The Office Recap: ‘Search Committee’

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“The hand that reaches from the grave to grip your throat is the strong hand you want on the wheel.”

The Office ended its seventh season last night with an hour-long episode that was packed to the maximum with guests, storylines, and more questions than answers about next season. Let’s announce them all again: Will Arnett, Ricky Gervais, Warren Buffett, Catherine Tate, Ray Romano, James Spader, and Jim Carrey. This list has scared me for the past few weeks, but after seeing all these stars in action supporting a show that’s gone through unarguably its biggest challenge to date (Michael!) rather than smothering it with their star power, I’m convinced this show can accomplish pretty much anything.

“Search Committee” continues where last week left off when Jo enlists Jim, Toby, and Gabe to find and recommend a new managerial candidate. The three schedule a day of interviewing and the parade of guest stars begins with Will Arnett as the guy with a three-step plan he’s not willing to give away — a brief part, but a happy visit from Arnett nonetheless. Warren Buffett also makes a brief but strong appearance as an applicant more interested in knowing the company benefits than discussing his qualifications. Next in line is James Spader’s character — wow! I instantly fell in love with his creepy psychological tactics and love for pregnant pauses, and his stare-down against Dwight was one of my favorite parts of the episode — “Stop trying to figure me out!” Catherine Tate gave a great performance as half-new age yet half-brutal Nellie, whose vague and conflicting ideas for solutions (No cubicles or titles! More cubicles and titles!) brought back a David Brent-era vibe that could really benefit the US Office, and I also loved the hopelessness of Ray Romano’s character, who had given up by the time he got in the elevator.

Even though this episode lasted an hour, I found it hard to keep up with how many things were going on at once. Aside from the search committee looking for a new manager there was Phyllis and Erin��s mother-daughter bonding (and no, they’re not related), Angela’s engagement to “The Senator,” Erin asking Andy out, Andy rejecting Erin, and Jo transferring Gabe to Florida. This wasn’t so much a bad thing as it was a busy thing, and despite all that’s gone on during the past few weeks, the show has remained sweetly simple (Michael’s proposal and exit in particular) until now. I suspect such storyline multitasking is a result of losing their leader of the last six seasons, but I admire the show for ending with uncertainty rather than answers. Why rush to find a new center when they can explore the chaos for a while?

The new manager hasn’t been announced yet, but James Spader got the most airtime in the finale episode, and he also was in my opinion one of the most hilarious and unique new Office characters in quite a while. His interactions with Jim, Dwight, and Toby were so refreshing that if I don’t get to see his character again, I’ll be sincerely bummed. The others all gave strong performances and many sources are speculating that Catherine Tate is the frontrunner, but only Spader’s character interacted with Dunder Mifflin on both a personal and professional level. To Dwight he’s threatening and to Jim he’s terrifying, and I think that sounds like the kind of guy who could potentially be either a dream boss or absolute nightmare — and Spader would be hilarious and an easy fit for the show in either role if you ask me. I doubt it’ll be Ricky Gervais as David Brent or Jim Carrey as the Finger Lakes guy, but if they want an interview I’m not going to argue.

So how many episodes after Michael Scott left will it take until we stop counting how many episodes it’s been since Michael Scott left? I didn’t think about Michael one time during last night’s episode — not because I don’t love and treasure and miss him, but because the others have picked up the slack with such skill and ease of transition that I don’t want to miss a moment of it. I love this ensemble. I love Darryl using his daughter for sympathy. I love Angela insulting Pam. I love Stanley’s constant state of annoyance and disapproval. I know I’ve raved for these guys many times over my last four months of recapping, but they really do deserve it. They’ve weathered the storm so well and kept me laughing all the way, and what else do I need on a Thursday night?

Megh Wright misses Harrisburg, lives in Brooklyn, and answers phones in Manhattan.