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"Business Ethics" is the third episode of the fifth season of The Office and the 75th episode overall. It was written by Ryan Koh and directed by Jeffrey Blitz. It first aired October 9, 2008. It was viewed by 8.99 million people.


Jim tells the office that he and Pam are engaged. Kevin, Oscar, Andy, and Angela provide rude responses. Dwight tells Jim that Pam is not a virgin. Creed tells Michael that “the tall guy got engaged” and Michael tackles Jim down onto the floor.

Holly gave the office a questionnaire, and Michael and her start the ethics meeting by dancing to the song, "Physical," but with the lyrics, "Let's get ethical." Michael explains his plan to merge the friendship between him and Holly into a relationship. Holly explains that the Business Ethics seminar is because of Ryan's fraud. Ryan tells the office what happened. He said that it was an amazing ride, even though he committed fraud. Holly discusses the questionnaires. Holly explains how time theft is horrible, but Kelly disagrees about it, telling Holly that she will take up smoking to waste time. Michael tells Holly that she is not doing a great job by setting herself up for failure.

Oscar explains how the meeting is not about true ethics. Then, Andy asks Michael whether he would take bread for his family or if he would let his family go hungry. Michael can't decide.

Holly tries to get some of her coworkers to discuss times where they were faced with ethical dilemmas, which they misinterpret as a platform to mention rules that they have broken, encouraged by Michael falsely saying they have “immunity.” Michael admits that when he discovered YouTube, he didn't work for five days. Oscar says that sometimes he takes a long lunch. Kelly says she downloads pirated music on to her work computer. Dwight tells Michael to fire Oscar. Angela says she reported Oscar to the INS. Meredith then says that she has been sleeping with a Hammermill paper rep for the past 6 years for lower prices on paper and Outback Steakhouse gift certificates. Holly is shocked and tries to get Michael to discipline her, however, Michael laughs it off, jokingly calls Meredith a “dirty girl” and doesn't believe that the situation is that serious.

Holly asks Meredith questions. Michael tries to feed Meredith advice and tells her to say that the sexual meetings were personal, but Meredith admits that it was only for the steaks and the lower prices. Michael calls Meredith a stupid bag. Meredith unsurprisingly feels good about being pretty much a prostitute.

Meanwhile, after Dwight says he has never wasted company time, Jim uses a stopwatch to track Dwight's time usage. Dwight tries to work all day without blinking or anything else.

Holly and Michael talk to each other in the annex, and Michael asks if she wants to go to lunch to talk to Meredith. Holly says she brought a lunch from home. Michael throws it away, and Michael offers to treat her to lunch, before admitting that since she isn't a client, she will have to pay half. Holly wants Meredith to be fired, but has trouble expressing this as Michael continuously dodges the conversation and treats their lunch like a date. Michael has an uncomfortable talk with Holly about chastity belts. Michael tells Holly that Meredith needs this job, but Holly disagrees with this being a justification for her actions and feels that Michael's attempts to brush the issue under the rug is wrong. When Michael tells her that Dunder Mifflin is home to the employees, Holly tells him that it is not a family but a workplace. Michael becomes very upset.

Jim tells Andy about Dwight's favorite show, Battlestar Galactica, however, he intentionally describes it incorrectly, quietly upsetting Dwight. Jim explains that Dwight sneezed while keeping his eyes open and even peed in a soda bottle at his desk just to remain focused on work. Jim says that he has been so busy watching Dwight that he hasn't started his own work. Dwight eventually takes a long break and upon being called out by Jim, Dwight concedes that he not completely ethical in his time-theft. Jim was unaware that Dwight's break was spent in the warehouse having sex with Angela.

Back from lunch, Michael tells the crew that Holly is not right and throws away the leftovers from her lunch. Holly explains that being the morality police isn't popular, comparing her current situation with how she was treated as a hall monitor in middle school. Michael won't talk to Holly. Michael and Holly talk to Kendall. Kendall sides with Michael, saying that Meredith isn't doing anything wrong, and that the discounts are good due to the current economic crisis. Kendall rudely tells Holly that she was only supposed to get the office to fill out the questionnaire. Michael struggles to find a way to tell Holly that he told her so about the Meredith situation.

