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Greg Daniels (executive producer/co-creator): In the very beginning, the episode was called “Virginia Woolf” in my notes, and the idea was to have Jim and Pam have this super-uncomfortable night seeing all the awkwardness of Michael and Jan’s relationship and watching it melt down in front of them, in a comedy version of the Albee play.
Lee Eisenberg (co-writer): We set it up so in the cold open Michael pretends there’s an emergency.
They’re all gonna have to stay late that night, so everyone has to cancel their plans.
Michael Scott is always the fool, but in this moment he outsmarts Jim and Pam because he so desperately wants to hang out with them.
The result was a master class of dark comedy that few other shows would dare attempt, as well as 22 of the most brilliantly cringe-inducing minutes in TV history.
“The episode is a crucible for the various relationships on the show,” says Ed Helms, who played Andy Bernard.
Going into its fourth season, The Office had strong ratings and serious momentum, despite a looming writers’ strike that would eventually shut down most of Hollywood (including a good chunk of that season of The Office).
Despite some huge differences with her new boyfriend – she was an accomplished, Type-A corporate executive, he an affable doofus – Jan moved from New York to Scranton and into Michael’s cheesy condo.
The dinner party was Jan and Michael’s attempt to show off their happy home; instead, they showed off how utterly dysfunctional their relationship was.
Greg Daniels (executive producer/co-creator): I had an expression that I used in the writers room to describe a scene where the situation was charged, where several characters had different opinions and there was an excuse for them to all sit around and fire off great lines one at a time.
I called it a “killing field,” like it was just nonstop joke-joke-joke.