“It turns out, unless you’re a young child or a prison inmate, you don’t need anyone supervising you. People just come in and do their work on their own schedule. Imagine that.” Hallelujah, Jim. Thanks for speaking on behalf of all office drones everywhere who feel infantilized for being forced to clear doctors’ appointments and days off with another adult. Is it so crazy to think that people can be trusted to do their job?
Of course, Jim wasn’t just voicing the irritation of the average nine-to-fiver. The subtext here was, as it has been all season, can The Office survive without Michael Scott? Truth is, this cast does excel when left to their own devices, we just know it can’t last forever. (On a more minor note: Michael hardly did much “supervising,” so the staff hasn’t exactly been micro-managed all these years.)
Feeling buzzed on democracy, Jim passed on the job of acting manager, not thinking Dwight was next in line. Faster than you can say Uday Hussein, Dwight took the reins: staggered lunches, empty snack machines, and an end to robots taking messages (a.k.a. voice mail). Oh, and a pet piranha (he’s a rescue). This is an old joke — it wasn’t that long ago that another set of Dwight’s bizarre rules as building manager included one-ply toilet paper. But the Jim and Dwight rivalry is, if not the heart of the series, then at least one of the damn good things about it. So, basically, the return of this kind of semantic nudging was welcome:
Dwight: “You will not be insubordinate, nor will you foment insurrection.”
Jim: “Question — if we have already fomented insurrection, may we be grandfathered in?”
Dwight: “Define foment.”
Jim: “You define foment.”
Overall, John Krasinski and Rainn Wilson were in rare form last night. Maybe this is reading too much into it, but it looked like both actors recognized the importance of pulling their own weight to make up for Carell’s absence. Wilson, in particular, recently expressed some serious doubts about the show’s chances of success — and we think maybe he underestimated both himself and the rest of the ensemble. Krasinski’s high moments were the quippy back-and-forth, resulting in: “If I had thought that there was a real chance that Dwight would be permanent manager, I would have pre-quit. Now you might be saying to yourself, ‘Well, that’s pretty pre-premature to think.’ But I always say it’s better to be pre-pre-prepared.”
So if in the middle-ish act, you have a guy preening with a holster, then a gun must be fired in the next scene, a law writer Justin Spitzer observed. When the staff objected to the Beaumont-Adams, Dwight assured them it was merely an accessory to his awesome present from Uncle Honk. Next thing we know, Andy’s been shot, almost, and he can’t find the perfect C. The two best responses to this were: (1) Toby’s glee over getting to use the gun-violence forms for the first time, and (2) Darryl’s attitude toward Andy’s neediness, culminating in him tricking him, offscreen, into thinking he was deaf: “I don’t feel good about it, but he just kept calling himself a gunshot victim and it got to me.” Finding out Oscar was one of those Web M.D. nuts — and who isn’t these days? — was a close third.
It’s probably time to mention an earlier subplot: Erin’s feelings for Andy have obviously returned (if they ever vanished). Erin admitted that, while Gabe was a nice person, “It was a challenge being touched by him,” a sentiment she hinted at since the very beginning of the season. In the conference room, Gabe sequestered Andy, who once again rocked the salmon pants, to cry and beg that he not pursue Erin. It horrified Andy, it horrified us — Zach Woods is so well cast. Not sure if he would appreciate this compliment, but he has a harmless creepiness to him that really suits the character. Anyway, Gabe approached Erin: “I don’t believe in horoscopes, I don’t believe in Christmas, I sure as hell don’t believe in God” — before he can get to “But I believe in us,” he had to do some compromising.
At the staff meeting that Dwight was forced to call after the gun incident, he cowboys in with an amusing fervor — no, wait, he couldn’t pull it off. Ryan said he felt terrorized and Toby perked up at the thought of more new forms. Dwight leveled: “You guys are my best friends, and I mean that. Managing you for this last week has been the greatest honor of my life.” So he’s obviously mocking the Scott way of running things, but there could be some truth to the statement, summed up thusly: “I love you guys, but don’t cross me, but you’re the best.”
The staff chose to use the incident to blackmail Dwight. If he wanted them to stay hush, he would have to restore the snacks, dole out some extra vacation days, use jazz hands every time Jim coughed (Dwight: “What’s jazz hands?”), and rub Kevin’s moist back. Moist and Kevin in the same sentence? Gag. But great scene. When Dwight realized how much power he was really ceding by giving in to these demands, he confessed to Jo, who had pretty reasonable retorts to Dwight’s arrogance. Dwight: “I take full responsibility.” Jo: “Who else would be responsible?” And also: “Stop asking yourself easy questions so you can look like a genius.” Is that an annoying habit of some people? Yes. Was this a phenomenal episode? No, but it was pretty funny. Are we going to continue with this joke?
So Jim offered some condolence to Dwight — “I will say every single one of the orders went out on time, and I think that is shagadelic, baby” — and now he, Gabe, and Toby must find a new manager. In the meantime, the person with the most seniority keeps the job. Creed as boss? That could be pretty astounding/challenging/hilarious. Not likely, unfortunately, with a load of guests coming next week.
There is some fatigue at this point. As a viewer, it probably would have been preferable to see the season end with Carell’s departure. But the show felt it needed a reason for us to come back in the fall and an influx of familiar faces next week could raise the stakes or leave us more curious than we would have been otherwise. (Also, is that Jordan girl sticking around for good?) In the long run, maybe the staff needs a new authority figure to respond to, if not for their sake, then for ours. It might have been nice, though, if we got to see how much longer the core cast could run things on their own.