It's no an easy task narrowing down the absolute best episodes of The Office's nine season run. The series has delivered some gems over the last decade. In its efforts to showcase the humor that can be found at a typical American office work place, The Office has delivered numerous installments worth celebrating. Many of which took place within the first four or five seasons, when the comedy series was at its prime. And, by our count, all of which took place during the reign of Michael Scott.
Here's our list of the Top 10 Office episodes, listed chronologically...
"Halloween" (Season 2, Ep. 5)
Most of the episodes on this list are here because they feature a moment or two that will go down as one of the classic Office scenes. That’s not really the case with “Halloween”. In fact, the Season 2 episode in question doesn’t really boast anything of long-term importance. What it does offer, however, is one of the most consistently funny and Office-y episodes of the show. It’s the type one would show to a buddy as a test of whether or not the person would enjoy getting into the series.
After being told he needs to fire an employee, Michael procrastinates for an entire month before he’s finally forced into action on the last day of October - Halloween. With everyone dressed up in costumes, he calls Creed into his office, but the crazy old man turns the tables on him and convinces him to fire Devon. It’s a great moment for Creed, and an even better window into Michael’s soul. In addition, “Halloween” also features a hysterical Jim prank in which he lands Dwight a job interview he never asked for, and a small but key moment in Jim and Pam’s long road toward love in which she lets the salesman know how much she likes having him around the office.
"The Injury" (Season 2, Ep 12)
Coming immediately after "Booze Cruise," when Pam and Roy recommitted to their engagement and Jim confessed his crush on Pam to Michael, "The Injury" had the challenge of picking up those emotional threads… and dropped all of them. Instead the episode hands Michael the most Michael Scott-like injury imaginable-- a burnt foot on a Foreman grill set up so he can wake up to the smell of fresh bacon-- and uses it to allow all of the still-developing characters to grow into the most concrete versions of themselves. Except Dwight, of course, who changes entirely.
The parallel stories of Ryan grudgingly caring for Michael while Pam slowly realizes something's off with Dwight build up in tension and absurdity until the episode reaches its undeniable climax, with Jim driving Dwight and Michael to the hospital in Meredith's van ("You can't fire me, I don't work in this van!") The episode has so many of Season 2's best jokes, from Jim spraying Dwight with the plant mister to Creed revealing he'd been in an iron lung as a teenager, but it's also a landmark episode for Dwight, establishing Pam's affection for him that never quite goes away even when the concussion does, and revealing Dwight and Angela's romance to Pam for the first time. It's screwball comedy pacing that wraps up with well-earned emotional beats, a balance of high comedy and story that the show rarely achieved again.
"Initiation" (Season 3, Ep. 5)
It's Pretzel Day at Dunder Mifflin, and amazing things can happen on Pretzel Day. The episode opens with Dwight drilling Ryan with brain teasers, all of which Ryan has heard. The cold open sets the stage for Ryan and Dwight's day off-site as Dwight takes the Dunder Mifflin padawan on a sales call, by way of his beet farm, where he subjects Ryan to a series of ridiculous lessons before finally getting around to the sales call ("The sales call!") Ryan doesn't make the sale. It's the first of likely many sales Ryan doesn't make, but the day isn't a total waste. Dwight and Ryan chuck eggs at the building and run away. Meanwhile, at Dunder Mifflin, Michael spends part of the day waiting on line downstairs to get a pretzel. Loaded up on carbs and sugar, he mades an enormous sale, attempts to increase office efficiency, and then spends the rest of the day passed out at his desk. And in Stamford, an annoying, squeaky chair is passed off between Jim, Karen and Andy.
On the surface, "Initiation" isn't a monumental episode, nor a game-changer for the series, but it does beautifully showcase the spirit of the series, with demonstrations of how Dunder Mifflin employees get through an otherwise mundane day. Stanley and Michael salivate for pretzels. Dwight goes overboard trying to be a mentor to Ryan. And Jim manages to revive The Cardigans "Lovefool" set to the tune of a squeaky chair. All in a day's work at The Office. "
"I wake up every morning in a bed that’s too small, drive my daughter to a school that’s too expensive and then I go to work to a job for which I get paid too little. But on Pretzel Day? Well, I like Pretzel Day…" - Stanley.
