B.J. Novak TV Guide blog: The Fight

From B.J. Novak’s TV Guide blog, dated November 1, 2005:

The Office Presents: Karate Kidding
by B.J. Novak, aka “Ryan”

Tonight’s all-new episode of The Office [9:30 pm/ET on NBC] is called “The Fight.” Around here, we know it as “Karate,” or “The Dojo,” since the most memorable scenes involve a karate fight. (I won’t dignify it enough to call it a karate “match.”)

The show takes place on a day when the boss, Michael Scott (Steve Carell), has one relatively simple task — initialing a large pile of forms — but instead embarks on a mind-boggling journey of procrastination. This — ultimately, amazingly — leads everyone to a karate dojo during the office lunch break, where Michael battles his underling Dwight (Rainn Wilson) before an audience of stunned coworkers.

In one sense, it’s an episode about procrastination carried to the nth degree. In the sense of what’s memorable… it’s the episode in which Steve Carell and Rainn Wilson jump-kick each other in public to try to prove a point.

Some background on the karate fighters you will see in this episode:

Steve Carell: Steve Carell has no background in karate, and, fortunately, it shows. (Steve does have an impressive background in ice hockey, which we have not yet figured out how to factor into an episode about office life. But who knows what the future holds?)

Rainn Wilson: Rainn actually used to study karate. Rainn is a certified yellow belt; his character Dwight is a purple belt. Fun fact: During the fight, Rainn wears a huge protective piece of wraparound headgear while fighting, and in the course of filming, the friction of this headgear cut Rainn slightly in the face. Actually, that fact is not so fun. It’s more like a sad fact.

The frustrated 11-year-old girl: One of the kids playing Dwight’s classmates is an 11-year-old girl who, in real life, is a black belt — but she had to wear a white belt in the scene. She was pissed. If you see a girl in the background giving a very overqualified kick, that’s her. Her attitude was, “OK, I’ll wear your white belt, but don’t think I’m going to hide my skills.” She practically knocked Rainn over when she kicked the pad he was holding. (In retrospect, she may have been fighting above her black-belt abilities, when you factor in the frustration element about appearing on television as a white belt when you know you’re a black belt.)

Lance Krall: Talented character actor Lance Krall plays Dwight’s sensei, Sensei Ira. In real life, Lance — who also has his own show on Spike and turned in a memorably deadpan performance on The Joe Schmo Show — is a black belt in tae kwon do and was at one point nationally ranked.

When we got to the editing room, we found, as always, that we had to make some cuts. In this case, we realized that to keep the entire jaw-dropping karate match, we had to cut a few extra moments that explained the background. Here are my two favorite moments that got cut:

One is the exquisite line spoken by Dwight, explaining why he doesn’t mind attending a karate class in which his peers are almost entirely 11-year-old girls: “I’m not here to make friends. I’m here to attack people.”

My other favorite extra moment is a prop. It’s the poster at Dwight’s dojo, explaining the “10 Rules of Karate”:

1. Obey Your Parents
2. No Junk Food
3. Do Your Homework
4. Keep Your Room Clean
5. Maintain an Indomitable Spirit
6. Don’t Fight with Your Siblings
7. Practice, Practice, Practice
8. Treat Others the Way That You Would Like to Be Treated
9. Be Loyal to Your Country
10. HAVE FUN!!!
The fact that Dwight is paying to attend a karate school whose agenda is, at least in part, to teach its students to “Do Your Homework” and “Keep Your Room Clean” says so many wonderful things about him as a character.

Enjoy the episode, keep an eye out for the girl with the crazy-strong kick, remember that Rainn is fighting injured, and maintain an indomitable spirit!

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