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The Office: "Goodbye, Toby"

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Well, sports fans, we have officially come to the end of the line. Tonight marked the very last episode of the strike-shortened fourth season of The Office and oh sweet blessed Lord was it the season finaleiest of all season finales. It's like they made up for lost time by cramming three or four episodes worth of revelations and big plot twists and turns into one jam-packed, over-stuffed, incidentriffic mega-super-double-extended episode. On acid. On the moon.

Sure, I could spill them all out immediately but I'd rather tick them off slowly and deliberately, wasting both your time and mine in the process. Tonight had it all. An arrest! A marriage proposal! An unexpected pregnancy! New love! Old Disappointments! A Ferris Wheel! Hardcore Dwight on Angela action! Creed trying to figure out what exactly it is that he does for a living! As befits a season finale, tonight we said goodbye to Toby, the saddest sad sack in an office full of them. Toby's reign of powerlessness at Dunder-Mifflin has been defined by unrequited longing and affably enduing Michael's abuse. Both traits were in full effect tonight, as he luxuriated in the misery of his doomed crush on Pam a final time and once again coped admirably with being the guiltless subject of Michael's inexplicable rage.

Toby is being replaced by a new character named Holly played by Oscar winner© Amy Ryan, who looked, to me at least, like a slightly mousier version of Jan–still hot but with more of a sexy librarian thing going on. It's good to see that Ryan is capable of playing characters other than unfit, coke-crazed, borderline feral Boston shit-kickers. Michael is intent on hating Holly but when she takes his jibes in good humor mindless hatred immediately gives way to mindless infatuation and incredibly awkward, at least partially Yoda-based flirting.

I was tempted to write that the Holly subplot–a very major and promising component of the episode–brought out the child in Michael, both in his pre-adolescent insta-love-sickness and his bratty petulance. But there's not much about Michael that isn't child-like. Speaking of child-like, Dwight hazes Holly by telling her that Kevin is "special" and amusingly enough, absolutely nothing in his behavior contradicts that assertion. The show got a lot of mileage–perhaps too much–out of Kevin repeatedly saying and doing things that blur the line between "simple" and "mentally challenged".


Ah, but those developments paled in importance to what should have been the main event: Jim was totally going to propose! OMG, OMG, OMG! As conveyed in Scott's blog post last week, we have gotten into numerous fistfights at the office over the relative awesomeness of Jim and Pam's relationship. I have officially come around and I now think they're the most swellegant couple since Filliam H. Muffman.

As in previous episodes, the show undercuts the "Awwww" adorability factor by transforming potentially big emotional moments into unexpected comedy. That happened this time out as well, as Andy steals Jim's big moment by proposing to Angela at more or less the exact time Jim was planning to propose to Pam. In one of the subtle touches that make me love this show, Angela accomplished the almost impossible feat of bitchily, sourly accepting a marriage proposal. She essentially hissed her reluctant acceptance in a way that did nothing to mask her unhappiness.


Meanwhile, Ryan (the non-Oscar-nominated one) gets his perp walk on when he's arrested for fraud in connection with the Dunder Mifflin Infinity website. Was anyone surprised by this development? I can't say I was. Michael's attempts to worm his way into Holly's sweet, sweet cookie-making heart was complicated by the climactic revelation that Jan is pregnant! Man, I am going to run out of exclamation points by the end of this post. That's how eventful this episode was. I mean, that's how eventful this episode was!!!!!!!! And Michael's not the father! But Jan didn't cheat on him! Or did she? And a mustache-twirling heavy has tied Phyllis to the railroad tracks! Will the gang get to her in time? Sorry, this episode was crazy melodramatic, but it wasn't quite that over-the-top.

As I alluded earlier, this episode felt a little over-stuffed as it cycled through an awful lot of plot developments. But the plot excelled in quality as well as quantity. The episode was filled with neat little moments, like Michael trying to render his insulting quasi-questions ("Who do you think you are") to Toby harmless simply through inflection to avoid losing face in front of Holly, or Creed trying, and failing, to figure out what he does at Dunder-Mifflin.


Could Michael have finally met a nice girl? Or will he screw it up by reentering Jan's toxic realm? I really liked Holly. They somehow managed to convey Holly's attraction to Michael without making her seem as touched in the head as Kevin; who misreads Holly's condescending efforts to be nice as flirting. I thought tonight's episode was good but not great. The season is ending on an appropriately bittersweet note, and featured a hell of a kicker in Phyllis walking in on Dwight and Angela mid-fuck. Oooh, just writing those words makes me feel dirty. Instead of washing away that sensation with Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap or turpentine I'm simply going to bask in the pure, innocent, cleansing love of Jim and Pam. Ah, that's better.

Grade: B+ –I loved how conspiratorial Phyllis' "yes" sounded when planning party duties –Can Jim and Pam's love survive three months of separation? I say yes. –Have we seen the last of Toby? I hope not. He's one of my favorite characters –How do you guys feel about Holly? Is she a harbinger of doom or a harbinger of awesomeness to come? –Any final thoughts on this here season? –"Foot money". That's a funny phrase right there. It's even funnier in context. –Holly: hot or super-duper-extra hot? –That's it til next season, Office fans. It's been a sincere pleasure watching and discussing with you. Good night and a have a pleasant tomorrow.


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