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Theories About The Office That Change Everything

Normally, fan theories are something you might associate with the MCU or a television series like "The Walking Dead." Surprisingly enough, sitcom viewers have come up with hundreds of fan theories surrounding their favorite comedies. For instance, some believe that Jack Geller isn't Monica's birth father on "Friends" or that Kramer was a drug dealer on "Seinfeld."

When it comes to another NBC smash hit, "The Office," fan theories are a dime a dozen. Fans of the mockumentary have come up with some pretty crazy theories surrounding the show, some of which are totally off the wall, while others are rather believable. Since the series has long been off the air, these theories have to be taken with a grain of salt, especially since there will likely never be confirmations to any of them. But reading up on these theories could change the way you look at the series as a whole and might have you taking a second look at characters you thought you knew.

Jim knows he's just like Michael, and it terrifies him

If Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) was real, and you were to ask him if he thought he was anything like Michael Scott (Steve Carell), he would say absolutely not. Despite gaining an appreciation for his boss in later seasons, Jim always saw Michael as a joke and didn't necessarily respect him. One fan theory suggests that this is because Jim knew he was just like Michael and was in a state of denial. A popular Reddit thread highlights the theory that details the similarities between the two men.

Neither employee has much of a life outside of the office. For example, Jim only invites coworkers to his barbecue (not counting his roommate), and we only hear mentions of his friends, but we never see them. All of Jim's love interests from the show come out of the Dunder Mifflin office — first Katy (Amy Adams) who visited the office in Season 1, then Karen (Rashida Jones) from Stamford in Season 3, and later Pam. Jim and Michael are also similar in the fact that they goof off most of the day at work and only put in effort when it's necessary. The truth is, Jim isn't a dummy, and he likely knows how similar he is to Michael, and it absolutely terrifies him, to the point where he's afraid he's going to turn into him.

Toby is the Scranton Strangler

Perhaps one of the biggest fan theories surrounding "The Office" is that of Toby (Paul Lieberstein) being the Scranton Strangler. For several seasons, the employees of Dunder Mifflin mention the mysterious serial killer who's been on the loose in their city, but he was allegedly caught in Season 7, Episode 8 ("Viewing Party") after a car chase that actually happened in front of their office building. There's a gray area between when the alleged killer was caught and his subsequent trial, and we also don't find out his name is George Howard Skub until Season 9.

But many fans suspect that Toby is the real strangler and was the person behind the wheel during the car chase. After all, he's the one Dunder Mifflin employee missing from "Viewing Party." Plus, the suspect's car is also a green sedan, which can be spotted in the Dunder Mifflin parking lot in other episodes, most notably in "Gossip" during the hardcore parkour scene.

After serving as a juror at Skub's trial, Toby's feels guilt over convicting him. He even goes to jail to see him, where he's subsequently attacked. Additionally, Toby won't go in churches, and it's been pointed out that the killings began shortly after Jim and Pam (Jenna Fischer) started dating. Perhaps Toby just couldn't take the woman he loved being with someone else, and he took his frustrations out on some very unlucky victims.

Bob Vance is taking advantage of free advertising

In Season 2, Episode 10 ("Christmas Party"), Phyllis (Phyllis Smith) introduces her new boyfriend to several of her Dunder Mifflin colleagues. It's here we meet Bob Vance (Bobby Ray Shafer), and he instantly leaves an impression on viewers. He introduces himself to Kevin (Brian Baumgartner), Ryan (B.J. Novak), and Stanley (Leslie David Baker), and with every handshake, he says, "Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration." Ryan then asks what line of work Bob's in as a joke, given that he just repeated himself three times.

Throughout the series, Bob constantly reminds people he owns Vance Refrigeration, and some fans believe there's a reason for it. A popular Reddit theory claims Bob was using the documentary as a way of getting free advertising. Although the Dunder Mifflin employees were never sure when or if their documentary was going to air, Bob made sure to milk it for all it was worth, even including his company's name during his wedding vows to Phyllis in Season 3.

Creed was a member of the Manson family

There's no denying that Creed (Creed Bratton) was the most bizarre employee at Dunder Mifflin. On several different instances — including during "Crime Aid" in Season 5 and "Murder" in Season 6 — it's hinted that Creed might've killed people. So when a fan theory popped up on Reddit in 2021 suggesting Creed was a member of the Manson family, no one thought twice about it. 

The theory cites a conversation Creed has with Andy (Ed Helms) in Season 6, Episode 16 ("Lecture Circuit"), where the latter is crushing on one of Stanley's clients. Not sure how to approach her, Creed gives Andy advice saying, "This is how I got Squeaky Fromme. No small talk. Just show her who's the boss. Just go right in and kiss her." And Squeaky Fromme was a famous member of the Manson family who was arrested for attempting to assassinate President Gerald Ford in 1975.

