10 iconic moments on 'The Office' that weren't planned

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Meghan Cook
·9 min read
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the office
The actors on "The Office" were known to improvise lines and reactions. NBC

The mockumentary style of NBC's "The Office" made it feel real at times, but for the most part, the show was totally scripted.

But according to members of the cast, they were sometimes encouraged to improvise on set.

Read on for some of the most iconic unplanned moments from "The Office" that made it into the final cut.

The actors really broke when Dwight listed a strange health condition on season one's "Health Care."

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Brian Baumgartner broke character during Rainn Wilson's improvisation. NBC

On season one, episode three, Michael (Steve Carell) tasks Dwight (Rainn Wilson) with finding an affordable health-care plan for Dunder Mifflin.

At one point during the episode, Dwight lists off health conditions that his coworkers submitted — including fake ones Pam (Jenna Fischer) and Jim (John Krasinski) listed to prank him.

On the third episode of their "Office Ladies" podcast, Fischer and Angela Kinsey revisited "Health Care" with Wilson.

The Dwight actor shared that the malady "hot dog fingers" was suggested by his friend Kevin Isola during a set visit. It was such a hit with the cast and crew that the joke ended up in the final cut.

"I full on start laughing and then Brian [Baumgartner] breaks character and points to me and starts laughing," Kinsey said. "And it's still in the episode."

Dwight's anatomy questions on season two's "Sexual Harassment" weren't in the script.

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Rainn Wilson as Dwight on "The Office." NBC

On season two, episode two, "Sexual Harassment," Dwight approaches Toby (Paul Lieberstein) and asks him unsettling questions about basic female anatomy.

Fischer later shared that Dwight's questions weren't scripted.

"Steve and Rainn are brilliant improvisers. They often come up with funny alternate jokes within a scene," the actress wrote in a guest blog for TV Guide in 2006. "... In 'Sexual Harassment,' when Dwight is asking Toby about the female body, Rainn improvised that."

Dwight's "fitness orb" was supposed to slowly deflate on season two's "Performance Review."

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They taped the scenes several times as planned, but the shot that made it in was different. NBC

During the cold open of "Performance Review," Dwight annoys Jim by bouncing up and down on his new work chair, which he refers to as a fitness orb.

Episode writer Larry Wilmore originally envisioned Jim taking scissors to the ball and cutting it so it would slowly deflate. For 13 takes, everything went as planned and Dwight discreetly sunk to the ground after Jim stabbed the ball.

On episode 14 of "Office Ladies," on which Wilmore was a guest, Fischer and Kinsey shared that on the last take, Krasinski punctured the ball right on the seam and it exploded, sending Wilson careening to the ground.

The podcast hosts said Wilmore fought to keep that final take on the show.

"We were all completely shocked," Fischer said. "We're like 'Oh my God!' And you can totally see John break. You can see his shoulders. And he, he very quickly — oh, he's such a pro — he turns his back and his face to the camera."

"He like, dives out of the scene," Kinsey added.

The ornaments were supposed to break on season two's "Christmas Party," so Kinsey had to stomp on them.

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Angela Kinsey on season two of "The Office." NBC

On season two, episode 10, "Christmas Party," the office-wide holiday party spirals out of control.

At the end of the episode, Angela takes out her anger on some Christmas ornaments in the parking lot after Kelly (Mindy Kaling) kisses Dwight and her party plans fall apart.

On episode 16 of "Office Ladies," Kinsey shared that the scene was difficult to film for multiple reasons. First, the fake snow on the set was made of soap, which kept getting in Kinsey's eyes, and second, the ornaments kept bouncing instead of breaking.

As the shoot went on, the actress took matters into her own hands and improvised Angela stomping the bulbs with her feet in a fit of anger.

"So I threw them as hard as I could," she said. "They bounced up higher. I shrieked and I just started stomping on them and shattering them with my feet."

She added, "I was thinking, if I can't get them to break, I have to start stomping on them."

Carell improvised Michael and Oscar's kiss on season three's "Gay Witch Hunt."

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Steve Carell and Oscar Nuñez on "The Office." NBC

On season three, episode one, "Gay Witch Hunt," Michael puts Oscar (Oscar Nuñez) in an uncomfortable position when he reveals Oscar's sexuality to his coworkers. Then Michael makes matters worse by kissing him in front of everyone to "prove" he's not homophobic.

On episode 29 of "Office Ladies," Nuñez, Fischer, and Kinsey discussed how the scene was originally supposed to end with a hug, but Carell took it a step further.

