The Office may have got us hooked with its off-beat jokes and cringingly accurate look at the nine-to-five grind, but it was ultimately the characters and their relationships with one another that kept us coming back for more. In fact, it's five years after the finale and many have continued to keep this NBC sitcom a part of their weekly routine thanks to online streaming. And for most viewers, the relationship between Jim and Pam serves as the heart of the series. But that’s not to say that things came easy for the couple, as they experienced many twists and turns along the way — one of which came in season three when Jim found himself in a serious relationship with Karen Filippelli.
It may have not been the first love triangle on The Office, but it was certainly one of the most memorable. The series would go on to try to create this scenario a number of times after season three — with Dwight, Andy, and Angela, then Michael, Jan, and Holly. However, none seemed quite as realistic or engaging as the complicated and often awkward relationship between Jim, Karen, and Pam. Even if you've watched the series numerous times over, there still might be a few details you missed about Jim and Karen's relationship. These include some behind-the-scenes happenings involving actors John Krasinski and Rashida Jones, along with some deleted scenes that never made it to air.
Here are 20 Wild Revelations About Jim and Karen's Relationship On The Office.
Despite fans of The Office wishing for John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer to fall in love in real life, the two actors ended up both getting married in 2010 — Krasinski to fellow actor Emily Blunt and Fischer to film writer Lee Kirk. However, Krasinski and Rashida Jones actually ended up dating each other for a time before fans were watching the fictional romance play out on screen.
When asked if it was awkward to continue to play a couple on The Office, Jones responded,“He was incredibly supportive of me getting this job, and for the most part, if you go out with somebody and it doesn’t work out, there’s always a reason why you liked the person to begin with.”
Like so many stars of the sitcom, Rashida Jones’ career really took off thanks to The Office. So understandably, when she landed the part on the show, the actresses was anxious about how her performance — and role as Jim’s new love interest — would be received by viewers. But when Karen was transferred to Scranton and her relationship with Jim was just beginning, Jones thought that she was literally going to be fired from the show.
Apparently, Jones couldn’t stop laughing while trying to film a scene with Steve Carell. She said every take was different and that it was near impossible to keep a straight face. Luckily, she made it through season three and from the blooper reels, Jones hardly seems like the only star to have had this problem.
We hate to admit it, but Jim is far from the perfect boyfriend that he is painted to be throughout the later seasons of the show. Aside from the last season, his relationship with Pam is nearly perfect, and one that many would love to have in their real lives. However, when you take a look at his dating history, he’s extremely dismissive of his past girlfriend’s feelings.
We get the first glimpse of this when he breaks up with Katy after bringing her on the company cruise. Later on, he ends things with Karen with no absolutely no warning yet again, which is far worse considering that she uprooted her life for him. Jim simply shouldn't have been with either of these women if his feeling for Pam were so strong.
Most of the relationships on The Office have a pretty definitive beginning and end. In other words, we usually get to see when characters first get together and when they officially break things off. But when exactly Jim and Karen start dating is a bit on the fuzzy side. In episode seven of season three, Karen finally admits that she’s into Jim, which comes after Jim tells her she should transfer to Scranton. Then, in the following episode when the two offices are merged together, they’re suddenly dating.
We’re never told who asked out who, how serious the relationship is, or how much time is elapsed between the two episodes. But at the same time, the series may have been intentionally keeping audiences in the dark to better align them with how Pam was feeling.
Without the massive success of The Office, we would have never gotten Parks and Recreation. Though both shows were filmed as mockumentaries, they weren’t connected in any other way. However, an early idea would have involved Parks and Rec being a spin-off of The Office, which apparently would have followed the life of a broken copy machine as it makes its way from Scranton to Pawnee.
But after Jim ended up breaking up with Karen at the end of season three, Rashida Jones was freed up to take on a starring role in Parks and Rec. Because Jones plays a totally different character in the series, this is likely one of the reasons that the spin-off idea was ultimately abandoned.
