The Big Bang Theory is one of the most interesting case studies of snobbery versus mass popularity this century. One one hand, the show became an online punching bag for people to signify that their taste in television was more complex than the average viewer. On the other, it was frequently the highest-rated show on television, ran for 12 seasons, and won 10 Emmys.
The show’s harshest critics were wrong. The Big Bang Theory had the misfortune of being an incredibly successful iteration of the tried and true multi-cam sitcom format in a time when Peak TV and innovations in the sitcom form, seen in shows like The Office and Parks & Rec, made some viewers expect more from their 22 minutes. Across its 12 years, The Big Bang Theory never lost sight of what it was, or caved to those outside pressures. It remained, to the very end, a well-oiled machine crafted to deliver jokes about pop culture, relationships and obsessive nerdery. The show knew what it was and it did that very, very well.
Of course, if there was literally no growth across the years, fans would tune out. Similar to its long-running forebears in the sitcom space, the core cast grew and changed (albeit at a slower pace than they would in the real world), providing fans with a satisfying story arc that closed out in 2019.While TBBT never made the story hard to follow, an overview can be helpful. That’s why we’re running down the story of Leonard, Howard, Raj, Penny and Sheldon for anyone who just wants to take the leap into a random batch of syndicated episodes.
The whole universe
The story of The Big Bang Theory takes place in Pasadena, almost entirely confined to a few apartments. It centers around the misadventures of physicists Leonard Hofstadter and Sheldon Cooper, branching out from these co-workers and roommates to include their fellow Caltech scientists, neighbors in their building and romantic partners. Cooper is a theoretical genius who has trouble grounding himself in the real world. At the beginning of the series, he holds an incredibly condescending view of non-scientists and believes himself to be an unparalleled intellect.
Hofstader has a much kinder view of the world. However, both of them have trouble interacting with neurotypical people, particularly women. Throughout the series, partners and friends bring Hofstader, Cooper and their friends astrophysicist Raj Koothrappali and engineer Howard Wolowitz out of their respective shells. The catalyst for this introduction to the outside world is Penny, the boys’ neighbor who lives across the hall in their apartment building. The aspiring actress and waitress makes friends easily, and her proximity to the scientists helps to drag them out of their cloistered and academic existence.
A hot, dense state
The series starts with Sheldon and Leonard already co-habitating. Several seasons of the roommates butting heads pass before they explain how the odd couple came to live together. Cooper is frequently a tyrant, stubbornly refusing to adjust his routine or consider the feelings of others. This leads to frequent fights where Hofstader seeks refuge across the hall in Penny’s apartment. After one particularly nasty fight over the thermostat settings, Leonard finally explains how he ended up in the apartment with Sheldon, noting Cooper has grown significantly as a person since they began living together in 2003.
In the season 3 episode "The Staircase Implementation," Leonard reveals why he feels bound to Cooper and in the process, reveals what Cooper was like prior to their agreement to live together. In the flashback, Hofstader is shown seeking a roommate after first coming to work at Caltech. He goes to view his current apartment and is blocked at the door by Cooper, who quizzes him on sci-fi trivia, preferences of different iterations of famous characters and other scientific knowledge questions before allowing Leonard to enter.
The apartment at this point, in contrast to its later coziness, features a spare living room that indicates an otherwise occupied mind. Instead of the couches and chairs that the main characters spend the majority of their time gathered on, the layout is simply lawn chairs around a card table.
When he enters his future bedroom, he sees that the former roomie has painted "Die Sheldon Die" as a parting gift. Undeterred and in need of a room, Leonard decides to stay. He gets an early glimpse of Cooper’s temperament when he’s forced to sign an incredibly detailed roommate agreement that will be used to arbitrate many future disputes.
Why he stayed
This leads Penny to ask the obvious question: why are you still living with him? Leonard demonstrates the many ways that Sheldon is valuable as a friend. In spite of his seemingly cold and caustic demeanor, Cooper has frequently defended Leonard from potentially harmful situations.
