Pam storms out of Michael’s office in tears and heads straight to the bathrooms. She doesn’t seem to notice that everyone left in the office is staring at her, so whatever happened must have been pretty bad. At least the cameras aren’t following.
(Jim had been heading out the door when he saw her get sucked into the Michael vortex. He’d stuck around in case she needed a rescue. This is maybe the first time he’s ever been happy he stayed late.)
She’s calmed herself enough to offer a placating smile when Phyllis tries to catch her eye on her return trip. But she’s still sniffly, still hunched over, still has color high in her cheeks and her arms folded against her chest. Phyllis clearly isn’t buying her act. Jim, for one, is ready to shed blood.
“You okay?” he asks as she passes by his desk.
She gives him the same fake smile Phyllis got. “Sure. Just a headache.”
She’s lying. And lying badly.
It stings more than it should.
Because Jim knows that her feelings aren’t his business, really. He knows that.
He’s not her fiancée. She doesn’t tell him everything, because he’s not the one she’s sharing her life with.
He’s just a guy who entertains her from 8:00 to 5:00 Monday through Friday and the occasional weekend afternoon. Her world doesn’t revolve around him. She doesn’t think about him at night when she can’t sleep, wondering how his evening was or what he thought of that night’s episode of Veronica Mars, planning what she’ll say to him tomorrow. She’s not his and he’s not hers, it’s not his job to comfort or defend her. He just needs to accept it, he needs to get over it, he needs to grow up and move on, he needs to accept it, he needs to get over it, he need to…
The soft ding of an incoming IM derails his train of thought. He’d been so busy spiraling he’d sort of (completely) forgotten their very explicit agreement to try not to have private conversations when the documentary crew’s in earshot. The college kid they’re using as an assistant is lingering around and watching Pam carefully.
Receptionitis15: he fucking fired me
There’s a lump in Jim’s throat that feels like it might suffocate him. It must be all over his face when he looks over to her, because she gives a quick little shake of her head (so cute) and quickly types more.
Receptionitis15: fake fired me
Receptionitis15: as a joke
Receptionitis15: in front of the cameras
He’s relieved, but still. His jaw drops.
He would’ve thought even Michael knew that was too mean to be funny, especially when everyone knows there’s downsizing coming. As always, he’s given him too much credit. An 11-year-old in a grown man’s body.
Michael is still in his office, cheerfully babbling away to the cameras. He’s not even doing the staring-through-the-blinds thing he sometimes does when he knows he’s screwed up and is trying to figure out how to get out of it. Maybe he’s still in the denial phase. Or maybe he actually thinks that was okay.
Receptionitis15: he thought it was hilaaaaaaaaaaaarious
JIM9334: he is such a JACKASS
Pam looks like she’s about to lose it again. Jim starts reviewing his mental catalogue of excuses to get them out of the office, because there’s no way he’s going to sit here and let her feel embarrassed in front of Phyllis and Angela and Dwight when it’s Michael Goddamn Scott who should be ashamed of himself. This late in the day, there aren’t a whole lot of options.
Receptionitis15: it’s great
Receptionitis15: the cameras have been here *one day* and they’ve already caught me crying
Receptionitis15: looking forward to all of america watching that
Receptionitis15: i guess i should be grateful it’s a fake firing and not him talking about my boobs
She must be really melting down if she’s bringing up her breasts in conversation. Even on IM that’s way over her usual line.
His heart aches. This is Michael. Michael, he’s supposed to be able to do something about.
Receptionitis15: he’ll probably get to that eventually, he already talked about how much cuter i used to be
Jim starts to type back something flirty – just to give her something to smile about, distract her a little. He’s trying to decide if “see, i actually think you’re cuter now than when I got hired” is better than “now that’s silly, he wouldn’t have been able to function if you were any cuter” when his screen starts to fill up again.
Receptionitis15: jim, i HATE this
Receptionitis15: he’s been 100 times worse than usual today and it’s the FIRST DAY
Receptionitis15: this is the worst possible thing you could ever do with michael
Receptionitis15: why was jan okay with this???
Receptionitis15: i feel like they’re always in my face
Receptionitis15: i don’t want them looking at me like that
God, he really wants to go over there and give her a hug, that’d be totally appropriate right now, and there’s no way he can do it with so many people still here. (Especially the production assistant. And especially Phyllis. And especially Angela.)
