Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly's relationship in The Office was truly a romance for the ages. Fans were delighted in Season 3 when John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer’s characters finally got together after years of flirting, but an alternative plan for the show’s ninth and final season saw the couple going their separate ways.
Season 9 saw one of the most stressful storylines the show had to offer when Jim took a job in Philly and Pam struggled to take care of their children alone, putting intense strain on their relationship. In one unforgettable scene, a particularly tense phone call between the pair ends with Pam in tears. Fischer’s character then turns to someone off camera named Brian for advice. According to Collider, it's recounted in Andy Greene's new book The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s that the idea of changing Jim and Pam’s relationship came from creator Greg Daniels, who sat down with all the actors before starting the season to discuss where their characters would go. John Krasinski, who played Jim, pitched the idea to put Jim and Pam’s relationship on thin ice.
"My whole pitch to Greg was that we’ve done so much with Jim and Pam, and now, after marriage and kids, there was a bit of a lull there, I think, for them about what they wanted to do…And I said to Greg, ‘It would be really interesting to see how that split will affect two people that you know so well,’” Krasinski said. Several writers from the show also explained there were plenty of ideas about how to handle a split for Jim and Pam, and people didn't always agree.
Warren Lieberstein, who was a writer on the series, remembered when the idea of Brian was concocted, explaining, “[This] was something that came up in season five, I think...What if that character had been secretly there the entire time and predated the relationship with Jim and had been a shoulder that she cried on for years?’ It just seemed very intriguing." Apparently, the writers thought breaking the fourth wall would jeopardize the show, so they saved it for the last season.
Writer Owen Ellickson said there was even some talk of Pam and Brian “maybe hooking up a little bit," but the negative response to the storyline led the writers to "pull the ripcord on [Pam and Jim's separation] because it was so painful to the fans of the show." Ellickson even said that they back-tracked so quickly, they had to re-edit episodes that had already been shot to nix the idea of Jim and Pam splitting up.
There are plenty of behind-the-scenes fun facts about The Office in Greene's new book, which you can buy here.