He shares that Cooper ran off Leonard’s then-girlfriend Joyce Kim. After their relationship ended, Cooper and Hofstader discovered that Kim was a spy attempting to get information about an experimental rocket fuel that Hofstader was developing. Leonard easily could have been accused of collaboration with his ex, a North Korean agent. A criminal charge of treason was hanging over Leonard’s head. However, Sheldon promised to defend Leonard should the government come looking.
Additionally, Hofstader’s enthusiasm for his rocket fuel experiments was nearly deadly. Egged on by his engineer friend Howard Wolowitz and the astrophysicist Raj Koothrappali, they attempted to use his fuel in a rocket that Wolowitz built. Leonard got the proportions wrong, and created an unintentional bomb. Cooper’s advanced mathematical mind correctly calculated how long they had before the fuel detonated. He pushed a panicking Hofstader away from the mixture, placed it in the building’s elevator, and closed the door right before it exploded, unquestionably saving Leonard’s life.
He promised to keep mum about the cause of the destroyed elevator, which remained broken for almost the entire series. His ability to protect his friends and the multiple times that he kept Leonard from serious harm show Cooper’s value as a roommate.
Drawing them out
Leonard, Sheldon, Howard and Raj are all sheltered nerds who have trouble deviating from their incredibly regimented schedules. They have divided their week into visits to the comic book store, gaming nights and television viewing parties.
The forces that eventually break this up are all romantic interests. Over the course of the series, Hofstader’s life is shaken by an on-again, off-again relationship with their neighbor Penny. The perverted and oddly dressed Howard is reeled in and reformed by his eventual wife Bernadette Wolowitz. The two toughest nuts to crack are Raj and Sheldon.
Raj is clinically terrified of the opposite sex. His phobia is so intense that, even though he desperately wants to be in a relationship, he loses the ability to speak in the presence of any woman. He’s eventually able to get over this intense fear after he dates a sadistic dermatologist named Emily Sweeney. (The reference to the demon barber is intentional, as she is shown to love cutting into people and watching gore.)
As with all other aspects of the show, Sheldon is the most difficult to budge. His changes in character are gradual and hard-won, but they come thanks to the efforts of Amy Farrah Fowler. Fowler is remarkably similar to Cooper, and probably the only person in the world of the show who can fully understand his worldview. She avoided romantic relationships her entire life to better dedicate herself to work in neurobiology. Sheldon did the same, but Amy differs from him in desiring a partner.
She turns her relentless planning energy and desire for a regimented schedule on the concept of marriage, a five-year plan to pull Cooper out of his own head so that they can marry.
Will they, won’t they?
Sitcoms of The Big Bang Theory‘s ilk depend on familiarity and a slow sense of growth as viewers come to love the characters. The show did this incredibly well, pulling out many of the timeworn tropes of television comedy across its 12 seasons. The early romantic tension in the series comes from Leonard and Penny, who seem to be consistently on the verge of a relationship. Once they do pair up, the ups and downs of their relationship (and the way that the street-smart Penny fit into the dynamic of the scientists’ insular friendship) carry the series forward.
The relationship builds, explodes and recombines throughout the show’s run with Penny teaching the crew how to exist outside their bubble. The couple fall apart in the fourth season, and the series’ 100th episode centers on Leonard’s belief that they should be together. After imagining a "second first date" with Penny that ends with them falling into typical squabbling, he still realizes he cares enough for Penny to pursue a relationship.
They nearly break up again while traveling to Las Vegas at the tail end of the eighth season. Leonard and Penny make an impulsive decision to get married and see it through even after Leonard admits that he kissed a coworker.
Rather than wrap the season with their wedding in typical sitcom fashion, the ninth season begins with their marriage and explores the hard work of keeping it together as they deal with Leonard’s admitted infidelity. They end the season planning a wedding do-over with family and friends. Wedding II starts off season 10 and the couple end the series together.
