As obnoxious and petty and awful as Michael Scott can be, he can never truly become a bad guy. Part of this is because The Office is an essentially good-hearted show, but it’s also because Michael’s constantly imagining himself as the lead role in the ongoing “story” of his life. And that story can’t be about a villain! One of the many pleasures of last night’s strong episode was the slowly dawning realization for Michael that he was the “other” guy, the foil in someone else’s story. Michael doesn’t get to be the star of the internal movie in his brain — Agent Michael Scarn — if he’s doing bad things. The great joke was that Michael, as he decides to no longer continue his affair with the married Donna, isn’t ending the relationship because he thinks it’s wrong; he’s ending it because he can’t imagine his protagonist doing something like that.
Not that we don’t get plenty of enjoyment watching the rest of the Dunder Mifflin branch try to jog his conscience. The primary role goes, fittingly, to Andy, who has first-hand experience with what it’s like to be a “cuckold.” He takes Michael to the high-school baseball game coached by Donna’s husband (a jock Michael assumes is a bad guy because “dogfighting … drugs … they spit”) to make Michael face the man whose home he’s wrecking. Andy’s pain is clear on the face of Ed Helms (who is one of the few cast members who particularly raised his game this season). In fact, the only aspect missing here was a reference to Dwight, who, after all, was the Michael in Andy’s situation, the man having sex with another man’s betrothed. That Angela situation still feels underresolved; this might have been a nice time to do it.
Particularly considering Dwight and Angela are back at it, voiding their baby “contract” by having “sex to completion” five times, starting with a roll in the reams of paper in the warehouse, much to the chagrin of Jim and Pam, attempting to sleep nearby. (We particularly loved Dwight’s insistence that the contract is void if “we are all part of the Matrix.”) As long as that story doesn’t end with another pregnancy, that plotline feels comfortably, and handily wrapped up. But, uh … what about Isabel? Isabel was awesome.
All in all, this penultimate episode took care of Michael, Dwight, and every other lingering thread from a meandering season except for the big one, in a very funny last-scene reveal: Word has hit the press about Sabre’s exploding printers, which means one last scandal and surely another appearance from Kathy Bates. And at the end of Michael Scott’s next-to-last season, he remains the star of his own show. After all: You can’t say “silent but deadly” to Michael Scott and expect him not to make fart noises with his mouth. What are you, Bin Laden or Hitler or Toby or something?
The AV Club’s Nathan Rabin thinks this episode was unusually unrealistic.
Darren Franich at EW points out how this has been standout season for Jenna Fischer.
Kelly West of Cinema Blend depressingly reminded us of Ryan’s idea of a threesome with Kelly and Erin.