Jim and Pam were the perfect TV couple. That is, until season nine of the show came around and saw them having some serious relationship problems. With Jim splitting his time between Philly and Scranton, the two began to drift apart. While they ultimately do patch things up, the show almost made it seem as though Jim was settling when he decided to return to Scranton. Pam just simply wasn’t as ambitious as Jim. Or, rather, Jim just wasn’t as invested in being a husband and a father.
In this instance, Karen may have actually been a better fit. She was far more interested in being successful and leaving the small town life behind, which may have made them a better couple in the long-run.
After their relationship came to an end following season three, it was clear to see that Jim was somewhat with Karen as a distraction. Though he was still infatuated with Pam, he didn’t want to return to Scranton without looking like he was moving on with his life and Karen was clearly interested in dating him. However, it’s possible that Jim knew Karen was just a rebound the entire time.
In “A Benihana Christmas,” Jim gives Michael a talk about going through a rebound following Michael’s breakup with Carol, but Jim looks as though he’s almost giving the talk to himself. By the end of the episode, Jim starts playing pranks with Pam again and it marks the beginning of complications between him and Karen.
With so many viewers caught up in Jim and Pam’s blossoming relationship, it may have been easy to ignore how things had affected Karen. After all, she did uproot her entire life to give things a go with Jim. And she also ended up losing out on the position of VP of Northeastern Sales to Ryan Howard — someone who was far less qualified. But Karen certainly isn’t someone who allows herself to get kicked while she’s down. She swiftly leaves Scranton and ends up becoming the Regional Manager of Dunder Mifflin Utica.
This not only made her more successful than both Jim and Pam, but also found Karen becoming the first female manager seen on The Office and it was likely the terrible break-up that helped her find the motivation to do so.
Despite being one of the most important relationships on The Office — and certainly, one of the most divisive — Jim and Karen were only really together for 16 episodes of the series. Though the start of their relationship is ill-defined, we know that they officially got together sometime between the announcement that the Stamford branch was closing and their transfer over to Scranton. After that, they only stayed together through the remainder of season three before Jim ended things to be with Pam.
But despite this short relationship arc, the love triangle between Jim, Pam, and Karen is one of the most memorable aspects of The Office, likely because the show really started to pick up steam around season three.
Unlike the Jim and Pam dynamic from the first few seasons — where Jim spends the majority of his time at work pining over Pam — Karen is actually the one who first expresses a real interest in Jim. However, it wasn’t that way from the get-go. In the season three premiere, Karen is actually annoyed with the new Stamford employee. She finds Jim to be a huge suck-up and doesn’t appreciate the way he constantly seems to be shrugging to the cameras.
This irritation really didn’t last for long, as Karen seems to start flirting with Jim in the very next episode. So either Jim’s charm didn’t take long to work on Karen or the writers knew they had to get the relationship going before they both transferred to Scranton.
For the majority of the series, Jim is largely seen as the prankster who cares far more about tormenting Dwight than he does of making a sale. And while Karen seems to enjoy a good prank as well, she seems far more focused on doing a good job and making money. But if you go back and watch the first few episodes of season three, their roles are actually the complete opposite.
With a promotion and no Dwight around to pull his focus, Jim is all business upon being transfer to Stamford. Meanwhile, Karen is corrected on numerous occasions by their boss due to her sloppy performance at work. However, as soon as the two head to Scranton, this dynamic completely changes.
Though Jim and Karen seem to be flirting with each other starting with the season three opener, the two don’t actually begin seeing each other until the Stamford branch is expected to close down. In other words, they both decided that they’re going to go to Scranton before they begin dating — or there would really be no reason to fire up the relationship in the first place.
But it seems odd that Jim would wait for this particular scenario to fire things up with Karen. It’s almost as if he wants to use her as a shield for when he finds himself around Pam once again. Otherwise, it would have been a bit more sensible to see how Jim and Karen adjusted with the move before they jumped into a relationship.
With Jim extending an invite to Karen to transfer to Scranton with him, it seemed like he almost wanted to use Karen as a shield against Pam. In a way, going back with a girlfriend wouldn’t have put him in the same position that he was before and he wouldn’t have to feel so embarrassed about being shot down by Pam.
