Debunking the Theory That Toby Is the Scranton Strangler
I recently watched The Office for the first time. Everyone always talks about how great of a show it is, and references to it are constantly made on social media. After years of people telling me I would like it, I finally watched it. I made it through all nine seasons remarkably fast (it helped that apparently I had already watched most of the first two seasons and had some health issues that freed up my schedule; although, I did take a break to watch the UK version of the show which I don't recommend).
One of the things I discovered after beginning the show was that, in the later seasons, there is a Scranton Strangler the characters on the show discuss. I saw a post alerting me to this fact and that there are people on the internet who think Toby is the real Scranton Strangler. I was excited at this prospect because I have a keen interest in criminology and actually earned a master's degree in criminal justice with an emphasis in the analysis of criminal behavior through the University of Cincinnati, one of the top criminal justice programs in the country. Because I was made aware of this fact before seeing any episodes discussing the Scranton Strangler, I was able to watch the Scranton Strangler episodes more carefully, and I was specifically looking for anything that implicated Toby as the real Scranton Strangler. By the time I reached the ninth season, I was flabbergasted that a theory implicating Toby as the Scranton Strangler. I wanted to shout at people who believe this theory:
So, to end the tragedy of illogical reasoning spreading to change how people interpret one of the most beloved sitcoms of all time, I have decided to take up Toby's defense, despite finding him to be one of the most bland characters in the history of fiction.
Let's take the theory of Toby being the real Scranton Strangler point by point, and I will show you why none of these pieces of so-called evidence would hold up in court.
Toby's Motive = His miserable Life
Advocates of the #TobyIsTheRealScrantonStrangler theory will point out that Toby was divorced, struggled to form a relationship with his daughter, had a secret crush on Pam and had to watch her fall in love with Jim, and his failed attempt to move to Costa Rica as reasons why he would have a motive to kill people. This is ridiculous. Correlation does not imply causation. Many people struggle with these same things and do not commit acts of violence.
Scranton Strangler Strikes on the Day of Cecelia Marie Halpert's Birth*
Another popular reason people believe Toby is the Scranton Strangler is the fact that the headline on the front page of the newspaper on the day Jim and Pam have their baby is: "Scranton Strangler Strikes Again." Toby is absent from the hospital during these scenes. People think this means he was out killing someone.
Let's start with the murder reported on in the headline. The paper does not say when the murder occurred. There is nothing to say that the murder actually occurred the day before the paper was published. The only thing that can be determined by that headline is that a murder committed by the Scranton Strangler was discovered the day before the publication of the newspaper. It is often the case that a murder occurs and is not discovered until days or sometimes weeks later.
Also, why is it that Toby's absence on the day there is a newspaper publishes an article about a Scranton Strangler killing is a reason to believe he is the killer? If he was absent because he was killing someone, he would have been absent the day before the publication of the newspaper article, not the day of the publication of the newspaper article. Moreover, I could see someone responding, "Well, he could have killed two days in a row." This would be easy to refute. Most serial killers have a cooling off period. If Toby was killing people two days in a row, he would be unraveling and would no longer be able to hide his angry and violent side.
One last point here: You cannot abandon an office in the middle of a working day. Someone has to stay behind and answer phone calls. It is possible that Toby could have done just that.
Toby's God Issues
Toby struggles to enter the church on the day of Cece's baptism. He eventually enters the church after the service and asks God why He is always picking on him. And this makes people think he is the Scranton Strangler??? A lot of people struggle with the Problem of Evil. They get mad at God when things do not go their way. Yet, very few of them become serial killers. Now, if Toby believed he was God, that might make me more likely to believe he is the Scranton Strangler. But this? No.
When the Scranton Strangler is finally caught, all of the employees at Dunder Mifflin watch the police chase online. People point out that Toby is mysteriously absent during this scene. Correlation does not imply causation. Toby's absence does not mean he is the strangler. Furthermore, the police chase ends with an arrest. If Toby had been absent because he was involved in the police chase, he would have been arrested.
Toby Drives the Same Car as the Scranton Strangler
So-called internet sleuths like to point out the car the Scranton Strangler drives can be seen in the Dunder Mifflin parking lot while Andy, Dwight, and Michael are doing parkour. This is not nearly as damning as they think it is.
First of all, car companies do not usually make just one of each of their cars. I drive a blue Subaru Outback, but so do many other people. If someone was out committing crimes in a blue Subaru Outback, that does not mean I would be guilty of those crimes. Now, if the person committing crimes in a blue Subaru Outback had the same license plate as me, that would be a different story. However, neither shot gives a clear view of the license plates.
