The Office Review: Goodbye, Michael
It’s officially the end of an era. A passing of the guard. The day the music died. A rolling stone gathers no moss (wait, maybe not that last one). Michael Scott (Steve Carell) has left Scranton for greener, more elevated pastures, leaving the state of the office in a bit of limbo and ending in a send off that is satisfying, if not a little cliche.
On this particular morning we find Michael on the roof of the building, gazing at the modest Scranton skyline one last time and “getting used to higher elevation” before his move to Colorado. Dwight (Rainn Wilson) takes the opportunity to present Michael with an assortment of “Rocky Mountain Oysters.” Michael takes a big, savory bite not understanding that they aren’t oysters, but are in fact bull testicles; another vindictive prank by Dwight, still bitter that he was not promoted to office manager. As Michael deals with the bittersweetness of his final days at the office, Gabe deals with his split with Erin (Ellie Kemper) the only way he knows how- by telling Andy (Ed Helms) to stay away from her, threatening that he is dangerous and “owns 200 horror films.”
With the following day being Michael’s last, Pam, Phyllis, and Angela put their heads together to create a proper going-away party for Michael, but end up just butting heads. Things get even worse when Meredith butts in, suggesting a shop that specializes in erotic cakes. While this fiasco unfolds in the conference room, Michael reveals during an interview segment that this day is his last. The lie seems unfair and strangely mean, but the regret on Michael’s face seems to suggest otherwise. Michael struggles to go about the rest of his day by giving special gifts to all his employees: to Phyllis, a pair of wind up teeth, reminding her to speak her mind; to Darrell (Craig Robinson), an unfinished manuscript titled “Somehow I Manage” (fantastic wordplay, that); and most alarmingly, to Andy goes Michael’s ten best clients. As luck would have it, Andy is a terrible salesman and in a effort to stop the hemorrhaging of his top tier clients, he grabs D’angelo (Will Ferrell) to help him on an in-person greeting. D’angelo, whose behavior is becoming increasingly odd and alarming (pressing marshmallows into a coffee burner plate doesn’t exactly fall under “normal”).
Michael continues his rounds, scratching everyone off his Goodbye List as he comes to them. Most notably, Dwight, who is touched by a glowing letter of recommendation from Michael, but is even more excited by a cryptic note attached to the letter: “2:45. Back of the building. Paintball.” And there is suddenly epic paintball. Not paintball the likes of Community’s “Modern Warfare”, but the mini-war really does sum up Michael and Dwight’s relationship nicely.
Off-site, D’angelo is coming apart at the seams, all during this important meeting. Instead of encouraging Andy as a salesman, he completely assassinates his character. “You ever play Russian Roulette?” he asks casually. “Time to spin the chamber by signing up for another year.” Needless to say, the meeting is an absolute disaster, but Andy still has some juice in him to attempt to recover.
After Michael hangs out with the warehouse crew and has a heart-to-heart with Erin, the last person on his list is Pam, who has gone out to price paper shredders, but really has gone to see The King’s Speech (bad choice, Pammy). As the day nears its inevitable end, Michael becomes more and more anxious, the reality that he is leaving earlier than people think finally getting to him. He calls for a company meeting, but still can’t muster the strength to say goodbye and instead channels “Ping,” one of his most insanely offensive improv characters. With the meeting imploding, Jim can see the forest through the trees and takes Michael into his office, asking to take him to lunch the next day (his “last”). It’s Jim’s way of squeezing the truth that he already knows and rather than say their goodbyes right there in the office, Jim opts to save them for “tomorrow,” which won’t happen, but the sentiment is a nice touch and this scene distinguishes itself as the strongest of the episode. There’s something to be said for some well placed subtlety, even if it is noticed (I’m looking at you, Paul Haggis).
The episode closes with Michael at the airport, moving through security and ripping off his microphone pack once and for all in an effort of solidarity. As he walks further away from camera, Pam runs up to him, just barely catching up. The two exchange words, scrambled by the din of the airport; a really nice moment, but ultimately one that Greg Daniels lifted from Lost in Translation. And with that, Michael is off to Colorado, leaving Scranton in his rear view.
Show runner Daniels and episode vet Paul Feig close Steve Carell’s tenure on The Office rather effortlessly, if not for recycling some old ideas and themes from other shows as well as their own, but with a storyline like this, a bit or reflection is almost necessary and when looked at from that perspective, works. No doubt, the remaining three episodes of the season will close out Will Ferrell’s arc (an odd, but very funny post-script to the episode has D’angelo completely losing his shit at what would have been Michael’s goodbye party) and touts guest starring spots filled by Ray Romano, Ricky Gervais, and Jim Carrey. Steve Carrell may be gone, but judging from the talent roster on the back end of the season, filling his shoes is going to be no small task and he won’t soon be forgotten.
Season 7, Episode 21: “Goodbye, Michael” (originally aired April 28, 2011)
Will The Office survive without Steve Carell? Watch NBC Thursday nights at 9/8c to find out.
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