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Who Was The Real Scranton Strangler On The Office?

The Office, one of the most beloved sitcoms in recent memory, doesn't exactly seem like the kind of show that would feature a very real murder mystery throughout its nine season run. But look carefully: in between the pranks, romances, and friendships, there's a story about a serial killer, the Scranton Strangler, lurking in the plot. 

The Scranton Strangler is first mentioned in season 6 during "The Delivery," which sees the birth of Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam's (Jenna Fischer) first baby, Cecelia (a.k.a. Cece). One of their colleagues, Andy Bernard (Ed Helms), gets a very sweet gift for baby Cece: a newspaper with a headline from the day she was born. In an unfortunate twist, that headline is "The Scranton Strangler Strikes Again," which isn't exactly something you want on a nursery wall. 

This notorious killer is mentioned in passing several times throughout the series as it draws to a close, but the plotline really heats up in season 7, when Dunder-Mifflin's beleaguered human resources representative Toby Flenderson (Paul Lieberrman) says he's been called to serve as a juror on a high-profile case — which turns out to be the alleged Strangler's trial. After the trial concludes, Toby reveals he has some doubts about his decisions, even telling members of the office that he's not entirely sure the man (name George Howard Skub) they sentenced was guilty in the first place.

Racked with guilt and remorse, Toby fixates on the Scranton Strangler's case for the remainder of the series, confiding in Nellie Bertram (Catherine Tate), who dismisses his concerns out of hand. He eventually goes to the prison to confront the sentenced Strangler himself, but emerges in a neck brace, which indicates that local law enforcement may have found the correct perpetrator after all.

Seems pretty cut and dry, right? Well, maybe not so much. In the years since The Office concluded, diehard fans have become convinced that Toby himself is the Scranton Strangler — and frankly, their evidence is pretty compelling.

Evidence that Toby Flenderson is the Scranton Strangler

The fact of the matter is that nobody at Dunder-Mifflin particularly likes Toby, and he's especially despised by Michael Scott (Steve Carell), the regional manager who kicks off the show until he moves to Colorado in season 7 (marking Carell's departure from his signature role). Throughout seven seasons, Toby is bullied, verbally abused, and targeted by Michael, which could have driven just about anybody over the edge. 

A divorced dad with a perpetually defeated demeanor, Toby may seem too pathetic to possibly moonlight as the Scranton Strangler. However, some particularly intrepid sleuths have dug up plenty of clues – namely Twitter user Spencer McClure, who kicked off this dark theory in a big way.

In a lengthy Twitter thread, McClure lays out his case for Toby being the real Scranton Strangler. To start, he notes that it could be significant that the Strangler is first mentioned during the birth of Pam and Jim's first child, as Toby harbored a long and unrequited crush on Pam, showing visible frustration and resentment when he saw the couple together. During that initial mention of the Scranton Strangler, Toby is absent. Later, he's offscreen during an O.J. Simpson-style chase that captures the Strangler — during which the Strangler is driving a car that some viewers recognized from the Dunder-Mifflin parking lot. This only adds to the pile of evidence suggesting Toby is Scranton's infamous serial killer.

So if Toby was indeed involved in that car chase, how and why did he come to serve on the jury? That question remains unanswered, but McClure does have a possible explanation for the neck brace, claiming that it definitely doesn't confirm Toby helped send the right person to jail. McClure argues that either Toby attacked himself to keep up the gambit, or that he told the imprisoned man that he was the real Strangler, which led to the falsely accused prisoner attacking Toby after all.

Making A Strangler

This theory might seem far-fetched (some think that Creed Bratton, a mysterious outsider with a penchant for lawbreaking, seems like the obvious culprit), but the more you watch, the more it seems like the minds behind The Office were laying the tracks for Toby's sinister path all along. In fact, they even made a parody video as a sort of response to the idea that Toby is the Scranton Strangler. In March of 2018, Office creatives released a Making a Murderer-style mini documentary with plenty of evidence pointing to Toby, which may or may not confirm this long-simmering theory.

We may never get a definitive answer on the real identity of the Scranton Strangler, but it's easy to believe that Toby could be behind these heinous crimes. On your next Office rewatch, keep your eyes peeled for clues and decide for yourself.