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‘The Office’: Possible Last Episode Totally Intense

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The only non–talk show that matters is closing up shop for the duration of the writers’ strike, which means it’s very possible last night’s episode will have to hold us off for months. This capper couldn’t have been more perfect: It’s been a while since we were left with such uncertainty. We’re kind of afraid Michael’s head will explode.

Forcing a dunderheaded but essentially good-hearted soul like Michael to sit in front of a pack of lawyers is like poking a helpless puppy with a hot poker. Torn between the woman he loves (who’s perfectly willing to sell him out) and the company he’s devoted to (which doesn’t take him seriously), Michael squirms, recants, and basically looks like a guy who would rather be doing pretty much anything else but sitting in that room. It was one of Steve Carell’s finest moments on the show, particularly when we get the punch line. After Michael’s boss is revealed as having said Michael’s a “nice guy” but never considered a contender for a management position, Michael’s good nature allows him to ignore the insult and be legitimately touched that someone considers him a “nice guy.” And he is. Which is why that last scene, of Michael and Jan, their relationship imploding in the most public fashion, was so ominous. Whatever the future brings, Michael cannot deny that Jan will betray him at the drop of a hat. It’s Michael’s private curse: A man who always means well, in this corporate and romantic universe, is doomed to be stepped on. And he’d probably wouldn't have it any other way.

And just in case you thought Michael was getting too sappy, we were treated with perhaps the funniest moment ever in the Michael-Toby feud. That might be what we’ll miss most about The Office while we wait for the strike to end — those nods to sweetness and human magnanimity, paired with the festering pettiness that always lies beneath. Come back soon, Office. —Will Leitch

Photo: Courtesy of NBC