Well, as had been rumored all week, it’s now official: Michael really has quit Dunder Mifflin. He gives his two weeks’ notice, says his goodbyes, and is escorted out by security and everything. This is not to say he handles it well. He tries to sway everyone to join his “new paper company,” he sneaks back into the office after security takes him away, and, in one particularly fun pop-culture moment, he almost gets his ass kicked by Charles Minor, the guy whose appearance started all this anyway. Michael Scott being beaten up by Stringer Bell. That’s one for the TV annals.
The office instantly feels emptier without Michael — his old nemesis Toby says his absence is like when you’re watching a movie you don’t care about on an airplane, once it’s over, you wish you had another movie to watch rather than just sitting in silence on a plane — and one has to wonder how the show’s going to handle this sudden, dramatic change. We get an extremely sweet moment when Pam — whose frustrated ambition, ceded to be with Jim earlier, has been a quiet undercurrent all season — decides to quit along with Michael. She knows Michael’s dream of a paper company is crazy — though the show is smart enough to give us a hint that Michael might have some inkling of what he’s doing — but she’s ready for a challenging new beginning, too. True, her step toward self-discovery now involves being a salesperson rather than an artist, but, you know, baby steps.
But it’s clear that The Office has made a major step: Until Michael returns to Dunder Mifflin — and it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen anytime soon, if at all — we’re returning to the Two Separate Workplaces plotlines we had back when Jim went to work at Stamford. If the preview for the next episode two weeks from now is any indication, that second workplace is going to be Michael’s living room … but everybody’s gotta start somewhere. Michael and Pam have always had a subtle, goofily optimistic bond, and it’ll be fun to watch them begin again. And, if Jim keeps struggling with Stringer Bell, he might be joining them soon.
With Idris Elba signed up for four more episodes, it seems this plotline is going to last into the summer hiatus. Will we end up with Michael succeeding? Will he stay in his living room the whole time? It seems fitting that, ultimately, The Office could turn into a show about telecommuting. All told, it’s better than a show about unemployment.