As the sixth season of The Office wraps up, it’s worth mentioning that the show really only came alive this year when Kathy Bates was onscreen as Jon Bennett. The Sabre subplot might not have been the most compelling — particularly now that we find out that the burning printers are an innocent mistake, not more corporate malfeasance — but Bates always brightened up the show every time she popped by with her dogs, Tallahassee wisdom, and friendship with Nancy Pelosi. The Office’s season six was usually funny and always big-hearted, but there was never much at stake. It was the year of weddings and babies and dwelling in the happy past rather than the uncertain future. If Steve Carell leaves after next season, which is looking increasingly likely, it might actually help shake things up.
The show, in its season finale, seems to be nodding to an eventual Michael departure. When a furious Jo shows up to find out who leaked Sabre’s printer fire problems to the press, Michael ends up discovering that there were actually three whistle-blowers: Darryl (who told a journalist he was trying to pick up at a bar), Pam (who told the wife of a journalist at her day care), and Kelly (who just talks to everyone, aided by Ryan’s new social-networking portal, “Woof.”). Michael doesn’t want to turn them in to Jo, lest they be fired, so he clams up. To get him to talk, she takes him to her private plane, presumably to break his leg with a sledgehammer. Instead, she confesses that she’s terrified this scandal will ruin all she’s worked for, that “they’ll never make a Barbie after me,” and Michael agrees to take the public hit in front of the press (he likes the cameras anyway) if she’ll let the whistle-blower witch hunt drop.
But not until he sighs: “I miss Holly.” Ah, yes, Holly Flax, the Amy Ryan–played perfect match for Michael Scott, brutally transferred to the Nashua branch when their relationship was revealed. (This might be our favorite Holly Flax moment.) Holly hasn’t been seen since last year’s season finale — another reason this wasn’t the show’s best season — but her presence looms over everything Michael does, particularly knowing what we know about Carell’s future. Jo Bennett says she will look into getting Holly transferred back, which sets up a ready-made season-seven plotline: How do they happily send off Michael Scott with Holly while still balancing Amy Ryan’s schedule? We bet they figure out a way.
As for that whistle-blower thing, the scapegoat ended up being poor Andy, who went from tearing his scrotum at the beginning of the season to possibly being fired at the end. That’s a pretty rough go of it for a guy coming off The Hangover. With the gradual abating of Michael Scott’s role next year, he’s the one we think is most primed to take the starring role. He, and the writing staff, could use the fresh start. The Office is still funny, and it’s still likable … but inertia is a powerful thing. We believe that so strongly that we’re going to go Woof it.
The AV Club’s Nathan Rabin wishes the show would have followed through on its promise of more Todd Packer.
EW.com’s Darren Franich says this season was the “least cohesive” of all the seasons.
Time’s James Poniewozik agrees: This season has lacked stakes.