There are many iconic comedies that have forever left their mark on the landscape of sitcoms. Some of these series are acquired tastes or harken back to a narrower vantage point, but The Office tapped into something special with it’s ability to popularize the mundane. The series focuses on everyday people and the monotony of working a boring job that doesn't go anywhere. While some fans tune into entertainment for extravagant, sensational stories that explore the impossible, others find comfort in characters who are just like them. It’s easy to relate to a comedy that follows characters who dislike their jobs and resent their boss. The Office cleverly found a way to take advantage of this feeling, while also pushing it to challengig, unique places, creating a masterful sitcom in the process.
The Office also came from a place of disadvantage since it was an adaptation of a wildly popular British comedy. Even if the show could find success, would it ever equal the notoriety of its original? Well, the U.S. version of The Office would surprisingly go on for nine successful seasons and become a tent pole program for NBC. It also acted as a launching pad for countless actors, writers, and directors. The Office was able to stay true to its ordinary roots for the bulk of its lifetime, but when a show is on for nearly a decade, it makes sense that it can only turn out a number of successful twists and surprises to keep things interesting. While some twists added to the show, others were definitely lacking.
With that said, here are the 11 Plot Twists That Hurt The Office (And 19 That Saved It)!
30 Saved: “You’ve Been Meatballed”
There are plenty of big, series-altering plot twists on this list, but a twist doesn’t always have to be huge to make a big impression.
Sometimes the biggest surprise comes from the silliest, least important decision.
In season eight’s “Pool Party”, it looks like Jim and Stanley are teaming up to prank Dwight. However, it actually turns out to be a long con where Dwight and Stanley take advantage of Jim to get free meatballs. This reversal may not mean much, but it added a lot to the show because it’s one of the few times that Dwight actually succeeds in pranking Jim, even if he doesn’t realize it.
29 Hurt: Michael’s Relationship With Jan
One of The Office's focal points involves Michael’s quest to overcome his loneliness. It’s an initial surprise when Michael finds comfort in his boss, Jan Levinson, but what begins as a quirky secret get together, soon turns into a way to constantly knock Michael down.
Sure, part of Michael’s charm comes from his pathetic nature, but Jan pushes him too far. He’s always at the end of her cold attitude, but later on, when she becomes pregnant (with someone else’s baby), she pulls Michael back into her orbit and really puts him through some torture. It’s all a testament to Michael’s caring character. However, even he can get pushed too far.
28 Saved: The Downsizing Of Dunder Mifflin
“Downsizing” is a word that has been said in The Office since its pilot, but the show makes the gutsy decision to actually go through with it during the show’s third season. Season three makes a lot of structurally creative choices that show off the serie's comedy at its peak, and the decision to downsize livens things up in many ways.
The shrinking of Dunder Mifflin results in Karen, Andy, and a handful of others joining the Scranton crew, all to hilarious effect. It’s a smart way to add an influx of new life to the show and it’s one of the earlier examples of the show highlighting how its core makeup could change.
27 Saved: Jim And Pam Have Kids
As soon as Jim and Pam started flirting with each other, there were plenty of viewers who were convinced that they would eventually get together. Though the relationship was a surprise, it soon ended the will they/won't they tension between Jim and Pam. The Office managed to keep Jim and Pam’s relationship fresh throughout the show, though. While it’s one thing for these two to be in love and even married, when the show began, no one thought that these two would end up with children.
Pam’s pregnancy added a lot to the show, but it’s even more surprising when the couple eventually has a second child, too. One just wasn’t enough for these guys.
26 Hurt: Rotating Celebrity Bosses
The Office was facing a real problem when it was announced that Steve Carell would be leaving. However, the series managed to soldier on without Michael Scott. Obviously, the natural question focused on who would fill Michael’s role as regional manager. Would it be someone from within the cast or some flashy new addition to the show to fill the Steve Carell-sized gap?
The Office decided to enlist a slew of big names in comedy to temporarily stand in as replacements.
Will Ferrell, James Spader, Kathy Bates, and Katherine Parkinson all throw their hats in the ring, but it's hard to get invested in any of them, as their roles were only temporary.
25 Saved: Jim Gets Together With Karen
During the first few years of The Office, the series was still very much interested in finding ways to separate Jim and Pam. It’s a rather clever development to twist Jim and Pam’s initial dynamic around on the duo. At first Jim is interested in Pam but she’s in a relationship. Finally, when Jim gets through to Pam and she leaves Roy, Jim is the one who is now happily in a relationship.
