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"Initiation" is the fifth episode of the third season of The Office and the 33rd overall. It was written by B.J. Novak and directed by Randall Einhorn. It first aired on October 19, 2006.

Cold open

Dwight abruptly begins to quiz Ryan with brain teasers, but becomes frustrated and screams "Dammit!" when Ryan recites answers to the puzzles, many before the full question is asked.


Jan questions Michael's productivity and presses him on his accomplishments during the previous workday. Michael says he "worked, went home to his condo, and Carol came over, and we had sex." Jan instructs Pam to log Michael's hourly activity "so we can analyze it at Corporate". Jan walks out of the office as Pam begins to protest.

Dwight pesters Ryan about his excitement level for his first-ever sales call and informs the camera why he is so excited: Ryan has yet to make an ally within the office, and Dwight hopes to steer him clear of being a "slacker-loser-wiseass like Jim" and draft him in the "Dwight army of champions." That afternoon, Dwight drives Ryan to a beet field, smirks to the cameraman in the backseat and tells Ryan "Your journey begins now."

At Dunder Mifflin Stamford, Karen is disturbed to find her chair squeaks and accuses Jim of a chair swap. He protests that he simply switched them back after she made the original switch. Karen promises to switch chairs while he's away from his desk, so he vows not to stand and proves such by rolling to the copy machine.

On a phone call, Michael imitates Bill Cosby: "I love Jell-O puddin' pops. My son Theo loves puddin' pops, too." Pam shows the camera "Cosby Impression" for the 10:00 hour in the log.

Dwight asks Ryan to take the beet seed from his palm. Ryan misses and Dwight asks him to try again. However, Ryan is faster and takes the seed leaving Dwight in an awkward position. After that, The Assistant Regional Manager asks Ryan to plant the beet seed. Dwight says to the young salesman "just as you planted that seed, I shall plant my seed in you" to which the young salesman says "I don't think you know what you're saying." Dwight says the bad odor in the area is "called bull crap" and states that "clients can smell it from a mile away". Dwight suddenly announces he forgot something in his car and runs toward the vehicle, gets in and speeds away.

A loudspeaker announces free soft pretzels being given away in the lobby. Stanley and Michael immediately head for the door. In interviews, Stanley proclaims that pretzel day is his favorite day of the year, Pam admits it is a big deal for some people and Michael says he cannot be productive when there is one thing in his brain which he just can't get out, especially when that one thing is soft pretzels.

A long pretzel line peeves Michael and he and Stanley rebuff Phyllis' attempt to jump the line with Bob Vance of Vance Refrigeration; Stanley sees past his disdain for Michael and high-fives him. Pam asks Michael to use his time in line to authorize some checks, but he instead has her hold his place in line while he uses the restroom. She offers to brings him a pretzel if Michael returns to the office, but he explains that if she ordered his pretzel incorrectly "then ... this whole thing's blown." Shown to the camera, the productivity log now reads "Stood in Pretzel line" for the noon hour.

Angry Ryan walks alone up a dirt road, muttering to himself. He knocks on a barn door, and Dwight jumps out: "Congratulations, resourceful salesman! Welcome to Schrute Farm!" Dwight then gives him his signature salute. Having passed Dwight's second challenge, Ryan sits in a Victorian-era wheelchair and Dwight assures him to "Pay no attention to the spirits that haunt this hallowed ground!"

Dwight quizzes Ryan about Dunder Mifflin, the death of company co-founder Robert Mifflin, the purpose of the DHARMA Initiative, and Michael's greatest fear, to which Ryan answers, "Loneliness. Maybe women." Dwight responds, "Wrong. He's not afraid of anything. Also I would have accepted snakes."

Dwight later states that one cannot sell, if one has fear. Suddenly, Mose appears with the word "Fear" on his shirt in tape, and Dwight tells Ryan as his final test he must wrestle Mose to the ground. Ryan calls Dwight a freak and storms out, despite Dwight's protests and instructions to get inside a coffin. Mose remarks "he seemed nice," and Dwight asks "Where are all the animals?"

At Stamford, Karen begins to continually squeak her chair. Jim quickly begins to sing the chorus of The Cardigans' "Lovefool", despite Karen's objections that it is an unfair retaliation and the song will be in her head all day. The camera pans to Andy, who is conducting and lip syncing along with Jim's vocals, out of sight. In an interview, Andy completes the song's chorus — "I don't care 'bout anything but you" — and ponders the whereabouts of the band. Eventually the squeaky chair gets passed to Andy when he isn't in the room.

Michael finally arrives at the front of the line and orders "The Works" — a sweet pretzel with all 18 sweet toppings. Back upstairs, he plays energetic music, then suddenly emerges from his office and launches into a hyperactive, sugar-fueled speech filled with suggestions on improving office efficiency.

