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Times Michael Scott Surprised Us With His Genius

For seven seasons, Michael Scott (Steve Carell) was the lovable idiot manager of Dunder Mifflin's Scranton branch on the NBC smash The Office. He had an uncanny ability to make any situation about himself, while also being one of the business's biggest empaths, who supported all of his employees at various times throughout the seasons. He was an idiot not because he was dumb or lacked intelligence, but because of his crazy, wild antics that left everyone scratching their heads.

Continually undervalued by his superiors — and many of his subordinates — Michael's "genius" was often overlooked not just by his colleagues, but even a viewer or two. Sure, he had some truly stupid moments that we can't forget, including raiding the Utica office and breaking their industrial copier, trying to frame Toby Flenderson (Paul Lieberstein) with marijuana (which just turned out to be Caprese salad), and holding a pizza delivery driver hostage in the office.

His insanely ridiculous moments definitely overshadow his smarter ones, but they shouldn't be counted out. There were many times when Michael was actually the smartest person in the room, and times when his wisdom outshone all those around him.

Michael Scott cleans up Jim Halpert's mess in the pilot

The first scene in the pilot episode of The Office gives us many different viewpoints of Michael. We see his cocky idiocy, his bizarre leadership style, and his incredible ability to sell all within the first few minutes of the series. How great Michael is at sales should have been evident to the viewers from the second they saw Season 1, Episode 1. It begins with him sitting down with Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) in his office. Michael asks Jim if he was able to close the library account, to which the latter admits he just wasn't able to seal the deal.

Michael picks up the phone, and within minutes the library is now a client of Dunder Mifflin. We all know Jim isn't passionate about his job, but he's proven to be a good salesman, so the fact that he couldn't close this account but his boss could says a lot about Michael's techniques. Unfortunately, we viewers were not privy to the entire conversation Michael had on the phone with the rep from the library, as we only caught the tail end when he mistook the woman he was speaking with for a man. It might have been the first, but it also wasn't the last time Michael had to come in and save Jim's behind on a sale.

He worked a potential customer like a pro in "The Client"

In Season 2, Episode 7 ("The Client"), we were treated to one of the greatest scenes filmed outside of the office in the entire series. Michael and Jen Levinson (Melora Hardin) team up to try and close a deal with a rep from Lackawanna County, meaning they would be the paper supplier to all the government businesses within the county. Jan decided to join Michael given how high the stakes were, and she found herself being undercut by him throughout the entire evening.

While Jan thought Michael was being an idiot and just a total goof, he actually knew what he was doing before he even met the rep, who was played by SNL alum Tim Meadows. He changed the location of their meeting from a boring Radisson hotel to a local Chili's and the magic just flowed from there. Michael wooed Tim's character by ordering an Awesome Blossom, singing the Chili's theme song, and telling an inappropriate joke. He read his potential client like a book and knew just what to do to close the deal. Sure, they spent hours sitting in a Chili's making small talk, but it was all a part of Michael's genius plan that Jan should have just shut up and let him do from the beginning.

Michael gave Jim the best advice in "Booze Cruise"

Season 2's "Booze Cruise" episode is one of those instances on The Office where there's just as much comedy as there is raw emotion. After being inspired by Captain Jack (Rob Riggle), Roy (David Denman) finally decides to pick a wedding date and surprises Pam (Jenna Fischer) by announcing it in front of all the guests on the boat. While Pam is ecstatic, we can only focus on a very upset Jim in the background who has too often relied on the fact that this wedding was never going to happen. Despite attending the booze cruise with his girlfriend Katie (Amy Adams), Jim is left thinking about Pam all night and ends his fling.

Jim approaches Michael on the deck and admits that he "used to" have a big thing for Pam. Michael is totally shocked and says he had no idea that there were any sort of feelings there and tells Jim he hid it well. After Jim lists the things he likes about Pam, Michael tells him that if he feels that way, he shouldn't give up on her. Jim reminds Michael that she's engaged, to which he replies "BFG, engaged ain't married. Never ever, ever give up." Now, this may not be a moment that you would describe as "genius," but it was one of those rare instances when Michael was just right on the money.

