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"Stress Relief", a two-parter, is the fourteenth and fifteenth episodes of the fifth season of the television series The Office, and the show's 86th and 87th episodes overall. It was written by Paul Lieberstein and directed by Jeffery Blitz. The episode aired in the U.S. on February 1, 2009, after the Super Bowl. It was viewed by 22.91 million viewers.

Cold open

Dwight tries to teach fire safety by example, forcing all the doors closed and disabling the phones before setting a fire in an office trash can with a cigarette. He then says, "today smoking will save lives." He returns to his desk and tries to draw attention to the smoke, asking if anyone “smells anything smoky in here?” People don't believe him at first but he clears his throat and Pam notices the smoke. During the subsequent panic, the copy machine is destroyed, Michael smashes a window to call for help and Kevin takes advantage of the havoc to raid the snack machine. Stanley collapses from a heart attack immediately following Dwight's announcement that the whole thing was a drill. Michael, against the advice of his coworkers, tries to give CPR to an unconscious Stanley, but instead he shoves a wallet in his mouth.

Synopsis

As Dwight's actions could have burned down the building or killed Stanley, Corporate is not amused. Michael and Dwight are called on the carpet in New York, Michael to be reminded of his responsibilities to his subordinates and Dwight to be warned that he is subject to being fired. On the drive back home, Michael revokes Dwight's status as safety advisor. Back in Scranton, because he hadn't had any idea how to give first aid to Stanley, Michael has the American Red Cross send over an instructor (and most importantly a dummy) to teach CPR. Dwight pouts, Andy sings, and naturally no one learns anything except the lyrics to The Bee Gee's song "Stayin' Alive" - and that Dwight looked very realistic wearing the face of the dummy a la “Silence of the Lambs”. Most importantly, Dwight takes the scenario far too seriously and mutilates the dummy to “harvest the organs.” CFO David Wallace and Corporate HR Kendall, upset that Dwight's mutilating the dummy cost the company $3500, requires Dwight to apologize to his co-workers and get their acknowledgement of his apology in writing. Michael signs the apology without much thought, but the rest of Dwight's coworkers refuse. Dwight tricks everyone except Phyllis into signing the sheet by pretending that it is an an attendance sheet. Dwight finally gets Phyllis's signature by having a fake delivery sent to her.

Michael tries a number of ways to get his employees to unwind, like soft music and meditation, before discovering that he is the number one cause of stress at work. So that people won't feel afraid of him, he insists on a no-holds-barred roast of himself. He actually thought that each speaker would also express love for him, so while the employees had a great time, Michael ends up with his feelings hurt. Later, after taking a "Personnel Day," he recovers and conducts a mini-roast of his employees - initially making them somewhat uncomfortable, before Stanley bursts into laughter about his joke and the rest of the office jumps in.

While all of this has been going on, Andy is convinced that Jim and Pam are film gurus because they are talking about Pam's parents as the three watch a pirated movie, but Andy thinks they're talking about the movie—and by chance, it sounds like it. The episode features movie stars Jack Black, Cloris Leachman, and Jessica Alba in the film, Mrs. Albert Hannaday, which features what some would consider a taboo subject, a love triangle with a "May - late-December" relationship. Andy does not know that Jim and Pam were actually discussing Pam's mother and father's deteriorating relationship. Pam's father stays with Pam and Jim for several days. Pam asks Jim to talk to her father and see if her dad will tell Jim what is wrong with his relationship with Pam's mother. After the two men talk her father says he is going to get his own apartment. Jim has no idea what he could have said to make Pam's father leave her mother for good. Later Pam is stunned by revelations on two fronts: 1) that Jim has been deeply in love with her since the beginning and 2) that her father never felt a deep emotion for her mother - Mr. Beesly realized the latter after hearing the former from the heart, and that was what Jim had said. In a talking heads interview, Pam says that although most children expect their parents to be soulmates, Pam and Jim's children “will be right about that.” She also says that love affairs and relationships look different from the outside, which is overhead by a frustrated Andy, who (once again) believes she is talking about the film they watched and decides he is not fit to be a movie critic.

