Was Toby The Scranton Strangler? How 'The Office' May Have Confirmed Fans' Long-Standing Theory

The Scranton Strangler began as a C-plot line in The Office, but quickly became food for fan theories that questioned if one of Dunder Mifflin/Sabre's beloved employees could be behind the heinous crimes. Chances are, if you're finding current conversation on The Office (which stopped airing on NBC in 2013) it has something to do with one of the show's deeper plot lines. The Scranton Strangler may have never been intended to become a huge conversation. But dedicated fans have taken it upon themselves to introduce two theories.

The theories pointed to two Dunder Mifflin/Sabre employees that could have been the Scranton Strangler all along: Creed Bratton or Toby Flenderson. Creed is one of the older employees in the comical office, who has a word document blog and a curious lifestyle. Toby is the HR rep, who comes in and out of the series often much to the disdain of Michael Scott, Dunder Mifflin's regional manager.

Toby and Michael
Actors Steve Carell and Paul Lieberstein in the press room at the 14th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium on January 27, 2008, in Los Angeles, California. Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty

The idea of Creed seemed a bit more obvious. He'd been known to break the law, reveal his alias to the documentary producers and once showed up covered in blood on Halloween. The idea of Toby as the strangler could sound a bit more far fetched, as he'd seemed like a quiet underdog. But fans created a compelling theory, and The Office cast and crew nearly confirmed it.

The Video

Toby Flenderson
Actors Ed Helms, Paul Lieberstein, Kate Flannery and Craig Robinson attend the NBC Universal Experience at Rockefeller Center on May 12, 2008, in New York City. Jason Kempin/WireImage/Getty

In March 2018, The Office posted a video titled Making A Strangler on their YouTube account. The video, which runs 10 minutes long, is an Office-based spoof on the Netflix hit true crime series Making A Murderer. It focuses on that fan theory: that Toby was the Scranton Strangler all along.

Some may be quick to point out possible reasons this isn't true, like how Toby was actually on the Scranton Strangler jury, or how if he was the strangler, he would have killed Michael Scott first. Those notes themselves may have an explanation, though. Here's what the video says.

The video opens with a throwback to Toby's time on the Scranton Strangler case. During the series, it's revealed that the Strangler who was tried, George Howard Skub, was convicted. Toby, however, seems to think Skub was really innocent after he was on the jury that locked him up for good. The scene that opens the video shows Toby explaining this change of heart, and Nellie Bertram wanting to hear all about his time on the case.

From there, various conversations and clips of Toby's explanation of the strangler are revisited. The lengthy video acts as a recap of the case itself, the moments it affected the office and what Toby really thinks after the case has ended.

There are a handful of moments from the series, which compiled, become clearer, in which Toby makes comments and explanations that seem to be incriminating. Could he have been the Strangler all along?

To some, it seems a bit unlikely that Toby was really the Strangler because of his quiet demeanor and general care for his work peers. He was known to have a crush on Pam Beasley, and keep a general, level head even when taunted and berated by his boss. Those may be the very reasons, though, that Toby was pushed to commit murder.

Toby's Motives and Debated Evidence

Paul Lieberstein
Winner of the Television Episodic Drama Award for 'Newsroom', executive producer Paul Lieberstein poses backstage during the 25th annual EMA Awards presented by Toyota and Lexus and hosted by the Environmental Media Association at Warner Bros. Studios on October 24, 2015 ,in Burbank, California. Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images for Environmental Media Awards/Getty

There may be one moment in the series where Toby confesses to being the killer. It's seen as the second clip in The Office's video. In it, Toby is explaining the "silent killers" like asbestos that could be in the office. When Michael responds "You're the silent killer," to Toby, he eerily responds: "You'll see."

Toby's motives are up for discussion in the Office fan community. Some general points seem to be agreed upon though, as shown in a number of Twitter conversations. The theory really dives into the idea that Toby's role as an outcast at work eventually drove him to insanity. From Michael's bullying to his rejection from Pam—a woman who didn't even know Toby had feelings for her, and went on to marry another co-worker—there were reasons for the frustration in Toby's work and personal life to build.

There are a few pieces of evidence that fans think shows Toby's role as the Strangler. One is his possible confession, as noted above. Others look at where Toby was during key moments, and how he reacted to triggering situations.

Toby tries to attend the Christening of Pam and Jim's daughter, Cece, at a church, but can't bring himself to go inside. This seemed suspicious to some viewers, who knew little about Toby's religious background. There's seemingly no explanation as to why he had trouble facing the church, or even making it up the steps. One theory, though, is that after committing a series of brutal crimes, he wasn't able to face God or a place of religious worship.

Another giant moment that could prove Toby guilty is that Strangler car chase that passes the office. The start of an episode shows the beloved coworkers eating popcorn and watching the news, as the Strangler's home is surrounded, and he eventually ends up in a car chase with police. Toby is the only member of the office who isn't there at the time.

Sleuth-like fans also pointed out the car the Strangler is apparently driving has been seen parked in the Dunder Mifflin parking lot before, giving reason to suspect the Strangler does work in the building. Given Toby is the only missing employee, it seems likely it's his car.

There's also a moment featured in the video that shows on the day Pam gives birth, the Strangler strikes again. This could show that Toby was upset about Pam's new child with another man: so upset, he had to kill.

Was Toby The Scranton Strangler? How 'The Office' May Have Confirmed Fans' Long-Standing Theory | Culture
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