Spoilers for the last original episode of "The Office" for a long time (sigh) coming up just as soon as I smack some talk...
In case you weren't aware, "The Deposition" was the last episode completed before production had to shut down because Steve Carell and the other writer-actors refused to cross the WGA picket line. Depending on how long the strike lasts, this could wind up being the (abbreviated) fourth season finale, and while it's not fair to compare it to planned finales (and all-time "Office" classics) "Casino Night" and "The Job," "The Deposition" wasn't a terrible note to go out on for a while, whether it's a few months or into next season.
Like "Money," the Michael bankruptcy episode, this one was sadder and more bittersweet than the average episode, and like last week's "Survivor Man," it started off with Michael making a fool of himself at great length, but ended with him having a rare moment of lucidity. (Or did it? We'll get back to that.)
No amount of coaching by Jan could prevent Michael from being Michael, which even Jan knew, based on her decision to bring Michael's journal to the deposition. I loved the "That's what she said" sequence, maybe even more than the tag of "Survivor Man." It's clear that the writing staff started to challenge each other on creative ways to use Michael's most frequent, tired joke, and they've done a brilliant job in back to back weeks.
I also loved Michael seeing everybody reading his journal in the cafeteria, and especially Toby opening himself up to him and Michael's juvenile reaction. For a second there, I actually thought they'd have a moment of detente because Michael (himself raised in a single-parent household) could appreciate and relate to Toby opening himself up. But for once I preferred a moment of silliness to one of emotional truth; Michael's hatred of Toby is so irrational and overwhelming that, even in this circumstance, his only response is to knock Toby's tray to the floor. (I would feel sorry for Toby, who's like the Charlie Brown of this series, except he got his emotional revenge later when they read the passage about Michael's man-crush on Ryan.)
So here's the question of the week: did Michael side with D-M over Jan for the reasons stated in his final talking head, or because he heard the words "nice guy" in the middle of David Wallace's otherwise completely unflattering deposition? I'm not sure which interpretation I prefer -- Michael once again being wiser than he usually seems, or Michael once again having the maturity of an 8-year-old and desperately wanting people to be his friend -- but I think either (or maybe both) could apply. And the final conversation about getting a cheap dinner -- after Michael had just torpedoed Jan's chance to win $4 million -- was a marvel of sad comic truth. Michael just ruined her lawsuit, but dammit if Jan isn't stuck with (and maybe on) the guy.
The ping-pong subplot was lightweight but amusing, and the first PB&J story in weeks that wasn't in some way about them noticing each other's faults. I loved how, immediately after Kelly explained the difference between trash talk and smack talk and that she exclusively practiced smack talk, the next montage was filled with her talking trash, not smack. And I loved how, when Jim confessed that he was going to play Daryl, Dwight's mind immediately chose a different unflattering interpretation of what just happened ("No, no, no, he works here, dumbass!") rather than the obvious truth. It was a good but not over the top example of Dwight's inability to read social cues.
What did everybody else think? And what are you going to do with your Thursdays at 9 until the strike ends?