He shut down Josh and Jan in "The Convention"

Jim left Scranton to work at the Stamford branch in Connecticut between seasons 2 and 3, where he started working for Josh (Charles Esten), or as he's better known, "the poor man's Michael Scott." Jim and his new boss met up with Michael, Jan, and Dwight (Rainn Wilson) at a paper convention, where the former's incredible people and sales skills saved the day once again. As hard as he tried, Michael could only get a few guests to show up to his hotel room party, but one of them ended up being the representative for Hammermill, an actual real-life paper company. Through the gift of gab, Michael was able to make a deal with the representative at his two-person party, which now let Dunder Mifflin sell Hammermill products.

The company was once exclusive with Staples, which caused Josh and Jan to kind of laugh off Michael's comments about meeting with their rep. Once they found out he was able to work his magic and land a partnership with Hammermill, their attitudes changed. Jan eventually admitted that she underestimated Michael, to which he told her, "Well, maybe next time you should estimate me." It was truly a genius Michael Scott moment, with genius writing to boot.

Michael teachers Ryan a lesson in "Business School"

In Season 3, Episode 16, Michael is invited to be a guest speaker at one of Ryan's (B.J. Novak) business school classes. Ryan reveals that he did it because it will bump him up a full letter grade, but Michael takes it as a major compliment and preps himself for a big lecture. Equipped with intro music and candy bars, Michael makes an absolute fool of himself, although he truly feels like he's doing a good job and thinks he gives an informative speech. When a student tells Michael that Ryan estimates Dunder Mifflin will go out of business soon, Michael is absolutely gutted.

The car ride back to the office is dreadful, as Ryan apologizes over and over again. Michael tells Ryan that he needs to pack his things when they get back to the office. While Ryan thinks he's getting fired, it's not the case at all. He is just being transplanted to the annex, where Kelly (Mindy Kaling) works. "A good manager doesn't fire people, he hires people and inspires people," Michael says. "And people will never go out of business." Good managers actually fire people all the time, but something about Michael's quote is quite profound.

It should also be noted at the end of this episode, Michael — always supportive of his staff — shows up to Pam's art show, where all her invited co-workers (minus Oscar who did show up only to talk trash) left her high and dry. 

Michael schemes Jim and Pam into a "Dinner Party"

In perhaps Michael's most brilliant moment ever, he hatches a very clever scheme to get Jim and Pam over to his house for dinner. In Season 4's "Dinner Party" — regarded as one of the funniest episodes of The Office ever — Michael tricks all his employees into staying late, under the guise that corporate needs them to work overtime for some sort of project. All the employees are understandably annoyed and are expressing their frustrations when Michael asks Jim if he has any plans that night. Jim tells him no, and reminds Michael that he told him not to make plans because they had to work late.

After getting the confirmation from Jim, Michael goes into his office and makes a fake phone call to corporate where he yells at whoever he is pretending is on the other line. He comes out of his office and tells his employees they can all go home, acting like their savior. He then approaches Jim and asks if he and Pam want to come over for dinner. Before Jim can make up some outrageous lie, Michael cuts him off and says "You said you didn't have plans!" We're then treated to 20 minutes of Office glory as Jim, Pam, Angela (Angela Kinsey), Andy (Ed Helms), and Dwight attend a dinner party at Michael and Jan's condo. It was one of the rare instances when Michael outsmarted one of the cleverest people in the office.

