Closing out the show with a funny and heartfelt version of "Free Bird" was a stroke of genius, but the part of the show most worthy of comment was Conan's gracious, heartfelt goodbye. He acknowledged the current differences with NBC, but also thanked the network, essentially for making his career possible. Being a bit of a cynic myself, his comments on cynicism were particularly memorable - he urged his fans not to feel cynical about what happened, and closed with a plea that if you work hard and be kind, amazing things will happen:
To all the people watching, I can never thank you enough for your kindness to me and I'll think about it for the rest of my life. All I ask of you is one thing: please don't be cynical. I hate cynicism -- it's my least favorite quality and it doesn't lead anywhere.
Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen."
I can only hope that if ever faced by a similar situation, I would be able to react with such class and grace.
Once the dust settles we may learn more details about how all of this happened, but right now it is crystal clear that Conan played the end game brilliantly, and emerged from the wreckage as the good guy. NBC execs are the buffoons, and whether he likes it or not, Jay Leno is the bad guy. I suppose that last point could be argued, but I don't know how else to explain the upcoming appearance on Oprah.
I'm sure Conan will land on his feet, and when he does, I'll be rooting for him to kick Jay's ass in the ratings wars.