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"Branch Wars" is the tenth episode of the fourth season of The Office and the 63rd overall. It was written by Mindy Kaling and directed by Joss Whedon. It first aired November 1, 2007. It was viewed by 8.39 million people.

Cold open

Karen, now Regional Manager at the Dunder-Mifflin branch in Utica, New York, offers a higher-paying job to Stanley, if he leaves Scranton. Stanley takes the offer and bluntly informs Michael.

Synopsis

Michael believes that Karen is doing this to get back at Jim for "dumping" her.

Meanwhile, Pam, Oscar, and Toby have created a "Finer Things Club", where they discuss literature, music, and the arts. Membership in the club is "exclusive", though they are still bothered by the activity of the other workers in the office. Jim wants to join but Toby and Oscar feel he dominates the conversation by trying to be funny, thus diverting the conversation away from the "finer things". Andy wants to join because it's the office's most exclusive club (the party planning committee, headed by Angela, is his backup and Kevin's band Scrantonicity II is his safety), but all three members shoot him down.

Michael and Dwight invite Jim on a "sales call", which is a trick to get him to go to Utica to help get back at Karen. Jim is shocked by the deception but agrees to go along in order to prevent Michael and Dwight from doing anything foolish, including using Dwight's Molotov cocktails.

When Karen discovers the Scranton crew trying to steal her copier, she chastises them in her office. Before they leave, she pulls Jim aside and attempts to have a civil conversation with him. She is under the impression that this prank was constructed so Jim could have an opportunity to see her.

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Jim awkwardly tells her that he didn't want to see her, trying not to hurt her feelings further, but does not succeed; he lets slip that he and Pam are finally dating and very happy. Karen reacts to the news with anger and he leaves.

After Michael returns to Scranton, he tearfully says farewell to Stanley. Stanley then states his intentions to stay in Scranton, revealing to the camera that his threat of leaving was a bluff to get a raise.

Pam attempts to cheer up Jim by giving him a place in the "Finer Things Club" as Andy still longs to be in it. The episode ends with Jim and the rest of the club wearing traditional Irish caps (Pam is wearing a scarf around her head). They are trying to discuss Angela's Ashes but Jim is being disruptive by speaking candidly with an Irish brogue. He gets it out of his system and then says he found the book to be a "fun read". Oscar and Toby are unamused, considering the book is a tragic memoir, and do not believe Jim actually read the book. Jim only proves them right by saying that the main character in the memoir is 'ashes'.

Deleted scenes

  • An extended scene of Michael blaming Jim for Stanley transferring to Utica. He asks Jim if Pam was worth it to which he says it was. Pam blushes, but stops when Kelly points it out.
  • In a talking head interview, Jim does his Stanley impression saying that he will transfer to Utica if they have more pretzel days there.
  • Andy tries to buy his way into the Finer Things Club, slipping $150 in after claiming it was a letter of recommendation from Rick Santorum, former US Senator from Pennsylvania. The club decides to take the donation, but still refuses admittance. (Given Oscar's presence in the group and Santorum's strident, vocal opposition to gay rights legislation, the name-drop almost certainly hurt Andy's case more than it helped.)
  • Michael mentions facts about the other branches.
  • Pam jokes about Jim still being interested in Karen.
  • A scene showing Michael and Dwight wedged between a railing and the copier as Jim, Karen, Rolando, and a security guard watch them. The guard describes how Dwight sprayed him in the eye.
  • Toby gives Andy a letter saying he is in a waiting list for entry into the Finer Things Club.

Connections to other episodes

  • Pam's teapot from the episode "Christmas Party" makes an appearance at the Finer Things Club.
  • Michael references an earlier episode when he seemingly makes a dying wish for Jim to host the Dundies.
  • Spoiler: In the later episode "Lecture Circuit", there is a lock around the copier, and a sign that says not to touch it, which references this episode.

Trivia

  • B.J. Novak (Ryan Howard) and Mindy Kaling (Kelly Kapoor) are credited but do not appear in this episode. Although, Kelly appears in a deleted scene.
  • The first act premiered during The Office Convention on October 28th, during the "Writer's Block", in Scranton, PA.
  • In the cold open, the show contrasts Karen's professional-looking desk with Michael's toy-filled desk.
  • Jim says his phone had photos of his brother's new baby. John Krasinski kept a photo of his actual nephew on his desk.
  • When Michael announces to the whole office that Stanley is leaving for the Utica branch, Dwight acts surprised. However, Dwight should not be surprised because he was in the office when Stanley told Michael that he was leaving.
  • The warehouse uniform Jim wears belongs to Madge but the uniforms Michael and Dwight wear don't seem to belong to any known employee.
  • Karen has a picture of Bill and Hillary Clinton on the bookshelf in her office, visible when she talks to Jim. In Rashida Jones's next show Parks and Recreation, Leslie Knope also has a picture of Hillary Clinton in her office.