Inside his Trans Am, Dwight catches up with Ryan as he walks along the road, apologizes and displays gifts Mose sent, including fresh eggs, fatback bacon, and "something he whittled," which appears to be a Venus of Willendorf figurine. After being pleaded with, Ryan gets in the car where Dwight explains that the lack of a friendship with Jim was the main impetus for the initiation ceremony. Dwight then begins to give Ryan sales-call pointers which Ryan tries to memorize. His final advice is for Ryan to "K.I.S.S. — Keep It Simple Stupid."

Michael sleeps face-down on his desk. Jan phones for him, but Pam says he's on a sales call.

A dejected Ryan walks out of the sales call as Dwight tries to cheer him up. Ryan gripes that the potential client told him to his face that they didn't like him. In retaliation, Ryan begins to throw Mose's eggs at the building and the parking sign. Surprised at Ryan's initiative, Dwight joins him, shouting "Oh no, no, no," until two security guards come out, at which point the pair peel out of the parking lot in Dwight's Firebird. They go to a bar and drink boilermakers, and as a result of the day's events, Dwight no longer calls Ryan "Temp" but instead uses his given name.

At the end of the work day, Pam realizes that Michael's antics helped him make a large sale. Having forgotten Kevin's phone extension, Jim calls Dunder Mifflin's main number, hoping to leave him a voicemail regarding a fantasy football issue. Pam answers and says she's staying late because of her new assignment to chronicle Michael's work day, a copy of which she promises to send to Jim. The pair enjoy a long chat about her tiny apartment and her scary solo movie night in which she rented 28 Days Later rather than 28 Days. They start to reconnect, but Ryan and Dwight, both exhausted, return to the office for a few seconds and she loudly says goodbye to the pair as they exit. Jim misconstrues the exclamation, and the pair hang up.

A satiated Stanley remarks in an interview that in 364 days, it will once again be Pretzel Day.

Deleted scenes

The Season Three DVD contains a number of deleted scenes.

  • Michael tells Jan that he can't keep an hourly log because sometimes he's in "the zone" and sometimes he's "zoning out." Jan, quietly angry, tells Michael that his job is on the line. In a talking head interview, Pam explains: "It's like Mommy and Daddy are fighting. Except Mommy outranks Daddy. And Mommy is way scarier."
  • Dwight brings Ryan into Michael's office, telling Michael he will never be seeing the young employee again. "I am bringing this boy home a full-grown man." Michael gives Ryan an uncomfortable hug, and Dwight tries to join in.
  • In a talking head interview, Pam explains that if they find Ryan's body in a heavily-wooded area, Jim owes her $30. "It's an old bet."
  • Dwight takes Ryan to his locked car and tells Ryan that "the key is inside you." Dwight produces the car key from Ryan's ear and looks to the camera, impressed with himself. He then gives Ryan sales advice.
  • In a talking head interview, Ryan repeatedly reminds himself that Dwight is the top salesman at the company.
  • At the farm, Dwight tries to impart sales advice and produces a beet seed from Ryan's ear.
  • In a talking head interview, Ryan admits he learned a lot about beets.
  • Michael reads his daily log to the documentary crew. Pam tries to help Michael focus on work.
  • Ryan, abandoned in the beet field, tells the camera that just when he thinks he's hit rock bottom, "the floor opens up like at a carnival ride," and he mimes falling down another level.
  • Dwight takes Ryan through a wooded area to the graves of his ancestors and discovers an empty can. While Dwight shouts at two naked teenagers fleeing in the distance, Ryan mimes to the camera falling down another level.
  • Stanley steals Kevin's pretzel.
  • In a talking head interview, Stanley lists the four things he loves in his life.
  • Stanley and Michael eat their pretzels. Michael doesn't understand the secret to the pretzels. "They taste so good in my mouth." Stanley adds, "That's what she said," and both of them crack up.

Additional deleted scenes are available on the NBC Web site:

Connections to other episodes

  • In "Office Olympics", Dwight mentions that teenagers sometimes use the beet farm for sex.
  • Jan responds to Pam's "Hi" with "I'm great." Spoiler: Jan makes a similar non-sequitur reply to Karen in "Cocktails".
  • After talking with Kelly, Angela angrily storms off, taking her water bottle but leaving her snacks behind. In "The Convention", Angela storms off after talking with Meredith, leaving her cereal behind.


