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As part of a bridge between Michael leaving and the writers deciding who will be the boss next year (they literally haven't decided yet), an episode with Dwight finally in charge was better than I expected. A few years ago I would have been incredibly excited for such a storyline, with Dwight being one of my favorite sitcom characters ever, but over time he's become more of his own entity on the show, a bit too specifically weird to fit in with everyone else, as odd as the show already is. He's sort of like Kramer from Seinfeld - for a while he was the highlight of the show at times, but after some time the only joke left was "boy this guy sure is strange, isn't he?", and they told it over and over. But I was pleasantly surprised by this episode, and if anything I wish the idea had been extended a bit longer just so there would be a fuller arc to it.
So after Jim turns down Jo for the interim manager position while a replacement search is underway, he realizes his mistake when the next person she asks is Dwight. This story works for two reasons - it's fun seeing Dwight finally realize his dream of running the show for a little while, and it brings back the prank playing side of Jim that has popped up infrequently the last couple seasons, and in a big way. He begins fomenting a fake rebellion - which consists mostly of putting up a couple posters and obliquely referring to meetings that nobody actually attends, and his power struggle with Dwight is a lot of fun.
Not that Dwight doesn't have a lot to be happy about. In only a week, he transforms the office into his own vision of the ideal working environment - all extraneous websites are blocked, employees need an excessively long unique code number to print or copy documents, and security cameras watch the kitchen. My favorite bit was the way he makes over his office like a Bond villain, with a gun in a glass case, a pet piranha, and a special desk. It's a bit over the top, but it works. Things go bad for him though when he accidentally shoots off the gun right next to Andy, rupturing his ear drum, and the whole office blackmails him to stay silent when Jo comes for a meeting. They demand changes, Kevin asks for extreme back rubs, and worst of all, Jim makes him do jazz hands whenever he coughs. Eventually though he gives up and tells Jo about the shooting, for which she revokes his managing privileges. It's a surprisingly sad moment - ruthless as he is, it's the job he's always wanted, and seeing him lose it over what he sees as a small slip-up is pretty heartbreaking. And as Jim mentions in comforting him, the office was never more efficient than it was under his rule.
There was some good stuff around the shooting - Andy's overreaction to his situation, the way Darryl messes with him, Oscar's disbelief when he realizes there's hardwood flooring underneath the carpet, and especially Toby's delight at finally getting to pull out the gun violence HR forms. I've never seen him so happy doing his job. The other story thread worth mentioning is Gabe's continued inability to get over Erin. It's hard to see how she ever consented to a second date in the first place, especially with comments about how "getting touched by him is a challenge", but I have to say I've really enjoyed his reaction to the breakup in a sick kind of way. He obviously got serious about their relationship way faster than she did, and his desperate attempts to woo her back are the perfect mixture of sweetly delusional and creepy as hell. His confrontations with Andy, who seems to be inching towards a reunion with Erin, are great - Gabe's face after he leaves the conference room is priceless, and while the one time all three of them are talking veers towards unbearable, the way Andy clumsily steered his way out of it was fun.
So next week is the hour long season finale - Creed is the new interim interim manager, and Jim, Toby, and Gabe have been put in charge of finding a real replacement. Personally, I hope they get a decent amount of fun out of Creed being in charge (really, how could they not?), because for whatever reason the parade of celebrities seeking the new job doesn't interest me much. Will seeing guys like Ricky Gervais, Will Arnett, and Jim freaking Carrey audition for a management position be fun? Perhaps. Will it be distracting and fail to properly wrap up everything that's been going on this year? That seems a little more likely. I'll go into the episode with an open mind, I just have a little difficulty seeing how this well end up being a good idea.