However, when he actually does transfer back to Scranton, Jim decides to keep his relationship with Karen a secret. It’s possible that he just wanted to keep his personal life separate from the documentary crew, but it almost seems more likely that his feelings for Pam reemerged as soon as he returned, so Jim wanted to see how things played out before he let his relationship with Karen be known.
Despite worrying what viewers would think of her character driving a wedge between Jim and Pam's relationship, Rashida Jones actually wanted Jim to end up with Karen in The Office. Or, at the very least, for Jim not to go back to Pam. As Jones put it in an interview, “It’s hard to rip people away from unrequited love. But Pam has said no — and Jim deserves to be happy!”
Obviously, Jones had a vested interest in Jim staying with Karen, as it would have helped secure her place on the series. However, since the actress landed a more substantial role in Parks and Rec, it seems like everyone — including the viewers — ended up getting what they wanted.
It turns out there was actually a good reason for Karen not to like Jim in the season three opener and it didn’t have anything to do with how much he looked at the camera and shrugged. In a deleted scene for the premiere, it’s revealed that Jim actually beat out Karen for the position of Assistant Regional Manager at the Stamford branch. This is why she seems additionally annoyed every time Jim sucks up to the boss or when Jim is put in charge of overseeing her daily work.
Of course, she didn’t stay mad at Jim for long, but it does add another interesting dynamic to the start of their relationship, especially when they both end up going for the position of VP of Northeastern Sales in New York.
In a deleted scene from the beginning of season three, Karen is actually revealed to be the prankster of the Stamford office. She messes with Jim’s phone so that every time he tries to get an outside number, he ends up getting a Chinese hotline instead. Karen is even shown speaking Chinese — which she can add to her impressive resume of English, French, and possibly even Italian fluency.
While it might have been a nice touch to finally watch Jim get a taste of his own medicine, it may have also made it blatantly obvious that Jim and Karen were going to end up together. Instead, their relationship got to unfold more naturally throughout season three.
Jim finally asking out Pam was one of the most exciting and heart-warming moments of the entire series that it was almost easy to forget about his entire relationship with Karen. However, when he returns from New York and asks to take Pam out for dinner, he is still technically dating someone else. The season four opener gave us a flashback which shows Jim breaking things off between him and Karen. But Jim is wearing different clothing from the season three finale and we can assume that there was some overlap between the two relationships.
Of course, we never know how the first date between Jim and Pam actually went, so it’s hard to say if he definitively cheated on Karen.
If there was an episode where audiences were rooting for Pam to get with Jim, it would have been the episode where Pam has her art show. The story finds Pam at her most vulnerable — back in a relationship with Roy and unappreciated by the other members of the office. That is, until Michael shows up and offers to buy one of her paintings.
In a deleted scene for the season three episode, there’s a brief moment when Karen tries to rip down one of Pam’s art show flyers, which is hanging up outside of the restrooms. Karen only stops short of doing it when someone walks in on her. While this would have had more people rooting for Jim and Pam to succeed, the moment may have also painted Karen as an unnecessary villain.
As hurt as Karen was after being dumped, she is unlike many of the other characters on the series in that she doesn’t let the break up weigh her down. Plenty of characters have been shot down or come out of unsuccessful relationships in The Office, and many of them let this missed opportunity dictate their life for a number of years; Jim is hung up on Pam for a number of seasons, Dwight and Angela struggle to get over each other in their own ways, and Michael spends a number of episodes brokenhearted over Carol and Jan.
On the other hand, Karen simply moves on with her life. Less than two years later after the breakup, she’s a regional manager with a husband and a child on the way, which shocks many of the other characters about how quickly she recovered.
While the Jim / Karen relationship may have prolonged Jim and Pam from getting together for yet another season, it may have also been the number one reason that the two ended up ever becoming a couple in the first place. Without Karen coming along with him, it seemed unlikely that Jim would have wanted to transfer back to Scranton. Pam had already shot him down and coming back single could have been like accepting defeat. At the same time, Pam having to see Jim with someone else finally made her realize that she had deeper feelings for her old friend.
So without this awkward love triangle, Jim and Pam may have never truly realized that they wanted to be with one another.
Did we miss any other facts about their relationship? Let us know in the comments!