Sheldon Cooper’s callous attitude toward Amy Farrah Fowler’s feelings leads the couple to split and reconcile throughout the series. They go on their first date in the premiere episode of season 4 and are not married until the finale of Season 11, after Sheldon finally realizes that there is no one else on Earth he could see spending the rest of his life with. Given the unconventional nature of their relationship and their extreme personalities, the show opts not to end with a romantic milestone for them, instead focusing on their work together in the sciences.
Howard Wolowitz grows more than perhaps any other character throughout the series. He starts the show as an unrelenting creep whose off-putting perversions sabotage any attempt at a relationship. And this is true even of his relationship with his eventual wife Bernadette. She breaks up with him in season 4 after finding out that he had cybersex with fellow World of Warcraft players. Bernadette and Howard reconcile, however, and she is able to pull him out from under the thumb of his mother and help him become his own man. The pair have children together throughout the series and both realize their professional goals, with Wolowitz traveling to space and Bernardette receiving a PhD in microbiology, going into the private sector and supporting their family.
Throughout the series, Penny grounds the rest of the cast of characters. Most of the women of the show are brought into the series via their connections to Penny and it’s her frequent lessons in the real world that help the men become fully functioning adults.
Along with the men, Penny settles into a comfortable adulthood. She follows her friend Bernadette into the world of pharmaceuticals, leaving behind her precarious life as a waitress and aspiring actress for the solidly middle-class existence of a sales representative. The possibility of Penny becoming a mother bookends the series, as she is shown in the origin episodes fretting over a pregnancy test. Ultimately that initial test was negative, which greatly relieved a young Penny.
The accumulated changes in Penny’s life and her much more stable existence are reflected in the way she reacts to a similar situation at the very end of the series.
The finale, explained
The Big Bang Theory closes with quite a few endings and at least one beginning. Leonard and Penny finish the show celebrating a positive pregnancy test, with the couple ecstatic at the idea of being parents.
Raj’s romantic life is left up in the air, but it’s implied that he might go from someone who couldn’t even speak in the presence of women at the show’s start to dating a world-famous actress. Howard and Bernadette have been living in wedded bliss for a while, so the series just lets them be.
Amy and Sheldon achieve their lifelong goal of a Nobel Prize in physics, highlighting the way that it’s always been about the work for them. However, after every character in the series finally explodes at Sheldon for his domineering manner and incredible stubbornness, Cooper delivers the most shocking moment of the finale by realizing that there’s more to the world than himself.
From the ceremony stage, he thanks his friends for their incredible patience.
"I was under a misapprehension that my accomplishments were mine alone," he says after tossing a characteristically wordy speech. "Nothing could be further from the truth. I have been encouraged, sustained, inspired, and tolerated not only by my wife, but by the greatest group of friends anyone ever had."
Though The Big Bang Theory is over, fans shouldn’t fret. CBS continued turning to Sheldon Cooper to mine ratings gold, diving into the early life of the character as a child prodigy in the series Young Sheldon. The series shows every indication of turning into a long-running hit like its predecessor, pulling in average ratings of well over 12 million households per episode.
For a glimpse into the way the show was made, and the genuine love the actors who make up the cast seem to have for one another, there’s the documentary Unraveling The Mystery, a behind-the-scenes feature that premiered after The Big Bang Theory‘s run ended. Hosted by Johnny Galecki (Leonard) and Kaley Cuoco (Penny), the heartfelt doc features clips from the series, reflections on particularly beloved moments and a look at how the sitcom sausage was made for 12 seasons.
Of course, the series itself provides plenty of material on its own to devour. And its traditional sitcom structure means that episodes can be watched at random any time the itch strikes.
A note on Raj
Raj is the character in the series that’s given the least to do. Given the way the show builds characters through relationships, his perennially single status leaves him nowhere near as much room to change as the other characters. That doesn’t mean he’s entirely static, though.
Raj suffers from selective mutism for most of the series. When he gets near women, he loses the ability to speak due to overwhelming anxiety. Throughout the show, we learn that this mutism goes away if Raj is drunk (or believes himself to be drunk). He is eventually cured of his mutism after going through a relationship with an equally anxious woman named Lucy.