He reveals why he acts like he does to Jim in "Survivor Man"

When Ryan is promoted to Vice President of Northeastern Sales, one of the first things he does is take a few managers and HR reps on a wilderness retreat. Toby is invited and tells the rest of the Scranton branch what a great time it was. Michael, clearly hurt by being left out, decides to go on his own outdoor adventure, Survivor Man style. Dwight blindfolds Michael and drops him off in the Pennsylvania wilderness, where he records himself as he attempts to survive on his own. While he's gone, Jim takes charge in the office and makes the terrible mistake of trying to loop all the month's birthdays together into one celebration.

Most of the office is annoyed by Jim's plan, as the employees feel slighted by the decision to put all the parties together. Michael shows up to save the day and sits down with Jim while the rest of the office enjoys the celebration. The two discuss the rookie mistake of looping all the birthdays together when the topic of Michael's catchphrase, "That's what she said," comes up. Jim finally asks "That's what who said?" to which Michael responds, "I never know," and laughs. He then admits that he says things like that around the office just to lighten the mood, another genius tactic to keep things airy at Dunder Mifflin.

Michael is the only one who wants to help Andy in "The Duel"

In Season 5 Episode 11, Andy and Dwight partake in a duel, where the winner gets Angela, who has been seeing both of the men at the same time. In the episode prior ("Moroccan Christmas"), Phyllis (Phyllis Smith) revealed to the entire office except Andy that Angela was cheating on him with Dwight. A few weeks pass and no one has informed Andy what's going on, and Michael is the only person in the office who wants to tell him that he's being cheated on.

Jim, along with Pam and some others, try and convince Michael to not say anything to Andy, suggesting the news should come from Angela herself. Unable to keep the information to himself, Michael ends up spilling the beans to Andy while driving away in his car in the parking lot, and while he doesn't deliver the news in the best way, he does what needed to be done. Someone should have told Andy what was going on a long time ago, but the Dunder Mifflin employees avoided the situation like the plague. Michael was the only one who did what was right while showing his compassion for his subordinate.

He reveals his crazy method to remember names in "Lecture Circuit"

Since the Scranton branch leads in sales in episodes 14 and 15 of season 5, David Wallace (Andy Buckley) asks Michael to travel to the other Dunder Mifflin branches to explain his techniques to the managers and their employees. He brings Pam along for the ride as his assistant and the two put on some funny demonstrations at each branch.

Michael explains to the employees how he uses mnemonic devices to remember people's names, a tactic we had seen previously in "Merger" from Season 3 and "The Deposition" from Season 4. The mnemonic device is absolutely insane, and while it might seem crazy to other people, they make absolute sense for Michael and they work like a charm. His tactic is to point out a unique attribute a person has, and use that to remember their name, because as he says, you need to know someone in order to sell to them.

He demonstrates his mnemonic device on a man he has nicknamed "Baldy," and then goes through his mind's bizarre process to show how he connects "Baldy" to the man's real name, Mark: "Baldy. Your head is bald. It is hairless. It is shiny. It is reflective, like a mirror. M. Your name is Mark." Pure genius.

Michael creates an insane promotion in "Golden Ticket"

In Episode 17 of Season 5, Michael comes up with the Golden Ticket promotion, where he inserts a special coupon into five different boxes of paper down in the warehouse that will allow the clients who find them to receive 10% off their total order. Unfortunately, Michael doesn't spread the golden tickets around enough, and all five coupons end up going to their biggest account holder: Blue Cross of Pennsylvania. Since the coupon does not limit how many a customer can use, Blue Cross is allowed to use all five.

Oscar (Oscar Nunez) reveals to Michael that a 50% hit from the Blue Cross account is detrimental, so he comes up with a plan to pin the golden ticket idea on someone else in the office to save face in front of David. Dwight eventually becomes the fall guy, and when David comes into town to talk about the issue, he reveals that Blue Cross was so happy with the golden tickets that they made Dunder Mifflin their exclusive paper provider. Dwight gets all the congratulations, while Michael is left in the dust until he can't take it anymore — he explodes and reveals he was the true genius behind the idea.

