"The Duel" is the twelfth episode of the fifth season The Office and the show's 84th episode overall. It was written by Jennifer Celotta and directed by Dean Holland. The episode aired in the United States on January 15, 2009, on NBC. It was viewed by 8.50 million people.
The police have installed a radar speed sign in front of the office after Angela made several reports of cars driving too fast. As a result, the members of the Scranton branch have been competing to who can register the highest speed by running. Michael's record of 12 miles per hour is beaten by Dwight, but Michael insists it is because of wind. Michael then tries to increase his record just as a car passes by and declares that his record is now 31 miles per hour, challenging Oscar to do better as Oscar insists it is humanly impossible.
Andy still hasn't found out about fiancée Angela's affair with Dwight seventeen days after Phyllis revealed it to everyone else in the office. Michael suggests that somebody inform Andy, but the entire office is against that idea; Jim is particularly concerned that Andy's past anger management issues may lead to in-office violence between Andy and the combative Dwight. Michael then asks Andy to accompany him to the parking lot before he leaves for a meeting with David Wallace. Michael carefully times the conversation so that he reveals the affair while simultaneously driving out of the parking lot. A shocked and dismayed Andy heads back into the office to confront Angela regarding the affair, but she continues to hold back, as everyone else looks on. Andy then confronts Dwight about it and challenges him to a duel in the parking lot over who gets Angela, which Dwight accepts. Angela finds this flattering. Jim, acting in Michael's stead, concedes that he does not have the power to prevent them from fighting outside of work, but he locates and confiscates most of Dwight's hidden weaponry throughout the office.
Meanwhile, in New York, Michael is nervous as to why David Wallace called a meeting with him. He is, however, surprised and relieved to hear that David is proud of Michael for making the Scranton branch the most successful one, as the other branches are struggling due to the current economic crisis. David wants to know what Michael is doing to make his branch productive and Michael is unable to come up with a reason, speaking off topic for most of the meeting, dubbing his approach an "improvised conversation" or "improversation," but David understands that it is hard for someone to come up with a self-evaluation and lets him leave. Michael then thanks David for holding him in high esteem.
Dwight waits in the parking lot for Andy, who doesn't show up on time. Dwight then finds a note hanging in the bushes in an empty parking space from Andy, saying he is giving up. Andy is actually in his car (a Toyota Prius), which, as Oscar points out, is silent below 5 MPH (due to the electric motor). Because Dwight is unable to hear him, Andy drives into the empty space and pins Dwight between the car and the bush. After much banter between the two—in which Andy complains about Angela's affair, and Dwight makes fun of how pathetic he thinks Andy is—Andy reveals he had slept with Angela only twice. Dwight is shocked as Angela told him she was only sleeping with Dwight. They both head back into the office, where Andy makes a call to cancel his wedding cake (which was shaped like a sailboat) and Dwight throws out his bobblehead doll, which was a gift from Angela, as a dismayed Angela looks on.
- Andy is frustrated that nobody has RSVP'd to the wedding and asks each person why they haven't replied. In a talking head interview, Pam says that she can't look Andy in the eye, so she looks at his nose. This makes Andy think he has something on his nose.
- In a talking head interview, Angela accuses the documentary crew that all they want is something salacious. She angrily flashes her bare shoulder and asks, "Is this what you want?"
- Phyllis tells Angela that once Andy processes that Angela has been cheating on him, "he's going to come out here and kill you."
- Stanley reminds both Andy and Dwight that the prize is Angela. After they confirm that they understand this, Stanley says, "I say give them both guns. Darwin, baby. Darwin."
- Pam tries to empathize with Angela and help her go with her heart, but Angela says that the duel will decide for her.
- Angela asks Pam for a ride home. During the ride, Angela alternates between angrily barking directions at Jim and sobbing in the back seat. They drop off Angela at her house, whose front window is filled with cats. As they leave, Pam says, "I'll call her later to check up on her." Jim replies, "She'll hang up on you." Pam admits, "I know."
Connections to previous episodes
- Angela's background on her computer is one of the pictures that she shows the camera of her and Sprinkles in "Fun Run".
- Andy says he has had sex with Angela twice, but two episodes before (in "The Surplus") he says he has "seen Angela naked zero times" - this implies that the two had sex twice in the time between the two episodes or he did not see Angela naked when having sex. Four episodes earlier ("Business Trip"), Andy tells Oscar he has not had sex with Angela at all.
- This is the second time Dwight's office weapons are confiscated. The first time is in the episode "The Negotiation".
- Dwight's habit of hiding weapons in the office was previously established in "The Negotiation" and began since Michael appointed him as a security supervisor in "Drug Testing".
- Dwight throws away the bobble head of himself given to him by Angela in "Valentine's Day".