It comes as a big surprised when we discover that Jim appears to have moved on from his infatuation and has found someone new. However, what’s even more of a surprise is just how awesome Karen is. Making Pam’s new “rival” incredibly likable is another unexpected decision.
24 Hurt: Pam Fails Art School
One of Pam's most inspiring and humanizing character traits is that she longs to be an artist. Many viewers could surely relate to the idea of being stuck at one job and wishing you were off doing something more creative. Pam’s artistic sensibilities occasionally get opportunities to flourish, but it’s especially exciting when she temporarily leaves Scranton to enroll at the Pratt Institute to professionally pursue her dream.
It’s a major shock when Pam flunks her way out of Pratt, doesn’t get her degree, and realizes that graphic design isn’t for her. She doesn’t entirely give up on art, but it’s a bizarre, discouraging resolution.
23 Saved: The “New Jim And Dwight”
The Office’s later years have some trouble finding their footing, but the last season makes a strong bid to correct many of these problems. The show’s final year gains a real focus and insight, and begins to look at the bigger picture as the series begins to come to a close.
As Jim, Dwight, and many others at Dunder Mifflin are getting ready to leave, the series wisely introduces Clark and Pete, who get billed as the “new Jim and Dwight.” This reflexivity helps show how far Jim and Dwight have come, but it also hints at the cyclical nature of working in an office. It’s the circle of life.
22 Saved: Dwight And Angela’s Relationship
One of the greatest tricks that The Office ever pulled was Dwilight and Angela's unexpected relationship. When everyone was focused on the details of Jim and Pam’s relationship, the show snuck in an unexpected romance between Dwight and Angela.
There are plenty of unusual relationships in this series, but Dwight and Angela are such unique and bizarre individuals that their union came as a surprise to many fans.
At first, their romance feels like it’s just meant to come across as a joke, but it slowly grows into one of the most beautiful relationships in the entire series.
21 Hurt: Andy And Angela’s Engagement
The Office explores a lot of different romantic combinations between its characters. Some of these relationships take their time to slowly blossom, while others are totally out of the blue. On paper, Andy and Angela’s relationship seems like one of the more normal pairings in the series, but Angela takes their bond down a twisted path.
Even though Angela cares about Andy, she’s still invested in Dwight and is therefore still getting together with him. While this is already an issue, it’s particularly problematic when Andy and Angela actually get engaged and she still doesn't stop seeing Dwight. Andy’s far from perfect, but he doesn’t deserve this.
20 Saved: Jim Switches Branches
The Office’s third season takes a lot of risks that end up paying off in big ways and strengthen the show as a whole. After Pam’s initial rejection of Jim, he decides to switch branches and leaves Scranton because it’s just too difficult to be around her.
Though Jim doesn’t leave the series, it’s a major surprise that he does leave the Scranton crew to hang around an entirely new cast of characters. Audiences had no idea if Jim’s departure from Scranton would be permanent or for how long it would last, which made it a surprise when Jim eventually found his way back to the original cast.
19 Hurt: Cathy and Jim
In the earlier years of The Office, a lot of the show’s tension came from the will they/won’t they nature of Jim and Pam's relationship. Once the two of them get together, the show needs to find new ways to test them, but all of the attempts to derail Jim and Pam feel awfully clunky.
Cathy Simms comes in as Pam’s replacement during her maternity leave in season eight. Cathy’s attempts to tempt Jim are a surprise, but they feel empty, especially since they focus on ruining a relationship that is already expecting a child.
18 Saved: Jim And Michael Share The Regional Manager Title
The Office is guilty of jumping through a lot of hoops in the later half of its life as it attempted to find new ways to spice up the series. The Office starts with Michael Scott as regional manager, and many fans expected that this would remain the case. The Office would eventually let a lot of different characters become Scranton’s regional manager, but the first shake up still hits the hardest.
Jim, who allegedly never cared about his job, finds himself as the new boss. Because of this, he is partners with Michael. Though it's a hard pill for him to swallow, it allows both Jim and Michael to evolve in interesting ways.
17 Saved: The Return Of The Teapot
There are a lot of ways in which The Office’s final season saves face and redeems the series in some brilliant ways. One detail in the series that most fans had given up on by season nine was Jim’s intended gift to Pam in season two’s “Secret Santa” episode.
Jim brought a teapot for Pam that contained a note explaining his feelings for her, but she never receives the message.
