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Who is the Scranton Strangler?

| Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Two things I love very much in this world are “The Office” and conspiracy theories; put them together, and I’m as happy as Scott’s Tots before they found out Michael wasn’t funding their college tuition. Here is one of the most popular speculations about the show: Toby is the Scranton Strangler.

Toby’s loneliness and timidity may elicit sympathy from viewers, but upon further consideration, perhaps his isolation and lack of a social life contribute to an internal sense of rage just waiting to be unleashed. Reasonably, Michael’s hurtful comments and Dwight’s scheming could become too much for poor Toby to handle, and he may need to let out his frustration much like Andy does when he punches a wall. Initially, he tries to find happiness by moving to Costa Rica, though he ultimately breaks his neck shortly after his arrival. This instance merely deepens his bitterness about his life, and some fans presume that after sustaining his injury, Toby resolves to seek retribution for his prolonged suffering.

When all of the Dunder Mifflin employees are enthralled with the police cars zooming by and pursuing the Scranton Strangler, Toby is conveniently nowhere to be found. Even later that day, he neglects to show up to Gabe’s viewing party, likely because he was actually involved in the car chase and is still hiding. Toby does not seem to have many friends or social obligations whatsoever, so his absence cannot not necessarily be written off as natural or expected.

Though Toby may come across as gentle and shy, he makes a comment to Michael that indicates he has a dark, and even violent, side. When Michael calls him the silent killer, Toby directs his gaze to the camera and calmly replies “You’ll see.” Toby also happens to serves on the jury for the Scranton Strangler case, and he makes this responsibility known throughout the office, constantly seeking attention for his detailed descriptions of the trials. His direct involvement in the legal particulars ensures that the blame never falls on him; another indicator of his guiltiness occurs toward the end of the series, when the man convicted of strangling, George Howard Skub, faces the death penalty. At this moment, Toby remarks that he is no longer entirely sure that the suspect is actually to blame, implying that he cannot follow through with his initial plan to frame an innocent person.

More evidence abounds when Oscar tries to get Kevin fired by claiming he has made errors in his work; when Toby eventually discovers Kevin’s innocence, he remarks “I knew it” and then immediately launches into a discussion of his time on the jury for the Scranton Strangler case, as if Oscar’s placing false blame imitates his own behavior. Toby then says the words “I put an innocent man on death row,” practically revealing the vital role he played not only in killing Scranton citizens but also in evading accountability for his crimes.

Ultimately, Toby visits George in prison, though the documentary cameras that capture practically every single interaction the characters ever have are suspiciously not allowed to accompany him. Afterward, Toby claims the man attacked him, so he dons a neck brace for the remainder of the episode; another logical — and more fun — explanation for this new injury is that Toby confessed to the wrongly accused man that he was the real Scranton Strangler, so George attacked him out of retaliatory anger.

These are a few of the major clues, though smaller pieces of evidence also contribute to this theory: For instance, Toby begins working on a book series called “The Flenderson Files” around the same time he is appointed to the jury, and he writes mostly about sinister topics such as murder. This is just one of many conspiracy theories about “The Office,” but it is one of the most convincing and perspective-altering for viewers.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Martha Reilly

Martha is a senior majoring in English literature and political science. She currently serves as Saint Mary's editor but still values the Oxford comma in everyday use.

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