In Season 4, Episode 1 ("Fun Run"), Creed also admits to being in multiple cults, saying, "I've been involved in a number of cults both as a leader and a follower. You have more fun as a follower, but you make more money as a leader." There's plenty of evidence to support the theory Creed that was a member of the Manson family at one point, and it's one "Office" theory that makes a whole lot of sense.

David Wallace uses Michael to break bad news

Michael is incapable of keeping secrets, and it seems odd that, time after time, Dunder Mifflin CFO David Wallace (Andy Buckley) entrusts him with very serious information. A popular fan theory claims that David tells Michael sensitive company information, knowing that his Scranton manager will spill the beans so he doesn't have to. We see this during many instances, one of which comes in the Season 3 finale when he tells Michael that Jan is getting fired. Michael ends up breaking the news to Jan, and David doesn't have to, instead just using her outburst to label her as unstable after the fact.

Later in the Season 5 finale, Michael and Holly (Amy Ryan) reveal to the entire company that the Buffalo branch is closing, which no one knew. David had told Michael but hadn't yet informed the employees of the branch. In Season 6's "Secret Santa," David tells Michael on the phone that the company has been sold. Michael, naturally, blurts it out to all of his employees, and it absolutely terrifies them, as they all think they've lost their jobs. David let Michael in on way too many secrets, knowing he couldn't keep them, but it looks to have been strategic so he wasn't the bad guy.

Pam failed art school on purpose

In Season 5, Pam attends the Pratt School of Design in New York, and several episodes later, we learn that she's failing. She calls Jim to let him know that she has to repeat a graphic design course, which will require her to stay another three months in New York. But despite getting support from Jim, Pam comes home anyway and doesn't continue on with art school.

A popular theory surrounding Pam and her botched career move is that she failed art school on purpose. Through her new friend, Alex (Rich Sommer), Pam realizes the only way to be successful in the art field is by living in New York, and it's not something she wants to do as it will take her away from her comfort in Scranton with Jim. The theory suggests she intentionally fails art school as it's the easier option for her, so she can be complacent with the fact that she was never good enough.

Art went from being her career-driven passion to just a hobby in a matter of episodes, and it appears as if Pam dropped art for a life with Jim and never thought to ask her partner if he would move to New York with her to pursue her dreams.

Robert California is actually Jim Morrison

In the Season 7 finale, we meet Robert California (James Spader) as a potential management replacement to DeAngelo Vickers (Will Ferrell). In Season 8, we learn he got the job and even convinced the CEO of Sabre, Jo Bennett (Kathy Bates), to relinquish her job title to him upon their first meeting. Robert is a smooth-talking enigma and inspired a fan theory that claims he's the legendary frontman for the Doors, Jim Morrison.

While mostly known as Robert California, he never actually reveals his real name and offers up different pseudonyms throughout his time on the show. The theory also points out that he's quite musically talented as we see in Season 8, Episode 7 ("Pam's Replacement"), and he and his band play music that resembles the Doors' output. Robert also admits that his house was built to host orgies and celebrates pagan events, as he mentions being hungover after Saturnalia. Morrison also was interested in paganism, according to the theory, which draws another parallel between the two men.

In Season 8, Episode 23 ("Turf War"), Robert furthers the Morrison suspicions by telling Andy, "You don't even know my real name. I'm the f***ing lizard king." Morrison also dubbed himself the Lizard King, marking just another connection between the two men that's too hard to ignore.

Michael recommended Darryl to be his replacement

In Season 7, Steve Carell famously walked away from "The Office," meaning Michael Scott needed to be replaced as the manager of Dunder Mifflin Scranton branch. In the series, Jo ends up naming outsider DeAngelo Vickers as the manager, and Dwight (Rainn Wilson) later finds out that Michael never recommended him as his replacement. A popular theory believes Michael actually named Darryl (Craig Robinson) as his successor, but Jo rejected the idea. According to the theory, Michael knew Dwight wouldn't be a good fit as manager, despite being the company's top salesman. Instead, he recommended Darryl because he has a lot of respect for the warehouse manager, who he often went to for advice.

Darryl is also one of the only members in the office with leadership experience, putting him miles ahead of other employees in the running for branch manager. Despite loving Jim, Michael knew he didn't want to be at Dunder Mifflin long term and was enjoying his cap-less salary, so he decided not to recommend him either, leaving Darryl as the best option.

Dwight grabbed the wrong diaper for Phillip's DNA test

In Season 8, Angela (Angela Kinsey) gives birth to a son, Phillip, who's believed to be the child of Senator Lipton (John MacDonald Coleman). Dwight isn't convinced and takes it upon himself to perform a secret DNA test to prove the baby's true parentage. However, the test proves that Dwight isn't the father ... but in the penultimate episode of the series, Angela reveals that he actually is. So, what's up with that?

