After months of buildup, Michael Scott — and Steve Carell — finally left Dunder Mifflin Scranton for good.
What a difference seven seasons make. In 2005, Michael Scott was an overbearing, insensitive jerk whose antics earned nothing but scorn and disrespect from his employees. Gradually, though, that version of Michael Scott was replaced by the Michael Scott we know now: an immature but goodhearted buffoon whose greatest fault is his all-consuming need to be liked.
If 2005 Michael had suddenly announced that he was moving to Colorado, his subordinates would have only felt relieved. (And they certainly wouldn’t have paid tribute to him with a touching song before he went.) But 2011 Michael’s departure from Scranton was a momentous event. Despite everything he’s done and said to them over the years, the denizens of Dunder Mifflin feel true affection for their dopey boss. And Michael, of course, considers them to be his surrogate family. So there was a lot of pressure on The Office to give the World’s Best Boss a proper sendoff — one that managed to find the sweet spot between sentimentality and flippancy. Happily, on that count, the show succeeded with flying colors.
Let’s get one thing out of the way now: If Steve Carell doesn’t win an Emmy for “Goodbye, Michael,” I have a feeling a lot of disgruntled Office fans are going to shoot their TVs full of holes. Though it’s insane enough that he’s gone unrewarded this long, Carell’s performance in his last-ever installment of The Office was nothing short of perfect. I was especially impressed by the scene in which Michael sat in the break room, trying valiantly to hold back tears as his employees ate lunch at the next table — in that moment, Carell spoke volumes without saying a word. His post-lunch breakdown was also hilarious (“And I am not going to start improv at level 1. I don’t think my credits are going to transfer.”), heartbreaking, and surprisingly uplifting. When Michael spoke to Holly on the phone and immediately calmed down, realizing everything he’s gaining by going to be with her, I think the show deftly proved why he has to move on.
Michael’s choice to tell everyone he’d be leaving a day later than he actually planned to go could be interpreted as a sign of maturity — he’s grown up enough not to want them to make a big fuss — or an indication that he’s still pretty childish at heart. Either way, it added an extra layer of poignancy to the proceedings — and it was completely appropriate and believable that only Jim noticed something was awry. His last conversation with Michael might have been the most moving part of the entire episode, not least because of how hard Jim was trying to sound casual. (Dwight reading Michael’s letter of recommendation was a close second.) The look they exchanged before Michael got on the elevator one last time was yet another fantastic, wordless moment; I’m glad the documentary crew caught it.
NEXT: Oh, about that documentary crew…
Speaking of which: Leapin’ lizards, The Office finally remembered its premise! I was tickled by how many times the cameramen were made conspicuous throughout “Goodbye, Michael,” from Jim asking them if they’re filming people in the bathroom now to Michael saying blithely, “Hey, will you guys let me know if this ever airs?” Sure, these little moments were basically throwaways. They were also pretty satisfying for any long-term fans of the show who have wondered whether everyone at Dunder Mifflin just forgot why they’re being filmed, or that they’re even being filmed at all. Though the writers can’t really ever resolve this story line — after all, at this point, how could the crew possibly assemble a film that isn’t seven years long? — it’s nice to see them mine it for comedy again.
Until this point, I’ve avoided talking about the portions of “Goodbye, Michael” that didn’t directly involve Michael. That’s because, to be blunt, they weren’t very good. Gabe’s undying devotion to Erin is just plain creepy rather than creepily amusing, and Deangelo’s still all over the place; suddenly revealing that he’s a binge eater doesn’t count as character development. His inconsistency would matter less if the things he did and said were funnier, but during tonight’s episode, I barely cracked a smile anytime he was onscreen. I’d say that this is the show’s fault rather than Will Ferrell’s; he’s doing what he can with a character who’s extremely sketchy in every sense of the word.
While this means I’m relieved to know Ferrell and Deangelo will be gone for good after next week, it’s also making me a little nervous about what a Michael-less Office is going to look like. Maybe his absence will force the series’ masterminds to have a creative resurgence. It’s equally likely, though, that it’ll stop the show in its tracks. Still, as of now, this sort of speculation is fairly premature; the promo made next week’s episode look entertaining enough, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
– I wonder if Michael borrowed the cowboy boots he’s wearing in the cold open from Darryl.
– Rocky Mountain Oysters are not, in fact, oysters — they’re bull testicles. Says Dwight: “I cut them off fresh this morning!”
– Speaking of Dwight: I’ve found him to be way too over the top for a pretty long time, but his arc in this episode was really great. I love the fact that he happens to have a paintball gun and full battle gear in the trunk of his car at any given moment. Also, could this scene have been a nod to Community?
– And, oh, how could I forget to mention Pam! Though I was devastated when her car pulled into the parking lot just as Michael’s taxi was leaving, I was also impressed that the show would dare to prevent her from talking to him one last time. Of course, then I smiled like an idiot when she showed up at the airport — their soundless goodbye reminded me a little of the end of Lost in Translation.
– Gabe threatens Andy by telling him he’s seen a lot of horrible things: “I own over 200 horror movies.” What’s that you say about the Scranton Strangler?
– Michael has a secret about Phyllis to share: “In high school, she was so cute. And she still is.” Phyllis’s response: “I thought he knew about the baby I gave away.” If they ever decide to make a prequel to The Office, I really hope this factors in.
NEXT: “Does he like jams? My shelves are overflowing with preserves.”
– Between Michael’s goodbye gift to Kevin and Deangelo’s food issues, this episode was kind of heavy on fat-bashing, wasn’t it?
– The only thing better than Michael’s hideous gift to Oscar was Michael’s hysterical reaction to giving the gift. “It looks like it was made by a 2-year-old monkey on a farm!
– I loved all the callbacks to previous episodes of The Office — Creed using the women’s bathroom, Michael desperately wanting to use the baler, “Conference Room, five seconds,” Somehow I Manage — but was anyone really hankering for the return of Ping?
– Oscar: “What town do Holly’s parents live in?” Michael: “I’m not sure. Mountain-ton.”
– Toby has a brother named Rory who lives in Boulder and is just as much of a sad sack as he is. (It also looks like he was played by Warren Lieberstein, Paul Lieberstein’s real-life brother.) Best moment: Rory asks Toby via videochat what he should put in a welcome basket for Michael. “Does he like jams? My shelves are overflowing with preserves.”
– I’m beginning to sound like a broken record at this point, but: Michael and Erin’s goodbye! So sweet!
– To Gabe: “Can I give you a piece of advice? A little cover up on your Adam’s apple will make it appear smaller, which will make you look less like a transvestite.” He’s not wrong.
– “I am looking forward to lunch. And hearing about what a great boss I am.” My heart! My beating heart!
– “Holly’s my family now. She’s my family. And the babies that I make with her will be my children. The people you work with are just, when you get down to it, your very best friends. They say on your deathbed you never wish you spent more time at the office, but I will. Gotta be a lot better than a deathbed. I actually don’t understand deathbeds. I mean, who would buy that?” Farewell, Michael — you always left us satisfied and smiling.
Think you can stop crying long enough to share what you thought of “Goodbye, Michael”? Is there anything you were hoping to see that didn’t happen? (For example, I’m a little bummed that Michael didn’t put down Toby one last time.) Whose goodbye did you enjoy watching most? And last, but not least, what do you think The Office is going to look like in the post-Carell era?