Health Care (The Office)
|The Office episode|
|Episode no.||Season 1
|Directed by||Ken Whittingham|
|Written by||Paul Lieberstein|
|Original air date||April 5, 2005|
"Health Care" is the third episode of the first season of the American comedy television series The Office, and the show's third episode overall. Written by Paul Lieberstein, who also acts in the show as Toby Flenderson, and directed by Ken Whittingham, the episode first aired in the United States on April 5, 2005 on NBC.
In this episode, Michael (Steve Carell) is tasked with choosing a new and inexpensive health care plan. He immediately hands it off to enthusiastic volunteer Dwight (Rainn Wilson). Dwight ruthlessly cuts nearly all benefits in the new plan, angering the rest of the office staff. Meanwhile, Pam (Jenna Fischer) and Jim (John Krasinski) make up fake diseases, much to Dwight's chagrin. In an attempt to appease them, Michael promises the entire office a surprise and then spends the rest of the day scrambling to come through with his promise. The employees wait for Michael's surprise, which he awkwardly never delivers.
Jenna Fischer later called "Health Care" her favorite season one episode. During one particular scene, Rainn Wilson kept improvising new fake diseases. The laughter that resulted in his ad-libs was not scripted, as they were in fact the cast's genuine reaction to Wilson's fake diseases. The episode received a 2.9/7 in the Nielsen ratings among people aged 18–49 garnered 5.8 million viewers overall. In addition, the episode retained 100% of its lead-in 18-49 audience and ranked, along with the other first-season episodes of The Office, as NBC's highest-rated Tuesday night program since February 1, 2005. The episode received positive reviews.
Corporate Manager Jan Levenson-Gould (Melora Hardin) gives Michael Scott (Steve Carell) the task of picking a new and inexpensive health care plan. Unwilling to upset his employees, Michael gives the job to Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson), who cuts practically all benefits. When cornered by the employees, Michael tells Dwight to alter his plan. He also promises a surprise at the end of the day. Michael leaves the office to try to find a surprise, eventually trying to persuade a travel guide (Charlie Hartsock) for a free trip to Atlantic City, New Jersey. Dwight hands out anonymous illness forms as Michael tries and fails to find a suitable surprise for his employees. When Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) and Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer) write false and imaginary diseases on their forms, Dwight demands to interview every employee to find out who is responsible.
When Jim locks Dwight in the meeting room, Dwight calls Jan for permission to fire him. Jan finds out that Michael passed along his health care plan duties, and demands to speak to Michael as soon as possible. When Michael's attempt at a surprise of ice cream sandwiches falls flat, he then promises that the surprise is still coming. Dwight reads the diseases aloud to find out which are real, with embarrassing results. He finally picks a plan that eliminates benefits to the point where Oscar Martinez (Oscar Nunez) likens it to a pay decrease. The employees wait for Michael's surprise, which he awkwardly never delivers, and they all leave in an angry silence. Dwight then tells Michael to call Jan regarding the Health Care plan.
"Health Care" marked the first episode written by writer/actor Paul Lieberstein, who would go on to write several other episodes. It also marked the first episode directed by Ken Whittingham, who would go on to direct several other episodes.
Jenna Fischer stated that "Health Care" was her favorite episode of season one. Fischer went on to say that "We laughed a lot while making this episode. Particularly during the scene where Dwight confronts everyone in the office about who has been writing fake diseases on their health forms. Rainn Wilson kept improvising new fake diseases, and we didn't know what he would say next." Fischer notes that several of the scenes that involved laughing were not scripted and were in fact the casts genuine reaction to Wilson's fake diseases. The episode was rebroadcast on March 29, 2007 as part of an "Human resources Nightmares" marathon hosted by Paul Lieberstein. Lieberstein's character Toby Flenderson is the Human Resources Representative for the Scranton, Pennsylvania branch of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, where The Office is set. "Health Care" was one of two first season episodes, the other being "Hot Girl", to not contain commentary by members of the cast and crew on the season DVD.
"Health Care" premiered on NBC on April 5, 2005. The episode received a 2.9/7 in the Nielsen ratings among people aged 18–49, meaning that 2.9 percent of all 18–49 year olds viewed the episode and seven percent of all 18–49 year olds watching TV viewed it. The episode garnered 5.8 million viewers overall. The episode, airing after Scrubs, retained 100% of its lead-in 18–49 audience. In addition, "Health Care," along with the other first season episodes of The Office helped NBC score its highest-rated Tuesday night slot since February 1, 2005.
Critical reception to "Health Care" was largely positive. Erik Adams of The A.V. Club awarded the episode a "B+", and felt that the episode helped to expand upon Dwight's character, noting that "the pieces are falling into place" for Dwight to become the show's breakout character. Furthermore, he applauded the fact that the episode was based on an episode of the original BBC series, but that it did not create an exact copy, but rather used the concept as a template to create something new and original.
In a review by DVD Verdict, Mike Pinsky stated that "Turning the third episode over to such a character, when Michael passes off responsibility for picking a corporate health care plan to Dwight, is meant to draw laughs out of his megalomania. But it just is not that funny." Travis Fickett from IGN wrote positively of the episode, giving it a 7.9/10 "good" rating. He noted that "there's something Stephen King about Dwight that creates an underlying layer of menace" and that the episode is "an early incarnation of the [The Office's] early days, its original "paradigm" – and arguably its strongest." IGN later placed Jim and Pam's prank of creating fake diseases as ninth in its "Top Ten Moments from The Office". Television Without Pity awarded the episode an A rating.
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- "Health Care". Television Without Pity. Retrieved 24 January 2012.