Is there anything in television quite so bittersweet as a richly executed season finale? The satisfying pleasure ... the aching for more ... it's just too much!
Once again, "The Office" has left us pining for the next season just as the last one has wrapped. And while Thursday's finale didn't cause the romantic gasp of Jim and Pam's first kiss to conclude season two, or his asking her out for their first date at the end of season three, the episode was special in its own way.
Let's see how "The Office" left each character before heading into summer vacation ...
Michael (Steve Carell): Recovering from one of his nastiest days (in the previous week's "Job Fair" episode), Michael remerged Thursday at his most sympathetic. As was the case at the end of season two, when Jan and Carol both showed up to "Casino Night," Michael has two women in his life again — and once again, everyone but him seems to know that he's favoring the wrong one.
While the time was right for Jan two years ago, it's clearly wrong for him now, with the revelation that Jan surreptitiously and successfully became pregnant via anonymous sperm donor while she was dating (and not telling) Michael. This news hurt Michael, who as happens from time to time showed the kind of charming vulnerability that actual human beings are known to have. Having extricated himself from his relationship with Jan following the "Dinner Party" gone wrong, Jan's betrayal should have only validated his choice to move on, right? Especially considering how much the new girl in town, incoming HR rep Holly Flax (Amy Ryan), has piqued his interest.
Well, timing sure is everything, isn't it? Heck, as we realized that Holly had much of Michael's goofy sensibility (she speaks Yodaese and makes inappropriate sexual remarks) and that she was interested in him too, it was hard as a viewer to resist the urge to see them in each other's arms right away. But Michael picked this day of all days to finally digest Jim's advice to play it cool when it comes to women, and not declare love 15 minutes after meeting them. So he didn't make a serious move on Holly before the Jan news, and then was too distracted after the Jan news to pick up on Holly's flirtations. In the end, Michael was lamentably dialing Jan's number and getting ready to join her in that thing she'd have to explain to him: "lamaze." And convincing himself, through his desire to have children, that this was a good thing.
As for work matters, Michael's hatred for Toby has always been, shall we say, profound. But he certainly got his comeuppance this week when Pam manipulated him into giving Toby his watch. And the sight of him having to couch his intended-to-be-bitter questions at the exit interview was one of the many big laughs of the episode. "Who do you think you are? What gives you the right?"
Jan (Melora Hardin): No surprise that Michael's former paramour resurfaced for the finale, but I have to admit being caught completely off guard by her pregnancy. (On "Scrubs," this would have been par for the course, of course.) Jan looked clean and sober and even sympathetic in her own way as she tried to explain herself at the market to Michael, but it was impossible not to go back and realize that when she was drinking herself mad during "Dinner Party," she had to know she was at least possibly pregnant, if not definitely. That ain't cool.
Not to get melodramatic, but good luck to that son of a candle-making alcoholic. I always wish Jan the best, but I'll continue to wonder, as I've long wondered, if she's ever going to get the help she needs. No character on the show is in more need of healing.
Toby (Paul Lieberstein): You can't help but love Toby, although you might love him a little less ever since he really started to lose his grip on his infatuation with Pam. It was interesting that without explanation, Pam seems to have forgiven (or forgotten?) Toby's inappropriate hand on her knee, and to the camera even admitted thinking he was cute. So instead of seeing Toby trying to win back Pam's friendship as he readied himself to leave Dunder-Mifflin forever, he was focused on trying to get a photo with her that will no doubt become well-perused in years to come.
I can't say I expected Toby to follow through on his off-voiced Costa Rica plans, and so even as he has punched his ticket, forgive me for thinking that he will return. I did also wonder whether he would even want Michael's watch, but then decided that he would take it as a trophy. For Toby, it's all about the small victories.
Kevin (Brian Baumgartner): In a series overflowing with them, I'm not sure there has ever been a funnier "Office" subplot than Holly being convinced by Dwight that Kevin was mentally challenged. How perfect was that? Kevin didn't have to change anything about his manner or behavior to unwittingly abet the ruse. Simply hysterical.
Anyway, Kevin (who, don't forget, is nursing the wounds of his own recent breakup) took Holly's sympathy for him as raw sexual chemistry. Who knows how their dessert played out — on first thought, it seems impossible that Holly would end up in Kevin's arms, but since Holly has more than a little bit of Michael in her, isn't anything possible?
Ryan (B.J. Novak): Did you think it would be the drugs that would bring Ryan down? I did, but then we got a hint that more trouble was brewing for him on another front when he impatiently told Jim to double-book his recent big closing.
Quite the fall for the self-proclaimed wunderkind, though it did inspire another great line of the night, Oscar's "The real crime, I think, was the beard."
