Just as the most challenging task for The Office next season will coping with the absence of Dunder Mifflin Scranton's indomitable leader, this season's most urgent concern will be to make us forget that this is Steve Carell's last season. At least, that was on my mind during last night's wonderful opening scene: the crew lip-syncing to The Human Beinz's "Nobody But Me" for YouTube. Was its purpose to remind viewers of what we most love about all our favorite characters—Pam's newfound confidence, Ryan and Kelly's bickering, Jim's seemingly reluctant but actually enthusiastic participation, Dwight's absurd physicality, Stanley's exhaustion, Meredith's willingness to expose her bod—and not just Michael? Who cares, it was great. But ultimately, Michael's appearance in a tux and full-on magician get-up stole the show.
This episode centered on Michael and his recent hiring of his nephew Luke, the world's worst assistant, whom he hadn't seen since 1995, or in Michael-time, "the opening of Ace Ventura 2" (seriously, how are we going to live without the guy?). The arc was predictable: Michael, in his quest for love and family, defends Luke, "lover of cinema," from the staff. Michael, of course, gets frustrated with the kid and ends up spanking him, in a scene that wasn't quite totally weird, but also wasn't quite totally funny.
The sideplots could be interpreted as an attempt to strengthen the non-Michael characters, but really they were pretty standard Office fare. We get to hear about what the staff has been up to all summer—Daryl hurt himself and started watching CNN ("I don't know how we're going to get out of Afghanistan"), Dwight bought the building and a CamelBak, and Gabe and Erin started dating ("Thank God he's my boss because I would not have said yes to a first date if I didn't have to") Pam's giggling ruins Jim's latest Dwight scheme so she tries to prank Dwight herself—and ends up stuck with him in a urine-soaked elevator.
What this episode really sold was how badly Michael wants a family. And that nobody can do the boogaloo like he do.
The Michael Meter (scale of 1-10, Michael's importance in this episode): 8.75
Best Joke You're Most Likely to Forget: Kelly's pink power-suit demonstrating how much she got out of this summer's Executive Training Program.
Prediction of the Week For Who Will be Scranton's Next Regional Manager: New cast regular Gabe. He's clearly succeeded at integrating himself with the staff on both a personal (Erin, cough cough) and professional level. His self-mimicry when Michael jokingly suggested that Gabe would rat out the staff's treatment of Luke—"They're creating a hostile work environment"—certainly was Michael-esque.