  • One of the riddles Dwight poses to Ryan in the cold open is about a boy involved in a car accident who is the son of the doctor on call in the emergency room, and therefore cannot operate - even though his father was in the car and was also injured (the doctor is his mother). At the very end of the finale of the original BBC series, Tim (the character Jim is based on), along with Gareth ("Dwight"), is being asked this riddle by David Brent ("Michael") when Dawn ("Pam") returns to the party and kisses him for the first time.
  • Dwight's knowledge of initiations is a superficial one, based on watching movies and observing the initiation of others, whereas Ryan's understanding comes from having participated in one.
  • When Jim rolls his chair to the copy machine, there is a Stamford employee in the background dressed just like Jim who is chatting with the receptionist and playing with the candy bowl. This was intended to remind the viewers of the ongoing Jim/Pam relationship.[1]:20:39
  • The eighteen sweet pretzel toppings: sweet glaze, cinnamon sugar, chocolate, white chocolate, fudge, M&Ms, caramel dip, mint chip, chocolate chip, marshmallow, nuts, toffee nuts, coconuts, peanut butter drizzle, Oreos, sprinkles, cotton candy bits, and powdered sugar.
  • The passage of time in the phone call between Jim and Pam is conveyed subtly in various ways. At first, Pam talks standing up. Then she's sitting down. Jim is sitting up in his seat, then later leans back with his feet on the desk, then sits up again. The sun is shining when the call begins, but it is dark when the call ends.
  • During the phone call, Jim's nameplate can be found on Andy's desk instead. (Maybe as payback for the squeaky chair?)
  • Jim calls Pam at 5:20pm, and the window next to Jim's desk shows that it is still light out. By the time the conversation ends, it is dark. Sunset in Stamford at that time of year is around 6pm, and twilight lasts about a half hour, so it was at least 6:30pm, possibly later, when they finally stopped chatting. According to the DVD commentary, the conversation lasted three hours.
  • Pam offers to wait in line for Michael, but he says he has to order a very specific pretzel. Later, when he is at the front of the line, he orders a pretzel with everything on it.
  • This episode marks the first appearance of Mose Schrute. In this episode, he seems normal. His sheltered personality wasn't adopted until later episodes.
  • This is the first time Stanley respects Michael as opposed to being openly hostile towards him when he high fives Michael after sending Phyllis to the back of the line.
  • Andy mouths along when Jim is singing and continues to sing in a talking head. Andy's passion for music is seen consistently with his appearances in future episode.

Amusing details

  • The man third behind Michael in line widens his eyes and bites his lip as the pretzel vendor lists the pretzel toppings.
  • Dwight forgets that he and Ryan were supposed to be on a sales call until Ryan reminds him.
  • Ryan is consistently unable to make a sale.
  • Dwight tells Ryan that they are losing business to the "online paper jerks", possibly giving Ryan the idea for Dunder Mifflin Infinity.
  • Michael asks Pam if it is AM or PM. It would be impossible for the office staff to enter the office any earlier than 9am as seen in "Happy Hour".
  • There is a red mark on Michael's left cheek from falling asleep.

Behind the scenes

  • B.J. Novak (Ryan) was assigned this episode to write because it was a Ryan-focused episode.[1]:51:23
  • The scenes in the beet fields were filmed at real beet fields in the Underwood family farm in Moorpark.[1]:08:17
  • The other scenes at Dwight's beet farm were was shot at the the Golden Oak Ranch, also known as the Disney Ranch, a large outdoor filming location.[1]:03:58 It is conveniently located within the 30-mile zone.
  • The scene at the bar after the failed sale was also shot at the Disney Ranch. The house was originally built for the Peewee Herman show, but was converted to a bar.[1]:07:08
  • The Axelrod sign was hung on a building next to the parking lot for the production trailers for the scenes at Underwood family farm. The owners and property manager enthusiastically agreed to be the victim of the egg-throwing prank. The production crew cleaned the building afterward.[1]:01:20:01
  • Every production that films at the Disney Ranch must hire a snake wrangler due to the history of rattlesnakes on the property.[1]:06:29 B.J. Novak says that the snake wrangler found a rattlesnake in the graveyard (deleted scene) right away. Novak suspects that the wrangler planted the snake.[2]
  • The squeaky chair subplot was not in the original script. It may have been inspired by a broken chair that Oscar Nunez and Angela Kinsey would secretly saddle each other with.[1]:18:23
  • During the first season, show creator Greg Daniels took the writers to visit various real offices (including a paper company) to get inspiration for stories. Writer B.J. Novak remembers that one office had a morale-boosting popcorn day, which the employees were excited about, and that's what inspired Pretzel Day.[1]:26:07
  • The show ordered 100 pretzels from Wetzel's Pretzels. Only a few of them were used for the shoot, and the remainders were fed to the cast and crew.[1]:28:46
  • John Krasinski had difficulty keeping a straight face in the scene where Andy starts singing "Lovefool".[2]
  • When Kelly shares her concerns about Ryan with Angela, Angela is eating popcorn, not a pretzel. This popcorn was likely left over from the filming of the opening scene of "The Coup".[1]:35:03
  • The script called for Michael to fall asleep on a koosh ball,[2] and for him to wake up with marks on his face.[1]:40:48
  • The conversation between Jim and Pam was filmed over a live phone line, with two sets of cameras running simultaneously. This was Randall Einhorn's first time as a director, and he didn't realize when he made that request what an enormous logistical nightmare it would be. The two sets are in different buildings, so cabling had to be constructed to connect them, and a director's station with video monitors constructed in the parking lot.[1]:44:32
  • Rainn Wilson improvised the "plant my seed in you" line, and B.J. Novak improvised the reply.[1]:55:25 The line "Where are all the animals?" was also improvised.[1]:01:13:12
  • The script called for Dwight to make a strange salute. Rainn Wilson came up with something he felt was reminiscent of how German soldiers would salute the Kaiser in World War I.[1]:01:11:21 Spoiler: Dwight uses the same salute to bid farewell to the office in "Traveling Salesmen".
  • There was a card in the writers room with the idea "Jim and Pam's phone call". B.J. Novak wanted Jim and Pam's phone call to last the entire day.[1]:01:08:18
  • Writer Michael Schur spent three months growing Mose's neck beard. He asked if he could just wear a fake beard, but Greg Daniels insisted that people would notice the difference. Mose was added at the last minute to a scene in a later episode, and nobody noticed the fake beard.[1]:mm:ss
  • B.J. Novak had to chug two or three fake beers for the scene in the bar.<[1]:01:21:16