- B.J. Novak (Ryan Howard) is credited but does not appear in this episode.
- Oscar correctly states that 31 mph is humanly impossible. The record of 27.78 mph stands with Usain Bolt.
Amusing details and analysis
- Oscar is disgusted at Dwight for sleeping with Angela while she is engaged to Andy, Spoiler: however, in "New Guys", we discove rthat Oscar is having an affair with Angela's husband, Senator Robert Lipton.
- The office appears to be able to hear Michael and Andy's conversation and Dwight and Andy's banter during their duel in the parking lot from the conference room. Spoiler: However in "Two Weeks" nobody is able to hear Michael's speech from the parking lot after he is escorted from the building. Michael is talking much louder, and yet they still aren't able to hear him.
- Pam has dark nail polish, which is unusual for her. Jenna Fischer explains that unlike Holly and Jan, whose personalities allowed them to wear darker nail polish, Pam wore clear nail polish. The make-up department must have missed this and allowed Fischer to wear her regular nail polish.:27:27
- Michael appears to be worried that David is going to terminate him or his branch. This is understandable, as David's wording and hesitation seems to imply this.
- Angela appears to be more worried about Dwight figuring out that she is sleeping with Andy than she is worried about Andy figuring out she is sleeping with Dwight.
- Dwight brags to Michael that Angela is "crazy in bed", "eager" and "flexible". But Angela tells Andy that sex with Dwight was "Nothing fancy." Angela is likely downplaying her involvement in an attempt to save face.
- Michael and Meredith know about Angela's affair despite not being present when it was revealed in "Moroccan Christmas". On the other hand, nobody told Andy.
- Andy and Dwight high five excitedly after finding a loophole that allows them to have their Duel and talk about their choice of weapons in a casual manner.
- All of the cars in the parking lot are covered in grime because the episode takes place in Pennsylvania in December, and cars would normally have grime and salt on them. The effect was created with a mixture of flour and water. The cars in the parking lot belonged to show crew members and any crew member who volunteered to park their car in the lot got a free car wash every Friday.:36:14
- Michael's story of Kevin wearing a tweed jacket is likely due to David Wallace asking him "What is an average day like in the office?" and Michael mistakenly trying to recap every detail.
- Stanley does not bother watching the Duel until hearing Pam say, "Oh my God."
- Angela is torn between Dwight, whom she loves but cannot control, and Andy, whom she can control but does not love. She does not like having to make choices, and she welcomes the duel as a way to take the decision out of her hands. She is probably secretly pulling for Dwight, since that would allow her to be with him despite Dwight not being as socially acceptable as Andy.
- In the break room scene near the start of the episode, Dwight holds a soup spoon, even though he doesn't grab the spoon from Jim's desk until later in the episode. The scenes were rearranged in editing.
Behind the scenes
- Jennifer Celotta was assigned the script, given only Paul Lieberstein's sentence, "Andy runs over Dwight in his Prius, keeping it under five miles an hour so Dwight doesn't hear him coming." She had to come up with a story that led to this climax.:00:01:42
- This was Dean Holland's first time directing a television show, and he said that he was so nervous that he threw up in the bathroom on the first day.:02:59
- Holland was one of the show's editors, and producer Randy Cordray specifically assigned him this script to direct, knowing that it matched his strengths. For example, the scene in which everyone watches the confrontation between Andy and Dwight in the parking lot required shots from three sets to be combined in editing (parking lot, window, and conference room):54:16, and Holland knew exactly what he needed.:04:19
- There are many scenes in which people look out windows. These were complicated to shoot, because the scene had to be filmed twice: Once outdoors, and again indoors. Furthermore, the window in Michael's office is really Paul Lieberstein's office (redressed to look like Michael's office), so the opening scene was filmed on three sets. First, Pam answers the phone in the Dunder Mifflin main set. Then the camera whip-pans to Michael's window in Paul Lieberstein's office (using the whip pan to hide the cut). Finally, the rest of the scene was filmed outdoors.:15:38
- Writer Aaron Shure got the idea for the cold open from his time at The New Adventures of Old Christine. The Warner Brothers lot had a radar speed sign like the one in the cold open. Shure was returning from lunch with some other writers, and the sign registered his walking speed as zero. Indignant, he backed up and ran as fast as he could, and the sign registered 20 miles per hour (!). The other writers then took up the challenge as well.:19:13
- For the cold open, the actors had to pretend it was cold, but in reality it was over 90 degrees.:17:15 Even though the episode takes place in January, the trees are full of foliage and flowers are in bloom.