Because of his style of dress, love of women-targeted entertainment and constant companionship with Howard Wolowitz, he is occasionally assumed to be gay. Counter-intuitively, he’s typically more successful with women than his best friend Wolowitz, as Howard’s aggressive and perverted manner is off-putting. Until Howard eventually settles down with Bernadette, Raj is shown to win women over more frequently via his uncomfortable silence.
Raj was very nearly married in later seasons, falling into a relationship with a woman named Anu. That storyline came to an end when Anu was offered a job in London and Raj opted to stay behind in Los Angeles.
By no means a sure thing
Leonard and Penny are the relationship through which all others are introduced, but their own happiness was not a foregone conclusion. The other characters are all extremes, suffering from wild maladies and character tics that make their relationships cartoonish. Leonard and Penny, in contrast, act as a sort of audience surrogate. They react to the oddness of their friends as we would and they struggle with relatively grounded relationship problems like fear of commitment and infidelity.
Across many seasons, the pair separate and reunite as they each prove to be imperfect partners. Penny’s deep fear of commitment butts up against Leonard’s desire to be married several times, with Leonard eventually telling Penny that he’ll be ready to propose to her once she gives the green light. In between this moment and their actual wedding, Penny proposes to Leonard while incredibly drunk. Though Leonard wants nothing more than to be married to Penny, he turns her down, knowing that she’s not in her right mind.
This decision proves to be the correct one, as Leonard and Penny end the series as one of three happily married couples, with both of their careers on an upward trajectory.
NBC’s smash hit sitcom The Office captivated audiences as it unfolded in a nine-season run from 2005 to 2013. During that eight-year stretch, the simple premise of the series — documenting life in a typical American workspace — grew into a massive story with numerous twists, subplots, romances, and side characters. When all was said and done, the show boasted more than 200 episodes, all filled to the brink with storytelling at its finest.
The truth is, though, while this gigantic pile of entertainment is incredibly fun to binge over and over again, it can be a bit difficult to follow the greater storyline at times. With so many dynamic personalities co-existing in one tiny office building, it’s easy to get lost in the details. So we’ve gone ahead and mapped things out in a sweet and condensed format in order to finally allow fans to step back and get that 10,000-foot view of what exactly happened during the eight years that America’s favorite workplace was under the scrutiny of a PBS documentary crew.
Before The Office begins …
Let’s kick things off at the beginning, shall we? In 1949, Dunder Mifflin is founded, and over the following decades, it slowly turns into a heavy-hitting little competitor in the northeast regional paper and office supplies market. Fast forward to 2001, when regional manager Ed Truck retires, leaving a vacancy at Dunder Mifflin’s branch in Scranton, Pennsylvania. This paves the way for abrasive salesman Michael Scott to end his eight-year career as one of the company’s top salesman in order to become one of the most iconic managers in history. Three years later, accountant Tom Peets kills himself.
In 2005, a film crew from PBS, interested in documenting a workspace in the wake of a coworker’s suicide, arrives on the premise of Dunder Mifflin Scranton. Realizing the interesting potential in a broader review of the eccentric company as a whole, they set up shop for the next eight years. As the dust settles, Tom Peets is replaced by a temp named Ryan Howard.
Downsizing and drama at Dunder Mifflin
Rumors soon begin to swirl throughout the company that downsizing may be coming in the near future. Health care plans are slashed, and Michael lets employee Devon White go on Halloween through a bungled, painful display of incompetence.
In spite of this, Michael tries his best to increase company morale through less-than-successful means, which include a haphazard basketball game between the office and warehouse workers, an impromptu birthday party for alcoholic Meredith Palmer, and a botched Christmas gift exchange. Perhaps the best boost for the employees’ attitudes comes in the form of an undercover reading of Michael’s screenplay, Threat Level Midnight, along with a healthy dose of office-based Olympics.
