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Story Notes:
This cold open is dedicated to Sam, because I am 100% sure this would never have come to me without her writing Karen discovering the importance of Pam’s place in the office in “In Sickness and In Health.” Which if you haven’t read you should click out of this and go read, because frankly it’s more worth your time than this. (And purely by coincidence, a member of the genus panthera plays a prominent role in both fics.)

Rule 17b: don't turn your back on bears; men you have wronged; the owners, creators or producers of any media franchise whose publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. you have used without adding a disclaimer or clarifying that no copyright infringement is intended; or the dominant turkey during mating season. There are forty rules all Schrute boys must learn before the age of five. [sings] Learn your rules. You better learn your rules. If you don't, you'll be eaten in your sleep. [chomping sound]

We open in the BULLPEN, which is very quiet. Perhaps… ominously quiet. The FRONT DESK CLUSTER is empty, though there is a bag sitting on DWIGHT’S chair. STANLEY, PHYLLIS and KAREN are all at their desks. RYAN is covering RECEPTION.

OSCAR enters from ACCOUNTING, carrying some paperwork.

Hey, Karen, do you know when we can expect Jim? I’ve got some questions about this last round of expense reports, and we really need to get them in today.

KAREN (casually):
He’s doing a bunch of sales calls out in Harrisburg. He’s not planning on coming in.

PHYLLIS and STANLEY look up, concerned.

Wait, Jim’s not going to be in today either?

KAREN (with a confused look… isn’t that what I just said? And what do you mean ‘either’?)

OSCAR (with a long-suffering sigh):
Well, at least we’re mostly done with these.

STANLEY (with more than the usual Stanley grumpiness):
I do NOT have the energy to deal with this today.

RYAN (annoyed):

KAREN (whaaaa?):
Uh… is that a problem?

PHYLLIS (starting to knuckle down when she still has the chance):
Oh, I’d move any of your calls to in-person meetings, if you can.

STANLEY gets on the phone to do just that. OSCAR exits to break the bad news to ACCOUNTING. RYAN crosses to the fax machine and starts shuffling through what needs to be distributed this morning.

KAREN looks from side to side observing this activity, then looks direct to the camera in an unspoken question of “so… do you know what they’re freaking out about?”

Let’s find out!

OSCAR (in talking head):
About 90% of Pam’s job is babysitting Michael. I’d like to think we all recognize how important that is. Jim spends a lot of his workday bothering Dwight. The benefits of that are less obvious… until he takes a day off and leaves Dwight unattended.

STANLEY (in talking head):
I worked with Dwight for two years before Jim was hired. Longest five years of my life.

PHYLLIS (in talking head):
Yes, Pam and Jim are both out, so just call me in any time today, okay? I can talk about my relationship with Bob, trying to make it on Broadway in the 80s… ooooh, wanna hear about Michael in high school? (sing-songy) He used to shower after gym class with his tighty-whities on. (She nods enthusiastically with her eyebrows raised: “you’re going to want to hear this.”)

OSCAR (in voiceover):
Think of it like this: healthy ecosystems all have a natural balance. If you take something important out of the ecosystem, like removing an apex predator, that balance falls apart, and the consequences for the other inhabitants can be disastrous.

As OSCAR speaks, we cut to the BULLPEN, where MICHAEL is spinning around in JIM’s chair by the REAR DESK CLUSTER, whose occupants are all present. His sleeves are rolled up, his jacket is off, his hair is mussed, his tie is loosened – this is apparently his imitation of JIM. Of course, since he’s supposed to be JIM, he’s talking to KAREN. KAREN is nodding along, smiling politely. Then he says something that makes her drop her jaw in shock and appear to stammer. His back is to the camera, but whatever it is it’s pretty bad. PHYLLIS exclaims “MICHAEL!” and even STANLEY looks up to clearly mouth “what on Earth is wrong with you?” If the audience has any doubts this was inappropriately sexual, they’re cleared up real quick: while MICHAEL turns to the cameras to respond “oh, come on!” and give a classic JIM face, KAREN pulls her suit jacket off her chair and buttons it all the way to the top, putting her arms across her chest when she’s done.

We then cut to DWIGHT at the FRONT DESK CLUSTER sometime later, slamming down his phone and pumping his fist in triumph, mouthing “yeah!” He rises and leans on KAREN’s desk, crowing about his victory: he clearly mouths “you will never outsell me!” KAREN gestures at her desk, mouthing “I could try, if you’d let me work.” She picks up her phone and DWIGHT holds down the disconnect button, mouthing “why bother? I’ve been the top salesman in this branch since the day I was hired. You really think you’re getting by me?” He continues to rant as KAREN shoots an aggravated look to the cameras. In the background, PHYLLIS and STANLEY take advantage of the chaos to make their escape.

