Steve Carell Steve Carell

Say it isn't so. After seven seasons of ruling the Dunder Mifflin Scranton branch with an iron fist — well, more like an aluminum fist — misfiring manager Michael Scott walks out of his beloved office for the last time.

The trick, admits executive producer Paul Lieberstein, who also stars as Toby, was balancing the sentimental nature of Steve Carell's final episode with the requisite humor. "We try to play it pretty real, pretty simple," he says. "But it's not easy for a guy like Michael, who has such a low grasp on reality, to have a normal goodbye. That's where a lot of the comedy comes from."

And while Michael's goodbye may not be normal, his bon voyage party certainly is, to an almost stultifying degree. "It's as standard and as lame as they usually are," chuckles Lieberstein. "It doesn't matter how long you've worked somewhere, you always leave with a cake and some coffee."

It's the gaping power vacuum that Michael is leaving behind, however, that will drive the rest of the season to its hourlong May 19 finale — where his position will potentially be filled by one of many slated guest stars. Ray Romano, James Spader, Catherine Tate, Will Arnett and original U.K. Office head Ricky Gervais are all set to appear. Sounds like a whole lot of HR interviews for Toby.

The Office airs Thursday at 9/8c on NBC.

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