The Office: Branch Closing

Teaser.

We open in Stamford! Bold move, Office creators, but I'll buy it, because what it coughs up is a quasi-reunion of Jim and Dwight, who together are a couple I miss even more than Jim and Pam (I'm sorry, please don't stone me, but it's true). Karen catches Jim staring at the fax machine early this morning and is all, What the hell are you staring at, Jim? He says it's hard to explain, which is true, but his talking head goes a little something like this:

"I don't have a ton of contact with the Scranton branch, but before I left, I took a box of Dwight's stationery." He holds up a sheet of Dunder-Mifflin letterhead. "So, from time to time, I send Dwight faxes. From himself. From the future." He says this last part with a quick nod and such an old-school-Jim admission of his own dork-like coolness that you can't even believe how much he doesn't belong here with these stuck-up Connecticut Yankees. Go home, Jim! And don't make me say it again. He reads while we watch Dwight receive said fax in Scranton:

Dwight,
At 8 A.M. today, someone poisons the coffee.
DO NOT DRINK THE COFFEE.
More instructions will follow.
Cordially, 
Future Dwight

As Dwight finishes reading, he glances up to see Stanley exiting the kitchen with a cup of coffee and a yawn. He tears across the room, still clutching his future fax, screaming "Nooooo!!!" as he knocks the coffee out of Stanley's hand. Stanley? Not happy. Dwight says, "You'll thank me later," and it's like he's never even met Stanley before, because obviously that will never, ever happen.

Mostly, though, I love how polite and cordial and downright neighborly Future Dwight is to his present-day real life self.

Act I.

Scranton. Michael is sitting at his desk when something in the doorway catches his attention.  Jan! He greets her with the over-enthusiasm of his usual moronitude: "Love to start my day with a hearty bowl of Jan!" So what does that even mean? And then he follows it up with an equally nonsensical serenade: "Just call me Levinson in the morning, baby...." Too bad Pam can't screen his in-office greetings, too, isn't it? I suppose she has some other work to do sometimes.

Jan suffers through it, though, because she secretly loves him. Also she's dropping by to deliver some super bad news without taking much (any) time for an elaborate buildup: "I am here to tell you that we are closing the Scranton branch." Which is not a surprise if you've seen the title of the episode (suckers! spoiler alert!), but still. The Scranton branch is where we work and live and spend all our fictional spare time, and for Michael it's like five slaps in the face, coming from his imaginary would-be lover and all. But she doesn't look so happy about it, either. In fact, she looks tired and a little defeated, I like to think on his behalf. It's probably not a good sign of the state of one's emotional and/or mental health to invest more energy hoping a fake character gets lucky than oneself, is it? But then that sentence didn't make much sense, either, so we'll just move on.

Of course it's the rare piece of bad news that Michael Scott can absorb upon first hearing, so she repeats it for him: the board voted last night to close his branch. "On whom's authority?" he wonders. "The board's," she says with immense patience. He stares at her, still not believing. This is his whole world here, man! Any alternative is just not thinkable. She tells him the board thanks him for his years of service. "You're welcome," he whispers. Never a more loyal employee, never a company man more eager to please the company that's dumping him on his fortysomething mid-level management ass.

She says a small number of employees will be transferred to Stamford and the rest will get severance packages. He swallows hard and forces himself to ask: "Will I be a small number person or a severance package person?" What a great line that is, Michael Schur! Ten gold doubloons and a Jolly Good soda for you. Jan starts doling out the party line, which is they haven't made a final decision yet, then gives up and tells him he's a severance package person. She isn't able to lie to him because not only does she secretly love him, she also secretly respects him enough to know how hard this is for him to hear. She also knows he's probably going to cry. Which is exactly what he does, because he's being severed. Just like his old boss Ed Truck, only not by a truck.

Cut to the outer office, where Pam is watching this all go down, and can now hear Michael weeping. Kevin steps up to her desk and asks what's the sitch? Pam doesn't know. He asks if it's serious, and she says, "I don't know, Kev." Sounding just like old-school Jim. He tells her to call him if she finds out anything, and she says, "You got it, buddy." Then they do that knuckle-knocking thing that boys do when they want to grow up to be men. Seriously, it's like watching Jim in Pam's clothing. Don't think about that too long, though.

Inside, Michael continues to bawl like the innocent, delicate young flower he is. Jan attempts to console him, but of course is far less comfortable with his emotions than he is, so mostly she'd just like to leave. It's not easy watching him cry when all you want to do is wrap your arms around him and maybe sit in his lap. But I digress. While pulling a tissue from a drawer, he manages to trigger a pair of chattering wind-up teeth on his desktop, which he tries to halt with a dirty look and by clamping a hand down on it. No time for toys! Jan shoots a pleading look at the camera; this is going even worse than she imagined. It's not our fault you fell in love with a moron!

