'The Office' Says Goodbye to Steve Carell -- Recap
by Joel Keller, posted Apr 28th 2011 11:45PM
It's interesting; even though this wasn't even the season finale of 'The Office,' much less a series finale, it sure felt like a series finale, didn't it?
Steve Carell was the heart and soul of the show and, from what I've seen, the writers and producers have yet to give us evidence that the show can go on without him. So, in a lot of ways, this feels like a final episode: the final episode of 'The Office' as we've come to know it for the last seven seasons.
As final episodes go, this one was a mixed bag. There were a lot of emotions, to be sure, and the plot that sent Michael out of Dunder Mifflin Scranton for good was very cleverly written. But because the show is still going, there had to be a plot to service that. And that part was less than successful.
Willa Paskin from the Vulture blog postulated that these last few episodes, including the teary scenes from the previews to tonight's farewell, looked more like the cast of 'The Office' saying goodbye to Steve Carell more than the folks at DM saying goodbye to Michael Scott. The theory was that Michael has been a bad boss and an even worse friend to all of them over the years, so why the choked-up scenes?
Well, it's more complicated than that. As disruptive as Michael's been to everyone's life, as childish and selfish as he's been, he has displayed moments of compassion and friendship... even to Toby. If he was such a rotten boss, why did no one leave for greener pastures? It felt like, over the years, the gang in Scranton grew to live with and even love Michael as boss, under the "the devil you know is better than the devil you don't know" axiom. It seemed especially acute when he came back after the Michael Scott Paper Company interregnum. After working under the ball-busting "real" boss Charles Miner, they were probably elated to see the more fun Michael back. Just ask Jim.
So, while the emotions everyone showed were real -- shooting those final scenes with Carell must have been a bear for everyone -- but they were also consistent with how things had progressed around the office. "We'll go to lunch tomorrow, where I'll tell you what a good boss you turned out to be," said Jim through what was probably John Krasinski's real tears. At that point, Jim knew what Michael was up to, and he knew that Michael didn't want to say goodbye, because that was just going to be too tough on him.
Wasn't that a clever way for the writers to have Michael leave, by the way? The reveal was very clever, as well: Michael gets emotional, starts to have doubts, then calls Holly, and her voice (or voices) make him feel better. Then she says "I'll see you tonight; I'll pick you up outside baggage claim." Whaaa? It didn't take long for Michael to confirm that he was leaving a day earlier than everyone thought. It neatly parallels Carell leaving the show before the end of the season; it's not an event, and he didn't want anyone to get emotional and make a fuss.
Not every goodbye he said to everyone landed with me, but there were some pretty good ones. I did love how he told Kevin to never be happy with who he is, even while assuring him that he's not a fat piglet drooling over pizza. The letter of recommendation / paintball battle for Dwight was as touching as that weird relationship could be, especially after Dwight bitterly fed Michael those Rocky Mountain Oysters. "They're bull testicles, freshly cut this morning!" Michael's love advice to Gabe -- to cover his Adam's apple with concealer so he doesn't look like a transvestite -- was a nice fake out. And giving Kelly the gift of leaving her cube while she was furiously texting (probably Ryan) was also funny.
The biggest present, of course, was to Andy, who got Michael's (and the branch's) ten best clients. Because, you know, Andy is the worst salesman there... well, at least he has been since the seminar episode that made very little sense. OK, let's go with this "Andy's the worst" notion, because it led us to the story where he and Deangelo try to keep from losing those clients.
What we find out is that a) Deangelo is a horrible salesman, b) he got the job at Sabre because he saved Jo Bennett's dog, and c) he turns to food when he's in over his head. Not one second of that story was funny. In the moments where we're supposed to be getting the usual scary/funny brand of Will Ferrell humor -- think of his threats to cut of Conan O'Brien's beard -- we just got scary.
We already know from the previews of the last few episodes, and the fact that Ferrell was just signed for one more episode, that the cheese is going to slide off his cracker and he'll be gone. So I guess that's why they decided to not do anything more than make Deangelo a cartoon instead of a real character. It's a shame, really; they could have done so much more with Will Ferrell, don't you think?
So, now we come to Carell's last scene. We're not sure if Pam was going to catch up to him, but it was great to see that she somehow got through security without a boarding pass and talked to him after he peeled the microphone off. You keep forgetting that there's still a documentary crew following these folks around, don't you? "Can you let me know when you guys are going to air this?" he asks them, just to remind us that they're there. I get the feeling that the footage is never going to air; if they haven't gotten what they want after seven years, when will they?
Why Pam didn't have her microphone on is anyone's guess; maybe she took it off when she left the office. Anyway, what do you think the two of them said to each other? It has to be more than what Pam relayed to the camera crew (did they give her Michael's microphone?).
Even after he insinuated himself into her and Jim's life, and even after he dated and dumped her mother, Pam has been the person who's stuck by Michael the longest. And, while the relationship between Michael and Erin turned out to be very father-daughter, the relationship between Michael and Pam was more of a brother-sister thing; she protected him from himself, and he helped her grow. Without Michael, there might not have even been a Pam and Jim. So to have her run and say goodbye at the last possible second was a fitting way for Michael Scott -- and Steve Carell -- to say goodbye to 'The Office' forever.
More fun stuff:
-- Loved the fact that to Pam, "pricing a new shredder" is code for "going to see 'The King's Speech' in the middle of the day.
-- Every picture of Angela with the state senator included his "aide". I bet that was the same kind of "aide" that got Jim McGreevey in trouble.
-- I forgot to mention Michael's gift to Oscar... not sure how Michael got this self-aware, but he knows that Oscar doesn't think much of his intelligence, so he gives him a gift that looks like it was made by a two-year old, then laughs his ass off at the thought. Nice move, Michael.
-- Phyllis' instructions to Michael on how to care for her hand-knit mittens -- like "wash without water" -- ensure that they'll never be worn by anyone.
-- "Are you guys shooting people going to the bathroom now?" Best quote by Jim of the episode.
-- Gabe really wants Erin back, doesn't he? Can't Andy report him for harassing him in the bathroom?
-- Loved how Creed comes out of a stall in the women's room and Erin is completely unfazed by it. I guess he uses the women's room all the time.
-- How many times did Michael try to make that basket? And how much of his last day did he waste trying to do that?
-- Michael brought back Ping one last time... and it was still completely uncomfortable.
'The Office' airs Thursdays at 9PM ET on NBC.
Watch the full episode here: