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Last night's episode of The Office had something fans have been anticipating for a long time - the arrival of Will Ferrell on the show, which is somehow the first time he has acted with Steve Carell since Anchorman, a landmark film in both their careers. Ferrell arrives as Deangelo Vickers, Michael's replacement as manager of Dunder Mifflin in Scranton, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the character. Not because I don't like Ferrell, I think he's still one of the most consistently funny leading men working right now. He just usually has a type, and I really like the way Vickers doesn't quite play to that type.
Michael and Deangelo first meet at a bar, where the two share drinks and complain about the person they're there to meet being late before realizing that they're actually there to meet each other. It's an easy joke, but the comedic chemistry between the two as they small talk and the way their realization of the mistake is drawn out make it a very entertaining scene. The early friendship between the two starts to fracture though when Michael tells the story to the office and gets made fun off, then Deangelo tells it and draws laughter and admiration. The workers appear to be totally over their surprise at Michael's announcement a few weeks ago, and eager to get in good with the new regime. It's not exactly the tightest storyline the show's ever done, but I thought it was still a really funny episode so I didn't mind. It's already kind of a stunt to have Ferrell on as Carell's leaving, so while it's a bit disappointing that the story aspects were completely sidelined for some jokes (where did Vickers even come from?), I didn't care too much as long as it was funny.
And it was funny, mostly. Seeing Darryl actually look up to someone for a change was a cute change for the character, and the return of Kevin's wig as he tries to look good was funny too. Erin being caught between bosses when Deangelo tries to change how she answers the phone and Michael resists was classic material for her, as the look of desperate confusion on her face changes to fear before she apologizes and hangs up. There was some really good, surprisingly mean stuff too. His frank admission that he really doesn't care about Pam and Jim's baby was perfect, and the way he identifies Andy as the funny guy and then basically tortures and humiliates him was the perfect blend of awful and hilarious. It was never truly terrible because Vickers was the only one who saw Andy making such an ass of himself, and his delivery of the "drink the soap" line was pure evil comic genius.
Something I hadn't really considered about Michael leaving was that it would mean the end of his relationship with Dwight, which has been one of the most interesting in the show's history. As funny as the episode was, it didn't obscure the private tragedy of Dwight realizing that his mentor and idol didn't even recommend him for a management position, a little moment of betrayal that didn't need humor to work and really made the later development of everybody basically abandoning Michael for a meeting with Deangelo hit harder. The two do share an awkward, one-directional hug and admit that despite their differences they respect each other as leaders and men. I appreciate the mix of humor and sadness that has accompanied Michael's departure so far, and hope they can really pull the story off.
There were a couple other little things to note. I didn't even realize until I sat down to write this that Holly was nowhere in the episode, but the absence is significant, as you'd figure there'd be some sort of HR integration as part of the new hire. Hopefully that's still to come, as I think a scene between Ferrell and Amy Ryan could be a lot of fun. And really, just more of that character's background would help, even if he's not around for long. Where did he come from? Why was he hired? Anything really weird we should know about him? There were a few funny little beats here and there, like Vickers slamming down the tossed PB&J sandwich and then revealing the extent of his peanut allergy and the insane way Erin attempts to shave Michael's face. Kelly's "meet cute" was another in a long line of moments for the character that are slightly entertaining if not laugh-out-loud funny. Only two more weeks until the farewell! Get hyped!