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Story Notes:
Like many of my generation, I am unable to hear the word “question” as an independent phrase without immediately thinking of a certain hit song from the beginning of this century. I am not quite exact contemporaries with Jim and/or Pam, but it feels very possible they would have the same association. Thus, this story was born. (A video for this song can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lPQZni7I18 and may greatly enhance your reading experience.)

(I’ve also decided to make these cold opens part of a series, framed as ideas that NBC executives rejected. If you missed 15 Hours, 43 Minutes the first time around, this is your opportunity to check it out! And if you read it, it now has a one-sentence bonus ending tagged on to bring it in line with the broader concept! It’s like a deleted scene, except for fanfic!)

We open with a series of quick shots around the office.

In ACCOUNTING, ANGELA is watching a live video of her cats, and KEVIN is subtly trying to nudge some papers over on to OSCAR’S desk.

At MEREDITH and CREED’s desks, CREED is eating something and MEREDITH is on the phone.

In the ANNEX, TOBY is absent, RYAN is reading a magazine and KELLY is tapping her fingers anxiously and craning her neck around as if trying to hear something in the front office. (One gets the impression it’s not the first time today she’s done so.) Hearing nothing, she checks her watch and sighs.

At RECEPTION, ERIN is cheerfully greeting callers with the immortal words “Dunder Mifflin, this is Erin.”

In the BULLPEN, PHYLLIS is typing an email and STANLEY is working on his crossword. JIM, PAM and DWIGHT all appear focused on their paperwork.

MICHAEL’S door is closed and his blinds are shut – he may be working hard, he may be napping, or he may never have come back from lunch. We can’t tell. That’s the genius of MICHAEL.

We zero in on the JIM-PAM-DWIGHT desk cluster.

DWIGHT (leans over towards Jim):
Question.

PAM (snaps head up from her work, sings while sitting stock still and staring directly at DWIGHT):
Tell me what you think about me, I buy my own diamonds and I buy my own rings.

PAM (starts to move her shoulders from side to side):
Only ring your celly when I’m feelin’ lonely, when it’s all over please get up and leave.

(During this line, the camera briefly cuts to DWIGHT, who is taken aback, with JIM in the background with his eyebrows raised trying to suppress a laugh and stealing a quick glimpse to camera. The camera cuts again to ERIN, smiling eagerly. ERIN looks into the camera and gives them a very toothy thumbs up, and as PAM reaches the end of the lyric, ERIN stands up behind her desk and joins in with):

PAM/ERIN (singing):
Question: tell me how you feel about this, try to control me, boy, you get dismissed. Pay my own fun, oh, and I pay my own bills. Always fifty-fifty in relationships.

KELLY sprints in from THE ANNEX, looking about as happy as KELLY gets. She’s been waiting for this for hours, if not her whole life. She joins PAM, who has stood up and stepped away from her desk, and ERIN, who has crossed in front of the reception desk, in a loose sort of line.

PAM/ERIN/KELLY (singing):
The shoes on my feet? I bought it. The clothes I'm wearing? I bought it. The rock I'm rockin', I bought it. 'Cause I depend on me.

ERIN (solo, and awkwardly waving her arms in the air):
If I want it!

A quick cut away in the middle of this sequence shows DWIGHT, still in shock; PHYLLIS, watching in amusement; ANDY, jaw dropped in sheer glee; STANLEY… not looking up from his crossword; and MEREDITH, CREED, RYAN, OSCAR and KEVIN having stood and entered the front of the BULLPEN to see what the commotion is.

PAM, ERIN and KELLY are attempting to do what we can just barely tell is supposed to be a choreographed dance. ERIN is probably closest to the correct moves, but a little overenthusiastic – one should note her smile could power small cities at this moment. KELLY is attempting to put far more sex appeal into the dance than it really calls for. PAM is… well, a quick cut to JIM indicates he’s falling in love with her all over again, but wherever she is BEYONCE is suddenly getting angry and doesn’t know why.

PAM/ERIN/KELLY (singing):
The watch I'm wearin'? I bought it. The house I live in, I bought it. The car I'm driving, I've bought it. I depend on me.

KELLY (spoken):
I depend on ME, Ryan Howard!

Quick cut to RYAN, who looks direct to the camera mildly terrified, then to JIM, who is leaning back in his chair, hands behind his head, just having a grand old time. Next to him, DWIGHT remains frozen by confusion and fear.

As PAM, ERIN and KELLY begin the chorus, the rest of the office minus DWIGHT and ANGELA joins them in singing along, and what may previously have looked semi-organized descends into standard-issue Scranton branch chaos.

JIM (in voice over, spoken above the muted voices of his co-workers):
I’ve actually had some version of this in the back of my mind since the first week I worked here. The other night, the song came on the radio on the car ride home, and I mentioned it to Pam, and she said, ‘what’s holding you back, Jim? What’s stopping you from following your dreams?’ (He pauses.)

While he speaks, we scan the office. ANDY is gettin’ down, spinning in place and alternating one hand behind his head and the other extended as far as it can be. PHYLLIS is getting her boogey on, and if her awkward arm motions remind the audience of ERIN’S from her solo line… well, that’s not an accident. OSCAR is moving his body fluidly and gracefully while KEVIN bobs his head behind him. MEREDITH is running her hands up and down her torso and bouncing her butt in an attempt at being sultry, while behind her CREED is… well, CREED is actually performing a perfect reconstruction of Destiny’s Child’s moves briefly visible at 2:38 of the official music video.

STANLEY briefly looks up from his crossword… and then immediately gets back to it.

The shot cuts to JIM doing a talking head.