He tells her he doesn't understand what's happening, because their numbers were looking up. It's not all about numbers, though, it's about talent. Which means Josh, our granite-jawed, bike-riding, Midori-slamming, paper-airplane-throwing nemesis. Did I not tell you he'd turn out to be a dick? She says the CFO sees Josh playing an important role in DM's future. "Oh, really? What role is that? King of the stupid universe?" His comebacks never come out very well when he's cranky.

But she's had enough for one morning. She says they're finished and stands to leave, asking him not to tell anyone until they sort everything out at corporate. Jan! Don't be stupid. He gazes up at her and whispers: "I know you're mad. But don't do this to me. I know I hurt you, but please don't do this to me. Don't hurt me like I hurt you." Of course, because this is so personal to him, it must be personal to her, as well. After all, he's a heartbreaker. She stares, mouth agape, and walks out the door without another word.

And there you have it: branch closing!

Michael's voiceover: "It is an outrage, that's all. It's...they are making a huge, huge mistake." The camera cuts briefly to Kevin, who's tossing himself a miniature football because Oscar is still out on gay leave. And Creed, who's munching on a handful of what we can only assume are dead-smelling mung beans. "Let's see Josh replace these people. Let's see Josh find another Stanley. You think Stanleys grow on trees?" Cut to Stanley falling asleep at his desk. "Well they don't. There is no Stanley tree. Do you think the world is crawling with Phyllises?" Phyllis is kicking back, feet up, while she knits a purple and green scarf. Bob Vance color scheme! Yuck. "Show me that farm. With Phyllises and Kevins sprouting up all over the place. Ripe for the plucking. Show me that farm." How is it possible to go from dumb to ten times dumber in a single sentence? Emmys all around, my friends. I'll throw in a Booker, an Obie, and a Nobel Peace Prize, too, plus the blue ribbon I won for tying for first place in a spelling bee when I was in the second grade.

Naturally you can't expect it will take long for Michael to spread his depression virus throughout the rest of the office, and indeed it does not. He starts with Stanley, which is maybe not the choice most of us would make, because Stanley doesn't even listen to Michael when he's giving good news. And even less when Michael picks up and comments on that Catholic schoolgirl uniform photo of Stanley's daughter, which earns him one Stanley scowl just for old time's sake. See? Life is not all sunshine and lollipops in the Stanley tree, either.

Up steps Dwight, who sounds just like a long-lost girlfriend when he says, "Hey, stranger!" Michael tells him not to be weird, but Dwight is feeling neglected: "Sorry. I just feel like we haven't talked in a while." He's right, so maybe it's time for a pajama party or something. I'll bring the Ouija board and nail polish and Rice Krispie treats. But Michael's brain is too busy trying to find a way to break his news without breaking his news: "Well, we have nothing to talk about, Dwight. Just do your work...while you still can." Oh, this cryptic doublespeak! What could it mean?

Dwight's talking head:  "When you become close with someone, you develop a kind of sixth sense. You can read their moods like a book. And right now, the title of Michael's book is, Something Weird is Going On. Colon. What Did Jan Say? The Michael Scott Story. By Michael Scott, with Dwight Schrute." OH my God, I would pay to read that book in seconds flat. I hope it's full of laughter and tears and a happy but not predictable Hollywood-type ending, just like The Bridges of Madison County. Which had kind of a sad ending, if you think about it, although I threw my copy in the trash, so I couldn't swear I'm remembering correctly. Christ, that book was shit. I did learn the word peregrine from it, though, which proves even these literary downs have their ups. Go ahead, click on that link and then send me $12.95 for saving you three hours of your life that would be better spent car-hopping on the hobo railroad. (Firstly though you might want to study up on your hobo lingo, but watch out, because that link is sad.)

At any rate. On to Dateline: Stamford. Karen approaches Jim's desk, and is it my imagination or does Karen own only one gray suit that she wears every single day? Or maybe it's the same gray suit of which she owns more than one copy? Or maybe it's "grey"? So many questions! Anyway, gra(e)y definitely flatters her. She asks Jim if he's heard about his friends in Pennsylvania getting axed. He hasn't heard. Which makes sense, because technically Pam doesn't know yet, either, and their minds are supposedly connected by some kind of unrequited love osmosis. I'm thinking of trademarking that, but feel free to use it till the paperwork comes through.

Andy pounces on this opportunity to eavesdrop. "Um, sorry... the Scranton branch is closing?" Karen nods, and Andy says, "In your face!" to Jim. Jim reminds him that he works in Stamford now. Andy doesn't care and says, "Mmm"¦sucka!" Andy's like Dwight minus the charm and subtlety.

