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The Major Mistake in the First Episode of "The Office" You Never Noticed

It happens at the very start of the show and is never explained.

Over nine seasons, The Office became a sitcom classic—a show that its most devoted fans watch over and over and quote religiously. But over the course of 188 episodes, the paper company comedy was bound to make a gaffe… or 15. To be fair, the vast majority are minor continuity errors. But The Office may have made one major mistake during its run that leaves a pretty big plot hole. Keep reading as we break down the snafu and some possible explanations for it. And for more trivia about your favorite show, check out 30 Facts About "The Office" Even Superfans Don't Know.

This major Office mistake happens in the first episode of the show.

Melora Hardin, Steve Carell, and Jenna Fischer in The Office Pilot
The Office/YouTube

In the very first episode of The OfficeSteve Carell's Michael Scott asks Jenna Fischer's Pam to put a fax that just came through into "the special filing cabinet for things from corporate," meaning the garbage can. When he asks for the fax—which he actually needs—again later, he explains that he took that joke from someone close to him.

"Yeah, that was a joke," Michael says. "That was a joke that was actually my brother's, and…It was supposed to be with bills and it doesn't work great with faxes."

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An episode in the next season adds to the mystery.

Steve Carell in The Office
The Office/YouTube

Then there's no more talk of Michael's siblings until Season 2's "Email Surveillance." In that episode, Michael mentions a brother again, either the same brother who taught him the filing cabinet joke or another one.

"When people hear the term 'Big Brother' they immediately think it's bad or scary," Michael says. "I don't. I think, 'Wow, I love my big brother.'"

Also, in Season 4's "Dundler Mifflin Infinity," Michael references a "fake brother," a.k.a. a foreign exchange student who lived with his family for a time.

"And we called him my brother," he says. "And that's who I thought he was. Um, then he went home to what is now formerly Yugoslavia, taking all of my blue jeans with him. And I had to spend the entire winter in shorts. That is what Ryan is like. A fake brother who steals your jeans."

Being that Michael seems to have stopped thinking about this unnamed student as his brother after the jeans incident, it's unlikely that he's the same "brother" mentioned in these other instances.

For more Michael-isms, check out Michael Scott Quotes That Every "Office" Fan Should Have Memorized.

If Michael has a brother or two—where are they?

Evan Peters in The Office
The Office/YouTube

The only trouble with these lines is that we never see these unnamed brothers or hear anything more about them. Given that Michael is so driven by the idea of family and shares so much of his personal life (too much, really) with his coworkers, that seems a little strange.

Michael does have a half-sister who fans learn more about. She doesn't appear on the show, but Marnie Cooper is the mother of his nephew Luke (Evan Peters), who Michael hires as an assistant. They have a fraught history though; Michael's been estranged from her side of the family for years, after he accidentally lost a young Luke in a forest. (It's a long story.)

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The show never explains what the real deal is with Michael's family.

Steve Carell in The Office finale
The Office/YouTube

So what are we to make of those missing brothers? Is it a plot hole? Is it a storyline the show's writers just chose not to explore? Either way, it seems like a missed opportunity to shed more light on Michael's tragicomic background.

There is evidence to support that the two brother references are just throwaway jokes that later became mistakes when the writers chose not to give Michael more siblings. The line about the filing cabinet joke in the first episode, for example, is taken directly from the original U.K. version of The Office, in which Ricky Gervais' David Brent gives the same excuse. And the "Big Brother" quote may not have been based in reality. It's pretty clear on the show that Michael has an active imagination, especially when it comes to dreaming up a different life for himself.

With The Office off the air, we're unlikely to get any further explanation—unless fans are successful in pushing for the revival of the sitcom. So feel free to make up your own head canon about Michael's brothers—or just chalk it up to an unintentional error.

And for more series that have withstood the test of time, here are The 50 Most Popular TV Shows of All Time.

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