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Showrunner Greg Daniels Originally Planned to Split Jim and Pam in Season 9 of ‘The Office’

Showrunner Greg Daniels Originally Planned to Split Jim and Pam in Season 9 of 'The Office'

Jim and Pam were initially supposed to break up in the final season of ‘The Office.’

One of the most iconic relationships in television history is Jim and Pam from The Office, but the original plan for the final season of the show may have seen the couple ending up with a completely different fate.

Fans of The Office were thrilled when John Krasinski‘s Jim Halpert and Jenna Fischer‘s Pam Beesly actually got together in the third season after three years of flirtation and dreaming from afar, and as the story unfolded, things were fairly rosy for this dreamy pair all the time. Things, however, changed in season 9.

Perhaps the most complicated season in the history of The Office came towards the end with season 9 which saw Jim and Pam’s relationship tested in a pretty serious manner as Jim took up work in Philly and Pam had a hard time taking care of their kids all by herself.

In one of the most memorable scenes in TV history, a rather confrontational phone call between the couple ends with Pam in tears, with Fischer’s character seeking help off-camera from a man named “Brian.” And then The Office ultimately broke the fourth wall.

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Evidently, Brian’s plot was extremely controversial. The plan was to reveal the camera crew for the first time in the final season, but there was another twist in store.

Brian (Chris Diamantopoulos) was totally in love with Pam in secret, and their friendship threatened to drag a wedge even deeper between Jim and Pam.

And if you thought you disliked Brian’s plot, just wait before you learn how the show intended to break Jim and Pam completely, before reconciling them in the series finale.

As outlined in Andy Greene’s latest book The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s, the notion of radically changing Jim and Pam’s relationship came from the showrunner Greg Daniels, who continued his role in season 9 after leaving his full-time duties in the fifth season to co-create the political satire sitcom Parks and Recreation.

Daniels sat at a table with all the actors prior to Season 9 to decide where their roles would head, and Krasinski yearned to place Jim and Pam’s marriage on rocky ground.

The actor, who secretly wore a wig in season 3, said:

My whole pitch to Greg was that we’ve done so much with Jim and Pam, and now, after marriage and kids, there was a bit of a lull there, I think, for them about what they wanted to do… For me, it was, ‘Can you have this perfect relationship go through a split and keep it the same?’ which of course you can’t. And I said to Greg, ‘It would be really interesting to see how that split will affect two people that you know so well.’

Writer Brent Forrester discloses they intended to actually split up Jim and Pam in the middle of season 9, with the aim they will revive their relationship in the final reunion episode of the show.

Greg really wanted to do something extremely risky and high-stakes; after the documentary airs, we witness what effect it’s had on these characters. And there was going to be a reunion episode where you see Jim and Pam have split up by this time, and they will have their reunion in the series finale.

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Warren Lieberstein, who served as one of the writers, recalls this proposal was not generally welcomed in the writers’ room, but Greg had the final say, so they went forward with this idea. One of the plans Daniels had on his mind since the fifth season subsequently came into play.

[This] was something that came up in season five, I think. It was a pitch. I think Mindy [Kaling] was the first or one of the first champions of it. The idea was to introduce some romantic triangle with Jim when they were such soul mates that you had to say, ‘How could she possibly be interested in somebody else?’ You think to yourself, ‘Well, I wouldn’t believe it if I just was introduced to the character.’ You had to see it happening from scratch. What if that character had been secretly there the entire time and predated the relationship with Jim and had been a shoulder that she cried on for years?’ It just seemed very intriguing. But we also were like, ‘If we break the fourth wall in season five, it feels like that might be the last season for the show.’ So we kept putting that off.

Writer Owen Ellickson says there was also some conversation of Pam and Brian “maybe hooking up a little bit,” but Daniels claims he never expected their interaction to go such lengths.

Ultimately, I didn’t think it was about actually going there. They never did anything. It was just to introduce worry in the audience, which I think happened. I mean there are people who in season eight were like, ‘They’re so boring. They just hang out together and there’s no angst. We used to love the angst with their relationship.’

But fans’ reaction to the twist was unpleasant to put it politely, and the storyline did not turn out the way the writers and producers had wished for. As a result, the whole plot had to be reworked in the middle of the season.

Forester remembers how Krasinski approached him and begged him to bring Jim and Pam back on the same wavelength ASAP.

We had to pull the ripcord on it because it was so painful to the fans of the show. John Krasinski said to me, ‘Brent, this final season is for the ultra fans of the show. They’re the only ones really still left watching, right? This is for them. Jim and Pam splitting up is too painful for them to sustain all the way to the reunion. We have to get them back together immediately.’ I was like, ‘Wow, we can’t allow this beautiful couple to be really like on the verge of divorce. It’s too awful for them.

Ellickson admits they reversed-course so rapidly that they were forced to re-edit episodes that had already been filmed to drop the storyline of Jim and Pam breaking up entirely:

The episode that really spun people on a dime is one that I wrote [“Vandalism”] where Brian the boom guy heroically saves Pam from an attack from a warehouse guy. People just absolutely did not like that. They were bothered that there might be some triangle that Pam and Jim would be involved in and even more insulted that we thought they might believe that. That’s how it felt to me. Greg absolutely turned on a dime after that and we pivoted away, I think pretty skillfully given how quickly we had to do that. It involved decently sized edits to the next two episodes, if I recall.

And they inevitably pivoted. Jim and Pam end up together, with the unforgettable Season 2 note having an emotional revival, but if you had a serious fear that the two would not make it, that was the residue of the scrapped plot.

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Meanwhile, we believe they made the right decision here—some strife in the marriage made it fascinating but entering Brian as the third wheel was taking it a little too far.

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Last modified: January 7, 2021