Potentially rewarding sidenote: Let's take a quiz today, okay, and try to identify which parts of this recap were written under the influence of alcohol and which were written under the influence of caffeine. First prize gets one bottle of Amstel Light (what do you want from me, I'm a girl) and second prize gets a grande soy latte at the Starbucks of your choosing. On second thought, let's make that a Natural Light and a small plain decaf at McDonald's. I'm definitely not made of money or I'd be off doing better things with my weekends.

Back to Scranton, where Michael is circling in on Pam with a big ol' shark-toothed grin that doesn't at all scream "I'M CRAZY AND HAVE BAD THINGS TO TELL YOU!" She asks if he's okay, knowing full well there is only ever one answer to that question: "Yeah, great! Amazing. Best physical condition of my life." I know we go through this every week, but God, I love him so much. Pam asks what Jan wanted, and again he fails to hit the brakes on his own runaway train of thought. "Nothing. Just checking in. I can't tell you, so..." "What can't you tell me?" she asks. He hits her with another "Nothing," and then whispers to himself, "What difference does it make? We'll be gone in a couple of weeks anyway."

Whoops! Bag open, cat gone! They "What?!" each other for a second—he's like a magician with all the too-late, too-slow distractions—and she asks him what the fuck is going on? Only not using quite such aggressive language on a Thursday night on NBC. Who knows, though, a couple of artfully placed F-bombs might be just what they need to boost the ratings.

Dwight is drawn in by the commotion, and asks Michael what Jan said: "Was she mean to you?" He's pretty ready to kick Jan's ass, from the look of things. But Michael says no, and turns to face the rest of the office. Time to announce the branch is closing, with his customary blend of cool composure and smooth sensitivity: "Listen up, everybody, I have some news." Cut to a talking head in his office, where he lies to the camera about the bravery of his face and his robust leadership abilities in times of troubled waters. Back to the outer office, where he admits, "It's over. We are screwed. Dunder-Mifflin Scranton is being shut down." This is exactly why things like getting handcuffed to boat railings and being rejected by fake girlfriends happen to him all the time: not only does he have no filter, he is completely deaf to the sound of his own words coming from his own mouth.

Toby tries to rewind a step, and says they shouldn't be talking about this until all the decisions have been made. Um, remember, Toby? Can open, worms everywhere! That's just never going to get old, is it? But what this does is give Michael the opportunity to accuse Toby of being a traitor, which again he hopes will distract everyone from the real issue of the day. Except Angela is all over this one like a dog on a bone: "What about us, Michael? Do we still have jobs?" Angela is wearing kind of a pilgrim collar today, under a flirty pink and black striped vest. Yes, it matters; clothes make the person, people.

Michael says, "I don't know. Probably not. This is the worst!" And the best. Now please take just a moment to study this picture, and then go tell all your friends and family who don't watch this show why they can no longer be in your myFaves.

Fortunately Michael has not yet finished raising morale: "So, this has been great. So let's get back to work and do the best job that we can." Then he tells Toby to join him in his office. Toby agrees under great duress and shuffles his way across the room. "Oh my God," Michael says finally. "You walk so slowly." Cool! Maybe we're going to witness a murder! Dwight closes them inside and shoos the camera away. (Another sidenote: murder does not happen; in fact, we witness no part of this conversation between Michael and Toby at all, which means it probably wasn't the kind of scene that should end up even in a producer's cut. I'm just saying: dangling plot thread!)

Next, a trio of talking heads:

Ryan: "It makes perfect sense that it would happen today because I just received this in the mail." He holds up a box. "A thousand business cards with this address and phone number."
Angela: "I don't want to blame anyone in particular. I think everyone's to blame."
Kelly, whose teary mascara is spidering down her cheeks: "If I get to stay and Ryan is laid off, I will kill myself. Like Romeo and Juliet"¦the Claire Danes one."

Dateline Stamford, where Andy is leading his coworkers in a "Stamford, Connecticut!" cheer. He's so macho, with his pinks and his checks and stripes and synchronized clapping.

Josh steps out of his office and asks Jim what's going on. Jim says they heard about Scranton, then asks Josh if he knows whether anyone will be transferring. Josh looks circumspect about the whole thing, but tells him nothing's been decided yet. He tells the rest of the crew to shut up and be professional (nicely), and resists when Andy tells him to take a bow. Hmmm"¦ Methinks Josh is hiding something up his impeccably clad sleeve.

In Jim's talking head, he explains how weird it would be if his former Scranton coworkers started showing up, like going to a high school reunion and moving in forever or something. I don't know, sometimes it's pretty clear why this stuff is cut for the on-air version.

Back in Scranton, Michael is staring glumly out his office window. Formulating many unsuccessful "Save Scranton/Save the Manager" plots in his head, I'm sure. The thing you really do know is it's not just himself he's concerned about. He's self-absorbed and inconsiderate and incredibly short-sighted and everything, but he loves his family the most, and he'll do whatever he has to do to save them. If only he were actually a formulator of successful plots.

