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5 best and 5 worst episodes of The Office

NBC's smash hit sitcom The Office has been entertaining the masses for well over a decade. There's no doubt that it was wildly popular as each episode aired over the course of its nine-season run between 2005 and 2013. In fact, it gained such an impressive head of steam during that period, that after the production crew closed up shop, people kept on watching. America's favorite workplace continued to consistently remain in the top tier of Netflix's most viewed shows long after Michael and Holly packed up for Colorado, Pam and Jim joined Darryl in Austin, and Dwight and Angela finally settled in at the Schrute family farm.

The question is, with so many fans continually binge-watching the show, which of its whopping 201 episodes stand out from the bunch? Which episodes are particularly cherished as high points and which subpar ones stand out like a sore thumb? We've looked at the ratings, added in a dash of our own thoughts and opinions, and come up with a list of the five best and five worst episodes of The Office to ever be released.

Best: Dinner Party

The short, dramatic fourth season of The Office was one of the most important periods for the show, both on and off the set. Behind the scenes, the shortened season was cobbled together during the 2007-2008 Hollywood Writer's Strike. On camera, the series took a huge step forward in multiple areas as Jim and Pam became official, Holly entered the story, and wunderkind Ryan took a steep nosedive into prison. And yet, for all of the drama, the season has stood the test of time.

The season is jam-packed with amazing episodes like Chair Model and Survivor Man, but even among such quality companions, there's one exceptional episode that stands out from the pack: episode nine, "Dinner Party." It kicks off with Michael having the office stay to work late as a set-up to force Pam and Jim to finally, at long last, have dinner at his condo along with Jan, Angela, and Andy. This leads to the most dysfunctional dinner party in the history of the culinary arts, as everyone gets an uncomfortably up-close-and-personal view into Jan and Michael's home life. From a failed pitch to invest in the upstart candle business "Serenity by Jan" and Dwight's unexpected arrival with his babysitter-turned-girl friend to a screaming match over a beer sign, the story is littered with comedic gold from one end to the other.

Worst: Pilot

Okay, before you start throwing Dundies at your computer screen, hear us out on this one. The pilot for the show is an absolutely iconic moment in television history. No one is arguing that fact here. And moments like that first conversation between Michael and Jim or the stapler in jello will forever stand tall. But honestly, taken as a whole, the episode simply isn't the brightest moment in the show's long, venerable history—and we mean that quite literally. From the dull lighting to the drab humor and freshly underdeveloped characters, The Office's pilot episode is a classic case of "pilot-itis," and yes, we just coined that phrase.

The truth is, it's hard to find a show where the pilot episode wowed audiences right from the get-go. There's always an element of growing pains, actors that haven't discovered their characters quite yet, and a listlessness of direction as the entire production team waits to see if the show will even see the light of day. While the pilot episode will forever hold a nostalgic place in our hearts, it just doesn't have the comedic or dramatic effect that so many future episodes would bring to the table.

Best: Stress Relief

What's the best way to wrap up a sports event? By watching the best sitcom on television, of course. At least, that's what the producers of The Office thought. One of the best episodes of the entire show aired directly after the Steelers won the Super Bowl, and it was an instant classic. As the athletic festivities faded from the screen, the two-part episode "Stress Relief" quickly kicked off.

The intro follows Dwight as he terrorizes the office with some fiery shenanigans. He sends his coworkers into a panic as he lights real fires, warms door handles, and even sets off firecrackers as part of a far-too-realistic fire drill. The otherwise harmless event leads to Stanley suffering from a heart attack, and who could forget that image of Michael straddling the passed out salesman while shouting, "Barack is president! You are black, Stanley!"

The episode barrels on from there, highlighting the repercussions of Dwight's actions and ultimately exposing the fact that it wasn't the beet farmer so much as the manager that was the source of Mr. Hudson's medical woes. Spurred on by guilt, Michael sets up a roast of himself, only to be crushed by the weight of everyone's vitriolic criticism. The cherry on top of it all, though, was his ultimate comeback via the "speed roast" of each person in the office that left everyone, including the audience, rolling out of their chairs with laughter.

Worst: Mafia

Season six of the show saw a lot of major development in several characters, especially Pam and Jim, who finally got hitched. In general, the show was riding high at that point, as it had found its stride and hadn't run out of story juice or lost any major characters yet. That said, even the best seasons typically have their low points, and season six's low was bad enough to make the shortlist for the worst episodes.

The sixth episode of the season, "Mafia," aired right as the show was coming off of the high of Pam and Jim's two-part wedding jamboree. With the emotional highs in the past, for the time being, "Mafia" was left to clean up the scraps as the show began to reset for the rest of the season.

With Pam and Jim away on their honeymoon, the episode follows Dwight and Andy as their differing opinions confusingly guide Michael through an encounter with an insurance salesman that they're convinced is part of the mob. While it's good for a few laughs, it largely comes off as uninspired filler, and it has very little impact on anyone's greater storylines.

Best: Niagara

Another two-parter (hey, it aired as one episode, so we'll allow it), the fifth installment of season six, "Niagara," is one of the best high points of the entire series. Airing the week before "Mafia," the episode wasn't just the crescendo of the season. In a certain sense, it was the crescendo of the entire show up to that point. It centered on Jim and Pam's destination wedding in once-upon-a-time beautiful Niagara Falls. While the location may have been selected to leave certain folks behind, Michael's offer of a paid vacation to anyone who attended ensured that the couple had the entire office in tow for their nuptial celebrations.