Miraculously, The Office’s final season does bring back the teapot and finally allows Jim, Pam, and the audience some much-needed closure from one of the show’s earliest moments.
16 Hurt: Dunder Mifflin Infinity
The advent and growth of Dunder Mifflin Infinity is perhaps the first sign of The Office showing growing pains. It marks a disjointed period in the show’s earlier years, a lot of which has to do with the surprising decision to make Ryan the boss. The development that sees Dunder Mifflin’s temp eventually rise higher than Michael is a big twist, but the power totally goes to Ryan’s head.
Dunder Mifflin Infinity gets points for ambition, but the bad things that it does to Ryan’s character, the results of which see him arrested, leave plenty to be desired.
15 Saved: Michael and Holly’s Relationship
Though Michael Scott has a huge heart, he also exhibits such a tone-deaf response to relationships that it wouldn’t have come as a surprise if he ended the series as a bachelor. As entertaining as Michael’s bad relationships may sometimes be, it’s tremendously satisfying when he encounters Holly Flax.
Holly is truly the perfect match for Michael, and seeing how the two slowly bond and then find each other again makes for one of the best love stories that the series tells. It’s a nice addition that Michael gets to leave the series to live happily ever after with someone, rather than on some bumbling mission by himself.
14 Saved: Pam Gets Promoted From Receptionist
Dunder Mifflin is full of achievers, but part of the appeal when the show started was that a number of the employees didn’t want to be there and didn’t take their jobs seriously. Pam and Jim arguably fit into this mold the most, and Pam struggles to find much passion in her receptionist job. While this bitter trajectory could have continued to provide storylines for Pam, it’s nice that The Office decided to mix things up.
Pam leaves her receptionist job and gets to figure out where she truly fits in, whether that’s in sales, or somewhere else. Pam certainly deserves the opportunity to figure that out.
13 Hurt: Andy Becomes Insufferable
The plummet and assassination of Andy Bernard’s character is one of the most tragic developments in The Office. Andy enters the series as a hot headed, but humorous and likable character. As he sticks around, Ed Helms adds a real humanity to the character that turns him into one of the series’ most memorable characters.
However, during the season’s later years, Andy’s unsuccessful reign as regional manager brings out an ugly side of him. His relationship with Erin becomes incredibly toxic, and he unceremoniously exits the picture on a bizarre boat expedition. It’s a real shame that his character falls so low by the end of the series.
12 Saved: Ryan And Kelly’s Relationship
If Dwight and Angela’s relationship represents one extreme on the weird romance spectrum, then Ryan and Kelly are definitely the ying to their yang.
This is another relationship that comes out of nowhere, but as strange as it is, it also somehow makes perfect sense.
Ryan and Kelly are both living ids, and while this results in a very messy relationship, it happens to be consistent. These two are perhaps the definition of an on again/off again romance, but it always feels like they’ll find a selfish way to make it work. Right until the final episode, these two find a way to one another and it never disappoints.
11 Hurt: Jim’s Job With Darryl, Athlead
The Office was fairly good at allowing characters to exit and enter Dunder Mifflin in believable ways. Though the series is fictional, but it also tried to appear realistic, so when we notice that some characters have been at a paper company for eight years, it begins to feel implausible to a degree.
Jim experiences this restlessness, and during the end of the series, he leaves Dunder Mifflin and moves away from Pam (and moves in with Darryl) to start a new business called Athlead. It’s nice to see Jim strive for more, but this ultimately feels like another hackneyed way to cause conflict and unnecessarily separate Jim and Pam.
10 Saved: Jim’s Marriage Proposal To Pam
The Office becomes especially sweet when Jim and Pam are in the early stages of their relationship. As much fun as their puppy love is, the maturity of their romance yields even greater results. Many fans probably weren’t expecting Jim and Pam to break up, but a marriage was never a sure thing between these two, especially with Pam’s lengthy engagement to Roy.
Not only do the two make it to this milestone, but the show comes up with a creative, surprising way for Jim to pop the question. There are a lot of expectations for this couple, but thankfully, the show makes the proposal just as powerful as their first kiss.
9 Saved: The Michael Scott Paper Company
If anyone is devoted to Dunder Mifflin, it’s Michael Scott. He idolizes the paper company. After all, he didn't just spend his formative years with them, but he also met the most important people in his life through the company. Michael’s passion for Dunder Mifflin is ever-present, but the character briefly goes through a fascinating crisis of faith that brings him at odds against the company.