Moreover, that is not the Dunder Mifflin parking lot. It is where the Dunder Mifflin employees park, but it is not their parking lot exclusively. It is the parking lot for the Scranton Business Park. There are other businesses that operate there. If that is, indeed, the Scranton Strangler's car, he could have been working for another company, or he could have been there to murder someone who works at the Scranton Business Park.
Toby's Guilt Surrounding the Verdict
After serving on the jury that convicts and gives the death sentence to George Howard Skub, Toby begins to feel guilty about the verdict and admits that he felt pressured to convict. This adds fuel to the fire for those who believe Toby is the real Scranton Strangler, but it should not.
Yes, they could have convicted the wrong man, but that does not mean it has to be Toby who is the real Scranton Strangler. If you had convicted and sent someone to their death for a crime you believe they did not commit, you would feel guilty too, even if you were not the person who was the actual perpetrator of the crime.
The fact that George Howard Skub attacks Toby says nothing about Toby or Skub's guilt. We do not know what either person said to the other. There is no evidence that says Toby told Skub he was the real strangler.
Toby Leaves the Winners' Lunch
When Robert California hosts a lunch for everyone he thinks is a winner, Toby leaves in the middle of lunch. I have seen people on the internet speculate that this means he left to avoid detection as the Scranton Strangler. They claim he offers no explanation, but that is just plain hogwash. He gets up and says, "I don't belong here." That is what happens when you get picked on all your life, you start to have a negative opinion of yourself.
People who believe Toby is the real Scranton Strangler will point out anytime Toby is absent and claim he was off killing people during these times. There is never any proof that any Scranton Strangler killings occurred during those times. Even if there were, correlation does not imply causation. You need physical evidence or a witness to convict. There is plenty of reasonable doubt about Toby being the Scranton Strangler.
Also, Toby is portrayed by Paul Lieberstein, one of the head writers of The Office. He is frequently absent in episodes to allow the actor playing him to have more time to write.
Toby's Study of Fingerprints
Toby mentions in one episode that he has been studying fingerprints. I have seen people on the internet claim this points to his guilt as well. If he wanted to undo his wrongdoings if he did, indeed, convict an innocent man, why wouldn't he study fingerprints? It might help prove his point. One person even claims there is no way Toby could even get his hands on that type of research. This person has obviously never heard of Google or a library.
Toby Is a Silent Killer
When Toby refers to radon and asbestos as silent killers, Michael responds, "You're a silent killer." Toby then mutters, "You'll see." Yes, he could be confessing that he is the Scranton Strangler, but it is more likely he is adamant in his belief that those problems need addressing before they cause serious harm to the employees of Dunder Mifflin.
"I'm Going to Kill Him"
In the season nine episode "Stairmageddon," Clark interrupts Jim and Toby while they are discussing marriage counseling. After Toby kicks him out, Toby mutters, "I'm going to kill him." How many people say, "I'm going to kill so-and-so," and then never actually kill anyone? A bunch! There is a good chance you have said that at one point too. Also, Clark does not get murdered. This is a ridiculous reason to believe Toby is a killer. Moreover, the Scranton Strangler killings have stopped by this point, and serial killers do not normally just stop killing. They have a compulsion to kill, and it is not something one can just turn off.
Some conspiracy theorists like to point out Toby's health and fitness level to establish the fact that he is capable of killing. I will say this is the most logical thing that has been offered to support a belief in Toby's guilt. However, Dwight, Jim, and many other people would also have the strength to strangler. Also, the demographics of the Scranton Strangler's victims are never discussed. The victims could also be children or even babies. They would not require a whole lot of strength to strangle.
Serial killers are often known by three names (e.g. John Wayne Gacy). One Reddit user had this to say about the Scranton Strangler's name:
This is a bit of a stretch. Names do nothing to prove guilt. Yet, people insist on pointing out that Toby has a middle name of Wyatt. So, that apparently proves that Toby Wyatt Flenderson is the Scranton Strangler. Except, again, names do not prove guilt.
None of the theories proclaiming Toby to be the real Scranton Strangler hold any weight. If a prosecuting attorney tried to use the typical logic used to prove Toby is the Scranton Strangler in a courtroom, he/she would be laughed out of said courtroom. Toby. Is. Not. The. Scranton. Strangler.