"The Return" (Season 3, Ep. 14)
Looking back on The Office, it's crazy how fast events unfolded. By the middle of Season 3, Jim had already split Scranton for Stamford and returned with Karen, a new love interest, Andy and others who wouldn't last long after the branches merged. Meanwhile, Oscar's been on paid vacation since the "Gay Witch Hunt" and Dwight, at Angela's behest, made a move on Michael's job, which ended up eventually costing him his own. And all these threads came to a head in the hilarious and sweet installment aptly titled "The Return."
Directed by series creator Greg Daniels and written by Lee Eisenberg, Gene Stupnitsky & Michael Schur, the episode opens with Dwight working at Staples (with Shirley from Community) while the rest of the office plans a Mexican (not Gay) themed party to celebrate Oscar coming back to work. Jim and Karen's relationship continues to crumble since she learned about his history with Pam and then sees the two play a prank on Andy, who's probably the most annoying he's ever been. Which says a lot. Andy ends up punching the wall and getting sent off to anger management as Michael realizes just how much Dwight really means to the place, rehires him after an emotional exchange in Staples and then pretty much makes Oscar's party all about the returning Assistant to the Regional Manager.
"The Job" (Season 3, Eps. 24/25)
Karen got the short end of the stick in the world of The Office. By the time Pam steps on hot coals and affirms her feelings for the friendship she and Jim share, the show’s entire audience was rooting for Jim and Pam to get together, if they hadn’t been doing so for weeks prior. It’s not that Karen is particularly unlikeable, it’s just that Jim and Pam are the perpetual Office it-couple and by season 3, the writers and viewers both knew it. While the “will they or won’t they” plotline dominates the episode, “The Job” is almost as notable for its corporate job interview plotline, in which Michael, Karen, and Jim compete for a position in New York and in which Dwight briefly takes over as the Scranton manager.
Clearly, The Office is at its best when it offers both wily shenanigans and poignant conversations, and “The Job” offers the right balance of both. From Michael hilariously selling his condo before he’s earned the New York gig, to Pam semi-apologizing to Karen, and to Jim and Pam finally setting up their first date, “The Job” not only offers some of the finest writing in NBC history, it also is one of the most watchable season finales in existence. Any episode of a comedy with that much emotional payoff is worth investing in again and again.
"The Deposition" (Season 4, Ep. 12)
Michael Scott is an idiot. He’s a self-pleasing, drama-causing dope with a serious lack of common sense. He’s easily manipulated, and he’s completely unpredictable. More importantly, however, he’s also a guy that, deep down, really means well, and at no point during the series’ entire run has that ever been more obvious than in “The Deposition”. Torn between backing his girlfriend Jan’s manipulative plan to sue Dunder Mifflin for supposedly firing her for getting a boob job and backing CFO David Wallace, who never actually considered promoting him as her replacement, our hero ultimately chooses honesty over deception and leaves fans with one incredibly fitting statement. You expect to get screwed by your company, but you never expect to get screwed by your girlfriend.
Apart from Michael’s heart-wrenching decision, “The Deposition” also offers a hysterical plotline back at the office focusing on ping pong. Jim and Darryl are locked in a long series of grudge matches, and the ill will gets so thick it winds up infesting Pam and Kelly who talk shit and root for their men, despite the fact that they’re both horrendous at table tennis. It’s a classic Office serious-plot-goofy-plot mash-up, and it’s one of many reasons why “The Deposition” is one of the beloved comedy’s all-time great episodes.
"Dinner Party" (Season 4, Ep. 13)
For the most part, the American version of The Office offered a much sweeter and less cringe-worthy kind of humor than its British counterpart but "Dinner Party," taking place in the middle of the fourth season, it's just about as awkward as comedy gets. In fact, Jim even addresses how uncomfortable the situation is getting during one of his talking head moments, wondering if hosts Michael and Jan are playing a separate game of how awkward can they make their guests. And the results are amazing.