The episode is laced with hilarious moments, from Michael attaching unopened soda cans to his bumper instead of the happy couple's to Andy tearing his scrotum while tearing it up on the impromptu hotel room dance floor. But it's the story itself that gives this episode the boost into the winner's circle. As Jim and Pam finally tie the knot, their romance—which had gone on in fits and starts since the pilot episode—finally reaches a moment of true closure. While they'd eventually start a family and face the challenges of Jim's startup company, at that moment in season six, everything felt just right.

Worst: The Banker

We'll call season six the "season of ups and downs." After already giving us one of the best episodes ("Niagara") and one of the worst ("Mafia"), the season is back for its third addition to the list, with the show's 14th episode, "The Banker." Unfortunately, this one's landing on the "worst" side of the ledger. The episode has potential as it goes on a fun-filled romp down memory lane, calling out a myriad of classic moments from the show's colorful past. But for all of the appeal to nostalgia, the episode ultimately falters a bit when considered against the quality competition that surrounds it.

While fun in theory, it once again comes across as a bit lazy and even feels a bit like it was simply inserted to fill some space. It comes at a crucial point in the show's arc, as Dunder Mifflin has officially "gone under," and the office is in the process of being purchased by Sabre. While the show would recover from the shift and build to a cacophonous final three seasons, it had a bit of turbulence during the transition, which pretty much entirely fell squarely on this one episode.

Best: Goodbye, Michael

While season four's episode "Goodbye, Toby" came tantalizingly close to making this list, another farewell episode made the top five instead: "Goodbye, Michael." Episode 22 of season seven is, in a word, magical. To say that the evolutionary arc of Michael Scott's character over the preceding seven seasons is marvelous is an understatement. Gone is the brash, over-confident, incompetent manager from the pilot. He's been replaced by a refined, complex, occasionally annoying character that only an A-list actor like Steve Carell could pull off, and his final episode is his magnum opus.

The episode follows Michael as he cleverly bids each unwitting member of the office a personal farewell. Well, for the most part, at least, as he needs to double up here and there. The screenwriting in this particular episode is exceptional, as the show manages to cram roughly a dozen goodbyes into a 36-minute time frame that leaves fans balling their eyes out every time. While there are dozens of moments that could make a "greatest of Michael Scott" list, this entire episode, taken as a whole, deserves the top spot.

Worst: Get the Girl

Season eight of The Office is a bit of an enigma. The loss of Michael Scott in the waning moments of the previous season didn't bode well for a show that, by and large, had existed based on everyone's interactions with the eccentric boss. But the looming challenge of moving on without Great Scott in the building was ultimately pulled off as well as could be hoped.

Nevertheless, the vacuum left by Michael understandably made it difficult to create 24 straight quality installments, and two back-to-back episodes deep into the season ultimately fell to the bottom of the barrel. The first one of these is episode 19, "Get the Girl."

Once again, coming on the heels of an emotional climax, the episode takes place in the wake of the Sabre store fiasco. As Andy recklessly heads south to Florida to declare his love for Erin, Nellie makes the counter-journey north to Scranton where she suddenly and inexplicably steps into the vacant manager position and claims the office for her own. Once again, as is always the case with this show, the story has its high points, but by and large, it just doesn't have that spark that's so often present throughout the rest of the show.

Best: Finale

The final episode of the entire series is a masterful stroke of storytelling genius that provides more satisfaction and closure than pretty much any other long-running sitcom finale. The episode takes place a year after the official documentary has aired and is spun as a sort of "follow-up" to see what the characters have been up to.

Using this as a medium, the episode proceeds to deliver a nostalgic procession of scenes that continually pulls on everyone's heartstrings. Dwight and Angela finally gett married—in their own graves, no less. The Halperts head off to join Jim's startup in Austin. Plus, we get an unexpected visit from none other than Michael Scott himself. In other words, this single episode is absolutely filled with amazing events.

The magic, in this case, is particularly bolstered by the format of the show itself. The mockumentary element of the show provides the perfect way to wrap up literally everyone's story with at least a certain sense of closure. As each person is interviewed, they're able to answer key questions to their own storyline. All in all, it was the best final episode that Greg Daniels and company could have cooked up after so many stellar years of quality TV.

Worst: Welcome Party

Carrying on from the low point of "Get the Girl," episode 20 of season eight failed to bounce back into the action. The story continues to develop the Andy/Nellie dichotomy as the former heads back to Scranton with Erin in tow, and the latter settles into her new life as the usurping manager of the Scranton branch of Sabre.

Andy and Erin are followed on their long car ride north as they sort through their rekindled relationship, and then we watch as Andy tries, fails, and then ultimately succeeds at breaking up with his previous girlfriend, Jessica. While the episode could've had some teeth, it ultimately proves pointless as Andy and Erin's revamped relationship ends up falling apart (along with Andy's entire career) just one season later.

As far as Nellie's side of the story, once again, it would've been more interesting if the character had ultimately become more involved in the show. However, Nellie's peripheral involvement throughout the rest of the eighth and ninth seasons left the episode feeling flat and uninspired. In other words, it's just the worst.