- The show used a working speed sign, and the displayed speeds were real.:18:49
- After filming of the cold open was complete, the speed sign was moved to the parking lot, and one day during lunch, the writers decided to race it. Writer Ryan Koh ran track in high school and wanted to show how fast he was. He remembers seeing the sign read 17 or 18 miles per hour just as he fell and injured himself very badly. Randy Cordray immediately took the sign away to prevent any further injuries.:20:34
- The text of the Schrute rules song was scripted, but writer Jennifer Celotta and actor Rainn Wilson worked out the melody on the set.:34:16
- Michael was scripted to tell Andy about Angela's affair before getting in the car, but they came up with the idea on set of having Michael say it almost as an afterthought as he drives away.
- The squealing tires were real. Steve Carell really did peel out.
- Angela Kinsey struggled with the tongue-twister "formal chrysanthemums".:40:09
- In the first draft, Meredith tells Jim that there's a throwing star under Michael's desk. The writers realized that there's no way Meredith would know that, so they moved it to the kitchen.
- The script contained a shorter version of Michael's rambling go-nowhere explanation to David Wallace. Steve Carell improvised the rest.:42:47 Director Dean Holland's notes on the scene are that Michael won't leave David's office, no matter what.
- Ed Helms and Rainn Wilson improvised Andy and Dwight insulting each other during the duel for 40 minutes.
- Stunt doubles were hired for both Ed Helms and Rainn Wilson for the moment in which Andy drives into Dwight, but the take that made it into the episode was the one where they did it themselves. The hedges were dense but yielding, so Rainn Wilson was not really in any pain or discomfort when pinned against them.:58:01
- The parking lot duel took six hours to shoot, and during the course of the day, the sun moved, causing shadows to change. Production had to use giant 20×20 bounce cards to create matching shadows.
- Dwight's bicycle chain was made of rubber. The sound of the chain hitting the car hood was added later. On the other hand, the car horn was real.:1:00:53
- Jim's silent talking head in the parking lot was something Dean Holland and Jennifer Celotta came up with on the day.:1:01:41
- An alternate version of Andy cancelling the cake order had him describe it as in the shape of the letter C, for Cornell.:1:04:17
- The show used a green screen for Michael's talking head after the meeting with David Wallace. There was no time to do a location shoot in downtown Los Angeles (and pretend that it is New York City) because the parking lot duel took so much time.:1:08:38
- The cameras used by the show didn't work well with green screens, so the show's green screen effects were pretty bad, and they consequently tried to avoid them.:1:07:41
- 9-1-1 is an emergency phone number in America. Angela used it to call the police.
- Carl Lewis is an American athlete, who won the Olympic gold medal in the 100m sprint event in 1984.
- Hot Tamales are a brand of spicy cinnamon candies.
- "Missionary" is a common sex position. Angela says that sex with Dwight was "nothing fancy" and not missionary, leaving one to wonder what she could be referring to.
- Andy drives a Toyota Prius, a hybrid electric vehicle. It is capable of driving entirely on electricity at low speeds, which was a novel feature at the time.
- Sasquatch is a mythical creature who lives in the forests of North America.
- Steve Carell as Michael Scott
- Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute
- John Krasinski as Jim Halpert
- Jenna Fischer as Pam Beesly
- Ed Helms as Andy Bernard
- Leslie David Baker as Stanley Hudson
- Brian Baumgartner as Kevin Malone
- Creed Bratton as Creed Bratton
- Kate Flannery as Meredith Palmer
- Mindy Kaling as Kelly Kapoor
- Angela Kinsey as Angela Martin
- Paul Lieberstein as Toby Flenderson
- Oscar Nunez as Oscar Martinez
- Phyllis Smith as Phyllis Vance
- Kinsey, Angela and Jenna Fischer. Episode 88: The Duel. "Office Ladies" podcast, August 18, 2021.
- DVD commentary
- Gajjar, Saloni. “It’s a fine line between laughter and tears”: Behind the scenes of The Office’s messiest cold open. The AV Club, May 1, 2021.
- Greene, Alan. "The Writers' Room." The Office: The Untold Story of the Great Sitcom of the 2000s: An Oral History. Dutton, 2020.
|Kevin's Loan||The Office: Season 5||The Outburst|
|#01||Weight Loss||#07||Business Trip||#13||Stress Relief||#19||Two Weeks||#25||Cafe Disco|
|#02||Business Ethics||#08||Frame Toby||#14||Lecture Circuit Part 1||#20||Dream Team||#26||Company Picnic|
|#03||Baby Shower||#09||The Surplus||#15||Lecture Circuit Part 2||#21||Michael Scott Paper Company|
|#04||Crime Aid||#10||Moroccan Christmas||#16||Blood Drive||#22||Heavy Competition|
|#05||Employee Transfer||#11||The Duel||#17||Golden Ticket||#23||Broke|
|#06||Customer Survey||#12||Prince Family Paper||#18||New Boss||#24||Casual Friday|