Season 2, Episode 10: “Christmas Party.” That was the very first episode of The Office that I ever watched. I remember my husband coming home from a business trip and he told me about this funny show he watched on the plane called The Office. We decided to watch “Christmas Party” and while my husband found it hilarious, I remember thinking…”this is the dumbest and wackiest show I have ever seen.” I didn’t know the characters or the premise or why the boss was such a jackass. So my husband suggested we get Season 1 to put it in context. We got the DVD and had a marathon Saturday. I have been a fan ever since!!!
I must admit, I haven’t been as much of a fan during Seasons 6 & 7 because I think the show has lost a little something. It hadn’t been as funny or engaging and I think at times, it was being off the wall just for the sake of being off the wall. It also started to take Michael Scott’s character into more of a caricature than a character (which struck me as funny when Michael ripped up Kevin’s picture and told him to never be a caricature!) But “Goodbye, Michael” reminded us why we fell in love with Michael Scott (and therefore Steve Carell) in the first place…underneath that insane and manic exterior lies a really good man with a huge heart who only ever wanted to love and be loved and have people accept him for who he is.
Steve Carell is one of the most underrated actors and comedians. Michael Scott is arguably one of the most challenging roles to play and I think it’s very easy for a character like him to go off the rails quickly to being unlikable and unwatchable. Even to the point that you can’t watch the show. Michael Scott could have turned into one of the most hated and annoying characters of all time. Now you’re probably thinking “but at one point or another, he was all of those things.” And you would be right. But the trick is to do it to the point that it actually enhances the show instead detracts from it and keeps you coming back to see what he will say and do next. Most importantly, you need to show that character as someone deeper than the nut job you constantly see. That is what Steve Carell was able to do so brilliantly. He was able to deliver and unbelievably insane character at times with such heart and spirit that even though you wanted to crawl under a desk out of embarrassment for him at times, you also wanted to hug him for his always wanting to believe the best in people (except Toby.) Carell let you see the damaged Michael and the broken Michael and also the Michael that genuinely cared for the people who worked for him. The line between funny and quirky vs. annoying and bizarre is very slight with a character like this. I think Carell was able to perfectly balance the two, which isn’t easy to do.
As for the episode itself, I thought it was perfect. It was funny (Oscar and his doll and Michael’s reaction), it was touching (Erin, Jim, and Pam’s final good-byes with Michael), it had some great moments (Dwight reading Michael’s letter and Michael tearing up in the break room realizing he doesn’t want to leave), and it gave us long time viewers some flashes to the past (Michael wanting to use the bailer and Ping.) I don’t think this episode could have been handled any better. I was also happy that Will Ferrell was put on the back burner for this episode. He certainly wasn’t forgotten about but he was put aside for the sake of the episode solely focusing on Michael.
Michael had a list. There were people he needed to say good-bye to before he left for Colorado. We learn he is saying all his good-byes today but he isn’t leaving until tomorrow. I like how he went from person to person to give them a gift or have one last conversation with them. I also like that everyone stayed true to character. Kelly was annoyed by Michael, Stanley really had no time for him, etc. Although for the sake of time, he had to say good-bye to Gabe, Creed, and Meredith together. I must say, I was surprised he gave Toby a one-on-one good-bye. But I also loved how as awful Michael has always been to him, he still offered to set his brother up to help him get acclimated to Boulder. I choose to believe that while Michael wanted no part of hanging out with Toby’s brother, he was also very touched by the gesture. As Michael says good-bye, he crosses those people off his list. For me, there were a few good-byes that really stood out:
I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard watching The Office. First when he pulled out the doll/scarecrow, it made me laugh for its sheer patheticness. But the kicker was Michael’s reaction. The way he was laughing at the gift he gave Oscar, made me bust out laughing. I am one of those people who when I see someone laughing really hard at something, I can’t help but laugh with them…even if it isn’t funny to me. But this was a double dose of funny to me and hysterical watching someone crack up that much. I watched it several more times and it got funnier every time. That will be one of those You Tube clips (when I can find it, that will make me laugh whenever I need it!)
I’ve always loved Michael and Erin’s relationship. I found it interesting that he always thought the things she said and did were slightly strange (has he ever listened to himself) and therefore felt the need to protect her to some degree. He was like a big brother to her and their last moment was just like that. He told her that she was beautiful and smart and that when she found true love, she would know it. He also told her to call him anytime. “Extension 417” she said. When he thought she was serious she told him she was just kidding and he kissed her head and walked away. It was so sweet.
