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Explainer: 8 memorable 'Office' blunders from Michael Scott

  • Image: The Office
    Mitchell Haaseth  /  NBC Universal, Inc.

    After seven seasons of awkward, painfully funny comedy, Steve Carell has given notice. This Thursday, he leaves "The Office" ... for good.

    In the pantheon of television's most clueless bosses, Carell's Michael Scott is in rarified air, alongside such titans of toolery as Art Carlson ("WKRP In Cincinnati") and Larry Tate ("Bewitched"). Tone-deaf to the pulse of the Dunder-Mifflin rank-and-file and impossibly inappropriate on his best day, Michael was the boss we all believe has held us back at some point in our careers. To middle managers across corporate America, he was the kind of supervisor they hoped and prayed they weren't.

    No, Thursday nights just won't be the same without Michael Scott.

    In honor of his farewell, here are eight of his biggest workplace blunders.

  • Episode: 'Diversity Day'

    In this season one episode, after corporate orders a racial-diversity class for the staff, Michael sets up his own tolerance seminar. He has the employees put index cards on their foreheads, each with a different race, and instructs them to treat each other as if they were the race on the card.

    Michael’s racial insensitivity is on full display as he encourages the staff to play up the stereotypes of each race, leading to all kinds of uncomfortably funny moments. At least he didn’t have anyone pretend to be Arab. As Michael pointed out, “It would be too explosive. No pun intended.” Of course not.

    Story: Who will star in 'Office,' 'Two and a Half Men' next season?
  • Episode: 'Scott's Tots'

    Ten years after promising a bunch of underprivileged kids that he would pay for their college education if they graduated high school, Michael admits there is no way he can keep that pledge. Considering many of the kids used that promise as motivation to stay in school, Michael’s admission does not go over well. He tries to make it up to them ... by giving them laptop batteries.

    Moral of the episode? Never make promises you can’t keep, and never, EVER take Michael Scott at his word.

  • Episode: 'Booze Cruise'

    What boss in his or her right mind would organize a motivational exercise on a late-night booze cruise in the middle of winter? Michael’s plans for the company’s “Camaraderie Event” go awry as he drives people nuts with his bizarre dance moves.

    When he can’t get anyone to pay attention to his presentation, he tells everyone the boat is sinking (it’s not), which causes a panic among the passengers.

  • Episode: 'Stress Relief'

    Michael tries to dial down his staff’s stress level in this two-part episode from season five. But of course, he only makes things worse. Completely devoid of self-awareness, Michael finally learns he’s the cause of most of the stress inside Dunder-Mifflin.

    His solution? He sets up a comedic roast of himself. Except when your skin is as thin as Michael Scott’s, letting your employees tee off on you probably isn’t the best idea.

  • Episode: 'Crime Aid'

    The Dunder-Mifflin office is robbed in another season five episode after Michael and Holly fail to lock the doors following a late-night rendezvous. Feeling responsible, Michael organizes a charity auction and donates the top item: front row tickets to see Bruce Springsteen in concert. The boss gets The Boss.

    Problem is, Michael doesn’t really have the tickets. (Remember what I said earlier about never taking Michael at his word?) The first red flag should have been when he got Springsteen mixed up with Huey Lewis and the News.

    Story: Carell's exit may be tough, but 'Office' can thrive
  • Episode: 'The Convict'

    When a newly hired convicted felon charms the office with his prison tales, making jail sound cooler than working at Dunder-Mifflin, Michael is genuinely hurt.

    Clueless as ever, he can’t believe people don’t love the working environment he has fostered. He tries to scare everyone straight by taking on the persona of “Prison Mike,” lobbing insults and warning people not to drop the soap. HR managers nationwide still cringe when reruns of this third-season episode air.

  • Episode: 'Secret Santa'

    Michael’s self-absorbed nature leads him to nearly wreck the annual Christmas party in this season six episode. Michael flips out after Jim allows Phyllis to play Santa, a role he cherishes. He eventually dresses up as Jesus Christ as Phyllis/Santa gives out the Secret Santa gifts.

    Nothing like religious blasphemy in the workplace to bring employees together.

  • Episode: 'Sexual Harassment'

    There’s nothing funny about sexual harassment — unless it’s happening at Dunder-Mifflin. Michael, worried his jokes could land him in hot water, tells the staff his days of laughing and joking with them are over.

    When the others goad him into instantly breaking that promise, Michael realizes the policies are there to protect him, not the staff. “I am so used to fighting corporate, I forgot I am corporate,” he said.

    Besides being outrageously funny, this season two episode also marked the beginning of Michael’s trademark “That’s what she said” joke. For that alone, we will always be grateful.

    Michael Avila is a writer in New York.

Discuss: What are your favorite screwups by Michael Scott?

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