Michael Scott seeks growth. Because of this, he forms the Michael Scott Paper Company. This makes for an unexpected, exciting detour where Michael and some others briefly depart Dunder Mifflin and go at it alone (albeit, still within Dunder Mifflin).
8 Hurt: Michael Dates Pam’s Mom
The Office’s mission was to be a comedy that’s set within an everyday office. There are many storylines from the show that take advantage of this premise, but as the show went on, it would get forced to occasionally try something crazier. While many bold, unusual ideas can become successful, the decision to have Michael date Pam’s mom, Helene, isn’t one of them.
Michael makes all sorts of questionable decisions when it comes to love, but bringing Pam’s family into it feels a little gratuitous. It’s an easy way to to spice thing sup, but it shouldn’t have to come at the expense of Pam and her mother.
7 Saved: “Seeing” The Documentary (And The Finale In General)
Right from the opening frames of The Offic,e the series has been incredibly upfront about the fact that it is a “documentary” of an average paper company. If the handheld, raw style of the camerawork wasn’t enough to figure this out, the talking head segments that the characters deliver to the camera should be enough of an indication.
This documentary provided the series’ structural frame, but nobody ever expected that it would actually become a plot point or that we would see its “release.” The series’ final season brilliantly culminates with the release of “The Office: An American Workplace,” and then revels in the aftermath.
6 Saved: Michael Scott’s Return
It’s hard to begrudge someone like Steve Carell for leaving The Office after giving them seven solid seasons of work.
The show’s final two years are a little less entertaining without Michael Scott’s presence, but thankfully, he shows up for one final appearance as the show comes to a close.
Whether there would be a cameo from Steve Carell in The Office’s series finale was something that fans were hopeful for, but it was far from a sure thing. Thankfully, the finale finds the perfect way to bring him back for Dwight’s wedding, and it makes for a deeply cathartic moment for the show’s core cast.
5 Hurt: Jim And Pam’s Disintegrating Relationship
Every cast member of The Office brings something special and unique to the table. However, let’s be honest here, a lot of fans watched the show because of the chemistry between Jim and Pam. Most of The Office chronicles the growth of their relationship, from dating, to marriage, to having children. However, the final season of The Office makes a truly bizarre decision to tarnish their love and nearly break them up for dramatic effect.
The depiction of Jim and Pam’s relationship in the final season is really tough stuff, as the two uncharacteristically hurt each other and cause conflict.
4 Saved: David Brent Appears
Even if audience’s had never seen Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s original The Office series from the UK, most people were at least aware of its existence. The U.S. remake of The Office struggled a bit during its debut season, but the show quickly found its own voice, moved out of the shadow of the original series, and has arguably surpassed it in many ways. While there had been sly allusions to the company from the original British The Office, an official crossover seemed far from likely.
However, The Office threw everyone for a loop when Michael Scott briefly meets Ricky Gervais’ David Brent. The results are not to be missed.
3 Saved: Dwight Finally Becomes Regional Manager
One of the earliest, most repeated jokes throughout The Office is that Dwight is the assistant to the regional manager, and not the assistant regional manager. Dwight’s focus on titles and his desire to rise the ranks at Dunder Mifflin is a major part of his character, and so it would be somewhat fitting for him to always be reaching for that promotion.
The Office eventually throws Dwight that much-desired bone. Towards the end of the series, he’s finally appointed the regional manager of Dunder Mifflin. All of that hard work finally paid off. Season one Dwight would be so proud.
2 Hurt: Michael Scott Leaves
The Office capitalizes on the idea of an oblivious boss who makes work even more torturous than usual by constantly getting in the way. Steve Carell’s Michael Scott brought this tense, neurotic character to life with an eerie precision, so when it was announced that he’d be leaving, it came as a mighty blow to the series.
The Office found ways to keep its two Michael Scott-less years interesting, but for many, the show never hit the same heights or found the right energy afterwards.
In many people’s eyes, the show ended when Michael Scott left.
1 Saved: Jim Kisses Pam
Here is the big moment that knocked all of The Office's fans off their feet and showed them how special this show could really be. The first two seasons of The Office are a lot of fun, but it’s not until Jim finally gets the courage to tell Pam how he feels about her and kiss her that the series really started to open up.
Though fans suspected this moment, the timing for it was completely unexpected and the aftermath ended up fueling the show’s third season and providing it with tons of great storylines. The Office experiences many highs throughout its nine seasons, but sometimes nothing’s better than a simple affirmation of love.
Are there any other plot twists that hurt or saved The Office? Let us know in the comments!