How much you enjoy the extremely lengthy pageantry of Steve Carell's departure from The Office likely depends on how sentimental you're willing to get about this or any TV show. The show's writers have definitely been leaning on the assumption that their viewers are long-time fans of the show, the types who get personally invested in the trials and triumphs of fictional people. Honestly, it's extremely difficult to be one of those fans these days. Before the Internet, or even TV commentary programs like those on E!, it was easier to grow attached to shows. There were few outlets for behind-the-scenes news, so things like Michael's exit would have been a genuine surprise for viewers. Furthermore, having to tune in at the same time and channel every week grants a certain ritual component to TV shows that just isn't present in the days of DVR, Hulu and, let's face it, rampant file sharing. All shows, even the best of them, take on a disposable, transparent quality now. That said, there are still some fun and affecting moments in "Michael's Last Dundies", it's just not the heartrending comic powerhouse it wants to be (and might have been in another era).
As the title and the cold open suggest, this entire episode is about Michael conducting one, final awards ceremony of self-indulgence and oblivious insensitivity. As usual, the Dunder-Mifflin employees pretend that they don't give a damn about the Dundies, but they all not-so-secretly crave the recognition that comes with winning even the most dubious awards.
The real story in "Michael's Last Dundies" revolves around Deangelo's trepidation over performing in front of an audience, even if that audience is composed entirely of his own subordinates. As powerful and put-together as Deangelo can seem, the truth is that he realizes what a firm position Michael has cultivated for himself in the office and how difficult it's going to be to fit into that niche. As far as I can tell, Deangelo Vickers is some odd combination of Michael and Toby. He's a geek who wants desperately to be liked but he has an underlying sadness and conservatism that stops him from going full-on weird. So, he can't even handle the banter Michael foists upon him at the ceremony and he even gets sick with nerves over taking the stage at this lowest of the low-wattage awards shows.
As is the case with the best of these late-period Office episodes, the most powerful moments in "Michael's Last Dundies" come from genuine heartbreak. Following Pam's advice at the worst possible time, Erin breaks up with Gabe in front of everyone while accepting her "Hottest Redhead" award. And it's a brutal breakup, made even more intense by Gabe's fumbled attempt to save face. Really, everyone is at their worst during the awards. They're all oversensitive, short-tempered and hubristic. Even aloof nice-guy Jim lets his ego get the best of him when he wins "Best Office Dad" and forgets to even mention his wife.
After things naturally fall apart, the Scranton folks reconvene at the office to finish the ceremony and perform their thank-you song to Michael for his years of service. It's a special rendition of "525,600 Minutes" from Rent that calculates Michael's total time as a Dunder-Mifflin employee (that's 9,986,000, minutes, or just shy of 19 years). The gesture means a lot to Michael and I suppose it's meant to mean a lot to us viewers. How successful it is depends on how big a fan you are.
Best Moment: Erin dumping Gabe. What an intense, brutal and funny bit of cringe comedy.
Notes: Kevin loves banter, but he hates witty banter.
Episode Rating: 4/5- This was one of those rapid-fire joke episodes and it continues to be fun to watch Steve Carell work with Will Ferrell. But all the premature nostalgia just shows The Office's age.