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May 20, 2011 at 02:46 PM EDT

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.

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Jim, Pam, Michael, Dwight and the rest of the Dunder-Mifflin employees hold down the Scranton branch
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