The Top 25 Episodes of The Office

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The Office will say its final goodbyes on May 16, 2013. In memory the show, I took the liberty of compiling my top 25 episodes of the show from all of seasons 1-9. Get ready, Dunder Mifflinites. Here we go…

25. “Customer Survey” (S5, E6)
To start the list off, we have “Customer Survey”, an underrated little gem found in the first trimester of Season 5. While not a lot of crucial plot lines are pushed in this episode (other than its final moments), there’s a pleasant usage of cooperation between Jim and Dwight. While the two are typically known for their back-and-forth relationship of prankster and pranked, the pair find themselves working together to discover that Kelly’s the one forging bad remarks on their customer surveys. You’ll also get one of the biggest laughs in Office history when Dwight and Jim act out a hypothetical sales call to each other, ultimately ending with the former screaming “BUTTLICKER! OUR PRICES HAVE NEVER BEEN LOWER!” into his handset.

24. “Shareholder Meeting” (S6, E12)
“Shareholder Meeting” is as timely an episode that The Office has ever had. We find Michael, Dwight, Andy and Oscar on their way to New York to what could only be described as a death march, where Michael is surprised to find himself on a panel with Dunder Mifflin executives attempting to defend the company of its bad decisions. The dark, biting humor in this episode is perfectly tied into the overall themes of the working class and economic struggles. The episode’s highlights include an anxious Oscar (Oscar Nunez), stuck between a rock and a hard place with his strong feelings on the company, as well as a subplot that allows Jim (John Krasinski) to own his newfound management position with confidence.

23. “The Sting” (S7, E5)
The Office’s guest appearances have proved to be an extremely hit-and-miss scenario over the past few seasons. Some have been home-runs (Kathy Bates, Idris Elba), while others have been wasted opportunities (James Spader, Will Ferrell). All things considered, Timothy Olyphant’s turn as travelling salesman Danny Cordray was a huge success. After being bested by Cordray at a sales call, Michael, Dwight and Jim set up a filmed sting where they can see how the salesman pitches to possible cliental. Olyphant fits this role like a glove as the charming, semi-cutthroat salesman, helping to move the episode along nicely. There’s also a gratifying subplot where Andy and Darryl form a band – ultimately coming up with the novelty song “Bullfrog In Love” with Kevin as co-vocalist.

22. “Broke” (S5, E25)
The Office is known for a bevy of sincere moments on the show – a majority of which we’ll delve into throughout the countdown. However, one of the finest comes from Michael Scott in a Season 5 winner that closes out the arc of the Michael Scott Paper Company. If it weren’t for the fantastic “The Deposition”, I’d say the episode features the finest negotiation found in the series. Steve Carell deservedly was nominated for both Emmy and Golden Globes for Best Actor in a Comedy Series, with an excellent wrap-up speech that ties the episode in a neat little package. Not to mention, anyone that hated Charles as much as I did will love the jab at his exit to cap it all off.

21. “Manager & Salesman” (S6, E16)
Dunder Mifflin (Sabre) is now under new management and the cracks in the former administration are starting to show. In an episode that eventually divides the power between Michael and Jim, we find an interesting supremacy shift that exposes the “grass is greener” effect. Sure, the joke about Phylis farting from a new allergy medication is kind of an eye roll, but the rest of episode is well-written by Mindy Kaling (who’ll be coming up a lot in this countdown) and competently-directed by Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer).

20. “The Return” (S3, E14)
“How would I describe myself? Three words: hard-working, alpha-male, jack hammer…merciless…insatiable.” When an Office cold open features a line like this, you know it’s going to be good. In the second half of a two-part episode, Dwight leaves Dunder Mifflin after a snafu with Angela threatens to expose their secret romance. Dwight’s time away from the office of Dunder Mifflin provides a prime opportunity for Ed Helms to show just how douchey Andy can be. He sings Cranberries singles at his desk, plays the yes man role to Michael and punches a hole in the wall when he thinks his phone has been stolen. Until now, we haven’t yet realized just how bat shit crazy Bernard can actually be – just one reason that makes “The Return” such an dauntingly hilarious episode.

