Fittingly for an episode directed by Steve Carell, Michael Scott has his finest moment, defeating everyone in his path, on his own terms. If there was any doubt that Michael is no longer a doddering boob, it has been put to rest: Michael Scott took on everyone, and he won.
In a rousing, exuberant episode that continues one of The Office’s best runs in its history, Michael learns that his company is going bankrupt as it cuts into Dunder Mifflin’s business (Michael Scott Paper Company has dramatically undercut them on prices), receives a buyout offer from Dunder Mifflin, refuses it, gets back everybody’s old jobs (this time, though, Pam’s a salesperson, which should make for some amusing Jim banter down the line), and even runs out his rival, Charles Minor. Michael Scott defeats Stringer Bell. Believe it.
Every simmering storyline is so wrapped up that it’s a bit shocking that there are three episodes left this season. Watching Michael plan for the business meeting with the DM brass who could save his company (which needs Michael Scott Paper Company to go away) makes for legitimate tension: You root for Michael not to screw this up and then cheer when he doesn’t. Jim sets up the meeting, realizing before everyone else that things seem to be falling into place; for a brief moment you wonder if Jim, who had been under pressure from the new boss, would use his inside knowledge of Michael’s (and Pam’s) struggles against them for his own advantage. It’s inspiring to see that he doesn’t. This shifting of character loyalties is actually quite clever; when Dwight learns right before the meeting that Michael’s company is going broke, you panic when it seems he’s going to ruin the deal. Dwight’s a beloved character on the show, and he’s suddenly the bad guy. When the show is firing on all cylinders like it is right now, these remarkable moments become routine.
The last shot: Michael, triumphant, preening for the camera; Jim’s trademark reaction shot, nothing less than a salute. It’s a moment Michael, and the show, has earned. Now here’s hoping he doesn’t get hit by a truck.