Holly tells the office to finish the ethics seminar. When the office refuses, Michael screams at the office telling them to get into the conference room, to which they enter the room. Holly becomes seemingly happier. Meredith gives the whole office steaks from her sex deal, and they want Meredith to keep doing what she is doing. Stanley high-fives Phyllis, saying, "Just keep the ribs coming."

Deleted scenes

These deleted scenes were on the Season 5 DVD, notable cuts include:

  • Ryan reveals that he broke the side-view mirror on Kevin's car. When Kevin confronts him on it, Ryan blames it on "the guy he used to be" and says he is now "Ryan 2.0". Afterwards, Kevin bakes Ryan's sunglasses in the same toaster oven where the latter started the fire. Kevin then blames it on "Kevin 1.0".
  • When Jim asks Dwight for answers on the HR questionnaire, Jim tells Holly that Dwight is cheating.
  • Pam's class is cancelled and Pam agrees to go with her friends including Alex to the Tiki Bar.
  • Oscar explains that he would love to have a real talk about ethics.
  • Creed explains that he committed atrocities in Vietnam, "2 years ago."
  • Phyllis explains that she thinks she may have hit a person on a safari.
  • Holly and Andy give Michael brain teasers.
  • Dwight assigns people to look at each wall and the ceiling.
  • One of Pam's classmates asks for advice on how to reply to a text message from a guy she likes. Pam gives a speech about how she expected to be married and have her own art company by now. Realizing she has gone on a rant, she returns to the subject and suggests replying with "big LOL little lol winky face".
  • Pam drank "a whole vat of rum" and she has a slurred voice. Her friends point out what she did and laugh. She tells the documentary crew that she is not a drunk, only a moody artist. (NB: the vat comparison has to be an exaggeration, since a vat is over 26 US gal.)
  • Stanley tells Meredith that she said a bunch of racist stuff about him.
  • Michael tells the documentary crew that it is not an official date. Michael details how an official date would go, starting with a rose, dancing, leading to "hardcore love", falling asleep "to the sound of the full moon", and then ending with chocolate chip pancakes.
  • Michael orders a bowl of chowder, the "lobster feast for two", and wine. Holly orders a salad. Michael, embarrassed, declines the opportunity to change his order.
  • Some of Pam's rum comes up.
  • Meredith tells Michael that she comes in at 11 and leaves at 4.
  • Holly finds a poster saying NARC taped on her computer.
  • Michael calls Toby for advice. Toby agrees with Holly that Meredith needs to be reported. Michael angrily hangs up.

Connections to other episodes

  • Kevin calls Ryan "Hired Guy" which is a recurring nickname joke that started in the episode "The Fire" when he was called "Fire Guy" for starting a fire in the office with a cheesy pita.
  • In the season 7 episode "Garage Sale," Michael mentions learning of Meredith's prostitution during his proposal to Holly.


  • Meredith says she has been having sex with Scranton's Hammermill representative for six years, implying that Dunder Mifflin has sold Hammermill products during that time, though it was only two years ago in "The Convention" that Michael broke Hammermill's exclusivity with Staples. In an online video chat, writer Ryan Koh explains that he chose Hammermill because it is the only well-known paper manufacturer, and he liked that the name Hammermill sounded somewhat sexual.[1]
  • At Cooper's, when Michael says that Des Moines sounds warm, a man in a blue shirt takes off his jacket and sits down at the booth behind Michael as Michael starts talking about seasons. The camera cuts to Holly, then back to Michael. The man in the blue shirt is standing, and he takes off his jacket and sits down a second time.
  • Holly has to wait for the copier near reception. She could have used the copier in the annex. (One of the best shots of the annex copier is Karen's talking head near the beginning of "Back From Vacation".) It's possible that the copier in the annex is broken, leaving the office with only one working copier. Spoiler: This explains the need for a new copier in "The Surplus".

Amusing details

  • Michael says "catharctic" instead of "cathartic".
  • Dwight tells Andy that in his scenario of stealing bread to feed his family, that it is not his family as he has been "cuckolded by a stronger, smarter male." Andy says that's not how this works as the camera pans to a confused Angela, who then looks at the camera realizing Dwight was referring to his affair with her.
  • At the "business-romantic" lunch, Holly has a salad, the same lunch she was planning to eat originally.
  • Michael's order of two lobsters, chowder, and wine is explained in a deleted scene. When they come back to the office, Michael says he is holding on to Holly's leftovers, and throws them away, suggesting that he ate his entire lunch, seeing as he had no leftovers of his own.
  • Meredith claims to be sleeping with the representative from Hammermill for 6 years in exchange for discount on supplies, and yet Hammermill was exclusive to Staples until 2006, according to the events in "The Convention." There is, however, no contradiction here: Meredith's discount is for Dunder Mifflin buying office supplies from Hammermill, whereas Michael's agreement in "The Convention" is for reselling Hammermill paper to other companies.
  • Michael sprints out of his office so he can photocopy a picture on the wall above the copier just to spite Holly.
  • In the final scene, Angela (a vegetarian) eats only the potato salad.