Cultural references

  • Getting to second base is adolescent slang based on the rules of baseball. The details vary, but second base is generally considered to be fondling.
  • Michael's conversation with Mr. Coselli begins by playing with his name and calling him The Cos, the nickname for comedian Bill Cosby. He the proceeds to mimic the voice of one of Cosby's characters, Fat Albert, adding "I love Jell-O Pudding Pops" (Cosby recorded advertisements for the frozen treat). He then talked about "my son Theo", referring to the son of Cliff Huxtable, a character portrayed by Bill Cosby on the television sitcom The Cosby Show. At the end of the day, Michael briefly does a Bill Cosby impression when he says "with the Jell-O."
  • Dwight tries to have Ryan snatch a beet seed from his hand in reference to Kung Fu.
  • To plant one's seed in someone is old-fashioned slang for insemination.
  • Bull crap is a less vulgar term for bullsh*t, meaning "nonsense", typically nonsense that is made-up or intentionally misleading.
  • Kelly chatters with Michael in line about the plot to Lazy Sunday, a rap song performed on the sketch comedy program Saturday Night Live. Watch it here.
  • Mary is a traditional girl's name and is also used pejoratively to indicate that a man is behaving like a girl. (The name Nancy is used in Britain for this same purpose.)
  • Michael says I'll be back! in the style of Arnold Schwarzenegger's character in The Terminator.
  • Ryan tells Dwight that he was in a frat (short for fraternity) in college. College fraternities are known for elaborate initiation rituals in which new members are humiliated.
  • Dwight asks Ryan about the purpose of the DHARMA Initiative. This is a reference to an organization in the popular ABC Network series Lost.
  • The item Mose whittled is a replica of the Venus of Willendorf.
  • Michael listens to Rock And Roll Part 2 by Gary Glitter in his office after eating the pretzel.
  • Deal or No Deal and Let's Make a Deal are game shows. What is the deal? is slang for "What is the explanation?" and is often used as an expression of frustration.
  • The drink Ryan and Dwight have after the failed sales call is a Boilermaker. They employ the "depth charge" technique of dropping the shot into the beer glass and consuming the combined drink at one go.
  • Fantasy Football is a game in which participants build a team by selecting professional football players and earn points based on the performance of those players.
  • Mavis Beacon is the fictional typing instructor in the Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing series of computer programs.
  • In the movie 28 Days, Sandra Bullock plays a woman struggling against alcoholism. The movie 28 Days Later is a post-apocalyptic horror movie. Blockbuster is a chain of movie rental stores.
  • Michael says that sometimes he is in the zone, an idiom for what is known as a flow state, meaning that he is totally focused. But sometimes he is zoning out, meaning that he is disengaged from the situation and not paying attention.
  • When Michael reads his log in a deleted scene, he says, "Light salad, three points." The Weight Watchers diet plan assigns points to various foods.
  • Mose Schrute wrestling Ryan references the movie Batman Begins where Bruce Wayne masters fear and Batman battling the Scarecrow.


Main cast

Supporting cast

Recurring cast

Guest cast