He asks his employees a poignant question in "Two Weeks"

Michael decides to quit Dunder Mifflin in Season 5, Episode 18 ("New Boss") and spends the following episode soaking up the luxury of having no responsibility while he rides out his two weeks. He comes up with the idea of starting his own paper company, which leads the interim boss Charles (Idris Elba) to remove Michael from the office since he is starting a rival business.

Of course, he can't stay away and sneaks back into Dunder Mifflin, where he tries to recruit his former employees to come work for him. While hiding on the floor by some filing cabinets to avoid being seen by Charles, Michael asks everyone in the bullpen one of the greatest questions ever asked of them in the entire series: "Are you doing your best here?" How he delivers the line is just as important as the meaning behind it, suggesting that Michael realizes they are all just living run-out-the-clock days, and no one is being the best they can be — with the exception of Dwight, perhaps, who is always running at 110 percent. Michael's question does something to Pam, as she has an epiphany and quits Dunder Mifflin to join the Michael Scott Paper Company. Michael knows his employees so well and is smart enough to understand that they are not living up to their potential.

Michael reveals his Rolodex of personal details in "Heavy Competition"

We've definitely established by now that Michael is a remarkable salesman, but he surprised us throughout the years as we found out the different ways he was able to connect to his clients. In Season 5, Episode 22, Michael and Dwight are at war with one another, as they are fighting over clients since the former is still working at his own company. Michael ends up winning a handful of those clients over Dwight, specifically because he is able to connect with people on a level that Dwight just can't contend with.

It's here that we learn of Michael's Rolodex which he has kept full of every client he's ever had. On the back of every card, he writes details about the clients, including ages, family members, and fun facts that might be useful in the future. He's always asking current and potential customers about their children or spouses, and even remembers allergies that they have. His idea to keep all this information handy is truly brilliant, and one that many of his employees should have adopted themselves.

He took David Wallace for a ride in "Broke"

The Michael Scott Paper Company was not sustainable, and they eventually went broke because their prices were too low. Raising their prices would have put them on par with Dunder Mifflin, and they eventually would have gone out of business that way. David Wallace has felt the hit from Michael's business and offers to buy out their company for $12,000. Upset by the low offer, Michael turns him down and puts the CFO in his place: He tells David that Dunder Mifflin's most profitable branch is "bleeding" and that the shareholders might be looking to replace their CFO very soon. "So I don't think I need to wait out Dunder Mifflin. I think I just have to wait out you," he says in one of his best moments.

David counters with a $60,000 offer, but Michael turns that down as well. While Pam and Ryan are excited about the cash, Michael realizes it's not enough as he is again thinking two steps ahead. He then counters to David that he instead wants all three of them given their jobs back at Dunder Mifflin. David is taken aback, as this has now turned into a multi-million dollar buy-out because of salaries, taxes, Social Security, and health insurance. He gives in, however, and rehires Michael, Pam, and Ryan all due to Michael's genius thinking.

He understood love better than anyone in "Company Picnic"

Michael and Holly's (Amy Ryan) romance came to an abrupt end in Season 5, Episode 5, "Employee Transfer," after David learned of their relationship. The duo understood that long-distance would be too much for them, and their love affair unfortunately ended. It wouldn't be until Season 7, Episode 17 ("The Search") that the two would get back together for good. Michael always knew he was going to end up with Holly, and he explained it to the audience in Season 5, Episode 26.

After their breakup, the duo reunited at Dunder Mifflin's company picnic, where they put on a play for employees from all branches. Unfortunately for Michael, Holly attended with her new boyfriend and despite their incredible chemistry, they couldn't rekindle things. In a talking head interview, Michael said, "I think we're one of those couples with a long story when people ask how we found each other. I will see her every now and then and maybe one year she'll be with somebody and the next year I'll be with somebody, and it's gonna take a long time, and then it's perfect. I'm in no rush."

