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So there was some interesting Office-related news during the hiatus – the first bit is that Ricky Gervais, star and creator of the original British version of the show and recently in the news for making the Hollywood Foreign Press Association his bitch, will be appearing on the show pretty soon. But more importantly, Steve Carell isn’t leaving at the end of the season. He’s leaving several episodes before that, and the season will wrap up by showing the results of that departure. My question is if they’re giving themselves the opportunity to explore that story before the season is over then why do they feel the need to move on to an eighth year, but either way, it points towards even more urgency to really get a final story for Michael going here in the home stretch.
And to this episode’s credit, it manages to push the plot forward in a meaningful way, while still being possibly the funniest episode of the season. Almost all of the humor in “Ultimatum” rested on Carell’s shoulders, but he carried it beautifully, and managed to make the character seem as human as he ever has. I’m not sure if it will be remembered that way, but I thought it was some of his best work on the show ever. Fan favorite Jim was nowhere to be found outside the cold open, and the subplots barely registered beyond a few decent lines, but it still seemed like a really good episode to me, and most of that credit goes to Michael’s work.
So before the break, Holly told the other women in the office that she was giving her boyfriend AJ an ultimatum – propose by the New Year or it’s over. And when she comes back from the holiday without an engagement ring, Michael celebrates in his office with Erin and himself in one of the show’s more clever bits in a while. Before he learned the truth, Michael prepared for both contingencies, with boxes of treats or comforts and a video he made for himself, either ready to party or talk himself down from the ledge. When he sees the missing ring, he pops in the happy video, and has a scripted conversation with himself before engaging in some collaborative dancing. It’s funny without going too far over the edge.
Unfortunately, he soon learns that although she’s not engaged, Holly is still with AJ. At first he’s just depressed, but he eventually gets angry and lashes out publicly at Holly for not sticking by her ultimatum. Of course, he doesn’t say this directly, but uses a meeting about Pam’s idea of a board for the office where everyone can put up their New Year’s Resolutions to indirectly make it about her. He ridicules Creed for not being able to perform a simple cartwheel and shoves broccoli down Kevin’s throat, but Holly knows what’s really going on and storms out, and to Michael’s credit, he immediately feels terrible. Just like he used Kevin and Creed to attack Holly, he uses them to apologize, and she later decides to take a break with AJ after realizing she’s not sure about their relationship after all. So Michael seems to finally learn something about how his outbursts can affect people, and moves one step closer to reconciliation with Holly. Progress, I guess. I’m not sure his arc necessarily ends with them together, but that would be one way to do it.
It’s the kind of thing the show has gotten wrong in the past, but I thought they were unable to overcome the issues with this kind of plot thanks to Michael’s surprising maturity after his meltdown, and the fact that the meltdown itself actually managed to be really funny this time. Outside of Michael, the episode was okay but lacked substance. There was some funny stuff with the various resolutions, especially Kelly promising to get even more attention for doing nothing and Kevin rightfully vandalizing Ryan’s supremely douchey decision to live life like an art project. Kevin was really great this episode, as he has been all season, especially his improper reaction to Holly showing her bare ring fingers. The subplot with Darryl, Andy, and Dwight going to the bookstore and then the roller rink didn’t have much to say, though I still kind of enjoyed it thanks to the chemistry between the three that’s been getting explored more and some really great lines from Darryl. It was almost shocking to find myself possibly enjoying an episode of The Office the most on a night that featured Community and the return of Parks and Recreation, but I’m pretty sure I did, and I hope these last few months of the status quo can maintain that level.