ryan, the douche to end all douches: “I love when people say ‘like crack’ who’ve obviously never tried crack. …[Compare it to] something from your world: ‘The breadsticks are like scrapbooking.'”

– Jim complains to Pam that waiters should stop pushing sweet potato fries — he just wants regular fries. What are your thoughts on this important issue?

– The Dundies opening video was some of Michael’s best cinematic work. (Well, maybe not better than this commercial.) His Angela impression was particularly awesome: “My boyfriend can [help]! He’s a state senator. Oh no, he can’t help. Because that title has no meaning.”

– Phyllis: “I have diabetes, too. You don’t see me making a big deal about it.”

– Ryan’s miffed that for the first time since he came to Dunder Mifflin, he didn’t win the Hottest in the Office Award. Better console yourself with some of those breadsticks, buddy.

– Dwight’s been feeling neglected and passed over for a few weeks now. A friend of mine thinks this must be foreshadowing, and that he’s going to end up taking over after Michael leaves. I don’t necessarily agree with that theory, but it does make a certain sort of sense — what do you think?

– Toby’s not sure that the man convicted of being the Scranton Strangler is actually guilty. This also seems like foreshadowing, though I’m not totally sure for what.

Did you enjoy “Michael’s Last Dundies?” Would you say it was more like The Godfather 3 — Michael’s favorite Godfather movie — or The Godfather? And are you ready to finally say goodbye to Mr. Scott next week?

Episode Recaps

Michael Scott, The Office (Steve Carell)
The Office

The mockumentary-style sitcom chronicles a group of typical office employees working 9-5 at the Scranton branch of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company.

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