Is Toby Flenderson the “Silent Killer?”
An Office Fan Theory
Most Americans have seen at least one episode or one scene from the hilarious, American version of The Office. The characters in it portray the lives of office workers in a way that resonates well with the general public. As the characters are being developed, and the relationships grow, one specific character stands out in this workplace due to his weird fascinations and creepy demeanor.
As people have watched more and more of The Office, they realize that Toby, the HR representative for Dunder Mifflin, might be the serial killer in Scranton known as the “Scranton Strangler.” The producers of The Office purposely lead people to believe that Toby is the Scranton Strangler by leaving him out of certain scenes, and making him more emotionally unstable as the series progresses; he is hated or disliked by most of the other characters.
Throughout all the seasons that Toby was in The Office, when the Scranton Strangler made an appearance, Toby disappears and is nowhere to be seen. He is so forgettable so no one in the office thinks to even look for him. One of the most important times that he wasn’t present was when the high speed chase of the Scranton Strangler that occurred, in Season 7 episode 8. Everyone but Toby was present, watching the chase on TV and Toby’s suspicious behavior leads viewers to believe that he is guilty. After hearing that Toby may be the Scranton Strangler, may viewers took a closer look at the Scranton Strangler scenes. When analyzing the high speed chase, it is found that the car in the chase happens to be the same car that is found in the parking lot of Dunder Mifflin in later episodes. This car may be a common car, as it is cheaper and easier to buy, and there is no solid proof that this is Toby car, but backed with all the other evidence that you will continue to read about, it is very likely that it is Toby’s car, and that he just might be the Scranton Strangler. Toby “takes his pent-up frustration and disappointment with life and releases it by strangling people over the course of The Office” (redit). He is able to go anywhere that he pleases and no one notices due to the fact that he is an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ kind of person.
Toby has been through a lot emotionally, he is divorced, and also in love with his coworker, Pam. His divorce is mentioned in the Pilot episode (season 1 episode 1) of The Office continues to be brought up by Michael whenever he thinks that Toby deserves to be hurt, like when a hot girl comes to the office to sell purses, he mentions to her that Toby is divorced and has spent at least one night in his car. He continues to go through this emotional abuse brought on by Michael throughout the time that he remains working for Dunder Mifflin. Michael emotionally abuses Toby at work, and then Toby has to go home, to an empty house, that reminds him of everything that he’s lost. He’s lost his wife, daughter, and probably much more the audience doesn’t understand.
Toby makes it obvious that he has a crush on Pam when he gets uncomfortable being around her and Jim; attempting to ask her out, and unsuccessfully trying to flirt with her. The day that Pam went into labor with Cece, her first child, there was another attack by the Scranton Strangler (season 6 episode 17 and 18). This indicates that the Strangler was in emotional distress. Toby was so upset by the fact that the girl he was in love with had a baby with one of their coworkers that he decided to kill someone as a form of emotional release.
Obsessions are also part of Toby’s character, just like he was obsessed with Pam, he also becomes obsessed with Nellie. Obsession is a key component in the of a profile of a serial killer. Toby becomes easily attached to certain people and events, like Nellie, Pam and the Scranton Strangler trial. He was called to be on the jury of the Scranton Strangler trial, and after the jury deemed George Howard Skub as guilty, he became fixated on his belief that Skub is innocent. Years after George Howard Skub is put in prison and on death row, Toby still talks about his disagreement with the verdict. Toby also mentions many times throughout The Office how he wants to be a murder mystery novelist. This doesn’t convict him of being a murder, but having first hand experience of murdering someone would help. He also talks about it too often. You could be thinking, ‘maybe he just wants a little credit,’ and maybe he does, but every time that he brings up one of his novels, everyone tells him to be quiet and that they don’t care. Yet, he keeps bringing up his novels and how they might be successful.
One of Toby’s biggest obsessions was with Pam. We all know Pam to be kind and friendly to everyone. Toby develops a crush on her because of this. One night at Poor Richards, everyone’s favorite bar in Scranton, Pam states that she thinks one of the stuffed animals is cute and would like it. Toby hears her say this and spends the majority of the night trying to get it for her. Once he finally does after spending lots of money, he tries to give it to her and she denies it telling him to give it to his daughter. Imagine how he would feel after that type of rejection. Another time that he shows his extent of love for Pam is when he is leaving for Costa Rica, the only person he wants to memorialize with a picture together is with her. He doesn’t have a camera on him and so he yells and asks if anyone else has a camera. He eventually got that picture with her and is ecstatic about it (season 4 episode 18 and 19).
