Ricky Gervais was right. Sure, he's backpedaled since his initial cutting remark about the season finale of "The Office," but the original criticism rings true. What could've been a fantastic culmination of events calming the chaos since the departure of Steve Carell, in execution was ultimately no better than every other mid-level comedy series in the bunch.
We don't have an answer as to who will take over Michael Scott's vacated position as head of the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin. We saw several contenders, some in scenes entirely wasted on awkward setup (Gervais' much-hyped cameo was a 15 second video chat? Really?). But none stood out as the clear frontrunner - and that's just how they want it. If we have the answer now, we'll have all Summer to dwell on and debate the idea, coming to our own speculative decisions on how they'll do.
In a bit of poetic perfection, HR rep Toby (Paul Lieberstein) wrote the episode, which centered on the search committee – Jim, Toby and Gabe – and their ever-increasingly difficult decision of finding a new leader for the Scranton branch. Cue the barrage of celebrity guest appearances/interviews... James Spader was brilliant, and his standoff with Dwight a classic moment in the season's many. Jim hit it on the head when, after being cross-examined in an interview he conducted, he said "He creeps me out -- but I think he might be a genius."
Ray Romano was squirrelly and full of self-doubt, or rather his character was, and it would've been nice to have seen more of him in the show. If there's a runner-up wish for the winning character for the job (after Will Arnett, of course - despite his feeble show-opening interview), it would have to be Romano. He's not an overimposing personality, but still retains a gravitas of character onscreen.
Catherine Tate is a reported favorite among the show's producers, but she holds absolutely zero gravity onscreen. They even crazied up her character, but it did virtually nothing to provide any sort of captivating atmosphere about her. Her interview impression was poor, but it was put out there with obvious intention that Nellie is a friend of (Sabre CEO) Jo's, so it wouldn't be a shock if she did get the job, despite the shoddy interview.
Jim Carrey ended up being the Finger Lakes guy, a closing-credits tag appearance that barely qualifies as a cameo.
As the episode progresses, the decision becomes harder and harder as the field of applicants shows itself to be truly thin on quality. It becomes clear that hardly any of the staff is eligible, despite several employees' attempts to take the reins. Between Kelly, Darryl and Andy, there was plenty of comedic condiments to pepper around Dwight's various efforts to get himself back in the game. We're seeing a lot more humanity around the weirdo as he tries to make himself a viable candidate despite having fired a gun in the office during his earlier taste of authority. And damned if he doesn't present some genuinely great ideas for helping the company improve. But let's be real about it - there's no way he's getting the job.
Gabe cock-blocks Andy not only personally but professionally, sabotaging his interview and accusing him of "breaking up the happiest couple in the office". We learn - through a brief but powerful post-interview freakout in the car - that Mr. Bernard may not have as great a lock on his anger issues as he suggested post-counseling a couple seasons back.
Is Erin a Porky's baby? Or Phyllis' daughter for that matter? The answer to at least one of those questions is a resounding "no," but Phyllis chooses not to tell the young receptionist of the blood test results "for a little while" as she enjoys treating Erin like an affection puppet. Another enjoyable peripheral was Pam making sure Creed doesn't destroy the company with an increasingly complex series of voices, pretending to be various clients Creed is calling to poach for his own paper company.
Menwhile, Angela got engaged. That's about as captivating as watching paint dry at this point, despite the fact that her fiance is quite clearly gay. It also seems as if Gabe is being sent back to Florida, after Jo catches wind of how much he's involved himself with the locals while overseeing them. We won't be too sad to see Zach Woods go, but I'm still not convinced we won't see more of him in a Scranton Strangler arc next season.
So yes, we'll have to wait until September to know who gets the job. "Search Committee" wasn't anywhere near as good a finale as "Goodbye Michael" would have been, had they cut the season off with Michael's exit. The episode wasn't nearly as captivating or engaging as it should've been, and it's truly a disappointment that we haven't found out who the new boss is going to be. But the additional episodes did serve the new world of "The Office" well, and help establish a unity among the staff in his absence. It was a necessary transitional episode - let's just hope it pays off with a strong opening in the Fall.
See you next season!