Suddenly there's a knock at the door, and Meredith enters. "So listen, I know you're seeing someone, but I'm still willing if you are," she says. Michael and I are perplexed! She reminds him of a pact they made six years ago to sleep together on their last day of work. Michael and I are grossed out! "Oh"¦GOD!" he says. "Was that not you?" she asks. Nope! Wasn't him! "Oh. Never mind!" she tells him, and then she just turns and leaves. And for maybe the second time ever, I like Meredith.

Pam's talking head: "It's a blessing in disguise. Actually, not even in disguise. In my fantasy, I always thought I would slap someone, make a big speech, and storm out forever. But this is good, too."

I preferred what I guess is her non-producer's-cut version of that: "Sometimes at home, I answer the phone, "˜Dunder-Mifflin, this is Pam.' So, maybe that'll stop now." Yeah, I doubt it, though.

Over in Accounting, Kevin and Angela are helping Roy come to grips with the latest developments. He spends a lot of time with these two lately, doesn't he? What an odd yet awesome threesome. He asks if they know who's going where, meaning is Pam going to Stamford, but Angela pulls a fast one on us all by flirting. With Roy! "Don't worry! You're gonna be fine, Roy. You're very"¦strong. And capable." Kevin gives her his red-faced giggle, and Angela tells him to grow up as she huffs off.

Roy to the camera: "I don't wanna work here without Pam. Just be like loadin' trucks without any meaning. You know?" I think Roy has a second career as Toby Keith in his future.

Stanley, on the other hand, couldn't be happier: "I couldn't be happier. I'm gonna take the severance and retire. My wife and I are gonna travel. I really couldn't be happier." And check it out! I've always wondered what Stanley looks like when he's happy.

As Stanley starts to pack up his desk, Creed walks up and snaps a picture. "Feeling nostalgic?" Stanley asks. Creed more or less agrees without agreeing, then walks back to his computer and pulls up a digital folder of snapshots on his desktop.

Meanwhile, Michael is down visiting the warehouse. He's here to spread his inspirational brand of leadership cheer to the newly displaced blue-collar workers, which Darryl has no need of. He says Bob Vance bought the warehouse and is keeping the whole crew! That Bob Vance is just the best, isn't he? Maybe he'd be willing to buy me some day. You can forward these stats: one girl, 5'2", mid-thirtyish, freckles, original teeth, clean hair, wears shoes, eats early and often, sleeps lying down and usually in a bed, although that last part is negotiable. I don't mean to sound easy when I'm both cheap and easy.

Michael's TH:  "This is my house. The CFO is taking away my house and giving it to Josh. And Josh is giving the garage to Bob Vance."

Meaning, no way, sir! Time for some action, Agent Michael Scarn-style. He rushes out of his office with his coat. "All right, listen up! Some of you may have heard some rumors about the branch closing." Those rumors you just announced, you mean? Yes, says Stanley, we've all heard those. "But I am not going to take this lying down," says Michael. "I have a plan and I am going to save our jobs. So just hang in there."

He points to Dwight, and both Dwight and I cheer about as loudly as possible, because no plan is a plan without Dwight to help it fail. Pam, however, registers ironic skepticism: "Oh, good... you're bringing Dwight." Pam. Why so harsh? Let's hear your bright ideas! Michael says, "This might get ugly. I need backup." Right; and a guy who's packing a recorder in his hip pocket.

On their way out, Dwight asks what's the plan? Michael says, "Go to New York, confront the CFO, show him he's making a mistake, save the branch." Piece of cake, meet Michael Scott, eater of cake. Dwight asks if he can drive, and Michael shoots him down, so Dwight calls shotgun. Michael shoots that down, as well: "No. There's no one else." Dwight shrugs and says, "Still." How sad is that? Even in the special top secret hierarchy that is only him and Michael, Dwight seldom comes in second.

Act II.

Sunny day. Michael and Dwight are on their way to New York. Can I just say I love it when Michael drives Dwight around in his car? Because Michael always plays such a weird version of Exasperated Adult Dad when he gets behind the wheel of his Sebring, and Dwight is such an even weirder version of Talkative Mom, who's always irritating the shit out of Exasperated Adult Dad just by being there and talking.

Dwight, on his cell phone: "Thank you very much." He hangs up. "Okay, secretary says Wallace is away for the day and won't be coming back into the office."
Michael: "Okay, okay. Um..."
Dwight: "But, do not worry. I have his home address right here."
Michael: "Why?"
Dwight: "Christmas card list."
Michael: "You send him cards? You've never met him!"
Dwight: "But when I do, we'll have something to talk about."

