After weeks of hype and speculation, The Office finally selects a replacement for Steve Carell. Or not.

By Hillary Busis
May 20, 2011 at 02:46 PM EDT
Chris Haston/NBC
S7 E25
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Paul Lieberstein — The Office executive producer, “Search Committee” writer, and Toby Flenderson extraordinaire — must love Kevin Smith…because tonight’s season finale felt like a major cop out. Ever since Steve Carell announced that season 7 of The Office would be his last, fans have been speculating and debating about who would and should replace him as Dunder Mifflin’s manager. Everyone figured that we’d finally learn which character would be stepping into Michael Scott’s formidable shoes during the series’ hour-long season ender. Alas, that wasn’t actually the case. When the credits finally rolled Thursday evening, we weren’t any closer to knowing the identity of the new boss than we had been a few months ago.

The decision to turn the search for a new boss into a cliff-hanger would have made more sense if Carell’s exit from the show had come as a surprise. But come on, Office staffers — he told you he was leaving almost a year ago! In all that time, you couldn’t come up with a better way to wrap up the story than, “Oh, I don’t know, let’s just figure it out in the fall”? Seriously, guys? Right now, I’m certainly not left satisfied and smiling.

And the search wasn’t the only longstanding plot thread that “Search Committee” left annoyingly open-ended. The Andy/Erin/Gabe love triangle has been a part of the show for an entire year at this point. Last night, a pep talk from Phyllis (more on that later) helped Erin finally get the stones to ask Andy out — via puppet, but still, progress! And then Andy turned her down, explaining afterward in a talking head that for him, Erin had become one of those things you want to like, but just can’t seem to like… “like Mad Men or football.” It was a funny line, but it was also puzzling; when, exactly, did Andy get over Erin?

And then the entire revelation was rendered moot when Andy confessed, at the end of his interview, that Erin is actually pretty great. Meaning that in all likelihood, he still has feelings for her. Meaning that the Erin-Andy will they/won’t they thing is going to get dragged out for yet another season when The Office returns from summer hiatus. Aaugh!! It didn’t help that “Search Committee” also had Gabe get suddenly and unceremoniously sent back to Florida, and that he left Dunder Mifflin for the last time without having any sort of meaningful interaction with either Erin or Andy.

This episode’s lack of resolution, both here and in the search plot, doesn’t seem like it was dictated by the needs of the story — unlike, say, Jim and Pam’s major kiss at the end of season 2. Instead, it feels like a stalling tactic. Likewise, the fact that questions were left unanswered doesn’t make me eager to see what happens when season 8 begins. It makes me feel frustrated, like the show has just been spinning its wheels for the past several weeks. I love The Office, but I don’t love some of the choices the show has made recently. I can only hope that season 8 begins with a bang and conclusively erases any lingering bad feelings left over from this finale.

NEXT: Okay, rant over. Let’s talk funny.

Ending (and Erin/Andy-ing) aside, “Search Committee” was frequently funny. I wish that NBC hadn’t spoiled the identity of every single guest star who was going to interview for the manager position, since it would have been a pleasant surprise to see Will Arnett or Ricky Gervais pop up out of nowhere, but even so, most of the guest appearances made me chuckle. James Spader’s creepy deep-sea drilling-equipment salesman, who reminded me of a mixture of Spader’s old Boston Legal buddy William Shatner and Mystery, the skeevy pickup artist, was a particular standout; according to EW’s post-finale poll, 27 percent of you think he should become the new boss.

I was also amused by Catherine Tate, whose loopy Britishness seems like it could be a decent fit for the show. And the way she delivered that line about a hypothetical Thai woman named Suki — “She’s administering massage if you need it, all right? If you don’t, whatever, just talk to her! She’s a person!” — had me rolling. Some online reports are indicating that the powers that be at The Office are considering her the frontrunner for the job; I guess being friends with Jo outweighs obvious crazy. Who’s excited to potentially see what Dunder Mifflin would look like without cubicles, or, alternatively, with even more cubicles?

Then, of course, there was Jim Carrey. In this case, knowing that a cameo from him was coming did heighten my anticipation and make the eventual payoff — oh, so that’s the guy obsessed with the Finger Lakes Jim was talking about before! — all the better. It’s too bad Carrey is way too famous to consider becoming a permanent Office castmember, since out of all the celebrities who applied for the job, he was apparently the only one who didn’t screw up the interview royally.