Jim’s okay with the cameras, honestly. Maybe he’ll get fed up with them if they’re here long enough, but right now, it’s at least something different. Pranks and Pam help, but there’s no amount of Jello or flirting that could make selling paper anything other than mind-numbing. A documentary film crew chasing them around like they’re saving the rainforest instead of killing it, pulling them aside to interview them like they’re the President or something… that might just do the trick for a bit. And he’s never minded being the center of attention. He’s pretty pleased at how much they’d liked the stapler gag.
But Pam hates them. He knew she would. He didn’t need to look at her when Michael announced they were coming to know she’d have her “really? Todd Packer’s coming today?” face on. It’s going to be like splinters under her fingernails until these folks finally recognize this is all as pointless as it looks on the surface.
So of course Michael made it worse! He should’ve put money on it. Not that anyone would have bet against him.
He should’ve been ready for this. He may not be able to get her to come for drinks, but he can at least help her with this. He has to.
JIM9334: I’m sorry
JIM9334: this is going to suck for a while
JIM9334: but then they’ll be gone and things will be back to the normal amount of awful
JIM9334: and America is never ever going to see that footage
JIM9334: because I have a secret, Beesly
Receptionitis15: what’s that?
JIM9334: selling paper…
JIM9334: is really
JIM9334: *really* boring
He catches her eye and puts a finger to his lips, just so she’ll know to keep this classified information between them.
JIM9334: TELL NO ONE
That gets a real Pam smile, if a brief one. He feels something loosen in his chest.
Receptionitis15: at least i’m almost free from the boredom
Receptionitis15: a few more faxes to dole out and i can forget everything about this place until Monday
Receptionitis15: i just need to shake it off a bit more
Receptionitis15: i want to be okay before i see roy
This is how it is with her, always. He can go from top of the world to sucker-punched in an instant. She’s not his and he’s not hers, and it doesn’t matter that he’s the one she tells things to, because she only does it so that she doesn’t have to bother her fiancée with her thoughts and emotions. He needs to accept it, he needs to get over it, he needs to grow up and move on.
JIM9334: why don’t you take another second, catch your breath
JIM9334: i’ll pass out the rest of the faxes
And he’s not going to read anything into the “my hero” look on her face, because she’s about to forget everything about this place until Monday.
JIM9334: really really
Receptionitis15: you sure you can handle it?
Receptionitis15: it’s a big job, halpert
Receptionitis15: heaven help you if angela gets a fax meant for oscar
JIM9334: i know
JIM9334: but I think I’m ready
JIM9334: I’ll do you proud, beesly
She wrinkles her nose at him in thanks as she drops the faxes on his desk and heads back to the bathroom. She’s still feeling it, but he thinks that if Phyllis was still around she would’ve fooled her this time.
Michael’s office door opens, and he and the rest of the film crew pile out. Michael is of course still talking at them, missing every rolled eye and checked watch. He throws an arm around Jim, telling them he’s still there burning the midnight oil because he’s following Michael’s example, he’s taught Jim everything he knows! It takes everything in him not to make eye contact with the cameramen and make sure they know how ridiculous this all is.
The executive producer takes one for the team and tells Michael she wants to talk to him off-camera about a few things, and offers to walk him to his car. Somehow, this amps Michael up even more, and he’s gesturing so wildly the executive producer has to duck to keep from being smacked in the face as they head out.
If Michael’s given even the tiniest thought to what he did to Pam, he’s sure as hell not showing it. As soon as the door closes behind him and the producer, Jim rises to start passing out the faxes – and to grab that goddamn mug.
He’s already got it pretty well set by the time Pam emerges, but they’ve caught the attention of the camera crew again, who are still filming for who knows what reason. She’s stammering and awkward (and has remembered that he’s supposed to be off at a bar right now, which is just great), and he doesn’t know if he wants to punch Michael or the cameramen more.
Then Roy beeps at her, and he has a new name on top of the list.
He beeps at her, like he’s her father, and she’s a little kid who won’t stop playing hopscotch so he can get to his important business meeting. Like he’s in a hurry to do anything but drink beer in front of the TV while Pam cooks his dinner, because apparently Roy’s the only one who just finished a long workday.
And she just… goes.
He had needed to let off some steam right away, and his supplies were already on-hand. Since he couldn’t stick Michael’s beloved World’s Best Boss mug where he’d have liked to stick it, into the Jello it went.
But as he drives home, he decides it’s not enough.
It would be very Michael to think it’s funny when it happens to Dwight and an unforgivable insult when it happens to him, but probably he’ll get a kick out of it. He’ll think it means he’s one of the guys, and Jim’s just yanking his best friend’s chain. He’ll tell some story about some prank Todd Packer pulled once that he doesn’t realize was at his expense, and if anything Jim will have to resist feeling bad for him.