I know the Dwight spin-off rumors turned out to be, in fact, Dwight spin-off falsehoods, and thank God. It's because of scenes like these that neither of them can never, ever leave this show. Also, I wouldn't mind if they did a whole episode of just the two of them driving around in the car, hatching one boneheaded scheme after another and maybe stopping at Hardee's for a nine-pound Monster burger and some curly fries. Get on that, Michael Schur!

But we're heading back to Stamford, where Jim is trying to get the scoop on this whole potential transfer list by bothering Josh. Josh isn't Michael, though, so he's not spilling anything worth anything. Enter Jan, who's here to make plans and talk logistics. Josh stares down at his desk, breaking out into a mental sweat. Why so tense, Josh? What do you have up your sleeve, anyway?

In Scranton, Ryan is wasting no time kicking Kelly to the curb in his totally wiener way: "I just feel like it could have been something special if we could have kept working together, but I'm gonna go someplace else and you're gonna go someplace else. It just doesn't make sense." Now how is that a break-up excuse? He then tells the camera, "This kinda worked out perfectly for me. I got some good experience. Uh, Michael's gonna write me a great recommendation. And as far as me and Kelly goes, I think it's for the best." I love Ryan and all, but I'd pay a lot of money to see somebody hit him in the face.

Out in the office, a stranger hands Creed a stack of bills, then walks off with a printer.

And then on to a well-heeled suburb somewhere in New York. Westchester County? Nobody's saying. Gorgeous house, though, all dressed in pumpkins and leafy wreaths for Halloween. Dwight and Michael bound up the front walk, trench coats flapping in the breeze, like two middle-aged superheroes in businesslike wear. I don't know, it's just a great visual.

Michael: "Okay, this is it. This is exactly what Michael Moore does, famous documenter"¦ian. He goes up to people with a camera and he's like, "˜Why did you do this? Why did you pollute? You are bad. You're a bad person.' It's very dramatic. Although I can't say I was a big fan of Bowling for Columbine, because I thought it was going to be a bowling movie, like Kingpin. And it wasn't. It was something"¦else." To be fair, Michael Moore is holding the earth up like a bowling ball on the cover of the DVD, and Time magazine does say it's "HILARIOUS," but whatever. Dwight knocks on David Wallace's front door. No one answers.

In Stamford, Jan is still meeting with Josh and Jim. They're huge with the J-names on this show, aren't they? In other news, I'm thinking of changing my name to "Jari." Look for it soon at a theater near you! Jan announces that "Josh will be running what is now called Dunder-Mifflin Northeast, which is all the offices north of Stamford. And Jim, if you want the job, you'll be his number two." Jim is understandably wowed, and accepts with nary a second thought. Jan says, "Awesome," which I don't think is really a word Jan would say, but we'll let it slide this time. Because Josh is about to crap over all her best-laid plans.

"Excuse me, Jan," he says. "I'm sorry, I'm gonna have to stop you there. I, um, will not be taking the job." What did I tell you? Dickhead. As of today, he says, he has accepted a senior management position at Staples. Jan smiles and says, "Awesome! Congratulations, Josh! I know this isn't quite what we had in mind, but I totally get why you'd screw us over for Staples, and hope to join you there one day myself! We'll wear matching shirts and staple things." On second thought, no, what she actually says is "Dammit, Josh! This whole restructuring thing was based around keeping you!" He apologizes but says it's done, and she excuses herself to go make some emergency phone calls. Poor, flustered Jan. No wonder she's crazy!

Jim, however, keys right in on the moral of the story: "Say what you will about Michael Scott, but he would never do that." Go Jim, go! We're glad your soul is still playing for the Scranton team.

Back to Well-Heeled Suburbia. Close-up on Michael, who is staring bewitched at the greatness that is David Wallace's house as Dwight appears from beyond to report that all access points have been covered. He asks what the plan is when David Wallace shows up. Michael says, "I will improvise. I will speak from the heart." Dwight suggests using the head instead, which would make sense to anyone but Michael. "You need an attack plan," Dwight tells him "Here, I'll be him, you be you. Let's practice." Michael agrees.

Dwight, as CFO David Wallace, strolling up the sidewalk: "Dum, dum, dum, dum, dum...coming home from work."
Michael: "Excuse me, Mr. Wallace? David Wallace?"
Dwight as David Wallace: "Yes? What is the meaning of this?"
Michael: "Can you tell us why you are shutting down Scranton and putting 15 people out of work?"
Dwight as David Wallace: "Well, the branch is no longer financially viable. It's simple dollars and cents."
Michael: "Yes, but these are employees, sir. These are human beings."
Dwight as David Wallace: "Listen, Scott. It's no longer financially viable, we're losing money, okay? It's not a charity, it's a business. And it's a dying business. Look: the whole business model of a small regional paper company simply doesn't make sense anymore—"
Michael, to Dwight as Dwight: "Stop...stop it! Just, okay. He's not going to say any of that."
Dwight as Dwight: "Why not?"
Michael: "Because he'd be intimidated and I just...let's start again. Just be more scared of me, okay?"
Dwight as Dwight: "Okay."
Michael: "Don't touch me this time."
Dwight as David Wallace, strolling up the sidewalk: "Dum, dum, dum, doo, doo de doo... coming home from work..."
Michael: "Excuse me, Mr. Wallace?"
Dwight as David Wallace, alarmed: "Ah!"

