How has the end come so soon? How are we suddenly left with only one more episode of "The Office" before Steve Carell, aka Dunder Mifflin Scranton branch manager Michael Scott, makes his long-dreaded departure from the show? Time waits for no one, not even our beloved TV heroes.
A perfect penultimate milestone before departure, "The Office" elected to bring back the Dundie awards ceremony one final time. It's been six years since we've been witness to the ceremony (2005's awards included Pam getting drunk and Phyllis winning Busiest/Bushiest Beaver), but we learn that Michael's still been holding them every year, surprising nominees at their house a la Publisher's Clearing House. Rather than knock on Toby's door to give him his nomination, however, Michael instead eggs his arch nemesis' house – as Deangelo wonders aloud, "Is this an employee of the company?"
Deangelo, played of course by Will Ferrell, has loosened the tie on the authoritarian shot-caller he was showing himself to be in the later half of last week's episode. His aggressive, serious demeanor was definitely off-putting and bewildering, and scaling back for the sake of not upstaging Michael was a wise choice among writers. The erraticism is a bit confusing, as we still don't truly know where the guy's coming from, but knowing there's only two more installments to his guest arc leaves us more willing to roll with the punches.
Michael and Deangelo planned to host the Dundies together as a passing of the torch of sorts, and for Michael to ensure that the awards carry on in his absence (he has an incredible amount of pride invested in them). The only problem is that Deangelo is terrified of public speaking, leaving Michael to employ the headphones trick from The King's Speech to help him through the nerves. The training didn't exactly take, however, and Deangleo's missteps in "witty banter" were disastrous – including, but not limited to, casually asking Jim where he was on September 11th, reading everything printed on the cue cards ("Ad-lib masturbation joke") and screaming into the mic because he can't hear himself over the blaring music in the headphones. This results in everyone getting kicked out of the restaurant, but not before another disaster unfolds…
Accepting her Cutest Redhead award at the podium (with Meredith raging in the background, having lost out), Erin suddenly dumps Gabe during her Dundies speech. "I'm not attracted to you. I'm just… I cringe when you talk," she explains, throwing Pam under the bus for telling her she has to be honest. This, of course, results in a hugely embarrassing moment for Gabe, but he takes the mic to address the situation rather than storm out. It's hard not to really feel for the tall drink of boring-ass milquetoast, particularly when Dwight (who's working the sound effects board) cues up the sound of crickets chirping.
As always, Jim Halpert is the man with the reaction face worth a thousand "Oh god"'s…
The drama between Gabe and Erin may appear to come out of nowhere, but devoted Office fans know that their relationship was simply a way to backburner what will ultimately become the follow-up to the Jim and Pam love story: she's meant to be with goofball Andy, the hints have been there all along, and their reunion will likely be employed to soften the blow of Michael's departure. Way to manipulate our emotions, writers… but that's what you get paid to do, after all.
After Deangelo's screaming gets the gang ejected from the restaurant, all can see that Michael is essentially crushed by the truncated final awards show he's to be a part of. Pam suggests that they keep the party going back at the office, which everyone immediately gets on board with. Once there, Michael and Deangelo present another award to Andy, who takes the opportunity to turn the show into a beautiful tribute to Michael's 19 years with the company.
On cue, the entire office staff serenades Michael to a lyrically-reworked version of Rent's "Seasons of Love," a moment that truly had me wondering behind tear-filled eyes if the tic-tacs I'd been gobbling all day were actually estrogen pills. For an OG fan of the show, to witness the genuine love on the cast's face as they sang, and to see Steve Carell barely holding it in as he absorbed the moment, was an exercise in complete tear-duct-resisting futility.
Deangelo's falsetto accompaniment deviated just enough from the general energy to give him the appropriate alien flow within the song, but his addition was complementary and acquiescent.
The episode was written and directed by Mindy Kaling, who wrote the original Dundies episode. I've never, ever been anything close to a fan of Kelly on the show, but Mindy's work behind the scenes deserves massive kudos. The fourth wall bent, but didn't break, as we watched real-life goodbyes creep into the scripted ones.
Bring the Kleenex next week, kids. That's all I'm saying.