Around this time, Michael buys a condo and begins juggling a complicated pair of relationships with his realtor, Carol Stills, and his superior, Jan Levinson. Of course, that’s far from being the only relationship drama going on around the office. Beet-loving salesman Dwight Schrute and uptight accountant Angela Martin begin a secret relationship, and by January 2006, salesman Jim Halpert breaks up with his girlfriend, Katy.
Not long after this, Michael reveals to corporate that he’s been in a "relationship" with Jan, although he manages to explain that it wasn’t serious enough to warrant termination. And as spring turns to summer, Jim finally expresses his feelings to receptionist Pam Beesly and kisses her. However, she stays with her fiancé, warehouse worker Roy Anderson — although they break up soon afterward — and Jim takes a job at the Stamford branch of Dunder Mifflin. Back in the Scranton office, Ryan the temp finally goes full time.
Dunder Mifflin starts to shrink
Michael kicks off the fall of 2006 by outing and then kissing gay accountant Oscar Martinez … who gets a three-month paid vacation as a result. The manager follows this up by dramatically shepherding the office through grief counseling after receiving news of the unexpected death of former manager Ed Truck.
This all leads to a crescendo late in the year when Jan informs Michael that the Scranton branch is being closed. However, when the Stamford manager, Josh Porter, ditches his managerial duties for a job with Staples, the script is flipped, and Scranton ends up absorbing the Stamford branch, bringing Jim back to Pennsylvania in the process.
The merger of the two branches is a rough one, and by early 2007, Andy Bernard and Karen Filippelli (who also happens to be Jim’s new girlfriend) are the only original Stamford employees remaining. In addition, Pam’s ex-fiance, Roy, is fired when he tries to assault Jim after learning that he kissed Pam. Dwight is also framed by Andy and fired, although he’s quickly rehired afterward.
This period of time also sees a lot of drama in the relationship department. Carol breaks up with Michael, who steers into the relationship with Jan as a result. Salesman Phyllis Lapin also ties the knot with Bob Vance of Vance Refrigeration and heads off on a six-week honeymoon. Soon after the wedding, Michael interviews with CFO David Wallace to replace Jan at the corporate office, but ultimately, that job goes to Ryan Howard, who becomes the youngest VP in the company’s history.
The Howard Administration
In the aftermath of Ryan Howard’s promotion, Jim breaks up with Karen and finally hooks up with Pam. Angela privately breaks up with Dwight after he mercy-kills her cat, and she begins dating Andy openly. Michael continues to date Jan, who helps him run a charity "Fun Run" to raise funds for rabies awareness after he hits Meredith with his car.
Yes, those two events are connected.
Meanwhile, looking to make a splash, the new VP attempts to launch a company website called "Dunder Mifflin Infinity." The site goes live in October 2007, but six months later, it’s dead in the water, and Ryan has been arrested for misleading the shareholders.
As Dunder Mifflin struggles, Jan sues the company, unsuccessfully, for wrongful termination. She also bankrupts Michael, and then the two break up after throwing the world’s worst dinner party.
Throughout the chaos, Jim and Pam’s fledgling relationship soars. Jim attempts to propose to Pam in early 2008, but Andy steals his thunder by proposing to Angela first at the farewell party for Toby Flenderson — the HR rep who’s leaving for Costa Rica. Toby is replaced by Holly Flax, who immediately hits things off with Michael, because the two are just so perfectly dorky together.
The story gets complicated with Dwight, Andy, and Angela
The rest of 2008 is fairly quiet as far as the office is concerned. The biggest events are the return of Ryan Howard as a temp and the transfer of Holly Flax to the Nashua branch after David Wallace discovers that she and Michael are dating. This effectually breaks the couple up, although the two are still interested in each other.
Jim and Pam’s relationship also comes under serious pressure for the first time when Pam leaves for three months to attend art school in New York City. Jim proposes to her while she’s away, and eventually, she returns after failing to complete the course. Not long after this, Jim buys his parents’ house without telling Pam and then surprises her with it as a gift.
As the year wraps up, things take a major turn. Despite the fact that she’s engaged to Andy, Angela has been having an affair with Dwight, but that all comes crashing down when Phyllis exposes Angela’s infidelity. And early in 2009, the two salesmen duel with each other over their coworker. However, by the time it’s over, both combatants have decided to bitterly break things off with Angela.