I love how Dwight is always so willing to subjugate his own common sense to Michael's bossy, simpleminded wrongness, just because that's what good toadies do.

In Scranton, Kelly is asking Pam sign to her company directory. While she watches, Pam writes "Kelly, Best wishes. Love, Pam." Which Kelly finds completely not what she was looking for. I'd throw in a "stay sweet!" or "BFF!" or even "keep on keepin' on!" but Pam goes with "P.S. What a long, strange trip it's been." This gets a big laugh from Kelly, who finds it very original.

Over in Stamford, Jan informs Jim that they've made some decisions: Scranton will be absorbing Stamford. Yay! And yay again! Everyone keeps their jobs and Jim can go home now, so I never have to think about Connecticut again. (Oh, not true. I hold no grudges against the Constitution State, although that's a pretty lame motto.) The problem is Jim doesn't know if he wants to go home, not even when Jan offers him the number two position there. He tells her he has some unpleasant memories of Scranton, and Jan immediately assumes he's talking about Michael. She might secretly love him, but that doesn't mean anybody else does. Jim says no, it's personal stuff. She begs without coming right out and begging, but you can tell she's getting desperate, and then she flies off again. She's kind of a superhero today, too. Wonder Woman, in fact; lassos, red go-go boots, and solid gold wristbands would so be her thing.

At home in Scranton, Toby is next up in Meredith's sexual pact identification quest. She tries to play it coy: "Did you ever hear a rumor about me, and anybody, last day of work, something sexual?" Or not so coy, I guess. He says no, and seems glad about it.

At the reception desk, Pam is telling Roy that she's okay with getting laid off. When he asks what she's going to do, she mentions something about art school, and he says she should totally do that. But she's already doing that, Roy! You big handsome lug. He's surprised by this news: happy for her, sad for himself. Look how far she's already gone without him; he just has no idea how to keep up.

Well-Heeled Suburbia. Dwight pokes through David Wallace's trash, and comes to the conclusion that David Wallace is rich based on A) a satellite TV bill, and B) cocaine-concealing coffee grounds. Also: there's a Golden Retriever wandering around in the background, behind an iron gate. Not barking or even caring. David Wallace needs a better, Dwight-sniffing guard dog.

Scranton. Phyllis approaches Kevin and Angela. She's planning a group goodbye lunch "since, you know, we're never gonna see each other again." Hah! Think again, Phyllis. Her eyes and nose are red, so she's taking this hard. Aw, Phyllis is the best. She suggests they go to DJ's, but Kevin  doesn't like DJ's. He wants to go to Cugino's but Angela doesn't want to drive all the way to Dunmore. Then he mentions Cooper's, but Angela says no seafood. People make lunch so hard sometimes, don't they? It's just food, people! You'll eat again in like six hours! But Phyllis gives up and decides she doesn't really want to see any of them ever again anyway; after all, she's got Bob Vance and his big new Vance Refrigeration warehouse. As she walks away, Kevin suggests Hooters. Why Angela even bothers to respond I don't know, but she says no. I wonder what these two would do without each other.

In another corner of the office, a deceptively young-looking stranger with a very deep voice offers Creed $400 for a CPU. Creed snaps up the cash and the guy takes off with his new ill-gotten gains. Today's been a real windfall in Creed terms.

Back to Well-Heeled Suburbia, where Michael and Dwight are sitting on the steps in front of David Wallace's house. Dwight sucks down some Gatorade and hands the bottle to Michael, telling him to replenish his fluids. Michael takes it and carefully wipes off Dwight's fluids with his tie.

Meanwhile, Jan has made it back Scranton in record time. She asks Pam where Michael is, and Pam rightly pleads ignorance. Jan turns to see that work at Dunder-Mifflin Scranton has simply ceased to be: Ryan is mindlessly tossing business cards into a coffee cup, Stanley is still packing up his belongings and Phyllis is just staring off into space. Jan's all, "WTF?" and Phyllis is like, "No duh, Jan, Michael told us we're all fired," only they use slightly modified better-sounding English. Jan allows herself a mini professional meltdown (a mere foreshadowing of what's in store for Jan!), and says, "Okay. You know what everybody? I'm sure there is a better way to do this but I've driven something like 400 miles today and I'm completely exhausted so I'm just gonna tell you. Your branch is not closing; Stamford is closing. Um, for the time being, it seems that all of your jobs are safe." Again: best news ever!

