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The Michael Scott Error That Stumps The Office Fans

Picking out plot holes and inconsistencies has almost become its own hobby, these days. Generally speaking, the bigger the franchise — that is, as far as scale, rather than fan base size — the bigger the expected plot holes. Genre also plays a role, as a glaring inconsistency in a Sherlock Holmes mystery is more concerning than, say, Bugs Bunny pulling out a carrot from thin air in one episode, but going on a search for carrots in the next. In general, that doesn't mean that it isn't fun to notice a plot hole and make up theories based on it, often simply to have a laugh. 

However, if there's any show that's going to make you laugh in the first place, it's The OfficeWhile it's neither a big franchise, in the aforementioned sense, nor part of a genre typically viewed as plot hole-ridden, the series occasionally made some stumbles, and there's one particular inconsistency involving Michael Scott (Steve Carell) that looks mighty suspicious.

Michael Scott's training wheels

The Office wouldn't be what it is without its cold opens, which are held in almost as high a regard as the rest of the show. Appearing before the title card, these sequences — usually posed as a joke or gag — often have nothing to do with the episode that follows. They primarily exist to hook watchers in, acting as not-so-subtle reminders that The Office is extremely funny. Some of the very best Jim and Dwight moments come straight from cold opens, and that's saying something. The same can be said of Michael Scott.

In the season seven episode "The Sting," the cold open sees Oscar (Oscar Nunez) showing off his bike to the other Dunder Mifflin employees. Most people normally wouldn't care about a coworker's new bike, but between Oscar's enthusiasm (he's in full cyclist gear) and the fact that it's the same model Lance Armstrong used, it's hard to not care.

Of course, being the kid in a man's body he is, Michael just has to try riding the bike for himself. After falling over once, he claims to the camera that he of course knows how to ride a bike, adding that he takes "spinning classes three times a month" as further proof of his competency. Seconds later, Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer) are seen attempting to help Michael balance on the bike before he kicks off. Weaving and wobbling, he crashes straight into a car. At least he was wearing a helmet the whole time, right?

Why Michael failing to ride a bike doesn't make any sense

While no one's denying that the bike mishap makes for a great cold open, there is a slight problem — one that stems from much earlier on in the show, way back in the third season. After the painful-yet-funny-to-watch cold open (sound familiar?) of "A Benihana Christmas," which involves nothing less than Dwight (Rainn Wilson) unceremoniously plopping a roadkill goose on Pam's desk, Michael does something that directly contradicts the later bike incident: He rides a bike into the office.

Despite coming out of the elevator and having to make a tight turn in the hallway, Michael has little trouble riding the bike into Dunder Mifflin. He's not qualifying for the Tour de France or anything like that, but compared to his unsightly maneuvering (or lack thereof) of Oscar's bike, he obviously knows how to pedal and steer. The conversation that follows is as revealing as the bike ride itself.

Michael brings the bow-wrapped bike in, to donate to a Christmas toy drive — which, normally, you donate new toys to. Nothing escapes Jim's keen eye, however, and he's quick to ask Michael what kind of bike it is, to which the manager gives a mumbled, half-hearted response. Kevin (Brian Baumgartner) then notices that the tires seem somewhat worn, which Michael retorts is a result of the "test drive." To nail the point home, Jim declares that the paint is chipping, and asks: "Is that your old bike, Michael?" His subsequent denial of Jim's logical claim is not at all convincing. The suspect is indeed well-versed in bike riding.

Solving the two-wheeled mystery

Assuming the old adage that one "never forgets how to ride a bike" is true, what's the deal?

There are a few potential explanations for this inconsistency, the most obvious of which is that the writers, ironically, forgot that Michael could ride a bike. The Office aired for nine seasons, beginning in 2005 and ending in 2013. It's entirely possible that plenty of little character details were forgotten, especially considering the size of the cast, and the generally episodic nature of the show. No matter how probable that explanation may be, it's just no fun from a plot hole-spotter's perspective. 

So, what if, instead, one assumes this mistake was completely intentional on their part? Here's a theory. For one, consider that Michael is many things, one of those things being an attention seeker. The majority of his antics take place wide out in the open, involving Dunder Mifflin employees. Everyone in the office has their own way of dealing with Michael's tendencies, but it's easy to imagine many of them going home and trying to purge whatever happened at work that day from their minds. The toy drive incident proved nothing too extreme, so the employees probably forgot about it.

Several years later, then, who among them would remember that Michael could ride a bike? Thus, Michael intentionally "failing" to ride Oscar's ten-speed, and pretending he doesn't know how, is a guaranteed way to start the morning with all eyes on him. Lo and behold, he gets exactly what he wants, even getting Jim and Pam to help him. So ... mission accomplished?

Whichever way you look at it, whether as an error or long-term gag, The Office stands as a testament to exceptional TV comedy. Bikes or no bikes.