Deleted scenes

These were notable cuts from this episode as seen on the Season 5 DVD:

  • Michael congratulates Darryl, Stanley, and maybe Kelly on the inauguration of President Obama. Michael tells Darryl that black people have to be responsible and Darryl jokingly rebuts that Public Radio will become private, NASCAR is over, and Morgan Freeman movies will be cancelled.
  • Andy gives Stanley a mix of his songs.
  • Kevin offers Stanley to go to the bathroom with him. Stanley looks confused.
  • Phyllis explains that it was hard for her when Stanley was gone.
  • Michael shows Stanley that he got a defibrillator. People disagree on the pronunciation of "defibrillator", but Kelly spells it for them.
  • In a talking head interview, Kelly explains that she came in seventeenth in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, and then she gained 40 pounds.
  • Michael treats the defibrillator like a toy, turning it on and threatening to shock people with it.
  • In a talking head interview, Dwight explains that Michael would be a terrible safety officer.
  • In a talking head interview, Michael looks forward to shaking someone's hand and shocking them with the defibrillator. He shares his new catch phrase: "You've been defibrillated!"
  • Michael tries to trick Toby into shaking his hand with the defibrillator pad. He eventually succeeds, but Toby isn't shocked because Michael forgot to turn it on.
  • Michael thinks that Stanley is dead, shocks him, and realizes that he was just sleeping. He then puts a sign on Stanley saying, "NOT DEAD." Watch these scenes.
  • An alternate extended scene of the Rose/CPR scene.
  • The office lists things that are stressful.
  • The office tries to find things that stop stress.
  • Dwight gets Stanley to sign the sheet, however, he fails to get Phyllis to. Dwight angrily tells her to sign it.
  • Stanley eats a wheel of brie as his reward for "letting go of [his] anger" by signing Dwight's apology letter.
  • Angela and Kevin mess up Meredith's hair using the defibrillator. Clip.
  • Michael wakes up from sleeping and says that beaches aren't stressful.
  • Dwight receives a text message and tells the office the Albany Branch is closing during Michael's relaxation seminar. Angrily, Michael confiscates everyone's cellphone and places them in a plastic garbage bag. Later the bag is seen placed on his desk but the vibration of the many phones causes them to fall off the desk.
  • Michael is angry that the mayonnaise is gone as he has the habit of eating a spoonful of mayonnaise during tough situations.
  • Dwight tries to get Jim's signature and Jim asks him whether or not he thinks he's part of the problem, which Dwight scoffs at, but then asks hypothetically what he could do to improve. Jim tells Dwight to smile more often and instructs him on twisting his face into a creepy leer. Jim then takes a photo of Dwight with his cellphone and happily signs the sheet.
  • Extension of the roast. Kelly says that Michael dyes his hair and that she saw him at a screening of Twilight, with his mother. Oscar rants to Michael in English - in a talking head, he says he came up with the material simply by writing down a typical drive-home rant. Jan calls and is placed on speakerphone, saying how Michael destroyed her life. Michael then rebuts with a crack about her breast augmentation.

Connections to previous episodes

  • In "Basketball", Angela was the safety officer, even though Dwight acted like he was in charge. It's not stated whether Angela still is the safety officer, whether Dwight formally took over at some point, or whether Dwight merely usurped the position again.
  • Dwight took charge during a fire alarm in "The Fire". In both that episode and this one, he shouts, "Have you ever seen a burn victim?"
  • Pam failed art school in "Business Trip".
  • Michael hit Meredith with his car in "Fun Run". Pam walked in on Michael half naked in the same episode.
  • Angela's cat "Bandit" was first seen in "Dunder Mifflin Infinity" under the name "Garbage" as a gift from Dwight. Angela later accepts the same cat as a gift from Andy in "Money", this time christened as "Bandit".