Amusing details

  • After Ben Nugent asks Michael if he was "the guy that hit the woman (Meredith) with your car", Meredith walks by the conference room.
  • Michael angrily says that the Stamford people didn't quit, he fired them. The only Stamford employee he fired was Tony Gardner out of spite after he quit. The other Stamford members, aside from Andy, quit or moved to another branch (Karen).
  • You can see Dwight anxiously grab his crotch and examine the soda can before Michael starts his alphabet game.
  • The Finer Things Club's problems with others using the break room during their meeting could be solved by moving their meeting to the conference room.
  • As the camera guy peeks out of the car to get a shot of Karen, she turns and notices the camera. Jim then angrily pulls the camera guy down and mouths, "What the hell?"
  • Dwight is still wearing the fake mustache during the scolding in Karen's office even though Michael and Jim already removed theirs.
  • Michael lies down on the floor of his office as he lists the requirements for Stanley's replacement. He is previously seen lying on the floor when he is upset in "A Benihana Christmas".

Behind the scenes

  • Dunder Mifflin Utica was filmed at 20525 Nordhoff Street.[1] (Exteriors were shot on the east side, near the front of the building.) They found a large, unused office area and turned it into Dunder Mifflin Utica for the week.[2]:04:26
  • The character Ben Nugent is named after author Benjamin Nugent, who was episode writer Mindy Kaling's boyfriend at the time.

Cultural references

  • At the receptionist at the Utica branch is a box of donuts from Holland Farms, a bakery in nearby Yorkville, New York.
  • Michael arranges a dummy in his office to pretend to be him. He was likely inspired by the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off, in which the title character uses the same trick to pretend to be home.
  • Colin Powell was Secretary of State to George Bush. He was the first African-American to hold the position.
  • Pam and Oscar are excited to discuss A Room with a View, a 1908 novel by E. M. Forster set in the Edwardian era.
  • In the montage of "Finer Things Club" meetings:
  • The background music as Pam prepares for a "Finer Things Club" meeting is Spring from Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons". (See List of Books, Magazines, Movies, Music, and Television Shows.)
  • Michael asks Karen, "How's it hangin'?" This is an informal greeting, originally referring to the male penis, but has largely been stripped of its sexual connotation. Michael revives the original sense when talking with Karen.
  • Michael tells the Utica salesman, "I'm a genie in a bottle, and I'm going to grant you three wishes." The story of the genie in the lamp is an Arabian folk tale, and the twist of limiting the number of wishes to three was added by Charles Perrault in The Ridiculous Wishes. In some versions of the story, the genie is trapped in a bottle, rather than a lamp.
  • Animal House is a comedy movie about a slovenly college fraternity and their escapades. While it's true that they have a lot of fun, they are also academically incompetent and are constantly in trouble with the authorities.
  • Michael tricks Jim by saying that "Corcoran dropped Staples". Staples is a national retailer of office supplies and one of Dunder-Mifflin's main competitors.
  • A Panty raid was an American college prank popular in the 1950s, when dormitories were segregated by gender and men were not permitted in women's dormitories. Male students would invade a women's dormitory and steal undergarments, often with the encouragement of the female residents.
  • In the car, Michael and Dwight chant, "Utica! Utica!" In the movie Dog Day Afternoon, Al Pacino's character famously incites the crowd in a chant of "Attica! Attica!"
  • Jim suggests they play the Alphabet Game Michael mentioned. The usual Alphabet Game consists of passengers competing to identify objects which begin with each letter of the alphabet, beginning with A. Instead of the common road trip game, Michael starts chanting "A my name is Alice" which is a jump rope game.
  • Silly String is a toy which propels colorful liquid from a can which quickly hardens to form a string-like shape.
  • Andy interrupts a "Finer Things Club" meeting where they are discussing A Room with a View, mentioning the Italian countryside, the Adriatic Sea, and the characters Lucy (Honeychurch) and George Emerson.
  • Andy's breakdown of his three options into a goal, a backup, and a safety are taken from United States college application rituals. A student traditionally applies to three schools: A first-choice school at which acceptance is unlikely but possible, a less prestigious backup school at which acceptance is likely, and a low-status safety school at which acceptance is almost assured.
  • Uncle Remus is the fictional narrator of several books of black American folktales.
  • The Finer Things Club uses a crossed-out image of The Scream to request that others be quiet.
  • Michael tells Jim, "Climb on top of her and think of Stanley," a reference to the phrase "Lie back and think of England".
  • "Angela's Ashes" is a memoir by Irish-American author Frank McCourt about his life in Brooklyn, New York and Ireland.

Cast

Main cast

Supporting cast

Recurring cast

Guest cast

  1. The Office Filming Locations, Season 4.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Kinsey, Angela and Jenna Fischer. Episode 66: Branch Wars. "Office Ladies" podcast, February 24, 2021.
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