Tonight marks the beginning of the end for Dunder Mifflin's Michael Scott: His real-life alter ego, Steve Carell, has announced he's leaving the show after the season’s end in May. The show will continue without him, so for months everyone has been guessing who will replace him: but we’re curious about how he’ll march off into his paper sunset. Will he reconcile with Holly and move to New Hampshire? Be downsized? Die in an improv accident? We’re sure the smart Office writers have a fine, hilarious, and heartwarming plan to send off Carell, but we thought it would be a fun experiment to get suggestions from a group of drama writers more used to sending off characters with fatal wounds than with hugs. We called Lost's Damon Lindelof, Spartacus: Blood and Sand's Steven S. DeKnight, Justified's Graham Yost, and Bones' Hart Hanson and asked them for their most out-there ideas for getting rid of Michael. And, because they’re all Office fans, we allowed them their sentimental hopes, too.
Damon Lindelof, co-creator and executive producer of Lost
THE OUT-THERE IDEA: Before Lindelof will play along, he wants to make something clear: "I'm a huge fan of the show," he says. "So this is a slippery slope, because it implies I know better than the guys who've been doing the show all along. Whatever I'm about to say, I hope they don't do. I'm just having fun." Okay, that disclaimer aired: For a man who drowned the reunited, swoony Jin and Sun near the end of Lost, he has no brutal end in mind for Michael. "The coolest thing ever would be that Michael Scott's office becomes a shrine to Michael Scott. Like in all those movies and TV shows where a kid dies and the parents never, ever move anything out of their room. If Dunder Mifflin could decide they weren't going to replace him, that there would be oversight in some way, but that Michael Scott was actually irreplaceable and the show is admitting it, and honoring it — that would be the coolest thing. I would love to continue to feel his presence on this show. You can't just pretend he wasn't there."
THE SENTIMENTAL IDEA: "On a personal level, I would love Michael to have a happy ending and I would love for him to find love. That's been the guy's arc. It should be definitive. It's not like he's going over a couple towns. It should be that he doesn't really need the office anymore. The office has really been a surrogate family for him that he has needed emotionally over the course of these years. And if he were to find the right person, whether that's Holly or somebody new that they introduce, I would feel like it was a happy ending for him to leave the office. It would feel like a celebration instead of something sad and tragic."
Steven S. DeKnight, co-creator and executive producer, Spartacus: Blood and Sand
THE OUT-THERE IDEA: "There's only one word to describe it: Jet pack. Michael Scott is Peter Pan. He's a boy in a man's body. With whatever severance package he got, he'd want to fly away. Literally. I would certainly put him in a jet pack and fly him off."
THE SENTIMENTAL IDEA: DeKnight's definitely in the bring-back-Holly camp. "I would be shocked if they didn't use that to wrap it up," he says. "It was such an unexpected beautiful, touching, completely goofy relationship." And despite his day job crafting tales of blood and sex and more blood, DeKnight would play up the touchy-feely card throughout the season: "The amazing thing about the Michael Scott character is how emotional he can be; you unexpectedly find yourself tearing up," the producer says. "I expect there to be a lot of hilarity and antics leading up to his exit, but also a lot of emotion."
Graham Yost, creator and executive producer, Justified
THE OUT-THERE IDEA: "As someone working on a modern western ... I imagine, completely inappropriately, that Michael, Dwight, Pam, and Jim would be holed up in Michael's office fending off gun thugs," he says. "Michael and Dwight would be debating as to who would have to sacrifice themselves for the good of the others. Jim would go out and try to charm the gun thugs and talk them out of it and get shot in the leg. And then Pam would kill them all. But that's through the prism of what I'm working on now."
THE SENTIMENTAL IDEA: Another member of Team Holly (sorry, Team Jan!): "As a fan who's literally seen every episode and saw the British version, my hope is they do something with Michael and Holly," Yost says. "Michael is a jerk and he's an idiot, but he means well. It would be nice to give him a little measure of happiness at the end of this deal. I wouldn't mind if she just showed up in the last scene and was just standing there." All that said, Yost is a big believer that the show should end with Carell’s departure. "I have incredible faith in [executive producer] Greg Daniels but ... I would just not take the money, and I wouldn't do it," he says. "The show should end with Michael Scott. They've had seven years. Everybody's made enough money to put their kids through college. But that was one of the great lessons of Lost: honor the shows, and honor the fans, and do right by it. As much as I love all the [other characters], it really came down to him. It was his show."
Hart Hanson, creator and executive producer, Bones
THE OUT-THERE IDEA: Hanson isn't afraid to imagine a Bones-like ending. "Michael inadvertently suggests to Dwight that if Jo Bennett [Kathy Bates] were to die, stasis and joy would return," he suggests. "Jo Bennett dies in a horrible, tissue-destroying manner, and Booth and Brennan show up to solve the crime, traveling all the way from Thursdays at 8 p.m. on Fox. Of course it was Dwight who committed the murder, but in a lovely coda — after years of taking Dwight's near homoerotic allegiance mostly for granted — Michael confesses to Jo Bennett's murder. Which Brennan then finds out was an accident. Because, y'know, our heroes have to get it right." Hanson has a way his show might benefit, too. "I'd want to do it as a crossover episode, so maybe we could take the Office audience with us," he laughs.
THE SENTIMENTAL IDEA: Hanson would like things “to end happily for Michael, which is not usually what I'd do. But I just like the guy. I'd like him to run off with Holly to run Fawlty Towers." As for Carell’s last scene: "I would be tempted to have it be very close to the last scene of The Mary Tyler Moore
Show," Hanson says. "The office is empty, he's got his stuff in boxes, he takes his last box, he leaves, and he turns off the light. You can also see the last scene being him standing in the parking lot watching the building burn. I can't quite see him spelling out 'good-bye' with yellow stones in the parking lot."