Ranking every rumour in The Office’s “Gossip” episode
There are 10 false rumours in the episode of The Office titled “Gossip.” How do they stack up?
The first episode of Season 6 of The Office is one of the show’s most iconic ones. You might know it as the parkour episode because of the cold open, but as the title of the episode — “Gossip” — suggests, its main focus is on office gossip, something that’s probably familiar to most viewers.
Michael Scott, in his never-ending quest to fit in with his subordinates, overhears gossip about two of the office’s summer interns, and immediately feels left out that he was the last to know. Because he’s Michael Scott, not only does he have to hear every detail of the gossip, but he feels the need to spread some of his own in order to fit in.
Through a series of interactions, Michael realizes that Stanley Hudson is cheating on his wife, and quickly tells everyone in the office who will listen. (He also tells people who won’t listen and, in fact, try to drown out his voice, though they have little success.)
After Jim points out that this is a personal matter and the gossip could ruin Stanley’s life, Michael quickly realizes the error of his ways.
“How do you untell something?” he says. “You can’t. You can’t put words back in your mouth.”
“What you can do is spread false gossip so that people think that everything that’s been said is untrue.”
And that is when things get interesting/funny/awful for all parties involved.
To cover up the truth about Stanley’s affair, Michael spreads false rumours about nearly everyone else in the office. There are 13 rumours in total, including both true and untrue ones. Let’s rank them.
Which of these rumours inspires the most comedy? Are there layers to it? Is it believable enough to be true, but still ridiculous enough to be funny? Is it so completely absurd that it’s funnier than the more plausible rumours? What’s the context surrounding it?
One caveat: We’re going to exclude the three true rumours. Those ones — that two of the summer interns are involved in a romantic relationship, that Stanley is having an affair, and that Pam is pregnant— are out.
That leaves 10 false rumours. We’ll rank them below, counting down from least to most fun/funny/chaotic. (Note: These rankings are completely arbitrary and unscientific, with no particular criteria. We’re really just going off of the vibes here.)
10. Kelly has an eating disorder. (She’s an “anorexitic,” Michael says.)
This bit is worth it, if only for Michael not knowing that the word is “anorexic,” but it feels a bit mean after Kelly practically starved herself in the Season 5 episode “Weight Loss.”
9. “Somebody” at the office is a J. Crew model.
Michael was referring to himself when he made up this rumour, but Angela says that everyone believed it was Jim. When asked how that rumour would even be a bad thing, Michael says many people think models are “somewhat vapid.”
Sure, it’s funny to imagine Michael smugly floating the idea that he’s a J. Crew model, only to see this backfire later in the episode. However, this means that the rumour had little effect on anyone else, and if anything, Jim would be flattered by it (albeit baffled as to why people think that).
8. Angela is dating an 81-year-old billionaire (who owns a Quiznos).
Is it weird to think this isn’t out of the question? Given Angela’s…dated…views, and her obvious attraction to the smallest bit of power that Dwight gets whenever he’s put in charge for a few hours while Michael is gone (or, in a couple instances, when everyone thinks that Michael is leaving and Dwight will officially be made regional manager — and of course, in the finale, when Dwight actually becomes regional manager).
Like, maybe you wouldn’t expect her to be dating an old rich man, and it certainly might be surprising, but we’re talking about a woman who got engaged to Andy Bernard just to get revenge on Dwight for killing her cat. It’s ridiculous but plausible enough for people to believe it, and that’s what makes it funny.
7. Oscar is the voice of the Taco Bell dog.
The dog in question:
This one is similar to the one about Angela in that it’s funny because someone thinks it could be true. Here, though it’s just on the nose enough for people to think that Michael thinks it’s true. No one else would believe it because A) it’s unclear whether Oscar even speaks Spanish, B) even if he does, his voice sounds American and not remotely like the dog’s voice, and C) Michael obviously said this solely because Oscar is Mexican.
However, it’s important to remember that Michael’s goal here is to spread rumours that people might believe for a second, or an afternoon, until they think a little harder and realize how ridiculous it is. All they need to believe is that Michael thinks it’s true, not that it’s actually true.
If Michael can convince everyone that he’s misguided enough to believe Oscar is the Taco Bell dog, then he can convince everyone that he is just as misguided in believing that Stanley is cheating on his wife. This one works to accomplish his end goal.
6. Dwight uses store-bought manure.
The manure is presumably for the beets on Dwight’s farm, but that’s not specified. Is it possible that Dwight uses manure for unrelated reasons? It can’t be ruled out.
This one is revealed when everyone in the office has chased Michael to the elevator, where he’s tried to escape from having to face them and explain why he spread all the false gossip.
For many of these bits, Michael supplies most of the humour, but this one is all Dwight. Dwight pulls Michael aside, a little away from the rest of the employees, and he whispers very delicately: “You told people that I use store-bought manure…when I showed you where my manure comes from.”
Dwight just looks so hurt, to the point where he doesn’t even want to mention the rumour in front of everyone else. He admires Michael so much, only to be betrayed.
The three things in the world that matter most to Dwight (in no particular order) are Michael, Angela, and his beet farm. In spreading that rumour, Michael pits two of the three against each other.
5. Erin’s not a very good worker; Michael’s not sure how long she’s going to last at Dunder Mifflin.
This one is funny because Michael, who spread the rumour, obviously has the power to fire Erin if he so wishes. Unlike the rumour about Oscar — when all Michael needed was for people to think that he (or anyone) believed it — there’s a lot more power in Michael believing this one (because, again, he is her boss and can make it happen).
