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The Dundies are a memorable part of the rich tapestry of Michael Scott’s long history with Dunder Mifflin, though this is only the second time we’ve actually seen the award ceremony, with the first being way back at the beginning of the second season. It seems odd, considering they’re even featured in the opening credits. You’d think they’d pull the idea back out for an easy excuse for a clip show or something. Well they returned in last night’s episode, as part of the second-to-last hurrah in Steve Carell’s very long going-away party.
The idea is Michael’s hosting one last Dundies before moving to Phoenix (apparently Holly is already gone, I thought they might use her again but I’ve now heard that they won’t), and he wants to make sure they go on after he leaves. So he tries to rope Deangelo into co-hosting the ceremony, but uh oh! Deangelo has performance anxiety and is uncomfortable with the whole idea. He’s fine being a boss and running a work place, but as soon as he thinks of it as putting on a show, he gets stage fright. And it’s another example of Dwight getting passed over, as he would have gladly hosted that night and on into the future. It’s just another way he’s being ignored by his mentor. Always the Padawan, never the Jedi, he quips.
Much like last week, despite Will Ferrell not quite being his usual onscreen self as Deangelo, the story seemed to take a bit of a backseat to the comic rhythms between the two characters for a lot of the episode. The cold open was pretty entertaining, as the two wake up at six in the morning to hand-deliver the nominations to the recipients at their homes, just like the Oscars. Despite the fact that unlike the Oscars, no one really gives a crap about an award they might get. There’re some nice reactions from the various employees, including some of the best material for Meredith in ages (she also gets the Best Mom award in an upset over Pam later, another funny moment), and the chemistry between Ferrell and Carell continues to be strong.
There are a few good laughs out of his stage fright, as well. Michael using one of the techniques from The King’s Speech to help Deangelo get through a speech was another classic misunderstood pop culture moment for him. Deangelo’s disastrous attempts at witty stage banter (“Where were you on September 11th?”) were also a solid well for comedy that they went to a few times. The problem was too much of the rest of the material at the awards was in that awkward gulf the show falls into sometimes of totally cringe-inducing but not funny enough to make up for it. It just seemed kind of mean and aimless, and wasn’t doing enough to push the idea of this being a momentous occasion for Michael. The capper was Erin using her acceptance speech for Cutest Redhead to break up with Gabe in pretty brutal fashion, tossing Pam under the bus for earlier encouraging her to be honest about her feelings as a bonus. It was funny at first, but Gabe’s reaction to the whole thing made it actually kind of hurt a bit, despite the show building him up as a jerk lately.
It would be fine if the disaster that the Dundies turned out to be was meant to be the point of the whole thing, an interesting way of showing how life isn’t perfect and sometimes the way people part isn’t always satisfying. But then when the office returns to Dunder Mifflin to wrap up the ceremony and everyone sings Michael a goodbye song, the switch from the earlier to the sentiment of the moment was a bit jarring. The song was nice, there was just something a bit off about the pace of the whole second half of the episode. I wasn’t aware that the song was a take on a tune from Rent, although it kind of makes it better since it’s more believable they would just take an existing song and rework it for their purposes. It was a decent episode, thought a bit of a disappointing one in the end. Definitely looking forward to Michael’s farewell though, which is finally happening in next week's extended episode.