‘The Office’ Fire Drill Episode: Inside Fans’ Favorite Insane Cold Open

One of The Office‘s best cold opens is the fire drill scene in the season 5 episode “Stress Relief,” which aired after the Super Bowl in 2009. The episode begins with a frantic scene that unfolds after Dwight stages an elaborate fire drill, ending with Stanley suffering a heart attack. The producer, writers, and director revisited the episode to explain how that scene came to be.

Cast of The Office season 5
The cast of ‘The Office’ | Mitchell Haaseth/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

Following the Super Bowl required a big hook

When The Office got the coveted post-Super Bowl slot, the show’s writers and producer knew they had to have something big at the episode’s start to hook viewers and keep them watching.

In an excerpt from The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s, published on Vulture, The Office writer Halsted Sullivan explained that producer Greg Daniels told the writers, “Look, this is our opportunity to sort of re- pilot the show and introduce a whole new group of people to The Office. It’s very important to have a really grabby opening.”

The scene was ‘absolute mayhem’

Fans of The Office will never forget the cold open fire drill, with Dwight creating a frightening scenario to test the office staff’s response time. Author Andy Greene notes that the scene is “absolute mayhem, complete with Angela desperately hurling a cat into the air, Oscar crawling through the ceiling for help and falling to the ground, Kevin breaking into the snack machine and stealing all the candy, and everyone else desperately trying to find a way out.”

Producer Ben Silverman called the scene “insanity,” while writer Anthony Farrell shared that with Daniels’ directive to make it “bigger and crazier,” they pulled out all the stops. “So we just started adding all sorts of crazy sh*t happening with the mayhem and the melee, like them using the photocopier as a battering ram and cats falling out of the ceiling. A lot of it wound up getting shot,” he shared.

No animals were harmed in the filming

One memorable moment in the scene involved Oscar climbing into the ceiling and Angela telling him to save her cat Bandit, chucking the cat into the ceiling only to have it fall back down.

Using a real cat was an obvious concern, so they considered creating a $12,000 stuffed animal that looked like Bandit. They ended up using two real cats.

Director Jeff Blitz shared, “In the original script, Oscar was already in the ceiling when Angela threw up the cat. They had thought that it would just be like a stuffed cat. Oscar would extend his leg out from the ceiling to kick the cat back down. I thought that that would seem really mean-spirited. I thought it would just be really funny if the throw is just a little too strong and so the cat went too far and then came down.”

He continued, “And then I was convinced that we couldn’t use a stuffed cat because it would look like a stuffed cat being thrown. We ended up using two real cats. There was one trainer who was standing in the ceiling to catch the first cat and another trainer to throw an identical cat back down. Then there was a cat thrower who had an Angela wig and Angela wardrobe on that we had to bring in for that.”

Director/cinematographer Randall Einhorn added, “That whole scene was pandemonium to shoot, but really fun.”