Bridesmaids' Paul Feig (a regular behind the camera) directed a script from Gene Stupnitsky & Lee Eisenberg, that opened cold with Michael turning the tables on Jim (and by extension Pam) and tricking him into having no excuse but to finally agree to have dinner with him and Jan. And why not recently formed couple Andy and Angela too? But no Dwight. Of course, he shows up anyway, with his old babysitter (Beth Grant) and yet they somehow manage to come in a distant second in the cringe category. There is simply no matching Michael and Jan, from the former talking shop about his vasectomies (yes, plural) to the latter making everyone listen to her assistant Hunter sing about "That One Night". And that only scratches the surface, don't forget about the 'babes,' beer sign, Michael's tiny bed (and camera set-up) or cops having to come sort out the domestic dispute at the end. Good thing Dwight crashed so Michael had a place to stay.
"Night Out" (Season 4, Ep. 15)
In the middle of the disaster that is Dunder Mifflin Infinity, in the wake of Michael and Jan's breakup, and at the moment when the shine might be wearing off of Jim and Pam's relationship, Dwight and Michael surprise Ryan in New York "Night Out." Nearly every character winds up at a low point in this surprisingly dark episode, with Ryan revealing his drug problem, Michael calling his poor mom from the club to wonder why women won't dance with him, Jim accidentally getting everyone locked inside the office, and poor Toby awkwardly putting his hand on Pam's knee, announcing his move to Costa Rica, and skittering over the fence into the night.
The only real triumph goes to Dwight, who picks up the women's basketball teams, gets into a fierce make out session, then walks away from the Amazonian woman without a second thought. "Night Out" is the opposite of The Office's peak emotional moments, an episode that seems to revel in seeing its characters as uncomfortable as the audience usually is when watching the show. The American Office never reveled in discomfort as much as the British one did, but this episode shows how well it can work anyway, when nearly all of the characters are up for being taken down a peg.
"Niagara" (Season 6, Eps. 4/5)
The set-up for "Niagara" began with the first episode of the series and continued for six seasons as we watched Jim and Pam's relationship evolve from friends and co-workers to much more. Expectations for their wedding were high as the staff of Dunder Mifflin hit the road, bound for Niagara Falls. Of course, everything went wrong. Michael didn't have a room reservation. During his toast, Jim let slip that Pam was pregnant, which upset Pam's grandmother. Andy damaged his scrotum during some extreme hotel-room dancing, and Kevin's shoes were incinerated by the hotel staff. Also, Pam's veil ripped, which was the straw that broke the pregnant bride's back.
Fortunately, Jim was there to save the day, whisking his bride off to the Maid of the Mist to marry her by the falls and away from the madness. That little reveal was delivered while Pam and Jim's friends and co-workers did their own version the "Forever" wedding video, dancing down the aisle for what was technically Jim and Pam's second wedding of the day, though only the bride and groom were ever the wiser. The wedding, like the episode, was romantic and sweet and funny all at once, and truly fitting for such an epic event.
"Goodbye, Michael" (Season 7, Ep. 22)
Despite years of leadership from the enthusiastic but ineffective Michael Scott, fans of NBC’s long-running show knew “Goodbye Michael” would be a bit of a tearjerker. The episode follows Michael’s last day at the office, an episode where Michael gives away humorous gifts to his employees and tries to not let on that it is his very last day. Under the impression she’ll be able to see Michael off the following day, Pam skips out while running errands and misses the last few hours of Michael’s time at the Scranton branch.
Pam and Michael have always had a special relationship, ever since he showed up at her art show back in Season 3 and bought one of her watercolor paintings. When she figures out what happened, there are several riveting minutes of television where she races to the airport, hoping to catch him before he leaves for his new life. Luckily, Pam makes it just in the nick of time, so close to the moment Michael would be out of Pam’s reach for good that the cameras don’t even catch up to the two as they say their goodbyes. We don’t get to hear the conversation, but the soundless moment shows how much faith the writers have in the loyalty of its viewership. It cements “Goodbye Michael” as one of the best The Office has to offer.
Amazing Race & Top Chef superfan with a pinch of Disney fairy dust thrown in. If you’ve created a rom-com I’ve probably watched it.
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