Michael’s new company and Jim and Pam’s big news
In early 2009, Michael and Pam go on a Dunder Mifflin lecture circuit where Michael reveals his masterfully dramatic recipe for success to everyone who will listen to him. Afterward, David Wallace hires Charles Miner to fill Ryan’s old job. Charles immediately clashes with Michael, who quits after one day of working with the new supervisor. Having little experience outside of the paper market, Michael decides to start his own paper company and convinces Pam and Ryan to join him. After a short run of artificial success, the trio uses the Michael Scott Paper Company as leverage to get jobs back at Dunder Mifflin. Pam is now promoted to sales, while Erin Hannon stays on as the new receptionist.
After this, Pam and Jim discover they’re going to have a kid as they tend to an injury the saleswoman received at a company picnic. They manage to keep the pregnancy a secret until the fall when the rumor-mill accidentally leaks the information. In the interim, Dunder Mifflin closes their Buffalo, Camden, and Yonkers branches, and it’s clear the company is on the way to bankruptcy.
The Sabre transition
In the fall of 2009, Jim and Michael are made co-managers in order to spread out the increased workload caused by all of the branch closings. The dynamic duo leads the office through the ensuing months, during which Dunder Mifflin goes under and is bought by the printer company Sabre.
As Dunder Mifflin tanks, Jim and Pam’s relationship reaches new heights as they get hitched in Niagara Falls, a deliberately-planned destination wedding they hope their coworkers will skip. But despite the distance, the entire office tags along for the ride.
Once Sabre CEO Jo Bennett and her lackey, Gabe Lewis, arrive on the scene, Jim quickly returns to sales, and Michael resumes sole command on the Dunder Mifflin managerial throne. The affable Darryl Philbin is promoted during this time as well, and he begins to fulfill his duties from the office rather than the warehouse. In March 2010, a very pregnant Pam spends an entire fearful day at the office before being talked into going to the hospital where she gives birth to Cecelia Halpert.
The Office says goodbye to Michael Scott
With the heavy days of perpetual downsizing behind them for the time being, the Scranton office enters a period of relative stability. During the rest of 2010, Michael briefly hires his nephew before he breaks down and physically punishes him by spanking him. This is followed by a series of counseling sessions with his archenemy, Toby Flenderson, who’s come back from Costa Rica.
Pam, who’s miserable in sales, uses her poker face prowess to create the position of "office administrator" out of thin air, and then awards it to herself as a promotion. Incredibly successful Osprey Paper salesman Danny Cordray is also hired by Michael to work as a traveling salesman.
As 2010 draws to a close, Toby spends a chunk of time out of the office serving as a juror on the case of the Scranton Strangler. This leads to Holly temporarily returning as a fill-in, giving Michael the chance to convince her to date him once again, and soon, the two love birds are back together. Early 2011 sees the over-the-top romantic couple get engaged and then move away together to Boulder, Colorado, where they plan to help Holly’s aging parents.
A bunch of new bosses enter the story
The departure of Michael Scott (for the second and final time) leaves the office scrambling, yet again, to fill the void. Initially, Michael trains Deangelo Vickers to replace him, showing him the ropes when it comes to managing the office and even walking him through how to host his own Dundies award ceremony. However, soon after taking the job, Deangelo is seriously injured while performing a basketball stunt, and the office finds itself leaderless again.
Sabre CEO Jo Bennet swoops in to the rescue and offers Dwight the position of acting manager for the time being. But once again, the promotion is short-lived, and Dwight finds himself relegated back to the bullpen after accidentally firing a loaded gun in the office. Jo Bennet then sets up a search committee, which interviews a menagerie of different candidates before finally settling on the uncomfortably eccentric Robert California as the new regional manager. He promptly convinces Jo Bennet to give him her own job and then hires Andy Bernard as his replacement.
