Will Ferrell's arc abruptly draws to a close — and viewers are left to wonder where The Office can go from here

By Hillary Busis
May 06, 2011 at 09:45 AM EDT
Chris Haston/NBC
S7 E23
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This is the way Will Ferrell’s four-episode arc ends: with a bang and a skull fracture. During the last few minutes of “The Inner Circle,” a hospital gown-clad, gibberish-spouting Deangelo Vickers was escorted off the premises of Dunder Mifflin — presumably never to be seen again. It was a strange conclusion to a strange episode, and the first half-hour of The Office that didn’t include so much as a mention of Michael Scott. (Even in the credits, footage of Steve Carell carefully adjusting a Dundie was replaced by a clip of Deangelo pushing forth some kind of southwestern tribal statuette. Next week, right before the title card appears, will we watch Dwight fondle a beet?)

Though the way the show sent Deangelo packing made me kind of queasy — the episode’s tag, especially, was painful to watch — I can’t say I’m sad to see him go. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: As a character, Will Ferrell’s replacement manager never worked for me because his personality and behavior were both consistently inconsistent. This may not have mattered so much if Deangelo were at least reliably funny. But tonight especially, Ferrell fell flat. It’s true that the comedian was given an impossible task — how could anyone adequately replace Michael Scott in our hearts and minds, especially when the memory of his departure is still so fresh? Even so, judging by tonight’s episode alone, the transition from the Carell era to the post-Carell era is going to be shaky, to say the least.

Not a whole lot happened in “The Inner Circle,” which felt more like a series of tangentially connected events than a coherent, cohesive narrative. At the beginning of the episode, Deangelo selected four men — Jim, Darryl, Gabe, and, amazingly, Kevin — to serve as his go-to guys. Though he tried again and again to win over Dwight, Dunder Mifflin’s best salesman stubbornly refused to embrace the new boss. There was, for some reason, an interlude in which Ferrell juggled with invisible balls, as well as a brief kerfuffle about Deangelo being sexist. (Hey, remember how great “Sexual Harassment” was?) Oh, and D also hired a new hot girl as his “executive assistant,” even though he worked at an office that already employed both Erin and Pam. Guess it’s good to be the boss.

In the half-hour’s funniest subplot, Ryan — panicked that Deangelo might realize the former temp doesn’t actually do anything at Dunder Mifflin — pretended to be Kelly’s supervisor. It’s always nice when this twisted pair gets extra screen time, and Kelly’s pop culture references — “He’s just a big fraud, Deangelo. Just like Rango! He doesn’t work here, just like Rango didn’t save those animals!” — never fail to make me smile. This story line was also a nice, sly wink to long-term viewers who may have recently found themselves wondering what Fire Guy’s current job title is.

NEXT: “I will say what I need to say. And soon, I will say it in Chinese.”But Ryan, Kelly, and a decent amount of giggle-inducing one-liners weren’t enough to make “The Inner Circle” feel like anything but a half-hour of treading water, punctuated by an odd ending — Deangelo took a devastating fall after proving he actually could dunk a basketball — that disposed of a semi-important character in the most abrupt and disconcerting way possible. If The Office wants to entice viewers who’ve got Michael-size holes in their hearts to come back next season, it’s going to need to gain some serious momentum over the next two weeks. Here’s hoping this beloved sitcom can find a way to finish strong.

Highlights:

– Like reality contestants the world over, Deangelo Vickers is not here to make friends.

– How weird is it to see Rainn Wilson’s name pop up first during the opening credits?

– “Did you get that, Ma? Your boy, Kevin Malone, is in the inner circle! Which doesn’t exist.”

– Deangelo: “No matter how many times I reach out to Dwight, he doesn’t seem to want anything to do with me. It reminds me of my relationship with my son, except there, I’m the Dwight.”

– After Ryan tells Kelly that he’d lie for her, Kelly shoots back, “You just like to lie!” Without missing a beat, Ryan responds, “I’d die for you, too.” There’s a serious chance this relationship will one day end with a murder/suicide.

– Speaking of Kelly: Subtle Sexuality has a new video! If tonight’s episode had been half an hour of Kelly and Erin goofing around, I probably would have given it an A+.

– Dwight: “Congratulations on your one cousin. I have 70, each one better than the last!”

– Pam’s imitation of Deangelo’s juggling routine — particularly the part in which she juggled without any hands — reminded me how great Jenna Fischer can be.

– “NBA, WNBA. One is a sport, one is a joke. I love sports, I love jokes. Room for all.”

– Darryl doesn’t care what happens at Dunder Mifflin so long as he gets to keep going to business school on Deangelo’s dime: “The man is paying me to take Chinese. I will say what I need to say. And soon, I will say it in Chinese.” He’s got my vote for new boss.

– Jim: “Erin, call 911!” Erin: “Who should I say is calling?” Will the girl ever understand how to talk on the phone?

What did you think of “The Inner Circle”? In your opinion, does it bode well for the future of The Office? And how are you hoping this whole boss situation gets resolved by the end of the season?

Episode Recaps

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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