After last week’s triumph for Michael over corporate efficiency and Stringer Bell, the real world awaits him upon his return to Dunder Mifflin. All those clients he stole to make the Michael Scott Paper Company such a “success”? Well, the sales staff wants them back. And they’re willing to mutiny to get them.
The central tenet of Michael Scott’s “professional” life is that his whole life revolves around work: He thinks of his office staff as a family, and they’re the only one he has. (We still await the introduction of his oft-mentioned, but never-seen, mother. We’re putting our money on Mary Tyler Moore.) So when Phyllis, angry that Michael won’t give back the clients he, Pam, and Ryan swiped, tells him, “You always said we were a family. Then you went after us,” it hits him right where it hurts. He is reminded that the victory comes at a cost.
And Michael’s giving back the old clients came with its own price: There aren’t enough to go around, and he has to let go of either Pam or Ryan. (Hilariously, they’d made a photo collage of “wacky” moments from the Michael Scott Paper Company days.) This is almost too much activity for one episode: Watching Michael decide whether to fire Pam or Ryan could make a two-hour special. But he makes the right choice: Pam may not be a great salesperson yet, but she’s certainly surpassed receptionist. And it’s only a matter of time before Ryan starts stealing again.
With two episodes to go, the only balls in the air: Pam and Jim’s wedding planning; Pam’s past troubles, which Michael touches on by citing her inability “to follow through on anything”; and the impending return of Holly Flax, who’s destined to give us a happy moment before breaking Michael’s heart again. Consider how much has happened in the first 24 episodes. Ryan has been disgraced, returned as a temp, disgraced again, returned as a Michael Scott Paper Company employee, and then fired again. Pam has gone to art school, dropped out, gotten engaged, quit, and returned. Meanwhile, Michael keeps on his own path, trying to create a family in a corporate park. Somehow, it’s actually working.