The worst-slash-best thing about this is that we see time and time again that Michael doesn’t love having Erin as his receptionist — at least, compared to Pam.
(The best example of this is in the episode “Scott’s Tots” — which, admittedly, doesn’t take place until later in Season 6, but drives home the point nonetheless. Michael wants someone to help him with an unfortunate task. “Would you come with me — you know, like old times — instead of…” he asks Pam, making a disapproving face at Erin.)
Can you imagine if this situation happened in other professions? It’s like if Masai Ujiri, president of the Toronto Raptors, said that he doesn’t see Norman Powell sticking around for very long. Or maybe a bit like if a star player, who has a lot of sway in his franchise’s decisions, said that his team has a “glaring” need for change. Oh, right, that happened.
4. Creed has asthma.
Look: Don’t pretend that you can ever understand the enigma that is Creed Bratton. (Well, Creed Bratton the character. Creed Bratton the actor, who the character is named after, also wrote several episodes of The Office and seems like a decent person.)
Creed only has one real moment in the episode. He confronts Jim and Pam to see if they spread the rumour that he has asthma, which would prevent him from being able to go scuba diving.
“If I can’t scuba, then what’s this all been about? What am I working toward?” he tells the camera in a talking head interview afterward.
Some people spend their whole life working to save money — for their children to attend university, for retirement, for a beach house in Malibu or somewhere in Florida for the cold winters.
Not Creed, though. Creed has to scuba. You’ve got to respect it.
3. Andy is gay.
There is nothing inherently funny about a man being attracted to other men. In Season 5, Episode 13 (“Stress Relief”), Michael “roasts” Oscar by calling him gay (which he is), then roasts Andy by saying that he’s “gayer than Oscar.” Michael obviously thinks this is an insult, and Kevin laughs at Andy for it, but the more mature and tolerant humans seem to disagree.
Less than a year later, Michael follows this up by spreading this rumour that Andy really is gay. Nobody (aside from Kevin) really seems to believe it — Andy was engaged to Angela quite recently and as far as we, the viewers, know, he’s only ever been attracted to women.
However, Andy says that there have been rumours like this about him before — both in high school and at Cornell (did you know that Andy went to Cornell?). He considers the rumours so much that he…actually starts to believe them. About himself. And who he’s attracted to. Even though he insists that he’s not attracted to men when Oscar (begrudgingly) indulges him.
“What exactly is my responsibility here? To comfort insecure heterosexual men? That can’t possibly fall to me,” Oscar says.
Oscar’s reaction and sheer frustration with Andy’s insecurity is one of the episode’s highlights. It’s just peak Andy: He somehow manages to overthink things while also hardly thinking at all.
2. There’s another person inside of Kevin, working him with controls.
This is vaguely reminiscent of the episodes of Spongebob Squarepants where Plankton controls Spongebob’s mind, but in that case, Spongebob is a few inches tall, while Plankton is microscopic. In this case, Kevin is an above-average sized human (a quick Google search says that Brian Baumgartner, the actor who plays Kevin, is 6-foot-1), while Michael did not specify how large the human inside Kevin was supposed to be.
Is there anything else that needs to be said? The concept is just so plainly absurd, and that’s why it’s funny. Kevin gets quite worked up about it, as though there’s any chance that someone actually believes it. And, to be fair to Kevin, the rumour was passed from Michael to Erin to Andy to Creed, without anyone stopping to consider that it’s obviously untrue. (Erin may be a bit ditzy, Andy isn’t the brightest, and Creed is Creed, but still…come on.
(Perhaps if it were true, though, it would excuse Kevin’s clumsiness. It’s kind of fun to imagine Plankton inside him, struggling to hold the giant pot of Kevin’s Famous Chilli in “Casual Friday,” which he infamously drops and spills all over the floor.)
- Toby is a virgin.
This is another one that, unlike the rumour about Angela, could not possibly be true — and unlike the rumour about Oscar, it’s not even possible for Michael to think that it’s true.
The brilliance of this rumour is one of the keys to why this whole episode is great.
- Toby is played by Paul Lieberstein, who also directed and wrote this episode (he was the showrunner at this point in the series, as well).
- Toby has just a single line in the episode: “What are you guys talking about? I have a daughter. How can I be a virgin?”
- Hence, we can conclude that Paul Lieberstein chose for his only line to be him insisting that he’s not a virgin. An incredible editorial decision.
In his typical feeble manner of speaking, Toby tries to deny what is easily the most ridiculous and implausible rumour of the episode (besides the one about Kevin, of course).
For the most part, Michael tried to keep the rumours realistic, but he just couldn’t help himself — he had to take a shot at Toby. It’s just the perfect encapsulation of the relationship between Michael and Toby, and why it’s one of the show’s best running gags (if not the best).
(As an aside: Toby is nearly as bad at his job as Michael is at his — if not worse. How does your human resources representative not step in and quash the office gossip from the beginning? There seems to be a correlation between how bad characters are at their jobs vs. how much humour they add to the show, so this is actually a compliment to Toby, as a character.)
So, there you have it: The funniest rumour in the “Gossip” episode is about Toby, followed by Kevin, then the rest of the employees. When it comes to The Office humour, incompetence is king.