Stress Relief (The Office)

"Stress Relief" is a two-part episode of the American comedy television series The Office. They constituted the fourteenth and fifteenth episode of the fifth season, and the 86th and 87th overall episodes of the series. Both episodes were directed by Jeffrey Blitz and written by Paul Lieberstein, who also plays Toby Flenderson on the show.

In this episode, Dwight stages a fire in the office to test the office's fire safety skills, but things go from bad to worse when Stanley suffers a heart attack, causing Michael to come up with ways to relieve stress in the office, including a comedic roast of himself. Meanwhile, Andy, Jim, and Pam watch an illegally downloaded movie at work starring Jack Black, Jessica Alba and Cloris Leachman, and Pam deals with her parents' recent argument that's caused her father to move in with her and Jim.

Both parts of "Stress Relief" originally aired together immediately following the broadcast of Super Bowl XLIII, and The Office writers and producers sought to attract newcomers to the series with the expected increase in viewership. Guest stars Black, Alba and Leachman do not interact with the regular characters themselves, but rather appear in a film within the episode. The Office creator Greg Daniels said this was done to keep the episode more grounded in reality.

The episode received generally positive reviews, with Time magazine declaring it the best overall television episode of any series in 2009. Many commentators particularly praised the chaotic cold open scene, in which Dwight panics his co-workers with a simulated fire as part of a twisted safety demonstration. Because of its proximity to the Super Bowl, "Stress Relief" is the most viewed episode of The Office with 22.9 million viewers according to Nielsen Media Research during its original broadcast. It won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series, and received another nomination for Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series.

Annoyed that none of his co-workers paid attention to the fire safety seminar he gave last week, Dwight (Rainn Wilson) tries another approach by sealing the office exits shut, cutting the phone lines and starting a fire in a trash can. Dwight calmly explains the proper safety procedures as the panicked employees try to flee, smashing windows, crawling through air ducts and destroying office equipment. Dwight eventually reveals it was just a drill, but Stanley (Leslie David Baker) suffers a heart attack and collapses in the commotion. Dwight is subsequently censured by Dunder Mifflin CFO David Wallace (Andy Buckley), and Michael (Steve Carell) strips him of his position as safety officer. After Stanley is released from the hospital, his doctors warn him to keep his stress levels under control to avoid further damaging his health. Michael arranges for a CPR training session for the employees, but they are too easily distracted and the lesson proves fruitless. The session ends badly when Dwight destroys the expensive CPR dummy, earning another rebuke from David Wallace. Dwight is ordered to apologize to his co-workers and get signatures acknowledging that they forgive him, but after he openly declares that his apology is insincere and denies that he is responsible for Stanley's heart attack, they refuse to sign.

With tensions running high in the office, Michael tries to calm his workers down with yoga and meditation sessions. However, Michael soon realizes he is actually the source of his employees' stress when Stanley’s stress reader beeps uncontrollably whenever Michael is nearby. Michael hands the stress reader to Oscar (Oscar Nunez) and is horrified when the same result occurs. Meanwhile, Pam’s (Jenna Fischer) parents are going through a rough patch in their marriage, and Pam’s father is staying with her and Jim (John Krasinski). Jim attempts to cheer Pam up by watching an unlicensed movie with Andy (Ed Helms) (they do not know how to access such films while Andy does, so they have to watch the movie in Andy's company). The film stars Jack Black, who is engaged to a character played by Jessica Alba, but falls in love with her elderly grandmother, played by Cloris Leachman. During the movie, Jim and Pam discuss the situation with Pam’s parents but, Andy believes their comments are directed at the characters in the film, leading him to conclude they are "movie geniuses" finding hidden depths in the film.

This page was last edited on 30 March 2018, at 09:08.
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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