OSCAR (in voiceover):
The classic example is lions and leopards. Leopard and lion populations in sub-Saharan Africa have been decimated in recent decades. The big cats used to prey on baboons – and now that they’re gone, you have packs of baboons running wild, stealing crops, harassing people trying to go about their day. (beat) In our office, instead of wild baboons… we have Michael and Dwight.

As OSCAR speaks, we cut to the FRONT DESK CLUSTER, where RYAN’s desk is clear, because most of its contents have been shoved onto the floor. Apparently SOMEONE let his papers cross over the border onto DWIGHT’s desk again. DWIGHT is standing in JIM’s old spot at RECEPTION, gesturing at the mess to RYAN, who is standing up from PAM’s usual station and talking very angrily at DWIGHT about six inches from his face. The camera zooms in on KAREN in the background, who is writing something and looks up annoyed at the presumably very loud and distracting argument.

In the BREAK ROOM, Karen is sitting with KELLY, who is of course chatting away, occasionally referencing the Cosmo in front of her. KAREN has her “being polite” face on… when MICHAEL enters and pulls up a chair to join them, taking the magazine and flipping through it. We then do a cut to indicate the passage of time, and MICHAEL is still talking to them about whatever is in the magazine. It seems like it’s been a loooooong time, because not only is KAREN’s impression of polite listening showing signs of strain, KELLY’s is too. KELLY turns to the camera and shakes her head in disbelief and annoyance. Some people, right?

This scene also plays out over the beginning of the last section of OSCAR’s monologue.

OSCAR (in voiceover):
Last June, Pam took two weeks vacation during what was supposed to be her honeymoon to get set up in her new apartment. Jim had already transferred.

OSCAR (in talking head):
Our branch recorded the single lowest monthly sales of any Dunder Mifflin branch. (pause) Ever. (OSCAR holds up a copy of the Scranton branch newsletter, which has a huge headline: “BRANCH MAKES HISTORY.” In the lower-righthand corner, there is a large photo of an annoyed OSCAR under the headline “SPOTLIGHT ON: OSCAR MARTINEZ, DIVERSITY DOUBLE-THREAT.” The surrounding text is in interview format, and there is a visible pull quote: “If I do this, will you PLEASE approve the purchase orders?”)

We cut to KAREN in the STAIRWELL. She looks frazzled, and checks nervously over her shoulder towards the door before she starts her talking head.

So, for some reason Michael is just out of control today. And it turns out that Jim messing with Dwight isn’t nearly as disruptive as what happens when no one’s messing with Dwight.

DWIGHT (offscreen):

We see fear take hold of her as she looks up towards DWIGHT, who the camera finds looming in the entry to the stairwell a floor above. The low-angle shot makes him look as menacing as a horror movie villain.

Since I have already exceeded my monthly sales goals, I’ve had the time to review your personnel file. You have not taken your required exam on Dunder Mifflin company history despite having been at this branch almost six months. This is unacceptable, and you must report to the conference room to complete it. Immediately.

That’s absolutely not a requirement, you can’t seriously expect me to do that, and how did you get my personnel file?

I keep my own records on each and every member of this branch on Michael’s behalf to ensure they are meeting our high standards. Not something your precious Josh Porter did, did he? Maybe if he had, you’d still be working in Stamford. (He pulls out a stopwatch) It takes approximately 45 seconds to reach the conference room from your current location. I will give you 65 seconds to meet me there. I hope you appreciate this courtesy.

DWIGHT exits. KAREN looks directly into the camera. She is… speechless.

We then cut to KAREN outside the building at 5:00 PM. She’s made it, although she’s clearly a little worse for wear.

I learned two important lessons today. One is that when Jim looks like he’s slacking off, he’s actually playing a crucial role in helping the entire office be productive. The other is that I really need to update my resume.

NETWORK NOTES: REJECTED. This is great, really. Let’s encourage them to get even angrier at us. Another 1500 messages to my personal email wanting to know why Jim doesn’t just dump Karen already: “SEE, JIM AND PAM ARE THE APEX PREDATORS OF THE OFFICE, THEY’RE MEANT FOR EACH OTHER!!!!!!!” Campaigns online with people sending little stuffed lions and leopards to the studio. Come on. (Also, the newsletter is funny, but would Michael really be that clueless? We gotta walk a careful line there, guys.)

Chapter End Notes:
I know we’re in the grand age of questioning designated heroes – but canon suggests that many Dunder Mifflinites, and in particular Oscar and Stanley, are a lot more fond of and/or less annoyed by Jim than you might think someone with their personality would be. This is my theory as to why.

darjeelingandcoke is the author of 21 other stories.

This story is part of the series, Rejected Cold Opens. The previous story in the series is The Receptionist Reflex. The next story in the series is They Can't All Be Winners.

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