There are enough red herrings to fill a lake at this point in Steve Carell’s final season on "The Office," but Thursday’s episode topped them all with a casual cold-open moment between Michael Scott and his original prototype, David Brent. The concept had been speculated upon for seven full years, but the timing was absolutely perfect for originator Ricky Gervais, fresh from a legendarily brutal dismantling of celebrity delusion at the Golden Globes, to reprise the role that started it all, if only for just a moment.
Their chance meeting outside the elevator was a dream come true for countless fans, and immediately spawned a mutual admiration between the two men – a no-brainer for the nearly identical narcissistic personalities between them. All it took was a well-placed “that’s what she said” to earn a hug of stranger-admiration from Mr. Scott, and set a speculative firestorm ablaze over the possibility of Gervais taking the boss role. Sure, the British side-splitter has said on record that he won’t be replacing Steve Carell, but that’s not going to stop the dreamers.
Seeing the writing on the wall about his poor standing in the company, Andy hosts a seminar for small businesses in an attempt to lure in new clients. He relies on several of the Dunder Mifflin staff to bolster his air of professionalism and set him up for the easy-sell close, but his best laid plans dissolve into a Hail Mary of begging when Dwight, Phyllis and Stanley decide it’s not worth their time and Jim scampers out the door at the sight of an old friend from elementary school who he accidentally offended as a child
In their absence, Andy defies all sense of decent judgement and enlists the help of Creed, Kevin and Kelly, perhaps the worst second-string lineup in the history of business presentations. Creed and Kevin simultaneously creep and bewilder with their hilarious segments (Kevin seemed quite near death when he finished his "Crazy Train" run around the office and ended with a hearty trashcan puke), and Kelly pulled a stroke of awkward genius when she called up a high-ranking sex buddy to have him explain the ten secrets of business success.
"That brilliant little bitch," Andy muses, clearly upstaged but acknowledging the potential impact on his own bottom line.
With the presentations complete and the prospective clients somehow still in their seats, Andy’s golden moment arrives to close the sales – but he chokes. He’s about to meekly shuffle them out the door with a business card when Michael intervenes and takes him outside for a much-needed kick in the ass to seal the deal. His confidence takes flight after making a few sales: “The rest of you are dead to me, and you made the stupidest decision of your life. But it’s been a pleasure meeting you, and you have my number, so feel free to call any time.”
Peripherally, we also saw the slowly unraveling connection between Erin and Gabe, with the stiff corporate token ignoring Erin’s movie tastes through a very uneven game of Scrabble (she’s running on empty in the brains department). The sign of future romantic dilemmas is about as delicate as a hammer as Andy hands her a copy of Shrek 2 and he sees her eyes light up – just before Gabe covers it with his own horror movie selection.
Jim finally comes face to face with his boyhood friend, who his mother told him he couldn’t play with anymore because he was too dumb. The old friend was clearly still bitter about the comment (something like that’s bound to stick with a kid, no? Can’t really blame him), and lambasts Jim for being a paper salesman. "Where’s you jetpack, Zuckerberg?" Ouch.
That brings us to the romantic lubrication building to Carell’s "Office" sendoff: Michael and Holly spend the entire day together "perfecting" various accents, their bond quite clearly reigniting despite Holly’s reluctance (the moment in Michael’s office when he tries, unsuccessfully, to steal a kiss from Holly is terribly painful). As we inch closer to Michael’s departure, it’s hard not to wonder how torturous the build-up to their romantic flight will be, but it’s guaranteed not to be an easy line between desire and realization.
A very strong episode that set a few balls in motion for future prospects. We didn’t miss Darryl’s wise words from behind the newspaper in the break room, and as of now it appears that he’s the front-runner for office manager once the inevitable happens. Will Ferrell is joining the cast for a four-episode arc soon that will help soften the blow of Carell’s departure, and those episodes cannot come soon enough. Until then…
CraveOnline Rating: 8.5 out of 10