19. “Initiation” (S3, E5)
Now here’s a match-up we never saw coming. With Jim promoted to Stamford and Ryan promoted to Jim’s old job, the time has come for him to go on a sales call…with assistance from Dwight. Dwight’s hillbilly roots are seen up close and personal for the first time in Office history in “Initiation.” Not to mention a theatrically callous side as well, where Ryan is hazed into kneeling in horse manure, being abandoned in an open field and wrestling Dwight’s cousin Mose. However, the solemn bond they form at the end is more than enough to call this episode a victory. Also, I feel you, Stanley. That’s a long time to wait for the next Pretzel Day.

18. “Dwight’s Speech” (S2, E17)
After winning the Northeastern Pennsylvania Salesman of the Year award by Dunder Mifflin’s corporate division, Dwight wins a cash prize and has to give a speech at a convention, but stage fright has put a terrifying hold on him. What makes the episode so successful is a combination of elements: 1. Michael’s pressure-inducing help that only makes things worse, and 2: Dwight’s actual speech, partially plagiarized from dictator Benito Mussolini. The speech itself works as a perfect outlet for Schrute to exhibit his authoritative characteristics in an open forum, and makes for one of the most bewildering and hilarious moments of the Office’s stellar second season. 

17. “China” (S7, E10)
A pair of equally compelling plotlines make “China” the episode it ended up being. Penned by the lethal combination of Halsted Sullivan and Warren Lieberstein comes a topical and ultimately heartwarming episode. On one side of the coin, we find office administrator Pam (Jenna Fischer) pitted against new building manager Dwight for the role of control at Dunder Mifflin. On the other side, however, we see Michael pitted against Oscar for the role of Office’s smartest individual when an article on China finds them at each other’s throats. The conclusions to both of these situations come naturally, allowing for a natural growth amongst the characters and making it one of the most memorable episodes of the seventh season.

16. “Michael’s Birthday” (S2, E19)
What better way to showcase the self-absorbed side of Michael Scott than to have his birthday in the office? And what better way to further emphasize this by having a subplot where Kevin might possibly have skin cancer? Well, The Office goes there with hilarious results. The office later goes to an ice rink, while Jim and Pam show a lighter side by goofing around in a supermarket, providing for a lot of subtle progression for the pair.

15. “Goodbye, Toby” (S5, E14)
“Goodbye, Toby” is the ultimate Office season finale. The show has always been at great at tiding over diehard fans until the next fall season. But “Goodbye, Toby” did an excellent job of withholding enough information to satisfy Office fans, yet still keep them coming back for more. Just to recap: Toby’s moving to Costa Rica, Michael has the hots for Holly, the new HR rep, Jim and Pam are near engagement, Andy and Angela get hastily engaged, Angela’s cheating on Andy with Dwight, Phylis steps up as head of the Party Planning Committee, and Michael may become a father…sort of. All of that was somehow packed into forty minutes, making for the best use of a runtime in an Office episode.

14. “Niagra” (S6, E4+5)
Could this list really feel complete without “Niagara?” Over nine million tuned in to watch Jim and Pam exchange rings, kiss and officially become man and wife – and even better, it totally lived up to everyone’s expectations. Directed by Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) and co-written by Greg Daniels and Mindy Kaling, the show nails an earnest trifecta of the uncomfortable, the topical and the heartfelt qualities that the show has been known for providing. The relationship of Jim and Pam was one that had to go through its fair share of struggles – and to see it come full circle in this expectedly great episode was a beautiful  thing to see.

13. “The Deposition” (S4, E12)
In a tense, thought-provoking episode of The Office, we find Michael Scott caught between his two loves: his woman and his work. “The Deposition” is a truly dazzling episode in the way that it puts Michael Scott in an unstable situation and allows him to go to town. The script is as perfect as anyone could have expected from a situation like this. It rises and fall appropriately, eventually leading to a conclusion that feels like an appropriate summation of Michael and Jan’s plummeting relationship.

12. “Take Your Daughter to Work Day” (S2, E18)
“Take Your Daughter to Work Day” is one of the flat-out funniest episodes that The Office has ever produced. It’s a simple scenario: many of the workers bring in their daughters (and son) to see the inner-workings of Dunder Mifflin. Dwight and Michael’s scenes of trying to relate to these kids are so cringe-worthy that they produce hearty, genuine laughs; nothing’s funnier, however, than the tape of elementary school Michael telling Edward R. Meow that “he wants to get married and have a hundred kids, so he can have a hundred friends, and no one can say no to being his friend.” Awesome.