Speaking of screw-ups: Oh, Darryl, how the mighty have fallen! I was pretty disappointed to see how poorly he did last night, since he’s really the only in-house candidate I could see taking over the office (at least, as long as Jim continues to insist that he doesn’t want the job). Okay, maybe safe-choice Andy would also work; he’s certainly got the Michael Scott-ian tragic sad sack thing down. But while Dwight’s self-interview was pretty hilarious — and a great showcase for Rainn Wilson — I do hope that there isn’t some sort of major reversal that allows him to become the permanent boss after all. In terms of plausibility, the whole fake burn victim getup was kind of the last nail in that coffin. Then again, it could have been fun to see Dwight’s idea of Jim’s ideal working environment realized.

NEXT: “I just wish the puppets would talk more about the alphabet.”

This meandering episode also managed to fit in a few story lines unrelated to love triangles or the quest to find Michael 2.0. I’m very glad Phyllis and Erin turned out not to be mother and daughter; such a revelation would have felt way too soap opera-esque. (For the record, I feel the same way about anybody who’s a regular or a guest on the show turning out to be the Scranton Strangler; thankfully, it seems like Toby’s confession at the end of the last Dundies was just a red herring.) Angela’s continued dalliance with the gay [state] senator is also a little silly, but it’s one plot that seems appropriate to extend into next season. Plus, like Oscar, I too love elegant weddings. The last subplot, in which Pam had to work single-handedly to prevent Bossman Creed from destroying the office, was definitely my favorite; it’s such a nice change of pace to see Goofy Pam instead of Smug Mother Pam. Hey, why isn’t she in the running to become manager?

Highlights:

– Creed driving a convertible with a “NEW MGR” license plate into the office park, tossing his keys to a valet who isn’t there, addressing “Jim, Ted, [and] Elroy” in a meeting, asking the office to figure out what BOBODDY stands for, beginning the word “business” with a “B-I-Z-N-U…” all brilliant. I also liked his sumo figurine in the opening credits.

– Jim: “Did you know Gabe’s last name was Lewis?” In fact, I did not!

– Darryl: “And it doesn’t hurt that I’m… blaaaaaack!”

– Phyllis, explaining that a lot of babies were born in 1982: “Porky’s had come out.”

– Spader: “Do I look like someone who would waste my own time?” I would have liked to see him interact a little more with Dwight; those guys could be either best pals or worst enemies.

– Why oh why did Darryl begin his interview by talking about how humans are the only mammals who drink the milk of other mammals? “You don’t see a bear drinking raccoon milk.” If Clippy were still around, he could have prevented this.

– Hey, Ray Romano, why are you leaving your current job? “They’re all jerks. You know, your jerkwads, your jerkoffs. Between the wads and the offs, I had to get out of there.”

– Gabe’s finest moment ever came during Andy’s interview: “Shut up about the sun. SHUT UP ABOUT THE SUN!!”

– Pam’s genius plan for keeping Creed occupied: “Corporate needs you to find the differences between this picture and this picture. If it helps, there are at least seven.”

– Oh, Dwight, you are so German: “The hand that reaches from the grave to grip your throat is the strong hand you want on the wheel.”

– Ryan got two great lines tonight. The first: “How do I know he’s gay? He liked my Facebook photos at 3:00 in the morning.” The second, which also contained a grain of truth: “Word of advice: Take a day off from the whole Jim schtick. Try caring about something; you might like how it feels. James.”

– Kevin likes Erin’s sock puppet schtick, but there’s something missing: “I just wish the puppets would talk more about the alphabet.”

– Andy on the new boss: “Whoever it is, I think they should be lame.” Remember how he used to be overly confident? Life in Scranton really beats a man down.

– Erin, looking at Andy: “I see it like I see a mountain I’m in front of, and facing, and liking.”

– “It’s just the rest of my family is in the Finger Lakes right now. I’m supposed to be in the Finger Lakes right now. I told ’em I was on a hike, snuck away to do this interview. …People disappear in the Finger Lakes.” Slow clap.

– Dwight: “I will run this branch, or I will destroy this branch. Or, I don’t know, something always works out.”

How do you think this is all going to work out, Slumdunder Mifflinaires? Were you disappointed by the lack of resolution in the finale? Did it make you more or less excited for season 8? And finally, don’t you just love paper and things about paper?

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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  • 9
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  • 03/24/05-05/16/13
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