After Michael, seemingly out of nowhere, quit his job at Dunder Mifflin, we finally found out where this show is going in last night's two episodes. And it’s not going very far: next door.
After recruiting Ryan (B.J. Novak's no longer filming Inglourious Basterds; Ryan is now working at a bowling alley and has become a much bigger douche than he was before), failing to get an investment from his nana, and musing on the possibility of his new company not being about paper at all, Michael finally finds some office space for the Michael Scott Paper Company. Perfectly, it’s in the same office park as Dunder Mifflin: Michael, Ryan, and Pam are now working out of a closet next to the Dunder Mifflin bathroom while they listen to their former colleagues urinate. It’s a masterstroke for the show, allowing the spinoff company and characters to still interact with their old office mates while giving them their own space in which to bounce off each other. If you can call it a space.
At this point, Michael’s arc is clear: He undertakes a foolish quest, struggles with it buffoonishly, and then, just when you think it’s all over for him, shows why he was a manager in the first place by pulling it all off in the end. That’s what happened for the Michael Scott Paper Company (which, it’s worth noting, now has its own website, michaelscottpapercompany.com), a workplace dissolving into uselessness and rancor until, at the eleventh hour, Pam makes her first sale and voilà, it’s a business! Considering how unlikely it was that The Office was going to allow Michael and Pam to degrade into homelessness and squalor, the show has handled the predictable transition as well as possible.
And frankly, The Office kind of needed this sort of shake-up, even if it’s something as simple as another room to put all our characters in. (Though it’s smaller than Michael realized: “165 square feet seemed like a lot.”) Michael will take on Dunder Mifflin, and one gets the feeling that even though the Michael Scott Paper Company might not be long for this world, there’s going to be a spot back at Dunder Mifflin, in the place of the increasingly unreasonable Charles Minor, and this time, they’ll appreciate him. At least until he does something dumb again.
Oh, and yes: The Office debuted new credits last night (you can see them here) that surely won’t last, but that were particularly inspired. Shooting baskets off the wall and onto Ryan’s head, the threesome being unable to move around each other, the dead fish on Michael’s desk … it was a good reminder that this show is supposed to be about lame jobs, not fun ones. As much as we might be cheering for Michael, working at the Michael Scott Paper Company looks like a truly lousy job.