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The Dunder Mifflin staff watches a promo for the upcoming documentary about their lives on "The Office."

(I'll be writing about every one of the last six episodes of "The Office" here at Citizen Pop for the next two months, so stay tuned.)

NBC's "The Office" began its final run of episodes last night by ramping up the same payoff storyline that ended the original BBC series: The documentary — the one all these years of footage was shot for — is finally getting released.

Dunder Mifflin workers are glued to their monitors as promos show montages of Michael Scott's greatest hits and Jim Halpert's scruffy-haired camera mugging. Then a shot of Dwight and Angela emerging from one of their warehouse bunker lovemaking sessions makes everyone realize just how invasively the crew filmed their work and personal lives.

Some of the reactions were pretty funny, like Andy neurotically playing whack-a-mole with YouTube commenters who called him "ugly" and "butt." Angela and Oscar's panicked phone call to their mutual love interest, state Sen. Robert Lipton, also produced some laughs as Oscar goes from easing into news of the documentary's release to blurting out that Lipton will be outed as gay when viewers see all the footage the crew caught.

But the real star of the episode, somehow, was Philadelphia Phillies first-baseman Ryan Howard (and yes, the show notes that he shares a name with Dunder Mifflin's former temp/coke addict). Howard meets with Jim and Darryl at Athlead about marketing opportunities, and the slugger keeps trying to show them his knack for pitching products by saying "Eat fresh" in hilariously random fashion.

Then the meeting turns into Howard forcing the two through a reading of his awesomely bad science-fiction movie script. It all culminates in Howard casually asking Jim and Darryl to get him the rights to use Darth Vader in his movie, and them agreeing with a stupefied nod.

The scene was a goofball blast compared to Jim's idyllic meeting with Julius Erving earlier this season, which made you loath Jim for stumbling into such a magically perfect job. But, to be fair, that was the point: The scene existed to shift your sympathy to Pam when she and Jim had their big fight later in the season.

That situation, by the way, is still uncertain. The only movement there last night was a silence-heavy Scranton-to-Philadelphia phone call and former crew guy Brian telling Pam he thinks Jim has changed over the last few years. But the episode ended with Pam re-watching snippets of the documentary promo from the couple's flirty early days, so maybe there's hope for those two kids yet. Or maybe one of them will see something in the documentary that hammers the wedge even deeper?

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Lake Life Editor David Wilcox can be reached at 282-2245 or Follow him on Twitter @drwilcox.


Features editor for The Citizen.