....And just like that, he's gone. After seven seasons of lovable buffoonery and juvenile humor from Dunder Mifflin's greatest branch manager Michael Scott, we say goodbye to a man who's greatest weakness and strength was his overwhelming, constant need to be liked.
Steve Carell's surrogate family of the past near-decade said a tearful yet not overwrought goodbye to their beloved lead last night, a beautiful balance between sentimentality and hilarity that served the World's Best Boss well as a proper sendoff.
Carell's performance in his last-ever installment of The Office was beautiful, with his character attempting to pull a fast one: Michael's choice to tell everyone he'd be leaving a day later than he actually planned was a prank typical of his immaturity, on the surface, but allowed him (and the show) to close off his tenure without the long-weepy goodbyes. The knowledge made each moment Michael spent saying his clandestine goodbyes that much more poignant, with only the viewers and Michael himself aware that the casual conversations he made sure to have with each employee were actually veiled send-offs.
As he checked names off his list of everyone he needed to say goodbye to, Michael also distributed several token gifts; Oscar got a terrifyingly low-rent homemade scarecrow (because he gave Michael a brain), Phyllis was gifted a set of chatter teeth (so that she can remember to speak up and share her great ideas) and Stanley gets a mini pool table without any balls. The lion's share of the gift quality went to Andy, who got his top 10 clients, and then promptly asks Michael “You know I’m the worst salesman here, right? I promise you, I will lose every single one of these." The rest of the office, understandably, is more than a little peeved at this, particularly because Andy's known for being the branch's worst salesman - by far.
The scene in which Michael sat in the break room, trying hard to hold back the very-real-looking tears as his employees ate lunch at the next table, was an instant eye moistener. Leave it to Carell to turn the tenderness on its head moments later, however, when his post-lunch breakdown elicited fits of laughter ("I can't do this, all the channels are going to be different there" he says, and, panicked that his improv classes will be for naught: "I don’t think my credits are going to transfer"). We're moved to ambivalence as he starts to panic, deciding he can't go through with the move, he doesn't even know the name of the town he's moving to, and it's all just too much for him. But when he gets Holly on the phone and immediately calms down, we realize precisely just how much she defines "home" to him, and we're reminded that this is the best possible exit point for our office hero.
Michael's efforts to keep his final day a secret largely work, except that Jim notices something is awry, particularly after seeing his nervous frustration that Pam had yet to return from "pricing shredders" (actually going to see The King's Speech) by his scheduled departure time from the office. The party planning committee, The Dream Team (and Meredith) is getting ready for his going away party, and he is being suspiciously complacent, insisting on making everyone else happy with the kind of ice cream they want. After years of ridiculous, childishly specific demands for his desires, the sudden act of passivity alarms the girls, but not enough to put the pieces together.
Jim has it figured out, however, and when he corners Michael in his office, the one proper goodbye we get to fully experience brought the tear ducts out to play in an instant. Halpert, understanding his boss' desire not to bog down the day with sadness, chokes back very real tears as he sets up a scenario for the next day that both men know won't ever take place.
"We'll go to lunch tomorrow, where I can tell you what a great boss you turned out to be," Jim said, asJohn Krasinski's real tears threatened to break his character.
Dwight, still crushed by Michael's lack of devotion in not recommending him to take the boss position in his departure, tries not to be affected by the glowing letter of recommendation his boss gives him. It was a touching moment to see the sentiment creep in on the otherwise stoically robotic weirdo, but nowhere near as heartwarming as watching the final paintball battle play out between the two in the parking lot.
With his car due to arrive at any moment, Michael calls everyone in the conference room one final time. Short-circuited by his inability to say goodbye to them all (Pam still hasn't arrived), he slips into his terrible Asian caricature, Ping, a racistly obnoxious character that nobody wants to see. This is when Halpert steps in and gets him alone in office, and as the staff heads back to their desk to resume work, Michael looks proudly on his friends and underlings.
Creed, apparent new owner of the Worlds Best Boss mug, shouts “See ya tomorrow boss!”
He exchanges a final, knowing, loving look with Jim, steps onto the elevator, and he's gone. And of course, our hearts drop to the floor when Pam pulls up in the parking lot less than two seconds after Michael's cab leaves.
The airport departure is a nervous, excited sort of goodbye as Michael takes off his microphone, but not before asking the camera crew to let him know if the footage the crew has been amassing for the past seven seasons ever airs (perfectly clever). Pulling the mic box out of his breast pocket, Michael says with a smile: “It will be good to get this off my chest”, and then, soundlessly, says “That’s what she said.” One final, beautiful time.
As he turns and begins walking towards the gate, a barefoot Pam runs into frame and stops him. The two hug and exchange loving words of goodbye, and through our blubbering Kleenex orgy we can hear her tell us that he said he was hoping for an upgrade on his flight, and that he couldn’t wait to get home to see Holly.
A beautiful era has ended at Dunder Mifflin, and The Office will never again be the same. Evidence that the new boss, Deangelo Vicker (Will Ferrell), isn't going to pan out at all mounts rapidly as the episode progresses, with a side story featuring the man's unfathomably bad sales technique and demented persona shining through - at least to Andy.
When Andy asks for his help on a sale, Deangelo jumps on board. After pumping themselves up at a pet store, they head over to the client, where the would-be boss completely humiliates himself and Dunder Mifflin with a pitch a drunk Klansman would've fared better with. It doesn't help that we learn that he got the job at Sabre because he saved Jo Bennett's dog, either.
Ferrell only has one more episode to go on the series, something we're thankful for because the man was simply too good at making us despise him. The staff is clearly disgusted when, on Michael's "last day" (the day after he's already left), he begins eating cake by the handful and alternately throwing it in the garbage in self-disgust when it becomes clear that Michael's not going to show.
I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling particularly nervous about the future of the show, but on the slight chance that Will Arnett will be taking over (he's one of the names in contention), I think it's pretty safe to reserve a ray of hope that "The Office" will persevere in Carell's absence.
Oh, and Gabe might be the Scranton Strangler. It's a longshot theory, but the man's desperate, confrontational persona is an alarming development in the wake of his breakup with Erin, who clearly wants to be with Andy. More on that as it develops...
Watch Steve Carell's final moments on "The Office":
Farewell, Michael Scott - thanks for all the laughs.