11. “Did I Stutter?” (S4, E16)
The gloves are off and the Michael-Stanley feud has never been this heated. After an altercation in the conference room causes Michael to feel threatened by his belligerent employee, it causes the boss to go into panic mode. This leads to a finale that will leave even the strongest of Office fans on the edge of their seat. A pair of equally hilarious subplots where Pam loses her glasses and Dwight and Andy become vehicular rivals end up working to help balance the tension with the main plot.

10. “Christmas Party” (S2, E10)
The Office’s holiday themed episodes are some of the finest in the series, by far. How fine, you might ask? Well, there are two in my Top 10 best list, so that has to say something. The awkward bliss that plagues Dunder Mifflin Scranton’s Christmas party is anchored by Michael’s frequent hissy fits when he gets an oven mitt for Christmas. An attitude like this is expected of Michael, but what isn’t expected is the amount of heart we get from the Jim and Pam subplot with the former’s teapot full of inside jokes. While this episode is easily the preferred Christmas episode of many fans, there was another that I liked just a little bit more.

9. “Secret Santa” (S6, E13)
“Secret Santa” is the most piercingly hilarious Christmas episode of The Office,  ultimately making it the greatest holiday-based episode that the show has ever manufactured. Phylis desperately wants to play Santa, but this doesn’t sit well with Michael, who comes out swinging with a vicious turn as Jesus, calling Toby the anti-Christ and telling Stanley he’s going to “H-E-L-L-Double-Hockey-Sticks.” Hilarious. There’s also a pair of fantastic subplots where Andy gives Erin the 12 days of Christmas as her secret Santa gift (“Is it my fault that the first few days are like 30 birds?”), as well as the possible notion that their jobs may be in jeopardy. It makes for a timely, positive episode about how joyously weird the holiday season can be.

8. “Special Project” (S8, E14)
A majority of Office fans would probably have my head for even mentioning the disastrous Season 8 in a “Best Of” countdown, and I wouldn’t blame them for a second. However, I have to break my vow for one particular episode. I have zero shame in putting a Season 8 episode in my countdown as long as it’s “Special Project”. It’s all kicked off with a brilliant plotline – Dwight is promoted and has to assemble a crack team to bring with him to Tallahassee. He quickly learns that the team he wants is far from the team that’s given to him. However, there’s a beautiful moment at the end where he realizes that there’s a way for the project to work regardless. It’s an exceptional moment that sets up a lot of potential for future plot lines. There’s a word for an episode like this: perfektenschlag.

7. “Stress Relief” (S5, E14+15)
It’s no easy feat to try and follow the Super Bowl, but this ballsy mid-season episode was nothing to be messed with. “Stress Relief” is one of the most bizarre episodes that The Office has pumped out, but it makes for one of the coolest as well. In this hour-long episode, we get a hellstorm of a fire drill, a disastrous CPR demonstration, a hilariously uncomfortable roast of Michael Scott and a faux movie featuring guest appearances by none other than Jack Black, Jessica Biel and Cloris Leachman. With an agenda that stacked, not even Super Bowl XLIII could steal its thunder.

6. “The Dundies” (S2, E1)
Let’s face it: the initial season the United States’ Office was far from perfect. Despite a politically incorrect gem found in “Diversity Day”, the first season was a pretty big disappointment. The main problem? The creators focused too much on looking for painful moments of satire instead of trying to find the show’s heart. Season 2 premiere, “The Dundies,” changed all of that. The humor is still there, without question, but we see a lot of love in Michael Scott’s annual awards ceremony. In between every AIDS joke and Chinese stereotype, we see a drunken Pam attempting to keep the show going. It’s also in this episode that we see the first glimmer of hope for the romance between Jim and Pam – a celebratory moment for Dunder Mifflin lovers everywhere.

5. “Garage Sale” (S7, E19)
I will be the first to admit that I was not the biggest believer that Michael would end up with Holly by the time he had to depart. With time running short, I thought any type of permanent commitment to their relationship would just feel rushed and out of place. Leave it to Steve Carell (director) and writer Jon Vitti to completely prove me wrong. “Garage Sale” closes the gap of Michael and Holly’s future perfectly by letting them get engaged in their own nerdy way. What other proposal on television would have the man ask his love, “Holly Flax, marrying me will you be?” None. And that’s what makes “Garage Sale” the finest example of how to make a televised engagement sincere, pleasing and totally unique. Oh, and in an uproarious subplot, Jim tricks Dwight into trading his “magic” beans.

