The romance between Jim and Pam on “The Office” is in the pantheon of all-time great TV love stories, largely because the show has almost never overplayed its hand in telling it.
There have been big gestures — Jim’s (John Krasinski) declaration of love in “Casino Night,” the Season 2 finale, and his and Pam’s (Jenna Fischer) secret, private wedding ceremony in Season 6 (“Niagara”) are beautifully structured and wonderfully acted and deserve all the swooning they’ve received over the years. But what’s made them such an enduring couple are the dozens of smaller moments that add up to a relationship that feels earned and realistic, even if most of us can only hope to be that romantic in real life.
“Diversity Day” (Season 1, episode 2): Michael’s (Steve Carell) diversity-seminar shenanigans keep Jim away from his desk for nearly the entire day as he tries to close a big sale. He loses the commission to Dwight (Rainn Wilson) and is super-frustrated — until Pam nods off on his shoulder. “Pretty good day,” he tells the camera. It’s an early indication of just how into his co-worker he really is.
“Booze Cruise” (Season 2, episode 11): Jim gets a big chance to tell Pam how he feels — and painfully, realistically whiffs. “[Executive producer Greg Daniels] said, ‘You’re here to say I love you to her. I don’t know how that would go — just do it.’ And I got up there and stared at Jenna had absolutely no idea what to do or how to say it,” Krasinski recalls. “And when it aired, it was like 20-some seconds of silence. I remember watching that episode and saying, ‘I’ve never that. I’ve never seen a show commit to the characters and the story above what would be good for ratings or what the audience would see as very dramatic.'”
Adds Daniels, “Often times we would put a frame around very small things. You would then be able to see the really small things that were going on that became beats of a story. So that was 21 seconds, but it wasn’t the same beat for 21 seconds. It was his face expressing that he wanted to say [something], and she knew something might be coming but it didn’t, and [he] wasn’t 100 percent comfortable doing it. There are a lot of micro-moments inside that you normally don’t get when you have that pressure of getting a laugh every couple of seconds.”
“The Job” (Season 3, episode 23): Jim interviews for a job at the Dunder Mifflin corporate office but realizes he’d rather be in Scranton with Pam. As she’s rationalizing to the camera about how the timing for them just never worked out, he pops in and asks her on a date. “I’m sorry,” a flustered, elated Pam says to the camera afterward. “What was the question?”
“Chair Model” (Season 4, episode 14) and “Did I Stutter” (Season 4, episode 16): Also known as “The Ones with the Fake Proposals.” The one from “Chair Model” — Jim getting down on one knee to tie his shoe, which you can watch below — is better known, but the fact that the show let it play out a bit (in “Did I Stutter,” Jim “proposes” that Pam get him some coffee) felt very true to their relationship. The fact that Jim had a ring a week after they started dating makes it that much sweeter.
“Weight Loss” (Season 5, episode 1): Pam is in New York studying art, and she and Jim have been meeting literally halfway at a highway rest stop. The show does a beautiful shot of framing Jim’s actual, rain-soaked proposal, showing the two of them in a long shot and coming in a little closer for Pam’s ecstatic “yes” and their long embrace. Leave it to these two to make a gas station romantic.
“The Delivery” (Season 6, episodes 17-18): Fischer, Krasinski and the show’s writers capture the mix of joy, terror and bewilderment of being first-time parents expertly in this two-parter where the Halperts welcome baby Cece to the family. It’s a different shading to their partnership — Pam is too tired and overwhelmed for Jim’s gentle mockery, and he’s utterly unprepared to get Cece home — and it’s spot-on.
What are your favorite Jim-Pam moments?