He also uses his being on the jury as a way to get attention, or as a desperate attempt for a conversation starter, again proving that he is lonely. Toby is quiet and tries to be “normal” so he can be accepted into the office’s environment, but he is so awkward that he can’t quite fit in. He “traps” Nellie in the break room for hours and explains why he believes that George Howard Skub is innocent. Nellie is actually of some help and convinces Toby to go visit Skub in prison and finally tell him that he believes his verdict was wrong. As Toby is leaving the prison, we see that he has been attacked and choked. We don’t know exactly what happened during their interaction, but Toby could have confessed to Skub that he is the actual killer and infuriated Skub, leading him to strangling Toby. Toby may have felt so guilty about sending an innocent man to prison and needed to clear his conscience, and confess. As put by a fan on Dunderpedia, Toby “finally confesses to the alleged Scranton Strangler, only to find himself badly injured at the rage of the innocent man.” His mistake may have been confessing to the wrong person.
Toby has a fear of being alone, even though he never admits it, so he becomes attached to any woman who shows him kindness. As mentioned, Toby already lost his wife through divorce, and probably doesn’t see his daughter too often due to that divorce. One reason that Toby could have for killing, is that he gets rid of people from his life before they can leave him like his wife did. According to an article by Psychology Today, “Isolation and feelings of anger and resentment often become part of a cyclical process in the lives of fledgling serial killers.” Toby’s desk is literally isolated from almost everyone else’s desk in the office. Toby’s physical location and isolation, in the annex of the office, represents the isolation he feels emotionally. He is also angry, angry about his divorce, angry about his job, and angry about being alone.
During season 5 episode 10, Toby suggests that they should get the office’s air quality tested for Radon and other “silent killers” to which Michael responds and tell him that he is the actual silent killer and he should “go back to the annex.” Michael makes the annex sound like it’s a timeout and makes it very clear that he is not wanted there, however, Toby responds with “you’ll see”. No one thinks much of this due to the dispute that is going on, but did Toby just threaten Michael? If anyone did hear him say that, they probably thought nothing of it because Toby is so quiet and maybe just wants to prove his point, but “you’ll see” could also mean that he wants to kill Michael.
In the last episode (season 9 episode 24 and 25), when everyone comes back for a Q and A, Toby has moved to New York. He states that he is now working on his Murder Mystery novel series, and is living with six roommates. The audience is thrilled for him, that he got away from Scranton and this job that is so bad for him, but he says something that just proves how much like Michael he truly is, he says that roommates are “better than friends because they have to give you one months notice before they leave.” If that doesn’t show how lonely he is than nothing can. Even with the end of the series, moving, and rebuilding his life he can’t make friends that he can count on, showing how different and unrelatable he is to the general public.
When you watch The Office you find that overall Toby speaks very monotone and doesn’t show much emotion.Whenever Michael makes a comment that’s supposed to hurt him his only response is in a whiny voice saying “c’mon Michael.” Toby doesn’t even show any emotion, like anger or hurt when anything bad happens. Yes, Toby works in HR, but he doesn’t need to act like a robot. If he would open up and show some emotion to some of his coworkers then he might have some friends at work, but he keeps it all bottled up, and this is a recipe for disaster. Eventually all those hurt feelings and upset emotions will have to come out one way or another, and it will most likely be though killing someone.
Overall, Toby is very emotionally unstable. From unhealthy obsessions to hiding his emotions he has a lot of signs that he needs to get help. Pam and Jim invite all of their coworkers to Cece’s christening, and most of them show up. Toby really wants to be there to support Pam, but he can’t bring himself to enter into the church due to the fact that him and “The Big Guy” have a lot to catch up on. He couldn’t be there to support the woman that he loves. What would make someone so uncomfortable that they couldn’t even enter a church for an hour? Murder, that’s what. Another very disturbing moment that we find with Toby is during one of the halloween episodes. Nellie tries to be funny and decides to go as Toby for halloween, (season 9, episode 5) wearing his same brown suit and getting a wig so that her hair looks like his. Now for the disturbing part, Toby finds himself even more attracted to Nellie than he was before. This is what started his obsession with Nellie. Not very many people are attracted to themselves, and would have found it weird that someone else dressed up as them, but Toby reacts in the exact opposite way and even spends more time with her after she shows him this little attention.
Toby eventually moves to Costa Rica, although he does eventually move back it is important to note that this move could not only indicate that he was close to being caught by the police, but that he feels guilt for what he has done. Toby wants a fresh start, somewhere far away from everyone who has ever hurt him, intentionally or not. The time that Toby is in Costa Rica there is no mention of the Scranton Strangler. This could be a coincidence, but it probably is not. This move could also be another form of isolation. He physically isolates himself from the people (Pam) that he cares about as to spare himself from getting hurt again. There have been many theories about who the Scranton Strangler is from Creed Bratton, to Darryl Philbin. Yes, Creed is creepy and disturbed, but he doesn’t show nearly as many sign of being a serial killer as Toby does.
Toby definitely has the strongest case for being the Scranton Strangler, he is emotionally unstable due to the fact that he’s had so much emotional trauma in his life, his fear of being alone, and also all of the obsessions that he holds on to. Do you agree with Michael Scott when he states that Toby is the “silent killer”?