It’s said that truly good TV shows age like fine wine, but even with a series as masterfully done and phenomenally funny as The Office, certain episodes tend to rise above the rest. Maybe they stand out because a beloved background character gets a chance to shine or a will-they-won’t-they couple finally makes good on some built up sexual tension. If you’re an Office fan, those stand-out episodes probably involve elaborately planned pranks, fire drills gone wrong, dinner party disasters, and a B-list action film that just happens to take place within a TV show.
We can’t expect a show to continuously operate on a nosebleed level of comedic excellence (though The Office went on a few tears in its early years where it seemed possible) so while it’s critical that you re-watch and binge this show from time to time (it’s on Netflix, at least for the time being) to awaken your appreciation for it, if you just don’t have the time right now, here are the 35 best Office episodes to rewatch first. Warning: spoilers abound.
35. Dwight K Schrute (Acting Manager) (Season 7, Episode 24)
With Will Ferrell mercifully in a coma — or, his character at least — The Office fans were finally treated to a promotion we’d all been waiting for. Dwight Schrute is named interim manager until the company can find a new branch head and the power immediately goes to the guy’s head. He sets up an antique time-punch clock, forces employees to use ridiculously long passcodes to access machines, has everyone recite the Pledge of Allegiance before the start of the workday, and accidentally fires a gun in the office. Basically, everything you’d expect to go wrong does and Jim makes him pay for it by forcing him to perform odd tasks around the office and say the phrase “Shagadelic, baby” too many times to count. If this episode taught us anything, it’s that some people just aren’t suited for managerial roles.
34. Money (Season 4, 7&8)
In the final two-part episode that helped kick off the show’s fourth season, Michael and Jan’s toxic relationship begins to weigh on his finances. Between a new Porsche and condo renovations, Michael finds himself in serious debt and forced to take a night job as a telemarketer, which he’s terrible at. When his performance at Dunder Mifflin begins to suffer, he’s forced to quit that job and declare bankruptcy, which he thinks means he must simply shout the word for everyone to hear. Meanwhile, Jim and Pam spend a romantic weekend at Dwight’s beet farm, which he’s turned into an agritourist B&B. In between beet wine-making, manure spreading, and Harry Potter bedtime stories, the couple discovers Dwight’s still missing Angela and Jim attempts to comfort him. Things end with Michael and Jan committing to face their finances together and Jim helping Dwight return to his old self. The trip to the beet farm is the highlight of this episode for many reasons — notably that midnight outhouse joke — but it’s the deeper relationships we get a glimpse of, between Jim and Dwight and even Jan and Michael, that really stand out here.
33. Business School (Season 3, Episode 17)
Michael had an unhealthy obsession with his temp, Ryan Howard, but every so often, he got to see him for the opportunistic corporate climber he always was. In “Business School,” Michael is invited to be a guest speaker in one of Ryan’s business school seminars. Ryan prefaces Michael’s speech by claiming his company and his job will be irrelevant in 10 years, something Michael doesn’t hear before he takes the stage to throw candy bars at students and rip out the pages of some poor kid’s textbook. Back at the office, Dwight tries to capture a rogue bat but falls prey to another of Jim’s pranks when he pretends to have been bitten by the winged menace. As Dwight suspects Jim is turning into a vampire, he vows to take care of the bat first (which he does at the expense of Meredith’s head) and then confront Jim. The best part about this episode, though, is its ending, when Michael shows up to Pam’s art show to buy her painting and restore her confidence. It’s the vulnerable, smaller moments packed between these larger, more absurd stunts that often elevate this show to something more than just a routine workplace comedy.
32. Secret Santa (Season 6, Episode 13)
Sure, three Christmas episodes on the same list might seem a bit excessive, but hear us out: this show knew how to throw down during the holidays. In this celebration, tensions mount between Phyllis and Michael who each believe they’ve been named the office Santa this year. When Jim announces that Phyllis can play the jolly old gift-giver, Michael throws a remarkably petty temper tantrum, first competing with her and suffering a sit-down visit with Kevin before changing up his costume and pretending to be Jesus. When he takes over the office’s microphone system, offering his own salty commentary during the exchanging of gifts and outing Andy as Erin’s Secret Santa — he’d been recreating the 12 Days of Christmas for her which, surprisingly, includes a lot of birds — things really go off the rails.
31. Murder (Season 6, Episode 10)
Michael may have been an incompetent manager at Dunder Mifflin, but even he had his moments of brilliance, like in the show’s sixth season when news of the company’s impending bankruptcy caused a panic in the Scranton office. Instead of letting everyone stew in anxieties over losing their jobs, Michael forced the office to play a murder-themed boardgame that had everyone adopting Southern drawls and character profiles. It was a Savannah-set rip-off of Clue that played into Michael’s strengths: drama and his impressive ability to avoid doing actual work. It took Jim a while to catch on, but once he did, the game really got going — ending with a Mexican stand-off that lives on in GIF infamy.
30. Pool Party (Season 8, episode 12)
Steve Carell’s absence in season eight necessitated a change for The Office and James Spader filled that need, joining the cast as the impossibly confident and gifted Robert California (aka the f*cking Lizard King). Unfortunately, Spader’s tenure was mostly uneventful and none of the season eight efforts really stand out as slam dunk classics, but it felt wrong to ignore him entirely.