The reign of King California
As 2011 plays out, Robert California quickly establishes himself as a powerful, commanding, and shockingly inappropriate superior. More than once, he plays mind games with his new employees, and he puts unreasonable pressure on Andy to push the office to overperform.
Andy, on the other hand, takes some time to acclimate to his new position of authority, initially struggling to handle crises — like the warehouse workers winning the lottery and all quitting at once. He even stoops as low as tattooing his own keister in an attempt to inspire his employees. During this time, he also begins dating Jessica, one of the few repeat characters in the show that actually works outside of the office and the greater story.
In the meantime, Cathy Simms is hired as a temp to replace Pam while she’s on maternity leave with her second child, Philip. In addition, Angela gives birth to her first child, who’s also named Philip and who she claims to have had with her husband, Senator Robert Lipton, yet another extracurricular character from outside the office who met Angela back in late 2010.
Nellie takes over the office
In early 2012, Dwight leads a team from Dunder Mifflin Scranton down to Tallahassee, Florida, where they work in the Sabre headquarters for three weeks on a project led by Nellie Bertram. The group is tasked with designing a new retail store for the printer company. However, the entire situation goes south when Robert California deliberately nixes the idea, and soon everyone (including Nellie) finds themselves back in Scranton.
It’s during this time that Andy ditches Jessica, heads to Florida to fetch ex-girlfriend Erin, and reignites a relationship with the receptionist (although, he doesn’t exactly do it in that order). However, when the couple returns to Scranton, Andy finds he’s been usurped by Nellie, who’s taken the manager position on the grounds that Andy had abandoned his responsibilities.
Not long after this, Jo Bennet liquidates the entire Sabre company, just in time for David Wallace to return to the scene as a new investor. The ex-CFO buys the company with cash he earned from selling his startup, "Suck It," to the U.S. military. He reinstates Andy as the manager, while Nellie is allowed to stay on as an employee.
Absentee Andy and Athlead
In late 2012, Andy receives news that his family has gone bankrupt, which leads to him taking an undisclosed three-month sabbatical so that he can sail the family yacht to the Caribbean in order to sell it. Upon his return, a justifiably angry Erin breaks up with him and starts dating the new customer service rep, Pete Miller.
While all that drama is happening, Jim starts to work part-time after going "all in" (against Pam’s wishes) on his own sports marketing company in Philly, a business called Athlead. This new focus quickly escalates, and by early 2013, Jim and Pam’s relationship is under serious strain. They begin attending marital counseling, and eventually, Jim realizes that he can’t continue dividing his time between Philly and Scranton. He returns to Dunder Mifflin full-time late in the spring, while his startup buddy Darryl makes the opposite move and officially packs his bags for Philly.
This all coincides with Andy Bernard’s third and final abrupt departure from the company when he quits in order to pursue an acting career. In his wake, Dwight at long last is truly, unquestionably crowned as the regional manager of Dunder Mifflin Scranton. As the pièce de résistance for the beet farmer, it comes out that Angela’s son isn’t the senator’s but Dwight’s.
The documentary airs, and The Office story ends
In May 2013, PBS airs the documentary that’s been "ten years in the making." The Scranton office is officially no longer being watched by a documentary crew around the clock. Over the following year, new regional manager Dwight Schrute makes several changes, including rehiring Devon and firing accountant Kevin Malone, who buys his own bar. Plus, salesman Stanley Hudson finally retires to a hideaway in Florida, where he spends his time alone, carving wooden figurines.
A year after the documentary airs, the film crew catches up with everyone in order to gather bonus footage for the DVD release. Dwight and Angela are officially married during this time, and Michael Scott arrives as a surprise guest at the wedding, revealing that he’s very happy living his life with Holly and their kids in Colorado. We also learn that Pam has been plotting to sell the Halpert house and move her family to Austin, Texas, so Jim can resume his career with Athlead.
With everyone’s lives officially moving forward, many in directions other than the office, the epic tale of America’s favorite workplace finally comes to an end. Now, it’s time to hop onto that streaming service and start binging from season one all over again.