Will the "Office" spinoff take place in a jail cell ... ?
Andy (Ed Helms): Barely seen for the first 50-odd minutes Thursday night, Andy still ended up making a huge impact, derailing Jim's proposal plans with a "Will you marry me" of his own to Angela. The outright theft of Jim's moment was softened somewhat by the appearance of Andy's parents, showing that Andy had some romance aforethought of his own (not to mention the fact that he's had a ring in his wallet for six years).
Indeed, give credit to Andy. He won Angela more or less the way he usually wins over people — to quote him from season three, "name repetition, personality mirroring and never breaking off a handshake." In other words, he wins over people kind of the way that Dwight gets people like Andy to sell him cars.
And the twists keep coming …
Angela (Angela Kinsey): Hey, she's a passionate lady. Passionate about cats, passionate about impassionate parties, passionate about not having to repeat her agreement to marry someone ("I said okay.") and ultimately, passionate about Dwight. Her epilogue tryst with her former lover was absolutely earned (and kudos, by the way, to Kinsey for looking so sexy in that moment, especially considering that she was about 13 months pregnant at the time). Hope Andy takes the news of his significant other stepping out better than former Scranton branch colleague Karen Filippelli did.
Dwight (Rainn Wilson): I believe everyone, or at least beet farmers, should be forgiven one cat homicide. And since Dwight engineered the Holly-Kevin story — in addition to being a great foil for Jim's cold opening prank — he had all my support in the world Thursday. Let's hope he hangs onto Angela this time around.
Meredith (Kate Flannery): Meredith had a great Meredith moment when she told the camera how much she hated Holly, right after Holly was so nice to her. But the best of Meredith ended up on the chopping block. Here's a deleted scene:
Every scenario under the sun has been dreamed up for the "Office" spinoff — including of course, the distinct possibility that it won't really be a spinoff, but will be set up with entirely new characters — but there are worse ideas than giving people like Flannery more screen time.
Phyllis (Phyllis Smith): Rather gracefully handling the reality that there is no such thing outside a Wonka movie as an anti-gravity machine, Phyllis put together a heck of a party. (Bonus points for taking it all on herself and not making her first call to hubby Bob Vance, a member of the Five Families of the Scranton Business Park after all.) Phyllis has come a long way since failing to lure Sue Grafton to Michael Scott’s Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run Race for the Cure. A battle with Angela for party committee leadership seems destined for season five.
Oscar (Oscar Nunez), Stanley (Leslie David Baker), Creed (Creed Batton), Darryl (Craig Robinson), Kelly (Mindy Kaling): Mostly background in the finale, though it's nice to know that Creed can almost remember what his job is, and Darryl can play the music to "Goodbye, Stranger" without preparation. And Kelly will have a nice visit to see Ryan in prison, won't she ...
Jim (John Krasinski): His aborted proposal should just be a hiccup. Although the case was made that Dunder-Mifflin was the appropriate place to pop the question, and Jim certainly kept up his going-the-extra-mile-to-make-it-special part of the bargain, and it was just crushing to see Andy grab Jim's moment, if he can regroup, we can too. And he can regroup.
Prior to those scenes, it was a little scary to see Jim start to lose it with Ryan (on voicemail) before Ryan's arrest, but the law has cleared away Jim's biggest work concern. Here's the question: Does Jim again become a candidate to replace Ryan in Jan's old job? Company topper David Wallace has always liked Jim, and unless David wants to go with a wizened hand, Jim seems a logical choice.
That job's in New York. Pam's going to school for the summer in New York. Hmm.
Pam (Jenna Fischer): However disappointed she was at not getting engaged that particular night, Pam should recover. I can understand her emotions, but turning Jim's non-proposal into a bigger deal wouldn't make sense. Their love is too sincere, too true.
In fact, it also wouldn't make sense that Jim would wait much longer to get that ring on Pam's finger. Could it happen over the summer, to be shown to us in flashback?
Regarding the latest in Pam's design drama: Last week on OfficeTally, "Office" writer Lee Eisenberg answered a question about Pam's artistic abilities. "Personally," he said, "I think Pam has some talent that hasn't been totally tapped. I think she can draw buildings really well. And probably bowls of fruit." In other words, we still don't really know how far Pam can take her artistic career, but she should at least be able to have one.
I truly think Jim and Pam will, at however slow a pace, continue to have their cake and eat it too. I think "The Office" is one of the rare shows to know how to deal with a relationship in ways other than breaking it up. The show remains a treasure, and season five can't come soon enough.
— Jon Weisman
(The title of this post is an homage to episode director Paul Feig — astute TV viewers should know why.)