We pick up right where last episode left off (literally—watching it live, there was only a scant “To Be Continued” between these moments). Ron and Leslie are locked in the old Parks office by their friends and family, an attempt to force them to figure it out. (Luckily, April is on hand to keep Terry from giving in to peer pressure and letting them out.)
The stand-off begins much as one would imagine. Ron, after some frankly silly statements such as “I would rather bleed out than talk about my feelings for 10 hours,” becomes resigned to waiting out their friends. Leslie tackles the problem head-on, by harassing Ron with slaps, fans, rudimentary water torture, insulting wood, eye contact, and Billy Joel. Eventually she gets him to agree to three minutes of discussion—nobody can withstand mis-sung “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”
Leslie attempts to clear out what happened to their “work-proximity-associateship.” Naturally, this is a fully rational explanation in which Leslie has done no wrong and Ron’s actions are impenetrable to her. This presentation is Leslie at her most tunnel-vision-y. Even as she lists out events on her whiteboard, you can see the germs of what went wrong—April is hired away from Parks to work for Leslie. We also finally learn that this Morningstar we’ve heard bandied about so ominously this season was an apartment complex Ron built that knocked down Ann’s old house.
Leslie took Ann’s house going down very hard. Doesn’t matter that Ann’s been gone for years, that was where Leslie put on her wedding dress and attempted a smoky eye! As someone who lives in a city that gleefully demolishes the landmarks of your personal history in order to erect shiny condos for rich people, I sympathize with Leslie. It’s hard to see the places you associate with your life transformed. On the other hand, time and progress march forward, and it’s important to learn what to hold on to, and what to let go. And I have a sneaky suspicion that Leslie let go of the wrong thing in the Morningstar debacle. Of course, Ron refuses to continue discussing this, attempting to free himself from a possible discussion of his feelings with his Claymore (which proves to be only a further betrayal).
We’ve reached the heart of the Leslie/Ron conflict—and not just this season’s. How have they managed to work together for years despite their deep ideological divides? Why did Ron hire Leslie in the first place? The answer is in Leslie’s original application to the Parks Department, wherein Ron declares her an absurd idealist who is slightly to the left of Trotsky. He recommended that she be hired, because even though she is diametrically opposed to him ideologically, Leslie is tough and principled, and there’s nothing Ron Swanson respects more than a person who is honest and stands up and fights for her beliefs. The brownies didn’t hurt, either.
Ron Swanson finally relents—he’s been forced to wear yoga pants, so how could anything else be more humiliating? The problem at the base of their feud is simple: His Parks coworkers outgrew their jobs, and Ron missed them. And when Mr. Swanson came to ask for a job to join his friends, Leslie stood him up. He hurt her by taking down “the nurse’s old house,” but it came to that because he felt left behind and cast aside. It takes a lot for Ron to admit he missed his work friends (I’m sorry, work-proximity-associates), and even more to admit that he felt slighted and left behind by Leslie’s movement forward in life.
And what we end up with is an episode that manages to make the weaker moments of this season worthwhile. This is the heart of what has made Parks and Recreation a staple of comedic viewing the past seven years. We’re watching two funny people trade gags only to end up at an honest emotional moment. If you didn’t feel for Ron as he admitted that he was contemplating that he would take a job with the dreaded federal government, then do you even have feelings? And if you didn’t simultaneously feel a drop in your stomach as you realized, at the same moment she did, that Leslie had neglected and deeply hurt one of her most beloved friends, you simply must not have feelings. Parks has had a deft hand for mocking bureaucracy and enlivening absurdism, but they get you in moments like these, where you get a really honest and nuanced look at friendship, as well as the stresses and tests it can weather.
The duo make up, as we all knew they would. And the rest of the crew comes to release them only to find Ron and Leslie jamming out to ol’ Billy J., surrounded by all the Park’s Department’s old posters, drinking copious amounts of whiskey, and playing a saxophone we can only imagine was acquired by magic (or the deus ex machina of wanting a good joke). The episode ends with them going to JJs for breakfast foods, because that’s what you should always eat, but definitely when you’re both drunk and hung over simultaneously at two in the afternoon.
Notes and Jokes:
– We finally find out what happened to Craig (Billy Eichner)—turns out he took over Pawnee’s Parks and Rec Department when Ron left. He’s also doing yoga and leaving his workout clothes in the office. Bad move.
– Complete Food, Whole Foods. To-may-to, To-mah-to. Food & Stuff for life!
– Things Ron would rather do than talk about feelings: bleed out, blow a hole in a door, watch a foreign film, talk to a man with a ponytail, pull the fire alarm that’s only for sprinklers.
– Leslie Knope’s crazy-conspiracy-wall game would put Carrie Mathison to shame.
– Other reasons Leslie thought Ron might be mad at her: had conversations with the postmaster about getting his face on a stamp; taught the triplets about the dangers of minimizing the role of government in an increasingly complicated society; submitted to the New Yorker cartoon caption contest under his name; invited him to her LinkedIn professional circle; started using the word “scrumptious” too much.
Life in 2017: Jack Sparrow is marrying Khaleesi in the Game of Thrones series finale. (I am just amazed anyone gave Johnny Depp roles after this Mortdecai nonsense.)