JIM:
She was making fun of me, but it really is a big day.

Under JIM, we hear quietly:

ALL EXCEPT DWIGHT, ANGELA AND STANLEY (singing):
All the women, independent… throw your hands up at me. All the honeys, makin’ money… throw your hands up at me. All the mommas, droppin’ dollars… throw your hands up at me. All the ladies, who truly feel me… throw your hands up at me!

As we return to a shot of the BULLPEN, ANDY climbs up on his desk.

ANDY (solo, in falsetto, with a finger plugging one ear and the other hand moving up and down with the notes):
Child of destiny! Independent beauty… no one else can scaaaaare me… Charlie’s Annnnnnnnngellllllllllllls… woah…

JIM (talking head):
We paid Erin $10. Kelly said she’d do it for free, or, if necessary, pay us to be part of it. (pause) Andy and everyone else weren’t actually involved, that was a bit of a plot twist. The idea was they’d sing the first verse or two and the chorus, then go right back to their seats pretending nothing had happened. (shrugs) Dwight always says no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.

The Dunder Mifflinites continue to sing and dance. ANGELA is standing up next to her desk watching it all unfold. Anyone else wearing her expression would almost certainly be disgusted and contemptuous, but it’s ANGELA and she comes across as… almost happy? The camera zooms in to catch the barest twitch of her lips, as if there’s a smile desperately fighting its way out.

ANGELA (initially in voiceover, cut to talking head after the first sentence):
Most pop music promotes blasphemy, promiscuity, and drug use, so no, I don’t typically enjoy it. I have, however, always kept a spot in my prayers for Ms. Knowles. I just feel she’s very talented, that’s all. I’m actually part of a loosely associated group of fans of hers on the Internet. We call ourselves “The Beyhive.” (cracks up) “The Beyhive!” Like beehive! (she waves a hand at the camera, rocking in her chair with laughter.) It’s so silly!

We return to the BULLPEN, where everyone is continuing to sing and dance. PAM has moved to JIM’s desk and is attempting to seduce him with her tremendously dorky dance moves while he remains in his chair. From the look on Jim’s face, it’s definitely working, much to KELLY’s surprise and disgust. ANDY is attempting to match ERIN’S moves. OSCAR is performing a textbook example of The Worm. MEREDITH is about thiiis close to actually stripping. PHYLLIS looks goofy but is clearly having the time of her life… which STANLEY actually briefly looks up and chuckles at.

ALL EXCEPT DWIGHT, ANGELA AND STANLEY (singing):
Girl, I didn't know you could get down like that… Charlie, how your Angels get down like that. Girl, I didn't know you could get down like that… Charlie, how your Angels get down like that. Girl, I didn't know you could get down like that… Charlie, how your Angels get down like that.

ANDY holds the lost note and scats a bit, to general approval. ERIN is particularly impressed. The full group cheers and claps.

MEREDITH (interrupts the general mayhem and silences the room, singing):
Now that you're outta my life, I'm so much better! You thought that I'd be weak without ya, but I'm stronga! You thought that I'd be broke without ya, but I'm richer! You thought that I'd be sad without ya, I love harder!

We see a few quick shots of astonished faces, and then the rest of the staff joins her:

ALL EXCEPT DWIGHT/ANGELA/STANLEY/JIM/PAM:
You thought I wouldn't grow without ya, now I'm wiser! You thought that I'd be helpless without ya but I'm smarter! You thought that I'd be stressed without ya, but I'm chillin'! You thought I wouldn't sell without ya, sold nine million!

JIM and PAM exchange a glance and giggle. DWIGHT is still in his chair observing, but looks less confused, and is actually starting to nod along to the beat as they dive into the chorus of “Survivor.”

DWIGHT (initially in voiceover, cut to talking head in conference room):
No, like everyone else with two working ears, I quite enjoy the musical stylings of Destiny’s Child. Plus, I was going to confirm with Jim that he had the latest set of preapproved discounts on 100% recycled paper, and we wasted so much time with this little escapade that I couldn’t fit it in. (direct to camera) So I guess the joke’s on you, Halpert.

The episode plays out as normal, with a running gag of MEREDITH in the background, humming various Destiny’s Child hits. We then finish with a talking head interview with Meredith.

MEREDITH (singing off-key and doing her attempt at a sultry dance in her chair):
I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly, I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly, I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly, my body’s too bootylicious for you, babe.

She finishes by striking a pose, arms crossed and lips pursed as we…

ROLL CREDITS.

NETWORK NOTES: REJECTED. Passing on this one for budget reasons. I don’t know how much we’d have to pay in royalties for three different Destiny’s Child songs, and I don’t want to know. Like the idea, though – maybe we do something similar with a different song?

Chapter End Notes:
Well, this is what happened: Ryan's big project was the website... which wasn't doing so well. So Ryan, to give the impression of sales, recorded them twice: once as office sales, once as website sales. Which is what we refer to in the business as ‘misleading the shareholders.’ Another good term is ‘fraud.’ The real crime, I think, was posting fanfiction without clarifying that all publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. were the property of their respective owners, though any original characters and plot were the property of the author, who was in no way associated with the owners, creators or producers of any media franchise, and no copyright infringement was intended.


(For that matter, I also do not own the rights to any music by Destiny’s Child. Trust me, no one’s sadder about it than me. Any mistakes in the lyrics are probably the responsibility of LyricFind, but I really should’ve corrected them, so I’ll take the heat.)


darjeelingandcoke is the author of 19 other stories.

This story is part of the series, Rejected Cold Opens. The previous story in the series is 15 Hours, 43 Minutes. The next story in the series is Murder Pool.

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