The Office Recap: ‘Threat Level Midnight’

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“I was eventually going to get around to my dream, obviously.”

Steve Carrell’s imminent departure from The Office has kept the show in the comedy news headlines this year — David Brent met Michael, Will Ferrell is coming, a new cast member was hired, a Thursday night marathon has been scheduled, Ricky Gervais suggested Will Arnett as the new boss, and Christina Applegate suggested herself as the new boss. While I have spent much time wondering how the show can replace its most irreplaceable character, “Threat Level Midnight” gives Office fans on the cusp of mourning the loss of Michael a chance to celebrate this self-centered, silly man-child who just wants to be loved like the rest of us.

Like last week, this episode was all about the cast’s power as an ensemble. The actors got a chance to play their characters playing other characters, and they all need this kind of development and exploration in order to thrive without Michael, who has always been a driving force of the show. The supporting characters are standing more and more on their own now while the main characters have clearly taken the backseat, and this mix-up has really strengthened the show. I guess Gabe took the day off this week, otherwise I doubt any of these guys would’ve gotten away with watching Michael’s homemade movie in the conference room (by the way, where was Kelly?). Everyone had their own scene in the movie to look forward to, and there were also a few familiar guests — Karen, Roy, Pam’s mom, Packer, Jan, and a picture of Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Threat Level Midnight has been Michael’s side-project since the second season, so to see it come to fruition in this episode was a great ode to Michael’s way of bringing everyone together at his own expense — only this time it wasn’t at his expense, everyone really liked it. And it was good! Well it was bad, but in a good way. It let us peek back to the days when Jim would do anything (like play Goldface, the movie’s villain) to impress Pam, and Stanley’s voiceover was perfect and oddly cooperative. Most memorable from the movie was Michael Scarn’s mysterious advisor/trainer Cherokee Jack, who is really just Creed wearing a fringed suede jacket.

Of course when everyone else (even Oscar) likes Michael’s film, it’s Holly who is the most underwhelmed. Her lack of excitement and support for what Michael considers the most “real” thing he has sends him into a state of confused insecurity, and he turns from blushing and happy to nervous and talky during the screening before almost shutting it down altogether. Holly can’t be blamed for not knowing how important the movie is to Michael because she’s the only one who wasn’t in it or knew about it beforehand. So maybe it’s a Bond rip-off in the context where Michael can show off his ice-skating, and maybe it’s never going to be screened at a film festival, but Michael has materialized his dream, however small the scale. And anything that gets Jim to wear gold paint on his face, Oscar to dress up as a speed skater, and Stanley to just participate is an accomplishment. Everyone’s willingness and ability to take on new characters should serve them well over the next couple of weeks, and as a fan who has followed Threat Level Midnight from its conception, I felt particularly rewarded during this episode. Michael Scott said it best: “Don’t listen to your critics, listen to your fans.” And they do.

Megh Wright is a writer, TV addict, and Harrisburg native. She currently resides in Brooklyn, New York and is a Gawker TV contributor.