It's almost like Michael knew exactly how he and Holly were going to play out, and he was right on the money: It took almost two years for them to get back together, and they were eventually married.

Michael distracts all the employees in "Murder"

Ask any Office fan what some of their favorite episodes are, and you're likely going to hear every one of them say "Murder" at some point. Episode 10 of the sixth season saw the entire Dunder Mifflin gang participate in a role-playing game called "Belles, Bourbon, and Bullets." The mystery game assigned different personas to each person in the office, as they all tried to figure out who was responsible for a fictional murder.

All of this was going on after the news broke that Dunder Mifflin would be filing for bankruptcy, and most of the employees were worried about their jobs. Jim, who was now co-manager of the branch, was aggravated with Michael for putting on the murder mystery charade and eventually snapped at him. Michael explained that he introduced the game to everyone to distract them, to keep their minds off the terrible news and the uncertainty about whether they might not have jobs tomorrow. It worked like a charm as everyone in the office enjoyed the game, and Jim learned a valuable lesson in management.

Michael brings in the competition on "The Sting"

In Season 7, Episode 5, Dwight and Jim team up to pitch to a major client, and when they arrive they see Danny Cordray (Timothy Olyphant) waiting in the lobby. Danny is a salesman from Osprey Paper, a rival company that Dunder Mifflin often loses clients to due to Danny's amazing sales techniques. They immediately call in Michael to help, but even the three of them can't beat out Danny and they lose the account.

This prompts Dwight to set up a sting, where they bring Danny into a fake company they've set up in their business park and have him pitch to Meredith (Kate Flannery) to learn his techniques. Eventually, Danny finds out what's going on and leaves, but Michael stops him before he gets to the parking lot. He convinces Danny to come work for him as Scranton's traveling salesman — sorry Todd Packer — and how he manages to do it is shocking. Danny had just been set up, and while he should have left and never looked back, he was taken with Michael's genius and gave up his old job to work for this crazy new boss.

He outsmarts Oscar in "China"

Oscar is often alluded to as the smartest person in the office, and he probably is. The one instance when he is not comes in Season 7, Episode 10, when he and Michael have a debate over China. Michael lets the Dunder Mifflin gang know how frightened he was by a magazine article that discussed the impact China has on the world. Oscar tries to calm him down by reminding him that most of China is agrarian, and the duo begin to argue about the facts surrounding the country.

Michael makes Oscar eat his words when he correctly cites a figure he saw in the New York Times about how many cities there were in China with over one million people. Oscar told Michael he was reading the wrong figure, but after Ryan checked online, Michael was proven right.

Now the smartest guy in the office, Michael was a threat to Oscar and the latter suggested they sit down to discuss China further, specifically how Michael's fear of the country is exaggerated. Michael begins to list scary military facts about China to Oscar, while also noting how much in debt America is to them. To undermine him, Oscar responds by talking fast and using complex words, which shakes Michael. Eventually, Michael steers the conversation away from China and starts talking about utter nonsense, like how no one can stop the USA if people keep conversing as they do. Michael somehow becomes the victor of their debate while getting applause from his colleagues.

Michael put together an incredible movie in "Threat Level Midnight"

At two points during The Office, Michael proves himself to be an editor extraordinaire when he assembles a commercial and a movie that he filmed and starred in. The first time we saw this was in Season 4, Episode 5 ("Local Ad") when he cuts together a heartfelt commercial made by himself and the employees after being disappointed in an ad that corporate has concocted.

We later see his genius in the iconic film Threat Level Midnight in Season 7, Episode 17. Michael wrote, starred in, filmed, produced, and edited an entire movie, which is quite impressive given he has no education in filmmaking. Sure, the movie is utter nonsense — albeit hilarious — and he definitely won't be winning any awards for it, but he manages to pull something together perfectly with no training. The fact that he dedicated so much time to learning how to put this commercial and film together proves that when he puts his mind to something, he really can be a true genius.