Jim and Pam, the biggest #relationshipgoals before there were hashtags.
Every year I, like many people, sit down and rewatch all of The Office. It’s the perfect background noise, I don’t have to pay attention to every second of it, I can go about my day as it plays. But something about this year has made this viewing experience way different than the others. I can’t stop thinking about Jim and Pam.
I wrote in part one of my best-of article, I spent some time listening to the Office Ladies podcast hosted by Jenna Fischer (Pam) and Angela Kinsey (Angela). During an early episode, they talk about one day early in the show, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant (who created the original UK version) visited the set and told Greg Daniels that the show lies on the shoulders of Jam (or Pim?).
I think to be fair, I’m viewing these characters and their storyline knowing the outcome and yes, it can be strange to root for them knowing that Pam is engaged when she’s first introduced. But even with that, I think Jenna beautifully portrays Pam as unhappy when she’s with Roy or talking about him. There are moments in which she seems happy – like when Roy decides during S2E11’s Booze Cruise to finally set a date and get married – but Pam rarely smiles the way she does when she’s talking to or about Jim.
In the second season finale (Casino Night) Pam calls her mother and tells her less than ten minutes after Jim came forward about his feelings. “Yeah, I think I am,” she says to her mom before Jim walks back in and kisses her. Between this and a previous episode when her mother picks her up for dinner and asks “So which one is Jim?” proves that Pam has spoken to her about her feelings for Jim. Maybe she still loves Roy but there’s no doubt that she’s in love with Jim. There is a distinction and a difference between the two statements, but that’s a different topic.
In the second half of the season after Pam’s up-in-the-air wedding finally has a date, Jim and Pam take some time apart. The two are awkward around each other even though from the very beginning it’s clear that they’re essentially each other’s missing half. And while they were able to talk about everything except their feelings for another, they seem to add more and more taboo subjects onto their list. One of them being the wedding, where either Jim runs out of the room, or Pam changes the topic when other coworkers ask for details or news. To act as if Jim’s confession is out of the blue would be false. When #Jam engages in a near episode long game of jinx, she tells him how he can tell her anything and Jim’s smile and excitement fade away because they both realize that he can’t say that.
This disconnect urges Jim to transfer to a different location because he can no longer live off the stolen glances that would get him through his day. To speak more about Casino Night, Jim’s confession of love is beautiful. Roy heads home early and asks Jim to keep an eye out for her. Jim knows that he’ll soon be transferring – but it depends on his choice if he wants to follow through. So, he comes clean, and he tells her and by doing so, breaks both of their hearts.
If only I was covering The Office in the spring of 2006, to talk about the performances they both give in these moments. Whether it’s Jenna performing as if Pam has been frozen unable to wrap her head around what she heard before delivering the line “I can’t.” Not necessarily stating that she doesn’t have similar feelings, but stating that she can’t have them. And then there’s John Krasinki’s performance after being told how important their friendship is, and not to bring up the very 2006-era term “friend zone” but Jim clearly states that he also can’t anymore, he can’t just be friends with the woman he loves. And his tears begin to fall as he tells her it’s not her fault.
Another important moment comes in S3E22 (Beach Games), right after Pam walks on the burning hot coals, not for anyone else but herself. In that moment, she feels alive – so she comes back to the circle that is sitting nearby and she tells them off. First the whole office for not attending the art show, and then to tell Jim that she misses her best friend. Even though she states she called off her wedding, she never explains that it’s because she had feelings for Jim, but it’s clearly implied. The way she brings up that she misses having fun and pranking Dwight together makes me think that she wasn’t professing her love like Jim did the season prior, but how good they are together as friends first. Then she looks at Karen (Rashida Jones) and reality sets in. Her feet start to burn, and she no longer feels so alive.
But obviously, things aren’t so sad since they end up dating, getting married, having a family and all that, but I’ll get to that. They spend the third season apart from one another, growing, realizing who they want to be without each other. Plus, it’s anticipation for them, and for us. So when Jim finally asks Pam out on a real date, she says yes, then looks back at the camera and tells us that she forgot the question. It’s pure – and that’s what the two are together. Not perfect, but sweet and in love.
As the seasons and their relationship go on, they have their ups and downs (I argue that some of the tribulations come out of needing drama for the show as opposed to marriage but whatever) but as a viewer, we are always there to see both sides. The great thing about the series being portrayed as a documentary, we are always in the middle of the bullpen. We become friends who see other friends who are infatuated with each other but are too scared or stubborn to make a move. So we try to push them, or we’re upset that they won’t. That, plus the feeling of being invested after so many seasons of a show.
In the series finale, the cast of the documentary attends a panel for an audience to ask questions to them. One audience member mentions how it’s clear from the footage that they are soulmates, “So Pam, how could you doubt that when Jim moved to Philadelphia?” While invasive, the audience member felt it was in her right to ask the question. Which, is clearly a stand-in for us, the audience who streams it off Netflix every year (or Peacock now) who questioned why they got into rough waters as the show progresses. And the truth is, we only got to see a portion of their (fictional) life. We never saw what their house and lifestyle was like, we weren’t around for the fights or long talks after the fights – but we were blessed to see the hundreds of stolen glances, the smiles, and all the laughter.
We are the camera, seeing the relationship from afar, at a glance. Unable to figure out the parts of them we aren’t aware of – even after 201 episodes. They’re your friends who are perfect for a double date, but also the ones who get into a fight while you’re with them and you’re stuck in the middle of it. Jam (or Pim) is a textbook definition of relationship goals. Two people who are happy together, and happier together.