Well, a popular theory explains why the DNA test showed that Dwight wasn't the father, and it's actually rather simple. Dwight steals a soiled diaper from a garbage can in Season 8, Episode 24 ("Free Family Portrait Studio") and has it tested, which proves he's not Phillip's dad. But according to this particular theory, Dwight happened to take a diaper out of the trash can that didn't belong to Phillip. Since the employees were taking family photos that day, the dirty diaper could've belonged to any of the babies in attendance, including Jim and Pam's son, Philip.

Michael hates Toby because he's a divorced dad

There's no denying that Michael hates Toby, but there really never is a clear, distinct answer as to why. Sure, we know that Toby follows the rules as an HR rep for Dunder Mifflin, and Michael often breaks the rules, which gets him into trouble. But the hate that's there runs much deeper, and a Reddit fan theory suggests that it's because Toby is a divorced father.

Michael's parents were divorced, and his mother remarried a man named Jeff when he was a young boy. Jeff and his mother raised him, and while we don't know a whole lot about Michael's birth father, they seem to be estranged. The theory asserts that Michael has serious daddy issues, and he hates anyone who's also a divorced father. As for Toby, he's divorced from his first love, Cathy, and the two have a daughter we meet in Season 2's "Take Your Daughter to Work Day." The theory also suggests that Toby reminds Michael too much of his father, and he can't get over the hate and takes it out on his HR rep for seven seasons.

Roy cheated on Pam with Angela

There have been several fan theories surrounding the infidelity of several different Dunder Mifflin employees. One suggests that Jim cheated on Pam with Cathy in Tallahassee, but too many fans dismiss it since we all know the loyalty Jim has to his wife. A second theory that fans are a little more playful with is that Roy (David Denman) cheated on Pam while they were engaged ... and that he cheated with Angela.

In Season 2's "The Fire," Roy reveals that he'd hook up with Angela while the employees are playing "Who Would You Do?" Later in the season finale, Angela and Roy are close to one another during Casino Night, and the camera pans to them when Michael welcomes "new lovers" to the event. Angela also calls Roy "strong and capable" in Season 3, Episode 7 ("Branch Closing"), which makes Kevin giggle off to the side. We know Angela isn't a stand-up woman, given her multiple affairs throughout the years, so we wouldn't be surprised if there was a hookup between her and Roy after all.

Stanley was Phyllis' one-night stand

In Season 2's "Sexual Harassment," Toby encourages anyone in the office who has a physical or emotional relationship with a colleague to bring it to HR. Phyllis jumps in immediately and asks, "All relationships? Even a one-night stand?" Fans have debated who Phyllis might've had a one-night stand with, and one popular belief is that it was with her deskmate, Stanley.

At this point in time, Phyllis hadn't begun dating Bob, and she was a single lady. While no one could really 100% be ruled out, it wasn't likely this one-night stand was with Jim, Ryan, Michael, or Dwight. That only leaves a few Dunder Mifflin employees to be Phyllis' hookup buddy, including Stanley, Kevin, and Creed. Despite Stanley trying to act like he didn't care for Phyllis, we know he did based on the sweet gift he gave her in the series finale.

We also know that Stanley isn't loyal to his wife, as he admits to having an affair in Season 6 with his nurse. It's highly likely he had a brief affair will Phyllis either in Season 1 or 2 or perhaps before the documentary began filming. We at least hope it happened.

Michael became rich in Season 7 thanks to Suck It

For seven seasons, viewers saw Michael be extremely reckless with his money. During Season 7, however, Michael appears to have an influx of cash, but there's absolutely no explanation for it. He's able to throw a lavish Christmas party to celebrate Holly's return, and he also buys her an engagement ring worth three years' salary. Another Reddit fan theory believes Michael came into money thanks to Suck It.

In Season 6, Episode 15 ("Sabre"), David tries to get Michael to invest in his invention, Suck It. The device is a large backpack that sucks up children's toys off the floor, but Michael isn't interested. But this theory believes Michael decided to invest in Suck It off-camera, which turned out to be a massive success for David, allowing him to buy Sabre several seasons later. If David became a multimillionaire off his invention, Michael should've made a pretty penny himself, allowing him to buy a six-figure engagement ring for Holly.

Stanley died after his heart attack

We saved the darkest for last. In Season 5, Stanley has a heart attack in Episode 14 ("Stress Relief") thanks to Dwight's ridiculous fire safety drill. And in perhaps the most depressing fan theory out there involving "The Office," it's suggested that Stanley actually died on the floor that day while Michael was trying to resuscitate him. Since Stanley hated work more than anything, the theory goes on to say that he's moved on to the afterlife, with the office as his own personal hell. 

The odd theory also goes on to echo a sentiment that many fans have regarding Season 5's midway point — that it's the moment where the characters on the series became more cartoonized versions of themselves. According to the theory, this has to do with how Stanley now perceives things since he's on the other side. Is this plausible? Absolutely not. Is the theory riddled with plot holes? For sure. But no matter how silly it might seem, this Stanley theory is definitely a fun one to analyze on your next Season 5 re-watch.