This really wasn’t a good-bye as much as it was Dwight finally getting what he always wanted from Michael…a best friend and acknowledgment. While Michael was always so busy trying to be Jim’s best friend, Dwight was always trying to be Michael’s. Dwight in many ways was Michael’s wing man. The Goose to his Maverick. But there were many times, he didn’t get that reassurance. He also never got the attention and the breaks that Jim got. Michael was always hard on Dwight where Jim was the golden boy…the probably the main reason Dwight always hated Jim so much. But in this episode, Dwight finally got his confirmation of respect and friendship. And Rainn Wilson played the scene perfectly. When he paused during the part where it talked about all the things that made Dwight superlative, the change in his face brought me to tears. It was so touching. And then in typical The Office fashion, at the most emotional moment, the funny breaks out, because Michael asked Dwight to meet him for a private paintball battle. Dwight was so excited and I found it hilarious that he had all the equipment needed already in the back of his car!!! They had their fight and Michael, with a huge smile on his face, crosses Dwight off his list.
Michael has always loved Pam. Not in a romantic way but in a “you’re the heart and soul of this office and I love you for it” way. And in her own way, Pam loved Michael too. I think it took her many years to come around to Michael, but she was one of the first people to really see a different side to him. She was one of the first people, he let in. So after a while, Pam was able to put the craziness in perspective because she knew who was underneath all that. She always had his back and there were times she would support him when no one else would. That didn’t go unnoticed by Michael which is another reason he was so crazy about her. The only thing that was slightly disappointing was how predictable her good-bye was. You knew she wasn’t going to be in the office when he left. But as soon as his cab pulled out and her car pulled in, you knew she was going to chase him down in the airport. There was no way in hell, Michael would leave without saying good-bye to Pam. And even though I knew it was coming, it still made me burst into tears when I saw her run in with her shoes off and hug him good-bye. The best part, there was no mic so we couldn’t hear what they said to each other. I loved that. I know there was some debate over the lack of mic for that exchange but I love it. It was their own private moment that Pam tearfully relayed to us and she watched his plane take off.
This is the one that killed me the most. Probably because I felt like I was watching John Krasinski and Steve Carell getting emotional over saying good-bye to each other vs. Jim Halpert and Michael Scott. I felt that those two men’s emotions were very real in that scene. This was probably my second favorite relationship on the series (behind Jim and Pam of course!!) Jim always gave Michael a hard time and he knew exactly what buttons to push on Michael. But he was never mean or malicious. It was always in good fun. As I said before, Michael always thought that he and Jim were best friends. And in many ways, Jim was his best friend. Jim knew how to talk to Michael when no one else could. He knew how to calm him down when needed, fire him up when needed, and advise him when needed. If there was one person Michael needed to go to for real advise, it would be Jim. Even in their last scene he asked him, “am I doing the right thing.” As usual Jim was there to guide him and give him strength…”Absolutely!” Jim was always the most perceptive person in the room. And on Michael’s last day, he was the only who could figure out that Michael was leaving at the end of this day and not the next day. So he went in to see him and made sure that he told him what a great boss he turned out to be. “The best boss I ever had.” I just burst out crying and couldn’t stop. If you could see me now, you would see it’s happening again. They shook hands, wished each other well and Michael went down to grab his cab.
I also want to make one final comment about the break room scene. Michael is eating lunch by himself when Jim, Pam, Kevin, and Oscar come in to have lunch. Jim asks him to join them but he says he almost finished but thanks. Pam starts talking about how she is going to town to price paper shredders and Kevin is glad because the last one stunk because it wouldn’t shred magazines. Pam tells him they aren’t supposed to shred magazines and Kevin tells her that he knows that. Michael watches the whole thing and he looks into the camera and we see him start to cry. He goes into his office and loses it. He doesn’t want to go because he won’t be able to find his favorite TV channels and he refuses to start improv at the bottom if his credits don’t transfer. But we know why he really doesn’t want to go…the people. He calls Holly to tell her he isn’t coming and that he can’t do this. As soon as he hears her voice (her Yoda voice) he is reminded not only why he loves her so much, but why he is leaving in the first place….he wants to start his life with her. As he finishes his call with her, back to being sure about his decision, she tells him she will see him later when she picks him up at the airport and that’s when we find out he is really leaving that day and not the next day. It was a very touching scene and another testament to Carell and his ability to go from hysterical to sad to jovial to contentment.
I don’t know if The Office can make it without Michael Scott. While I love Jim, Pam, Dwight, Andy, Phyllis, Oscar, Angela, and the rest of the cast, Michael Scott makes that show. I’m sure Will Ferrell will do a fine job because he is a funny guy but DeAngelo is no Michael Scott and he is no Steve Carell. It’s not fair to compare but it’s hard not to. For many seasons, other than Jim and Pam, Michael is why I tuned into that show. Michael’s chemistry and banter with the other characters is what I loved. How can the show possibly go forward without him? I guess we’ll have to see.
I want to thank Steve Carell for giving us almost 7 seasons of laughter and tears and for giving us one of the most memorial characters in TV history. I don’t know how I will be able to The Office without you. I wish you much luck in your future career and personal path…no matter where it takes you. On a selfish, I really hope that someday soon, my TV will have you on it again. Because nothing beats lying in bed and watching you entertain me every Thursday night!!! (That’s what she said!)