This season of The Office comes to an end, and there’s still no Michael Scott replacement, just a lot of stunt casting. Catherine Tate (Nellie) is the rumored front-runner, and from what little we saw last night of the respected English actress-writer with her own sketch-comedy series, she seemed like a viable candidate. Or not. Also, forget Will Arnett and Ray Romano. Warren Buffett? Probably doesn’t need the work. Spader? He’s said to be another top contender, but it didn’t seem like the character’s shtick could work long-term. As Dwight said in his closing remarks, “I don’t know, something always works out.”
To be fair, Spader’s Don Draper impression — delivering maddeningly banal statements with philosophical import — was dead-on: “There is no such thing as a product. Don’t ever think there is. There is only sex. Everything is sex.” And convincing. And daffy Nellie’s plans to institute Zen changes, or else fire one person per month, or else offer a Thai masseuse named Suki (who may or may not “suckeee, suckeee”) had Catherine Tate being more David Brent–y than David Brent. Which means she’s already growing on us. And switching up the gender might not be a bad idea. Although if difference is the objective, Darryl, by his own admission, has that covered — he’s “blaaaaaaack.”
So Darryl choked during his interview, thinking his friendship with Jim would earn him a pass, but afterwards returned to his desk to work on his résumé. On a call to Microsoft: “There used to be a paperclip that would pop up and say, ‘Looks like you are writing a letter or résumé. Would you like help?’ I believe his name was … Clippy.” Clippy! What a blast from the past. Then there’s Andy, whom one third of the search committee was prejudiced against. Gabe lobbed him ridiculous questions like, “How far away is the sun from the Earth?” and then freaked out when Andy knew the answer. Next, Kelly, when questioned by Jim about the size of her department (one), shot back: “Yes, Jim, but I am not easy to manage.” Finally, Dwight tried to golf-talk Halpert (golf-talk: v. to move ahead professionally with casual social banter) into giving him a chance. Naturally, he failed, and took the Schrute approach: “The hand that reaches from the grave to grip your throat is the strong hand you want on the wheel.”
Jim’s joke that he might just pick a name out of a hat drew Stanley’s ire: “My next boss will be my last boss. He will be at my funeral, so I would appreciate it if you would take this seriously.” (This is the episode’s second reference to dying while stuck in the same job. Grim.) Ryan feebly offered: “Oh no, Stanley, you’ll live forever.” Krasinski’s really been holding down the fort during the last few episodes. We wonder if his stalled movie career combined with Carell’s departure has given him more leverage and interest in the show.
Elsewhere, Angela’s senator stuck a flower in her hair (which she usually wouldn’t like as it’s so civil rightsy) and proposed to her using the third person. Oscar was concerned because the senator is gay, but as a fan of elegant weddings, he was also a little excited. The staff agreed to keep his sexuality a secret, despite obnoxious burns from Angela like: “Pam, you know how you and Jim did your ironic wedding? Do you still have the plans for the dream wedding that you couldn’t afford?” Meanwhile, Phyllis and Erin wondered if they were mother and daughter. Good call by a commenter last week! We honestly did not see that coming. Of course, it didn’t work out, as Phyllis predicted: “It was a big year for babies. Porky’s had come out.” Erin was probably a Porky’s baby, but per Phyllis’s TMI advice, she asked Andy on a date using a sock puppet — and he turned her down. Andy: “Aren’t there some things you really want to like, but you just can’t seem to, like Mad Men or football?” Sheesh, someone on the writing staff has a bone to pick with Mad Men. Anyway, consider this the sub-cliffhanger, although it’s more of a squat-on-the-edge-looking-over-to-see-what-happens situation. These two will definitely get back together.
When Jo takes Gabe back to Florida, Kelly replaced him on the committee. Jo: “He’s tall and weak; she’s short and strong — I’m doing an opposites thing.” Gabe had started to appeal to us, but we suppose there was not much more for him to do. He wasn’t the crucial tertiary character that Creed or Stanley is. His farewell was unceremonious, but he got a hug from Kelly, who couldn’t resist saying “Ew. I’m sorry, you were a lot bonier than I thought you were going to be.”
In the midst of his departure, the staff debated new potential hires, with Andy enthusiastically seconding Meredith’s sarcastic suggestion that they find someone with a small penis, and Pam and Ryan once again sparring over his deliberately provocative, hipster leftyism: “I want a real outsider. Someone on the margins of the society, like a homeless person.” Ryan, who had a couple of winning one-liners last night, just wants someone who will lead him when he’s in the mood to be led. There’s a little bit of support for rehiring Dwight (a.k.a. burn victim Jacques Souvenyay) now that Kelly took the bribe that Jim wouldn’t, but Jim reminds everyone that this isn’t a vote. Phyllis: “Then what was this all about?” Jim: “I don’t know, this conversation really got away from me.” Well said.
In the end, all the potentials shared their final thoughts. Nellie thought her connection with Jo made her a shoe-in: “I think I’m her best friend. She’s not my best friend.” And Darryl was worried: “Every day I have a blueberry muffin. Today I did not have a blueberry muffin. I should have had the blueberry muffin, especially considering how superstitious I am.” And finally, the Finger Lakes guy, who was an unseen front-runner except that he kept talking about how he needed time off to go to the Finger Lakes: Jim Carrey. We’d almost forgotten he was supposed to be on. What’s there to say? He was appropriately weird and appropriately brief because he had to get back to the Finger Lakes.
This episode certainly didn’t set out to do more than it accomplished — getting people to watch seemed to be the primary goal. If there was something to be learned here, it’s that anyone who’s cut out to be the manager of a Scranton branch of a paper company probably isn’t qualified for much else in life or they would want more out of it. That’s the stark, depressing reality that this show works so hard to reposition as funny and relatable, although perhaps, when The Office returns in the fall, it will give in to the darker impulses of the British original. Steve Carell wasn’t able to pull off being unlikable; maybe another boss will.