“Michael, you had two ideas today. One of them was great, and one of them was terrible.”
When a show like The Office builds enough development and emotion to earn a cathartic proposal scene (much like it did with Jim and Pam’s rainy gas station proposal), you’ve got to give in and feel good knowing that even though Michael’s leaving soon, he’ll be happy to go. This episode posed the same piece of advice that we did yesterday: Stop worrying about the future of post-Michael Scott Dunder Mifflin and just live in the moment, man. It’s been three weeks since the last new episode, but “Garage Sale” proved the wait worthwhile. I laughed and I cried, but mostly I cried.
In “Garage Sale,” Dwight uses the employee garage sale as an opportunity to practice “the art of the swap,” starting with a thumb tack then trading it for everyone else’s junk items until Jim fools him by tempting him with a sack of magic legumes. Everyone brings their own interpretation of “unwanted items” to sell at the garage sale, whether it’s Kevin’s Dallas board game or Oscar’s Will & Grace DVDs (which other people kept getting him as gifts despite him not liking it, guys) or Ryan’s jars of “Mama Sally’s Homemade Pesto” and “Senor Chico’s Hot Cha Cha” he enlisted his mother to make, using Phyllis’ and Oscar’s photos for the labels respectively and without permission.
While everyone else is busy at the garage sale, Michael prepares to ask Holly to marry him, starting with a call to her senile father. Michael’s first proposal idea involves setting the parking lot on fire, but Pam stops him and instead sets up a meeting with Michael, Jim, Oscar, and Ryan to help Michael think of a safer idea. While the others come up with proposal ideas, Michael points out that Jim asked Pam to marry him at a gas station in the rain — it might not have been fancy or expensive, but it was still romantic. Jim and Michael agree that proposing to a woman is terrifying, no matter what the circumstances, and its value lies in meaning more than effort or price.
Season 7 has given lots of gifts to loyal fans, and the proposal itself sealed the deal. Michael takes Holly on a tour of the office — where Toby first said he was going to Costa Rica, where Michael first saw Holly, where Michael first kissed Holly, where they co-ran their first meeting together (Obesity Awareness), where they realized Meredith was prostituting herself for Outback Steakhouse gift certificates — it was a great trip through some of the show’s most hilarious episodes involving Michael and Holly. Everyone in the office participates, and then when Michael takes Holly into the candle-filled annex — excellent. I’m a sucker for an emotional proposal, and for some reason it’s even better when it’s raining, even if it’s just a few fire sprinklers.
I know a few people who don’t watch The Office anymore specifically due to Michael’s often torturous, cringe-worthy, infantile behavior — they just can’t endure week after week of the awkward moments he creates, and I can’t really blame them, either. That part of Michael — the part that cuts off Holly as she tries to propose to him (“No, I am not going to be proposed to in the break room.”) — has made the trip to this episode a difficult one, but between saying goodbye to Packer and bringing all of Dunder Mifflin together to make the most sincere, mature, and selflessly loving proposal, Michael has grown and developed in a very realistic and likable way. And in contrast to his typical self-centered need to be in control, Michael says yes when Holly asks him to leave his Scranton life behind and come with her to Colorado, and for the first time we see Michael not only letting go of his need for power and attention, but experiencing the happiness and freedom that comes along with it.
Megh Wright is a writer, TV addict, and Harrisburg native. She currently resides in Brooklyn, New York and is a Gawker TV contributor.