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The Office's Biggest Behind-The-Scenes Debate You Never Would Have Expected

The Office might have been one of the absolute funniest and most-beloved comedies of the last few decades, but it also packed plenty of heartfelt moments into its nine-season run, many of which centered around the love story between Jim Halpert (John Krasinski), Dunder Mifflin's most sardonic salesman, and Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer), the office's receptionist-turned-office manager. At the beginning of the series, Pam is actually engaged to somebody else — Roy (David Denman), who works in Dunder Mifflin's warehouse — but, finally, the two get together by the fourth season.

Eventually, Jim and Pam got married, had two children, and lived happily ever after, but before all of that, they had to get engaged, and The Office made sure that Jim's proposal became one of the show's most unforgettable moments. During the season five premiere "Weight Loss," which saw Pam head from Scranton to New York City to attend the Pratt Institute of Design, Jim asked her to meet him halfway between the two at a gas station. In the pouring rain, he dropped to one knee to propose, telling Pam he just couldn't wait, and after she said yes, the two embraced, creating one of The Office's most romantic and emotional scenes.

According to Andy Greene's new book, The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s: An Oral History, a lot went into creating this moment, including a huge behind-the-scenes debate. Here's the real story of Jim's romantic proposal, and how the team at The Office brought it to life.

A perfect moment that presented a problem

After creating a gas station from scratch fit to showrunner Greg Daniels' exact specifications — according to the book, Daniels was fastidious about the details, to the point at which boom operator Brian Wittle called building a gas station "totally unnecessary [and] way overboard" — the scene was ready to shoot, and the idea seemed completely perfect.

Producer Randy Cordray recalled, "The concept was that the documentarians had followed Jim to the lunch date and missed the exit. Jim made the exit and made it into the gas station, but the documentarians missed the exit and therefore they pulled off on the shoulder and they were shooting across the four lanes of traffic, through the rain. We see Jim arrive. Pam is already there."

This created, however, a totally unexpected debate once the scene had been filmed and the crew gathered to watch it in the editing suite. Producer Jen Celotta remembered, "There was this massive debate about whether the proposal should have sound or not have sound. Massive. We were in two camps and I think we were just divided down the middle."

Ultimately, Editor Dean Holland admitted, "That was my fault. We had the scene and there was dialogue and we cut it and everybody loved it and everything was great. And then I said, 'Greg, I did another version for you and I just want you to see it.' I showed him a version where you're hearing the traffic and everything and he pulls up. And what I did is, I just took all their dialogue out. It was as if they didn't have their mic packs on."

The Office's most romantic moment created a huge divide

After Holland showed Daniels his alternate version, a debate raged within The Office's offices. Writer Halstead Sullivan recalled, "Greg pulled me and Warren [Lieberstein, another writer] into the editing room and showed us both takes. He said, 'Do you want sound or no sound?' And I said sound. And Warren said no sound. The debate was, 'Is it a cooler move for Jim to turn off his mic and make this a truly personal moment between him and Pam?' And [on] the other side, not as a writer of the show, but really as a fan of the show, I've waited so long for this moment and we haven't turned off the mic yet. I wanna hear it. I don't want to leave unsatisfied."

Celotta remembered how intensely the fight raged, saying, "Greg felt like, we've waited a long time for this. You want to sort of hear it. A lot of the writers felt differently and we enormously respect each other, so fighting was encouraged because everybody was so passionate about what we were doing. And the writers were so wanting it to be like, messed up and muddled."

Everybody had an opinion. Boom operator Brian Wittle made the point that the sound should be on because "the shot is in close up. If we're really there, we would hear something. We would at least hear rain." However, director Randall Einhorn thought differently: "I would have definitely been no audio. If we're doing a documentary, they would have taken it off, right? Greg entrusted me with being the documentarian and if somebody tells you to do something you wouldn't do, tell them to f*** off."

Daniels' indecision delayed the entire process

Celotta remembered how difficult it ultimately was to get Daniels, who was in charge of the entire scenario, to finally make a decision: "I sent Greg my pro/con list for sound/no sound. I found a legal pad in his office with people who wanted sound and people who didn't want sound. His wife and one of his kids was one side, his other two kids were on the other side. We went back and forth to the point where one night I was coming from a trailer late at night and I walked up to Greg as he was getting into his car and I was like, 'Did you make a decision?' He's like, he said, 'No, no, no, no, no. We don't have to lock till tomorrow!' It was like I was cornering him in a horror movie."

Sullivan recalled, "Greg began pulling in all sorts of crew members to hear their opinions. He brought in the guards from the gate to A and B it. It just became one of the most debated things ever on the show." According to Celotta, Daniels started sourcing opinions from anybody who would listen: "At one point a guard came in to see both versions while Greg was on speakerphone. This guard was a lovely, lovely man but it didn't appear that The Office was a show that he watched and I didn't want to call him on it. We show him the scene with sound and without sound. We're like, 'Which one do you prefer?' And he goes, 'I like the one with sound.' We ask why and he's like, 'Oh, 'cause I can hear it.'" Holland agreed, saying, "It wasn't just the security guards. He also showed accounting and the cleaning crew."

A happy ending for Jim and Pam's big moment

Ultimately, when it came down to the wire, Daniels made a decision, and as anybody who's seen the episode knows, he chose to use sound. It appears, however, that Holland saved the day.

Holland remembers exactly how he got Daniels to make the call, saying, "We had two versions mixed and ready to go. And Jake Aust, who was our post producer, he called me at like eight forty-five in the morning and said, 'I can't get in touch with Greg. And he hasn't decided yet. You got to call him. He has to decide.' So I called Greg in his car and said, 'Let me tell you how I proposed to my wife. I didn't say anything fancy. I didn't say anything special. If I could go back now, it was probably the lamest proposal ever. But that's what my wife and I will always remember.' Both of us were talking about our proposals and at the end of it he's like, 'I've pulled my car over. I have tears in my eyes,' and says this is the way it should be. And then we went with dialogue, because people are going to want to hear it even though it's not elegant and articulated perfect. They're going to want to hear it. So he chose the dialogue version."

Years later, however, Holland has one thing to admit: "I think both would have worked. I hate saying that, but either one would have been fantastic." If you want to watch "Weight Loss" and decide for yourself, you can watch all of The Office on Netflix before it moves to Peacock, NBC's forthcoming streaming service.