The Alliance (The Office)
|The Office episode|
|Episode no.||Season 1
|Directed by||Bryan Gordon|
|Written by||Michael Schur|
|Original air date||April 12, 2005|
"The Alliance" is the fourth episode of the first season of the American comedy television series The Office, and the show's fourth episode overall. The episode aired on NBC in the United States on April 12, 2005. It was written by Michael Schur and directed by Bryan Gordon, marking their first credits for the show.
In this episode, paranoia takes over the members of the office as downsizing rumors swirl. Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) forms a Survivor-esque alliance with Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) against the other employees—later adding Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer) also. Meanwhile, Michael Scott (Steve Carell) arranges a morale-boosting birthday party for Meredith Palmer (Kate Flannery)—although her birthday is more than a month away. Michael agonizes over writing the perfect greeting in her birthday card, and in the end, his joke falls flat, ruining the party.
The episode was inspired by popular reality television shows, most notably Survivor. Originally, the first cut of the episode ran 37 minutes long and the producers considered making the episode a two-parter, one focusing on the Alliance and another focusing on Meredith's birthday party, but later decided against the idea. In addition, several of the lines and scenes from the episode were improved or ad-libbed by the cast. "The Alliance" was viewed by an estimated 5.4 million viewers and received a 2.4/6% rating share among adults between the ages of 18 and 49. The episode received positive reviews from critics.
Although time has dragged on, the downsizing rumors at Dunder Mifflin have not ceased. Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) feels particularly threatened by the impending crisis, and, in an act of desperation, forms an alliance with his office nemesis Jim Halpert (John Krasinski). Jim sees the alliance as an opportunity with great potential and agrees as a lark. He immediately enlists Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer)'s help in the situation. The two continue to perform a series of office pranks at the expense of Dwight.
Meanwhile, Michael Scott (Steve Carell) tries to boost morale in the office by having an office birthday party for Meredith Palmer (Kate Flannery), even though her birthday is a month away. Michael agonizes over writing the perfect greeting in her birthday card. In the end, his joke (and subsequent rejected ones) falls flat and ruins the party. At the same time Oscar also gets him to donate money to his nephew's cerebral palsy walk-a-thon, which Michael accidentally overcontributes to in an effort to look like a good boss.
At the end of the day, after a breakthrough in his pranks on Dwight, Jim giddily grabs Pam's hand in an attempt to explain what has just happened. However, Pam's fiancé Roy Anderson (David Denman) catches this and sees it as an attempt by Jim to make a move on Pam. Jim tries to convince Roy that it was just "office pranks" and asks Dwight to back him up, but he simply denies any involvement leaving Jim awkwardly embarrassed. Dwight reveals that he had no problems betraying Jim, despite the fact that he recently fell into one of Jim's tricks.
The episode was inspired by popular reality television shows, most notably Survivor. The "Can I trust Jim ..." line was a direct reference to the show and was a "last-second addition" according to Daniels. In addition, Randall Einhorn, the camera man for the episode, was a camera man for Survivor. When the episode was being written, many of the cast and crew feared that it would bear too many stylistic resemblances to Curb Your Enthusiasm. Daniels later defended the show, saying that the show was different because of "the fact that they are on TV and they know they are being filmed. [They know they're] on camera." During the writing of the episode, Daniels made the writers spend actual time on the set, most notably in Michael's office. Mindy Kaling later noted that she "hated it."
The first cut of the episode ran 37 minutes long and the producers were tasked with cutting the footage down to 22 minutes. Executive producer Greg Daniels considered making the episode a two-parter, one focusing on the Alliance and another focusing on Meredith's birthday party, but the appearance of party hats in the Alliance-only scenes caused him to nix this idea. Because the episode had to be cut down due to time, several scenes were drastically cut. The filming crew actually shot about 15–20 minutes of Steve Carell coming up with terrible card ideas, which was drastically cut for the episode. During the party, Ryan talks to a different woman in the background of each scene. Although not much footage made it into the final episode, the producers thought this was a nice character touch for the new employee. The penultimate scenes of Michael telling several terrible jokes to Meredith was cut down from the original 15. The final scene where Roy confronts Jim was shot ten different times, each in a different style, ranging from Roy slamming Jim into the wall to Roy asking Jim, "Hey, what are you doing?" Although the crew felt that the wall-slamming version was more dramatic, they realized that it caused the episode to go from a comedy to an "angry drama."