Angela and Kevin both say "Yes!" and they hug, and they're so cute together, this big bear of a man with this little evil Goldilocks.

Phyllis gives Stanley a sweet hug also, but Stanley isn't happy about this new turn of events at all. He'll probably never smile again. In fact, maybe he had only one smile in him, that he's been saving up for his whole entire life, and now he's spent it for nothing. A one-time-only smile completely wasted.

Pam asks Jan, "Is it because of Michael? Did he actually do something?" Clearly her voice knows this is impossible, but I like that she asks the question. Jan says the reasons aren't important, but tells her to call and tell him the good news, which is that she loves him and will continue to boss him around. Or something of that nature. Then Pam does her version of Inscrutable Jim: "Sure. Uh, Jan...um, do you know, is anyone coming back to Scranton?"  Her sphinx-like questioning befuddles Jan, who has no idea and couldn't care less what she's talking about, so Pam tries again: "Coming to Scranton. Is anyone coming to Scranton?" Jan says probably. Pam looks pensive and hopeful and dreamy. It's Jim! She's talking about Jim!

Twilight is approaching Well-Heeled Suburbia. It's that perfect kind of autumn light that just makes me want to fast-forward to October. Anybody else? Michael's cell phone rings: it's Pam! With good news! The best news! Only Michael isn't answering. "Not until I have some good news for them. Not until I have some good news." What a day. He both hates and loves that the weight of the whole world is resting on his shoulders, even if that is not now nor has ever been true. Oh, Michael Scott, if loving you is wrong, I don't ever want to be right.

Act IV.

Stamford. Andy asks Big Tuna whether he'll be transferring to Scranton. Big Tuna remains undecided. Andy mentions, without being asked, that even if he isn't transferred, he'll be fine, because he has all these crazy Cornell contacts to fall back. In fact, he'll probably go back and teach, he says, and just by virtue of him saying it, we know this would never be true.

Scranton. Pam is brewing herself a nice cup of tea in the kitchen while Ryan hides from Kelly. She says, feigning nonchalance, "I guess some new people might be coming from Stamford. Should be fun. New blood." Ryan asks if Jim is coming back, which makes her uncomfortable but shouldn't because of course Ryan only thinks about Ryan: "I just don't want it to be weird, you know? I mean, I took his old job and his old desk." But he gets his when Kelly bursts through the door and attacks him from behind: "I'm so happy we don't have to break up now, Ryan! This is the best day of my whole life!" She kisses him; he smiles, looking only half-miserable.

Cut to his talking head, where he's having trouble looking into the camera: "I don't know. Can't explain it." After a beat he glances up and smiles. Pssst: Which means it's all about sex.

Stamford. Karen asks Jim what he's going to do, then mentions that she'll move to Scranton if she's offered a transfer. For some reason—because he likes her? because he doesn't?—he says, "New York City is 45 minutes down the road from here. And you wanna move to Scranton? I don't know. If I were you I'd move to New York." Her face falls a little; Jim, are you such a dumbbell that you don't even know when a new girl is in love with you? Geez! Get over yourself, as we would say in the early 2000s.

Meanwhile, Andy is in the kitchen throwing things around. No Cornell, huh? I feel bad for him, actually. He's the kind of guy who really doesn't belong anywhere, and on some deep, angry level knows this to be fact. He pulls it together, though, when Josh walks in to wish him luck. Josh probably knows about the craziness already anyway.

In Scranton, Stanley is unpacking all of his belongings and has reverted back to his regular face. He tells the camera it was nice to have those few hours when he thought it was over, and at least now he has something to look forward to. That Stanley tree just keeps on sprouting new leaves.

Meredith, on the way from the kitchen to her desk, says congratulations to Creed, who assumes she's referring to all the earnings he pocketed today. He thanks her and says he made about twelve hundred bucks. Damn! I need to stage one of these fake branch closings in my office, too, although we have some pretty tight security hanging around, probably for that very reason.

At her desk, Meredith picks up the ringing phone. It's some dude who used to work in the warehouse and heard their branch is closing; he's ready to take her up on their deal. Oh, thank God it's a stranger. She starts to tell him the truth about the closing, then stops and asks if he can be at her place in twenty minutes. He says sure! Which is what I'd call a win-win-win.

On to Well-Heeled Suburbia, where Michael and Dwight have retreated to the Sebring. Darkness has fallen. There's a small bag of Funyuns open on the dashboard (that's Fun with Onions in snack-like form!). It looks as though there are lights on in David Wallace's house, but apparently no one is home. Dwight's checking with a pair of binoculars just to be sure, though. The smell of defeat hangs thick in the air, but probably that's overshadowed by the smell of Funyuns.

