When it came time to write one of most important episodes of The Office, showrunner Greg Daniels couldn’t stop horsing around.
On the latest episode of the Office Ladies podcast, former co-stars Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey spoke with Daniels about writing the Season 6 episode “Niagara: Part 1” with Mindy Kaling and a truly bizarre horse-related storyline that ultimately got scrapped. As a refresher, the two-part “Niagara” episode showed Jim and Pam’s highly anticipated wedding, which took place at Niagara Falls. It’s a fan-favorite for sure, but had the horse storyline made it in, I’m not so sure the episode would be as beloved as it is today. Thankfully, we had Mindy Kaling, famous lover of rom-coms, to assist with the script.
“OK. How do we even set it up?” Kinsey said. “Roy, and the horse, and the falls? Greg, you have to tell the whole story.”
“So much of it was balancing how much comedy to put in and how much joy to put in,” Daniels said. “And definitely I wanted to have that theme of, ‘There’s all these things going wrong in the wedding, but Pam and Jim managed to carve out this beautiful private moment anyway,’ right? So the table draft had an act break where, to top off all these things that had been going wrong, like finding out about the pregnancy and…”
“Andy’s scrotum?” Fischer said.
“Michael and Pam’s mom,” Kinsey added.
“Yeah… To top it all off, like, Roy shows up on a horse to try and make a grand gesture of ‘take me back,’ and it just goes terribly. And, you know, this was a card that we had on the board early on about when those things happen in romantic comedy movies, they usually work. And how awkward is it when that doesn’t work, and nobody wanted it, and nobody was rooting for it. And you know, you have to just ride your horse away,” Daniels said.
In the table read draft, Kinsey recalled that Roy was going to ride a horse into the church while Jim was in the middle of his vows, and Pam was going to shut Roy down. Hard.
“I think what it was in that script was it was ordered differently,” Daniels said. “It was like, everything goes wrong at the wedding, and then Michael’s having the worst day, and then Jim gets the idea: I’m going to take Pam away and do it right. And he leaves Michael in charge. And then in the script there were like sort of two montages. There was the montage of Jim and Pam getting married on the Maid of the Mist [boat tour of Niagara Falls]. And then there was the montage of Michael kind of killing it as being put in charge of the party.”
Notice what’s missing from that script? The Dunder Mifflin crew’s iconic “Forever” dance. But we’ll get to that in a bit.
“I have to mention the other part about the horse,” Daniels said. “There was a runner in that version where Dwight was fascinated, being at Niagara Falls, about the 1800s and the history of people going over the falls in a barrel, and animals surviving going over the falls in a way that that people couldn’t. And so after Roy does this whole thing, Dwight sees a free horse and decides he’s going to test this out and he takes the horse into the river and then he starts getting swept toward the falls and he panics and he has to be rescued. But the horse goes over the falls…”
Don’t worry, the horse SURVIVED in this alt storyline and was shown swimming away from the falls. But viewers would have seen a falling horse in back of Jim and Pam as they were getting married on the Maid of the Mist tour, which arguably would have made the scene much less romantic.
If you’re wondering what made Daniels finally cut ties with the chaotic storyline, we have the cast and crew to thank.
“We read it at the table,” Daniels recalled. “There was an awful lot of comedy in the script, and I think we had just sort of over-stacked the comedy and under-stacked the joy, because there were just too many bad things happening to poor Pam and Jim. And they had their great moment on the Maid of the Mist still, but everything that was public was kind of a disaster. And I think there was this very smart feeling from, you know, everybody — especially cast — that that was not cool. Like, ‘You got to give them more joy.'”
“The emotional balance in the episode was off. And also, like, I think the cast were all friends, and we had done so many episodes of them sort of turning into a family that it was — you just didn’t want to be that negative and play them all as problems for Pam and Jim, right? So that was sort of the message after the table read,” he said.
Ultimately, they decided no horse. But they got terrifyingly close to filming the goofy scenes.
“I was still producing, and I remember going to scout the tank at Universal where the horse was going to be filmed in the water, because that was like a big, big deal,” Daniels said. “And like, I knew that we had to fix this, but I was still having to produce the version until until it got changed. And I came back from that and Paul [Lieberstein] luckily had pulled this other card that we had had about the YouTube sensation ‘Forever’ song, and figured out a way to put that in at the end.”
The “Forever” dance, which got intercut with Jim and Pam’s more intimate second wedding, absolutely made the episode. And, crucially, it got rid of Roy and Dwight on horseback.
Be sure to listen to the full podcast episode to hear more behind-the-scenes stories about filming the episode, “Niagara: Part 1.”