Much like Michael Scott, I feel a tad overwhelmed at trying to cover all the emotional moments in this farewell episode, “Goodbye, Michael.” We all knew it was coming…and despite a lackluster season, the high points have revolved around Michael’s development into a slightly more mature adult ready to enter the next phase of his life with soul mate Holly. Even when Michael began to question his decision tonight, all it took was hearing Holly’s voice on the phone and a reassurance from Jim that he was doing the right thing. And with that, Michael Scott said goodbye to the life he has always known and headed off into the sunset.
Rather than recap every little twist and turn, I think that instead I will offer what I felt were some of the strongest emotional scenes of the episode, and then some of the flat-out funniest moments.
First and foremost, there was Michael telling everyone that he still had one more day at the office while in fact today was his last day. This was a great plot device which made his interactions that much more meaningful for not only him, but for us out here in viewer land. Of course those most heartfelt goodbyes—the ones that had me tearing up—were saved for those with whom he has had a particularly strong relationship. There was Erin, who got one last round of advice from her father (and now mother) figure about relationships and taking her time. There was Dwight, who began the night still pissed off at his lack of recommendation from his boss. But when Michael finally gave him a letter, and then when Dwight began to read it, his sourness quickly turned to overwhelming gratitude and sadness at losing his best partner in crime. And then Michael gave Dwight the best gift he could have asked for—one last game of paintball.
The winner for biggest choke-back-the-tears scene (for me) was definitely Jim’s realization that Michael would not be back the next day. Their exchange in Michael’s office, and Jim needing to ‘push back’ the goodbyes to the party he knows will not happen with Michael the next day, was very touching. I think both men saw just how much the other had grown during their years together at Dunder Mifflin. Jim was truly speaking the truth when he said that Michael was the best boss he has had. And Michael knew he meant it. I will look past the fact that Pam would have needed to purchase a plane ticket to get past security because it was critical that absent Pam reach Michael in time to say goodbye. I liked that we could only see their hug and not hear their words—that was just enough sentiment and struck a powerful note.
Overall, I think part of what made this episode even more emotional was that Michael was relatively calm and restrained in his actions and reactions. This was not the Michael who runs around the office screaming with emotional outbursts. This was a Michael who was truly trying to process what it means to say goodbye to the family he has known for most of his adult life.
- Michael asking for Dwight’s advice on bears. It was great watching Michael recognize that he could get an angry Dwight to ease up a little by egging him on with incorrect behavior around bears.
- Gabe: He has always been pathetic in an awesomely bad way, but tonight he hit new lows (which were comedic highs for me). Pushing boundaries of personal space and quasi-threatening Andy; following Erin into the bathroom to beg her to reconsider the break-up; and getting advice from Michael…to use cover-up on his Adam’s apple so that he doesn’t look so much like a transvestite.
- Party Planning Committee All-Stars: The Party Planning Committee made a triumphant return—with all its former leaders (Pam, Angela and Phyllis)—for the sake of an honorable event. Their pettiness and passive aggressive attacks on one another’s decisions will never get old.
- Michael giving away some of his office toys as farewell gifts: The best was Kevin, who was told not to be a cartoon who is unhappy with his slovenly self. And then there was Oscar, who Michael just wanted to mess with one last time.
- Character quirks: Thanks to Skype, we learned that Toby’s brother in Boulder is just as hysterically boring and monotone! And we got confirmation that Angela’s State Senator boyfriend is most definitely gay—and she is still oblivious.
- Erin’s line to Michael about her decision to end things with Gabe, “I know he’s young and hot and everything…”
- Michael’s three-for-the-price-of-one speech to say goodbye to Creed, Gabe and Meredith, which boiled down to, “You may be afraid of dying, dying alone, or dying drunk in a ditch…”
Things really got meta at the end when Michael handed his microphone pack to the filmmakers at the airport and exclaimed, “Feels good to get this off my chest. Let me know if this thing ever airs.” Oh, it aired Michael…all of it…everything. And it was a good ride. I encourage you to check out this nice tribute to Michael Scott by L.A. Times critic Robert Lloyd.
And now, the only words I have for the remainder of this series were uttered by Jim and Dwight when they realized what a complete freak Deangelo is: “uh oh.” But, maybe you can surprise me, Office. Maybe you can use this monumental change to breathe fresh air into a show that has lost its A-game? If not, then I might take a cue from Michael and be ‘leaving on a jet plane.’