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This is the way Will Ferrell’s four-episode arc ends: with a bang and a skull fracture. During the last few minutes of “The Inner Circle,” a hospital gown-clad, gibberish-spouting Deangelo Vickers was escorted off the premises of Dunder Mifflin — presumably never to be seen again. It was a strange conclusion to a strange episode, and the first half-hour of The Office that didn’t include so much as a mention of Michael Scott. (Even in the credits, footage of Steve Carell carefully adjusting a Dundie was replaced by a clip of Deangelo pushing forth some kind of southwestern tribal statuette. Next week, right before the title card appears, will we watch Dwight fondle a beet?)
Though the way the show sent Deangelo packing made me kind of queasy — the episode’s tag, especially, was painful to watch — I can’t say I’m sad to see him go. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: As a character, Will Ferrell’s replacement manager never worked for me because his personality and behavior were both consistently inconsistent. This may not have mattered so much if Deangelo were at least reliably funny. But tonight especially, Ferrell fell flat. It’s true that the comedian was given an impossible task — how could anyone adequately replace Michael Scott in our hearts and minds, especially when the memory of his departure is still so fresh? Even so, judging by tonight’s episode alone, the transition from the Carell era to the post-Carell era is going to be shaky, to say the least.
Not a whole lot happened in “The Inner Circle,” which felt more like a series of tangentially connected events than a coherent, cohesive narrative. At the beginning of the episode, Deangelo selected four men — Jim, Darryl, Gabe, and, amazingly, Kevin — to serve as his go-to guys. Though he tried again and again to win over Dwight, Dunder Mifflin’s best salesman stubbornly refused to embrace the new boss. There was, for some reason, an interlude in which Ferrell juggled with invisible balls, as well as a brief kerfuffle about Deangelo being sexist. (Hey, remember how great “Sexual Harassment” was?) Oh, and D also hired a new hot girl as his “executive assistant,” even though he worked at an office that already employed both Erin and Pam. Guess it’s good to be the boss.
In the half-hour’s funniest subplot, Ryan — panicked that Deangelo might realize the former temp doesn’t actually do anything at Dunder Mifflin — pretended to be Kelly’s supervisor. It’s always nice when this twisted pair gets extra screen time, and Kelly’s pop culture references — “He’s just a big fraud, Deangelo. Just like Rango! He doesn’t work here, just like Rango didn’t save those animals!” — never fail to make me smile. This story line was also a nice, sly wink to long-term viewers who may have recently found themselves wondering what Fire Guy’s current job title is.
NEXT: “I will say what I need to say. And soon, I will say it in Chinese.”