Trivia

  • This is the only episode in which Leslie David Baker (Stanley Hudson), Brian Baumgartner (Kevin Malone), Creed Bratton (actor) (Creed Bratton), Kate Flannery (Meredith Palmer), Mindy Kaling (Kelly Kapoor), Angela Kinsey (Angela Martin), Paul Lieberstein (Toby Flenderson), Oscar Nunez (Oscar Martinez), Craig Robinson (Darryl Philbin), and Phyllis Smith (Phyllis Vance) are credited during the opening theme.
  • Dwight is likely not fired because of the ongoing major recession in the United States at the time, as he brings in a large amount of money to the company.
  • During the fire scare at the beginning of the episode, it is established that the phones have been disconnected by Dwight. However, when the scare escalates, Dwight calmly suggests that they call 911, perhaps by using a cell phone.
  • B.J. Novak (Ryan Howard) appears in this episode only via archive footage.
  • Oscar's rant in Spanish translates as "You give me an ulcer every time I wake up and I have to come to work. I have to come to work for you. For you!"
  • Jim saying to Michael, "Multiple times a day Michael says things that are way beyond my vocabulary," is a reference to the ongoing joke of Michael often confusing words and common phrases.
  • Michael does not roast Toby, Kelly, or Phyllis. Neither Toby nor Phyllis mock Michael at the roast.
  • The lyrics to Andy's song, which is a parody of "What I like About You" by The Romantics:
    • ♪ What I hate about you, you really suck as a boss. you're the losiest, jerkiest, and you're dumber than apple sauce! We're stuck listening to you all day, Stanley tried to die just to get away, well it's true, that's what I hate about you! That's what l hate about you [holds note] Yeah! ♪
  • When the employees meet in the break room following the roast there are no snacks in the vending machine, because Kevin broke the glass and stole all of the snacks during the drill.
  • Because this episode aired after Super Bowl XLIII, this is the only episode to air on a Sunday instead of the traditional Thursday.
  • The song in the first scene in the fake movie Mrs. Albert Hannaday is "You Make My Dreams" by Hall & Oates.
  • This is the second episode where Dwight has been threatened with being fired. The first one was "The Coup."

Amusing details

  • In the opening seconds of Part 1, Pam gets up, and she is holding her hand against her tummy. Many women who are pregnant or think they're pregnant do this. This foreshadows Pam's first pregnancy, that is eventually revealed in "Company Picnic."
  • During the cold open fire scene, Kevin breaks open the vending machine. Later when Stanley faints, Kevin is messily eating snacks while dropping bags on the floor while Jim and Toby try to get Michael off of Stanley.
  • Michael is the only person who does anything logical during the fire drill by smashing a window and screaming for help.
  • During the cold open, Angela reveals that she keeps Bandit in a cat bed, in the bottom shelf of a filing cabinet.
  • Angela panics just like the rest of the office, even though in "The Fire" Angela is well informed on how to evacuate.
  • During the fire drill, fire extinguishers are shown multiple times near characters who fail to make use of them. This is an implication that since nobody listened to Dwight’s presentation, they would not know how to use an extinguisher or (potentially) what they are.
  • Michael insists that the correct word instead of "heed" should be "head", before reversing himself and deciding that it should actually be "heed".
  • Michael tells Stanley that he can't leave the wheelchair until he is back on his feet while Stanley is standing in front of him, prompting Stanley to tell the camera he is likely going to die at the office due to his heart issues being aggravated by Michael.
  • Not only does Kelly stand up and dance when Michael is practicing with the CPR dummy, Phyllis, Andy, and Creed also bop their heads.
  • When David Wallace states that the CPR dummy costs “thirty-five hundred dollars” ($3,500), Michael mistakenly thinks that this means $5,300.
  • In some of the talking heads after the fire drill, a window is seen boarded up which is the one Michael broke with the projector to yell for help.
  • Michael intends to play a song that reminds him of death at his relaxation seminar.
  • When Stanley's stress beeper starts going off whenever Michael gets near him, you can see John Krasinski (Jim) trying to hold in his laughter.
  • In a very quick shot of the top of the filing cabinet next to Dwight's desk, as Pam walks past, we see what looks to be the duck from "Cocktails".
  • Most of Andy's popcorns are uncooked.
  • Dwight tells Michael that he gets stress only from seeking approval from his inferiors, then says "speaking of which" and asks Michael to sign his acknowledgement form.
  • After Pam says Michael "never does any work himself - ever" Dwight enthusiastically claps his hands.
  • When Dwight has Michael sign his "form of regret" the pen has a chain on the end of it, showing it was stolen from a desk or somewhere else.
  • Michael and Dwight also drink from a mini bottle of liquor, possibly obtained from a flight or hotel minibar.
  • Michael learned from television and movies that when you are glum and moody, you dress in black and sit in the park feeding the pigeons. However, he carries this out by going to a busy playground (not a park) and tossing whole slices of bread to nonexistent birds. Furthermore, he makes crow noises, which is not going to attract pigeons.
  • Michael says the astronaut would use a microscope to look at him. A microscope is for looking at very small things. Michael means a telescope, which is for looking at very distant things.
  • Surprisingly Dwight doesn't freak out after Kelly mentions Lord Voldemort, like he did in "Beach Games".
  • During the roast, Kelly lists things she would rather make out with than Michael Scott. When she says "a fridge", Bob Vance calls out "Yeah!" from off-screen.
  • In the cold open of part 1, Dwight pulls a fire alarm pull station located above the fire extinguisher by the door to the kitchen. That pull station is never seen again, with the exception of the rest of the cold open.