"He's coming in and I'm like, oh, he's gonna, he really caught me off guard," Nuñez said. "He's coming in closer and closer. And his nose is getting closer to my nose. And I'm thinking, I'm thinking, well, I don't know what's happening."

He continued, "And then he came in for a sweet, sweet kiss and our lips touch."

Kinsey and Fischer also shared that the entire cast had no clue where Carell was taking the scene and that the shocked reactions from the rest of the characters were genuine.

Carell made other actors break during Michael's flasher bit on season three's "Women's Appreciation."

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Steve Carell as Michael Scott on "The Office." NBC

On season three, episode 22, "Women's Appreciation," Phyllis (Phyllis Smith) is harassed by a flasher in the Dunder Mifflin parking lot.

As everyone rushes to comfort her, Michael chooses the inopportune moment to make light of the situation by poking his finger through his fly and pretending to be a flasher.

On episode 51 of "Office Ladies," Fischer and Kinsey revisited the episode and said that the cast could barely keep their laughter contained during Carell's alarming bit, and Krasinski had the hardest time staying composed.

"It's sort of near the end after Toby's walked away and Michael is apologizing, John Krasinski is visibly red in the face and laughing into his hand," Fischer pointed out on the podcast.

"He is flat out breaking," Kinsey added. "... I see John, not Jim, look right to Randall [Einhorn], our camera operator ... Because it's just above camera. You know? It's not right down the barrel, which is where he would normally glance."

Dwight and Jim's almost hug on season four's "Money Part 2" wasn't in the original script.

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The scene wasn't in the original script, but the director made it happen. NBC

On season four, episode eight, "Money Part 2," Jim comforts Dwight after he gets dumped by Angela.

The frenemies chat in the staircase as Dwight lets out a lot of emotion. At the end of the scene, Dwight reaches over as if to hug Jim — who'd already quietly left the scene — and his arm awkwardly drags across the wall.

"It was not a scripted moment, but came from superb direction from Paul [Lieberstein]," Wilson told The Hollywood Reporter in 2013. "... That's what made our show great. The small, achingly human moments amidst the absurdity."

Melora Hardin came up with Jan's devil horns on season four's "Dinner Party."

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Melora Hardin as Jan on "The Office." NBC

On season four, episode 13, "Dinner Party," Michael and Jan (Melora Hardin) sit down for an excruciatingly awkward dinner with Jim, Pam, Angela, Andy (Ed Helms), Dwight, and Dwight's former babysitter (Beth Grant).

As tensions rise, Michael and Jan break out into a fight in front of their guests as Jan tells a story about Michael running through their glass door because he heard an ice-cream truck.

When Michael points out that Jan installed the glass door, she quickly responds, "Yeah, I'm the devil" and mimes horns over her head.

"I just thought of it in that moment," Hardin told Rolling Stone in 2018. "Steve's reaction, he almost cracks up. If you watch him, he's laughing and saying, 'Yeah, yeah, you are the devil!'"

She continued, "He was sort of simultaneously almost losing it, because it was funny. When we cut, we all burst in laughter."

The cameraperson's sigh on season five's "Weight Loss" was unplanned.

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Jim sets up the moment for the cameraperson's improvisation. NBC

On season five, episode one, "Weight Loss," Jim goes to visit Pam while she's attending art school at Pratt Institute.

Wanting privacy, Jim tricks the camera operator into looking the other way so he can lock him out of Pam's dorm room. After the lock clicks into place, viewers can hear an audible sigh from behind the camera.

"The Office" rarely offered glimpses at the "documentary" crew characters, so the sigh was notable enough to elicit a fan response.

In a 2008 Q&A hosted by Office Tally, episode director Gene Stupnitsky said that the cameraperson's reaction was unscripted.

"That was not in the script," he said. "That was an improv from Randall Einhorn, our director of photography, and it was pretty inspired. It's one of my favorite moments in the episode."

He continued, "On 'The Office,' even the cameramen improvise."

Carell really didn't know what was coming on season seven's "Michael's Last Dundies."

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The production team didn't tell Steve Carell about the song. NBC

On season seven, episode 21, "Michael's Last Dundies," the office workers invite Michael into the conference room and sing a Dunder Mifflin parody of "Seasons of Love" to honor his time as regional manager.

During the shoot, which was one of Carell's final appearances on the show, the cast and crew wanted to send the actor off in a meaningful way.

According to Fischer, the song was written and rehearsed without Carell.

"In the episode where we all sang to Steve the goodbye song, we all rehearsed that without him for a couple of days, and so the first time he heard it was when we sang it to him on camera, so his emotions there were real," Fischer told Entertainment Weekly in 2019.

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