'Office' Is Abuzz with Potential Love

How good is the American version of "The Office"?

In a recent episode titled "Booze Cruise," 28 seconds of silence between co-workers Jim and Pam (John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer) capture all the awkwardness and longing of unspoken love better than any words could. And it's these private moments caught on film by the unseen documentary crew that give this otherwise tart sitcom its sweetness.

"That relationship has been just a thrill because we were just talking today about how we don't really plan our scenes [together]," Krasinski says. "I think there's a really genuine nature that comes out of it, especially that booze cruise scene ... none of us really knew what was going to happen.

"They say that sometimes silence is louder than words, but it really echoed true at that moment. ... I've definitely let a moment pass me by where I would have loved to say something and didn't, and I think we all have that. And that's real."

In fact, many of the story lines in "The Office," which airs Thursdays on NBC, feel so real that viewers may find themselves squirming in their seats. After all, how many people never have fallen for someone seemingly unattainable?

Fischer, for one, can relate, having experienced bad romantic timing of her own.

"My husband is kind of my real-life Jim," she says. "He's a writer-director, and I met him because I went to audition for one of his projects ... but we both were in relationships, and so we had a very strong chemistry and attraction that we couldn't really act on, very similar to Jim and Pam. And slowly, he broke up with his girlfriend, and eventually I broke up with my boyfriend, and once we started dating, we only dated four months and then we got engaged. But I think the whole time I was waiting, I knew he was the one, and so I can really draw on that experience in the show."

Likewise, Pam and Jim are so right for each other that Fischer has had to create a back story for why Pam stays with her underwhelming fiance, Roy.

"There's this whole other life that they have together that makes everything very complicated for Pam," she says. "I think up until she met Jim she would never have questioned being with Roy. So, her story is she had just gotten engaged, and Roy convinced her to take a job at Dunder-Mifflin so that she could save money for the wedding. So she came into meeting Jim as a newly engaged woman, and so whatever chemistry they had, she also had the joy of finally settling down with who she thought was the man of her dreams. So I think that it's only after these three years of Roy really dragging his feet and [Pam] continuing to be around a guy who they're so clearly meant to be together."

So it's no surprise the question fans ask Fischer the most is when it will become clear to Pam. But as anyone who's ever spent years in an unfulfilling relationship knows, there's a lot of deep-seated denial and fear to be overcome before security can be sacrificed for a soul mate.

"Roy is a good guy; he's a provider, he's stable, he's reliable, but he isn't very thoughtful and he just does the bare minimum," Fischer says. "He's the guy who buys you the rose at the 7-Eleven on Valentine's Day. Whereas look what Jim gave her [for Christmas]: a teapot filled with inside jokes. That is the way to a woman's heart.

"I think that she can't think about [Jim] too much because it's too heartbreaking. I think she just knows that she never wants to be without him, and the idea of not being around him every day would drive her crazy, but I'm not sure that she's been able to translate that into 'I like Jim and he likes me.' And the idea that he has a crush on her really threw her for a loop. She is going to be very preoccupied by that now."

The stakes are even higher because their friendship makes not just their jobs, but the relationships they've been settling for, bearable.

"She's definitely my partner in crime," Krasinski says. "If my hands are dirty, hers are, too, 'cause she gets me, and she knows that the only way for me to be happy is to find the humor in the office and cause a little trouble."

"Even an amazing job with a bunch of jerks is no fun to be at," Fischer says. "There's a reason why people stay in places that maybe ambitionwise they can move up the ladder. It's the people, and I think in Jim's world that's more important."

"It's the way to be with her," Krasinski agrees. "It's also easier for him. After enough time, you can convince yourself out of anything. You can convince yourself out of getting the courage to ask someone out, you can convince yourself not to take another job because this is safe, so you find yourself in a routine that, if nothing else, is a habit. So I think there's a lot of that in Jim."

But all this emotion can't stay repressed forever, and Krasinski confirms there will be conflict between Jim and Pam in upcoming episodes.

"We've never really confronted each other," he says, "and there's always a worry that Jim would come across as weak, which he's not. He's not a weak guy; it's just he's in a very weird situation. The truth is that on paper she's made her decision. She's engaged; this isn't some guy she just met and is hanging out with and someone I could win her over from."

Which is why when Pam and Roy suddenly announce a wedding date, and Jim confides his feelings for Pam to their notoriously untrustworthy boss, Michael (Steve Carell), one can't help but wonder if he's unconsciously forcing his own hand.

"I don't think Jim knew he was going to go up [on the deck] and say that," Krasinski says. "I think what happened was he got really bummed out and he was kind of in a void."

And it's surprises like this that make "The Office" so great. As Krasinski says, Michael may be always screwing up, but then he unexpectedly drops a moment and a nugget of truth on Jim when he tells him not to give up because Pam isn't married yet.

"And that line is very important," he continues, "because otherwise there's a chance that Jim would leave [because] there's nothing left for him to do there."

Among the many rooting for Pam to make it worth staying is Fischer.

"I think they were meant to be together," she says. "But we'll see. It's kind of like life that way. We can think that we were meant to be together, and then maybe we'll find out that we each end up with completely different people. And we're just meant to be best friends. Sometimes you have those relationships where someone shows you that the relationship that you're in is not the one you should be in but that doesn't necessarily mean that person is the one. You know, I'm not sure exactly what our story is yet. It could be anything. That's what's so exciting."