‘The Office’: Impending Tragedy for Jim and/or Pam?

Jan is dead, you say? I was, uh, at a movie when it happened. Photo: Courtesy of NBC
Show
The Office
Episode Title
Chair Model
Season
4
Episode
10

Over the first three seasons of The Office, the quietly beating heart of the series was, as in the British version, Jim and Pam's unrequited love. The acrobatics required to keep the two apart sometimes called to mind a French farce, with slammed doors and mistaken identities and everything going just wrong enough for two people who obviously loved one another to be separated. It’s almost as exhausting to watch as it must be to write, and How to Resolve It is a question that has plagued situation romantic comedies from Cheers to Moonlighting to ALF. And so: Jim and Pam. Last night. Openly discussing marriage. How did we get here so fast?

The writers of The Office are intelligent folk, and they surely recognized the historical precedent of epic romantic follies. So they took a new tactic, one that might have just worked out: They mostly ignored the relationship. They got Jim and Pam back together at the end of season three and after that, simply accepted them as a happy couple. Save for a couple of moments mildly boorish moments from Jim (where he might've just have been kidding around), Jim and Pam might as well be Phyllis and Bob Vance from Vance Refrigeration.

This hasn’t been a terrible way to go about all this. If the idea before Jim and Pam coupled was “if only they would see how happy they could be together!” why push it? That they are happy together (and that their romance has been almost entirely offscreen — we never even got a shot of a presumably awkward first date) has become a basic fact rather than lingering as an unresolved plotline. Which is why Jim’s talking about proposing to Pam last night was the only direction left to go. Either this season ends with a big proposal … or with one of them dying. For now, the writers have painted themselves into a happy corner.

Meanwhile, last week’s dinner-party disaster appears to have in fact officially killed off Jan — or, as Dwight might say it, she’s “as dead as every dead animal who has ever died.” We also learn of the Scranton Business Park’s “five families” and that singing “American Pie” in a graveyard looks surprisingly fun, even if you don’t know the words.

But this will either be remembered as the first episode in which we learned Jim and Pam were getting married — or the last time they looked happy before the bus hit them. –Will Leitch