4. “Gay Witch Hunt” (S3, E1)
It’s ethically unbecoming title says it all: “Gay Witch Hunt” is a no-holds barred episode that digs deep into the issue of homosexuality in the workplace and doesn’t hold anything back. After calling Oscar “faggy” with no malicious intent, Michael’s gears begin to turn with how to diffuse the situation. And in typical Michael Scott-fashion, all good taste goes out the window. The increasing tension leads up to a terrific climax that leads to Michael kissing Oscar – one of the more indelible images that The Office has ever formed. “Gay Witch Hunt” was an episode that was ahead of its time, and has stood the test of time to be one of the most remarkable episodes in terms of mortifying brilliance. 

3. “The Job” (S3, E23)
“The Job” is the episode that changed everything. Not just in terms of humor, structure or form…but in overall characterization. There’s a lot riding on this episode. Who will be the new corporate supervisor? Where will the relationship of Michael and Jan be because of it? Most importantly, what will the future of Jim and Pam’s relationship be like? Fortunately, writers Paul Lieberstein and Michael Schur know exactly what they’re doing. With any season finale, all is left on the table for fans to decide until The Office meets up again in the fall. And because of this, the four month wait felt that much longer. Ryan’s the new boss? Michael and Jan are living together after the latter got canned? And Jim and Pam may finally get the romance they deserve? It’s episodes like “The Job” that keep their diehard fan base watching.

2. “Goodbye, Michael” (S7, E22)
The bittersweet farewell to Michael Scott was one of the most heartbreaking (as well as heartwarming) moments of The Office not just of the season, but of the series in general. “Goodbye, Michael” is one of those rare TV episodes that understands the emotional impact that its lead character had, and fully addresses that the show wouldn’t be the same without him. That being said, the episode provides a sense of closure to the leaving of Michael Scott – just what his exit needed. In an effort to deliver this closure, Scott goes around to every co-worker and gives them a heart-to-heart conversation or significant gift. These all lead up to an emotional goodbye to Jim and a silent goodbye to Pam. It’s the beauty in these departures that help make “Goodbye, Michael” one of the greatest episodes of The Office, second only to…

1. “Dinner Party” (S4, E9)
We’ve now arrived at the #1 spot (aka the greatest episode of The Office). As I was compiling this list, I had to think about what makes The Office great. What combination of aspects has helped given the show its edge over the years? It’s the thick-cut satire, the biting humor, the character development, the story progression and the heart that lies under all of this that has made the show a huge success for 200 total episodes. However, if there’s one episode in particular that deserves to be at the top of the list, there’s no doubt: it has to be “Dinner Party”.

For those aren’t aware, “Dinner Party” was the first episode that was produced after the writer’s strike ended back in 2008. The writing team all went in with the same mindset: let’s make the first episode back a big one. And that’s just what they did. After many attempts at trying to get out of having what can only be assumed to be a disastrous dinner date with Michael and Jan, Jim and Pam are finally tricked into coming over. From there on out, the night progressively gets more and more painful in the best way possible. If you think trying to play a celebrity guessing game with Michael or getting an intimate tour of their condo is bad, just try to imagine doing it for four hours while the food is cooking. It gets worse. Dwight is upset he’s uninvited, but shows up anyway with his former babysitter so he can technically “come” by Michael’s requirements. This leads to a ferocious fight between the couple, leading to an eventual end that has Michael screaming, “You have no idea the physical toll that three vasectomies have on a person!” Awesome.

Out of all the memories that The Office has given its audience over the years, who would have known they would have had to step out of the office to get its biggest laughs to date. What makes “Dinner Party” such an incredible tour de force of comedy is how well director Paul Feig and writers Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky understand how horrifyingly unfortunate it would be to have dinner with the likes of Michael and Jan. The cast, crew and production nail the nuances of how dinner parties are in the real world…so why not apply it to The Office? It’s for this reason that “Dinner Party” stands out over all 199 other episodes as the best episode the show has ever produced. Though it was a little hard to do, I think I nailed it…that’s what she said.

In addition to these twenty-five, I’d also like to highlight “The Injury” (S2, E12), “Casino Night” (S2, E22), “Heavy Competition” (S5, E24), “The Delivery (Pt. 1)” (S6, E17), “Diversity Day” (S1, E2) and “Fun Run” (S4, E1), that just missed the top of the list.

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Author: Landon Defever View all posts by

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