It’s not even close to enough punishment for treating Pam like she’s just… unimportant. Like her feelings don’t matter. Like she’s there to be used for whatever you’d like.
Jim gets the best of both worlds on Monday morning. Michael clearly knows the Jelloed mug is meant to be a dig, but he pretends like it’s the most hilarious thing he’s ever seen. Pam silently golf-claps her approval from her desk, and he thinks for a minute about calling it even.
Then Michael makes a crack to Pam about how she might want to “downsize” for when the cameras come back, and laughs at the stricken look on her face.
And then Pam describes her weekend at lunch without once mentioning Roy’s name.
That afternoon, Jan calls, and a lightbulb goes off in Jim’s head. He needs to wait for the right moment to get things started, and it might take a while to pay off… but if he makes it work, it’ll be the revenge Pam deserves.
The right moment comes fast. Michael decides to listen to a Chris Rock routine on his way into work and obviously has no choice but to share it with everyone. Jim exchanges a “here we go” look with Pam when he hears her greet Jan on that phone that afternoon.
Michael, naturally, has no idea what’s coming. He has Jan wait on hold while he calls Jim into his office to show him “how you deal with those big boys with the stuffed shirts up at corporate.” (He’s having trouble adjusting to having no one to perform for on the camera-less days. They’re on some weird schedule right now while they try to get more funding, it’s driving Pam crazy.)
Jan reams him. It’s brutal, and noticeably personal. Jim would try to leave the room if he could think of a way to do it that wouldn’t end with Michael revealing to Jan she’s on speakerphone. It’s bad enough that he briefly reconsiders again. He’d rather not have to live with the guilt of getting Michael fired, and that’s got to be a real risk, because Michael doesn’t seem to have any idea how pissed she is.
Then Michael makes this face to Jim that he always makes when he upsets someone and is convinced everyone knows they’re being unreasonable.
And Jim thinks of Pam, crossing her arms over her chest like she needs to protect herself.
So when Michael hangs up, Jim asks: “does she always talk to you like that when she thinks no one’s listening?”
Michael waves a hand and reclines in his chair like his job wasn’t just threatened. “Oh, you know, Jiminy, she’s got her set of corporate catchphrases she’s got to rattle off, that’s how they all operate… talk to me like what?”
“I don’t know, she just seemed…”
“A little flirty. It was subtle, but…” He gives Michael what he hopes he’ll take as a ‘we’re both men of the world’ look.
“Nooooooo. Jan? Come on,” Michael says, but he leans back towards Jim. He wants to hear more. “Jan’s like one of those Barbie dolls where you take their clothes off and you think you’re gonna get to see something and there’s nothing there… you, uh, you really think?”
“I mean, she used the phrase ‘spanking,’ Michael. That’s not exactly standard corporate speak,” Jim gives him an eyebrow waggle he’d hate himself for under any other circumstance. “She kept talking about ‘discipline,’ she’d have to come down here and ‘whip you into shape if you didn’t behave yourself’…”
“I think she’s just throwing her weight around,” Michael says, not at all positive that he’s right.
“I don’t know, Michael,” Jim shrugs. “I mean, you know how women are sometimes. They don’t want to be embarrassed, so they drop some hints, send some signals. Subtle, indirect enough to be deniable, but trying to get you thinking about it, right? I mean, you’ve been there.”
Michael has dropped to his serious business voice. “Right, right. So… that’s what you were picking up?”
“I was a little uncomfortable listening to it,” he says, honestly.
Jim lets a beat pass, and Michael tries to shake it off. “Nahhhh. I mean, she’s married, you know? I think she’s just… letting off some steam.” But he’s looking off to Jim’s right. Definitely thinking about it.
Jim rises to exit. His work here is almost done. “I’m just saying, watch out for that. You wouldn’t want to give her the impression you’re interested. Could be awkward.”
“Sure… sure. Well, good meeting, Jimbo. I hope you learned something from this.” It’s not as pompous as it should be.
“Absolutely,” Jim says.
Jim watches carefully from his desk. Michael starts filling out some paperwork… and pauses for a moment to stare off into space.
He gets back to work soon enough, but the seed has definitely taken root.
Let’s see how Michael likes being humiliated by his boss.
(Pam cracks up when he debriefs with her, and tells him he’s horrible. She can’t stop giggling for a solid half-hour. Whether or not Michael actually convinces himself Jan is sending him subtle messages that she’s into him, Jim still calls it a job well done.)