Behind the scenes

  • The show which airs immediately after the Super Bowl has a huge carryover audience, and networks use it to introduce a new audience to a show. The writers had to come up with an episode that could stand alone and appeal to new viewers unfamiliar with the show's style and backstory, yet also be satisfying for longtime viewers. Writer Halsted Sullivan called it "probably the most difficult episode to write" in Season 5. Producer Greg Daniels viewed the opportunity as a "second pilot" and insisted upon a very grabby opening, so as not to lose viewers.[1]
  • Greg Daniels got an idea from a French film he saw: Jim loses Pam in a poker game." The writers thought it was a bad idea, but they spent quite a bit of time breaking the story before Daniels agreed that the story wouldn't work.[1]
  • Greg Daniels kept asking for the fire drill to be bigger and crazier, which led to all of the antics on screen.[1]
  • The "Save Bandit!" scene was very complicated to stage. The show spent $12,000 creating a fake cat identical to Bandit that could be thrown. In the original script, Oscar kicks the cat away with his foot, but director Jeffrey Blitz decided that was too mean-spirited. Blitz also believed that a stuffed cat would be too obvious. The scene was performed with a stunt actor and two identical cats. The actor playing Angela threw one cat into the ceiling, where a trainer would catch it, and then another trainer threw a second cat from the ceiling. The trainers would allow at most three takes because the cats get traumatized and have to be retired. Daniels considered buying out the cat's future income in order to get more takes, but he was talked out of it.[1]
  • The cameraman's fall during the fire drill was an accident, but they kept it in.[1]
  • NBC insisted that the show employ stunt casting. One idea was to have an actor with a blue-collar aesthetic like Matt Damon or Ben Affleck who could play a warehouse owner. Greg Daniels argued with the network that using an A-list actor to play a character would take you out of the show; there is no plausible reason why a celebrity would be in Scranton. Furthermore, it could mislead new viewers into thinking that the celebrity was a regular cast member. The movie-within-the-show was the solution to the problem. In early drafts, it was a martial arts movie.[1]
  • The set had a very "un-Office-like" feel on the day they shot the fake movie. As enthusiastic as Jack Black was, Cloris Leachman surprised everyone with her excitement about the idea of making out with Jack Black.[1]
  • Writer Halsted Sullivan provided the idea of having a roast to end the episode. His father was president of a medical school, and every year, the students put on a follies where they made fun of the professors. The professors enjoyed the show, but also worried, "Is that really what they think of me?"[1]
  • There was a lot of discussion over how serious the Jim and Pam story line should be. John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer felt strongly that the drama was necessary.[1]
  • Paul Feig wanted desperately to direct this episode, but he had just finished "Moroccan Christmas" which the network was not fond of, so they gave the assignment to Jeffrey Blitz, who won an Emmy for the episode. Feig praises Blitz's work, but quietly feels that he missed out on his Emmy.[1]

Goofs

  • When Kelly says "A vacation!" she is holding a closed spiral notebook. In the very next shot, the notebook is open and upside-down.