Michael: "What if this doesn't work? What if the office actually goes under?"
Dwight: "Then it was an honor to have worked with you."
Michael pats him on the shoulder: "All right, favorite moments in Dunder-Mifflin history. Go."
Dwight: "My first day when you hazed me by spraying me with a fire extinguisher."
Michael: "That was hilarious. The foam..."
Dwight: "Um, my first sale, my promotion to assistant regional manager, our basketball game. When you took me to the hospital, and told me that you cared about me."
Michael: "All right. Okay, that's enough. That's good."
Dwight: "What were your favorite moments?"
Michael: "Oh"¦all of them. I loved them all. Every single one."
Dwight: "What about when Jan said the branch was closing?"
Michael: "God, Dwight!"
Dwight: "Well, it doesn't..."

It's Dwight's indefatigable literal-mindedness that is both his greatest strength and his own mortal enemy.

Scranton. Everyone is leaving for the day. Kevin tells Pam they're heading over to Poor Richard's—Creed is buying shots! Now that's the sort of team playing I like to see around here, folks. Phyllis stops to tell Pam she heard Jim is coming back. Pam tries to ask how Phyllis knows this without indicating that she's jumping up and down inside with excitement, but Kevin interrupts when he walks back in to check on Kelly and Ryan, who are huddling at Ryan's desk. Ryan says they'll meet everybody there; sounds like something naughty is happening on the way to Poor Richard's, doesn't it? Phyllis tells Pam they'll talk later, and Pam is left with this massive question mark cliffhanging over her head. Will he or won't he? Will they or won't they? You'll have to get in line on that one, Pam! Millions of other Americans got here first, and we're the ones who have to suffer through the all the Geico commercials and hiatuses and long hot summers waiting for the two of you to get your act together.

Enter Roy, who says he's glad she's still going to be working here. Pam agrees and they bat their eyelashes bashfully for a moment, like Rudolph and Clarice, and then he leaves. Dammit, man. Don't conflict us, Roy! We know what we have to do.

Pam to camera: "I was expecting a severance. Some time off. But, um, maybe this is good! Finding another job is a pain. There's another annoying boss, another desk, I'd have to learn everything all over again. So, there are reasons to stay." In the middle of this, we cut to Jim mulling things over in Stamford. It's fun to watch them lie to themselves so unconvincingly on camera, isn't it? I just can't do it forever.

In Stamford, Jim and Karen are the only two left in the office. Wacky coincidence, no? He stands to leave, then tells her he's probably going to take that job after all. We knew it, but still—good boy, Jim! Only then he goes ahead and says, "And Scranton... it's not that bad. So if they offer you a job there, I think you should take it." What the hell? This isn't what we wanted at all! She smiles at him, all cute and charmed, and says maybe she will. And then she tells the camera, "Yeah, I'm happy he said that. I mean, I don't think he's into me or anything, but, I'm kind of into him. So...there you go." So there we go. Not what we wanted one little bit!

Well-Heeled Suburbia, deep nighttime. Our intrepid heroes/losers sit, dejected, on the curb, just like yesterday's garbage. There's nothing left to say; they've failed. They've lost their jobs, and everybody else's, and it's time to go home. Michael tells Dwight to get the car. Dwight checks his voicemail while he heads across the street, and Michael lies back in the grass and whines: "Oh, this was such a stupid idea! This was so stupid. I am such a stupid idiot. I let everybody down. Everybody hates me. I lost everybody's jobs. Nobody likes me anymore!" True, but does it make you feel any better to know you've always been a stupid idiot and nobody has ever liked you? Maybe, maybe not.

Suddenly, from off camera, we hear Dwight scream "Oh my God! Stamford is closed! Michael, we're not closed. Stamford is closed. Stamford is closed!" Michael stands and they shout "We did it!" to each other about forty thousand times, give or take. They cheer and hug and high five and bump chests and dance, right there in the middle of the street in the middle of Well-Heeled Suburbia, and nobody even calls the cops! Dwight shouts "In your face!" to David Wallace's house, and they just could not find themselves more awesome. Finally they both stop to take a deep breath and let it all sink in, and in the process of sinking, it occurs to Michael to ask "How did we do it?" Dwight shakes his head. "I don't...I have no idea." Michael: "I don't understand."

Makes no difference, though; a superhero's deed is never done, never appreciated, and never understood.

Tag.

Toby, alone in the office, pulls the last coat from the coat rack. He tells the camera, "Well, for a minute there, I saw myself selling my house, moving to Costa Rica, learning how to surf. But, Costa Rica will still be there. When I'm 65." Poor Toby. I think we all know he'll never make it to 65.