Several of the lines and scenes from the episode were improved or ad-libbed by the cast. Jenna Fischer named the party planning scene her favorite scene and called it "longest most horrible meeting of all time". On the commentary track for the episode, Fischer revealed that the scene was almost entirely ad-libbed. At one point, Phyllis Smith, who portrays Phyllis Margaret Vance (née Lapin), made a joke that made every one on set laugh, forcing production to halt for almost 45 minutes. Dwight's "gun show" joke was written by Rainn Wilson. Larry Wilmore later called the "gun show" scene his favorite. Wilmore later said of ab-libs, "part of the fun in writing a show like this is trying to write lines that sound like ad-libs." Daniels also praised the episode's lines, saying, "when you know the acting is really good, it all sounds like it's been improvised."
The scenes where Dwight climbs into a box almost did not make the episode. Mike Schur, who wrote the episode, feared that Dwight climbing into the box would not only make the episode "crazy broad," but also make the rest of the episode look boring by comparison. After shooting the scene, however, he described it as "the most natural thing in the world." Phil Shaw, the stunt man for The Office, did most of the work in the box. Schur described Dwight's emergence from the box as his "action hero" moment. Daniels likened the scene to the movie Alien.
In its original American broadcast on 12 April 2005, "The Alliance" was viewed by an estimated 5.4 million viewers and received a 2.4/6% rating share among adults between the ages of 18 and 49. This means that it was seen by 2.4% of all 18–49 year-olds, and 6% of all 18–49 year-olds watching television at the time of the broadcast. The episode, airing after Scrubs, retained 100% of its lead-in 18–49 audience for the second week in a row.
The episode received positive reviews from critics, with many praising the developing relationship between Pam and Jim. Travis Fickett from IGN praised the episode and compared Jim and Pam's relationship in the first season to that of the fourth, saying, "Jim and Pam simply work better before they were a couple. The fact that Roy can come between them here is fun – and reminds us that it was more interesting when something could still come between them!" In summary, he concluded that, "['The Alliance']is one of the better early episodes of the show, and going out with Dwight talking to the camera – his hair dyed blonde – is genius and gives us (up to this point) the most perfect 'Dwight' moment of the show so far." Television critic Robin Pierson noted that in the episode, "The Jim and Pam relationship begins to take real shape here." He later called the moment when Roy nearly attacks Jim as "a much more 'real' moment that the rest of the episode." Furthermore, Pierson criticized the characterization of Dwight, noting that his actions were "stupidly naïve". Miss Alli from Television Without Pity gave the episode an A.
Erik Adams of The A.V. Club awarded the episode a "B–". He felt that the episode was "akin to a newborn deer working the wobbles out of its legs" and that "it’s a milestone for The Office, in that it represents the first time an episode generated so much material it could’ve occupied a full hour of airtime". He felt that Michael's plot was funny, but had issues. He argued that the retooling of Michael's character made him a more likable character even when he was doing something inappropriate; in this episode, however, his behavior is too cringe-inducing. Adams praised the scene wherein Dwight emerged from the box, calling it one of "The Office's first great sigh gags". Furthermore, he felt that the scene was symbolic, as it produced "a stronger, deadlier, better character".
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- Daniels, Greg (Producer). 2005. "The Alliance" [Commentary track], The Office Season One (US/NBC Version) [DVD], Los Angeles, CA: Universal.
- Wilmore, Larry (Writer). 2005. "The Alliance" [Commentary track], The Office Season One (US/NBC Version) [DVD], Los Angeles, CA: Universal.
- Kaling, Mindy (Writer, Actor). 2005. "The Alliance" [Commentary track], The Office Season One (US/NBC Version) [DVD], Los Angeles, CA: Universal.
- Novak, B.J. (Writer, Actor). 2005. "The Alliance" [Commentary track], The Office Season One (US/NBC Version) [DVD], Los Angeles, CA: Universal.
- Schur, Mike (Writer). 2005. "The Alliance" [Commentary track], The Office Season One (US/NBC Version) [DVD], Los Angeles, CA: Universal.
- Fischer, Jenna (Actor). 2005. "The Alliance" [Commentary track], The Office Season One (US/NBC Version) [DVD], Los Angeles, CA: Universal.
- Wilson, Rainn (Actor). 2005. "The Alliance" [Commentary track], The Office Season One (US/NBC Version) [DVD], Los Angeles, CA: Universal.
- "April 19, 2005 Press Release ("The Alliance")" (Press release). NBC. 27 February 2007. Archived from the original on 10 October 2008. Retrieved 24 January 2012.
- Fickett, Travis (22 July 2009). "The Office Flashback: "The Alliance" Review". IGN. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
- Pierson, Robin (27 March 2012). "The Office, Season 1, Episode 4 – The Alliance". The TV Critic. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
- Alli, Miss. "TV Show – The Alliance – The Office". Television Without Pity. Retrieved 5 February 2011.
- Adams, Erik (June 11, 2013). "'Health Care'/'The Alliance' | The Office | TV Club". The A.V. Club. The Onion. Retrieved June 12, 2013.