  • Ryan claims to have hooked up with a woman who looked just like JoAnna Ward from the sixth season of Survivor. Ward is African-American, further supporting Ryan's preference for dating women with darker skin.
  • Meredith says that she has a bunch of cigars in her bag. Later, in "Niagara," we learn that Meredith smokes every morning, to the disgust of Pam. Meredith is also seen smoking a cigar outside of the church while waiting for Jim and Pam at the wedding.
  • Pam appears only in the cold open. Nearly all of the scenes with Pam were cut. See "Behind the scenes" for details.
  • On a visit to Scranton, one of Amy Ryan's friends convinced her to go to Cooper's. Ryan was reluctant, for fear of being recognized, but she had the opposite problem: She was actually a little offended that nobody recognized her at all.[2]:19:47

Behind the scenes

  • The establishing shot of Michael and Holly's lunch out is of Cooper's Seafood in Scranton. The interior was filmed at Clancy's Crab Broiler in Glendale (229 N Central Avenue). The show had permission to film from 8am to 11am, at which point the restaurant opened for business. The set decorators returned the following morning to take down the dressing.[2]:55:51 The restaurant closed in 2015.[3]
  • The show intended Alex to have a crush on Pam, but the fan response to "Weight Loss" was so strongly negative that the show quickly pivoted away from that story line: The already-filmed scenes with Alex from this episode were deleted from the aired version, although they live on in the DVD Deleted Scenes.[4]:03:01
  • There was a large mat to cushion John Krasinski's fall after being knocked over by Steve Carell.[2]:37:26
  • For the dance to "Physical", Amy Ryan just followed Steve Carell's lead.[2]:11:03

Cultural references

  • Michael and Holly sing parody lyrics to Olivia Newton-John's (Let's Get) Physical.
  • A chastity belt is a device used to restrict a person's sexual behavior.
  • Michael tells Holly she needs to be more like Robin Williams (a madcap comedian) and M. Night Shyamalan (a filmmaker whose movies have surprise twist endings).
  • Michael did no work after discovering YouTube, a video sharing site. Chocolate Rain was a virally popular video on YouTube in 2007. At the time of the episode's airing, there was no video of the song being performed by Cookie Monster, a popular children's television character, although such videos were quickly produced by fans after the episode aired.
  • Outback Steakhouse is an Australia-themed casual dining restaurant chain. As the name suggests, its menu features steak and seafood.
  • Des Moines is the capital of Iowa.
  • Battlestar Galactica is a television science fiction series which ran from 2004 to 2009. However, the rest of Jim and Andy's discussion is deliberately incorrect:
  • I.N.S was a U.S government agency dealing with immigration. It was dissolved in 2003.
  • In a deleted scene, Michael asks for "the house red", referring to the house wine, an inexpensive anonymous wine selected by the restaurant. He then remarks to Holly that the house "makes a great red", in the mistaken belief that the restaurant makes their own wine.
  • In a deleted scene, Holly finds the label "NARC" on her computer. The slang term "narc" is short for "narcotics officer" and means "informant".


Main cast

Supporting cast

Special guest star

Guest cast

  • John Hartman as Kendall (Voice Only)
  • John Cabrera as art student (uncredited, deleted scene)[2]:50:40


  1. Ask the Writers, Ryan Koh answers questions about Business Ethics.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Kinsey, Angela and Jenna Fischer. Episode 78: Business Ethics with Amy Ryan. "Office Ladies" podcast, February 6, 2021.
  3. Mikailian, Arin. Clancy's Crab Broiler closes its doors, L. A. Times, December 23, 2015.
  4. Kinsey, Angela and Jenna Fischer. Episode 84: Business Trip with Rich Sommer. "Office Ladies" podcast, July 14, 2021.