Cultural references

  • Perm is a hairstyle.
  • Jerky is a dried meat product.
  • When Michael yells at Stanley not to die because "Barack is president," he is referring to Barack Obama, the first African American president of the United States, who was elected in 2008.
  • PETA is an animal rights non-profit in the United States, and stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
  • The Red Cross (ARC) is a well known charity that teaches CPR classes and does first aid and CPR certification.
  • After giving up on practicing CPR, Kevin says "Call it". In medical TV shows, this is commonly said when they've tried all life saving measures and are ready to officially call time of death.
  • When Michael says "No rest for the sick," he is incorrectly quoting a well known biblical expression, "No rest for the wicked," or "No rest for the weary," another common idiom.
  • "Stayin' Alive" is a famous disco song by the Bee Gees. Michael confuses it for the song “I Will Survive” by American singer Gloria Gaynor.
  • An organ donor card is a piece of paper that people can carry in their wallets, indicating that after their death they want their organs donated. It is also common for people to indicate this on their driver's license.
  • Dwight removes the face of the dummy and turns to the office, saying, "Clarice?" mimicking a famous scene from the movie The Silence of the Lambs. Dwight tells David Wallace he thought the scene was unrealistic, which is why he tried acting it out himself.
  • Jack Black, Jessica Alba and Cloris Leachman are all famous actors.
  • The music when Andy watches the movie with Jim and Pam is reminiscent of Have a Little Faith in Me by John Hiatt.
  • Jim refers to the Nigerian Prince scam, a form of advance-fee scam.
  • Andy says that the role of Lily was originally Sophie's mother and intended for Nicole Kidman, an Australian actress. There is no evidence that the writers ever intended Kidman to play the role. This was just an in-show joke.
  • Chunky Monkey is an ice cream flavor made by Ben & Jerry's. It is banana flavored with chunks of fudge and walnuts.
  • Om is an Indian spiritual symbol.
  • Although there is not such a thing as the Comedy Central Roast Channel, Michael is referring to a series of famous TV specials, aired on Comedy Central, which were roasts of various celebrities.
  • YouTube is a well-known video hosting website where users can upload their own videos. However, Michael suggests that it is a production company that solely makes videos itself.
  • Sammy Davis Jr. was an American actor known for his impersonations. He was roasted on the NBC show The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast in 1975.
  • Lord Voldemort is the villain from the famous fantasy series Harry Potter.

Cast

Main cast

Supporting cast

Recurring cast

Guest cast

  • John Hartmann as Kendall (Corporate H.R. Rep.)
  • Robin Lynch as Rose the CPR Instructor
  • Lamont Ferrell as Michael the Warehouse Worker
  • Rick Overton as William Beesly
  • Joanne Carlsen as Terri Hudson (uncredited)
  • James O. Kerry as Deliveryman

Special celebrity guest cast

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Greene, Andy, The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s. Dutton/Penguin Random House, 2020. Excerpted, Vulture, 2020.

Quotes

Dwight: (clears throat)

Pam: oh my god uh oh my god.

Stanley: fire.

Dwight: oh fire oh my goodness what’s the procedure? What do we do people?

Pam: the phones are dead.

Dwight: oh how did that happen?

Kevin: it’s out in the hall.

Dwight: no nobody knows that the smoke could be coming through an air dryer.

Michael: oh my god ok it’s happening. Everybody stay calm. Stay calm. Stay (bleep) calm. Everyone now (bleep) calm down.

Andy: the fire shooting at us.

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