Ron faces down his horrific ex-wife. No, the other one.

By Dan Snierson
Updated September 30, 2011 at 06:38 AM EDT
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Pssst! Hey, America! Yeah, the 20-plus million of you now watching Ashton Kutcher ham it up on Two and a Half Men. If you’re interested in a hilarious half hour of TV, take a minute to flip over a few channels and check out this Parks and Recreation show. You think Ashton parading around butt-naked is shocking? Wait ’til you see Ron Swanson’s naked upper lip! This week’s Men had a hot chick in a bikini and a $100,000 eco-friendly sports car? This week’s Parks not only had a hot chick being paid $100,000 (with full medical!) to just sit there, it had a chair with a roof! And let’s not forget Chris Traeger. That dude’s got the energy of, like, two and a half million men.

While we wait for America to come rushing over, four million Parks fans will continue to keep one of TV’s best-kept secrets to themselves. And “Ron and Tammys” was definitely another keeper. Thursday’s episode packed a panoply of punchlines while peeling back another layer of the great libertarian meat-eater-ologist Ron Swanson. The fortress of Swanson is rarely compromised; it takes a special force, like the sexual predator called Tammy Two, who transformed him into a cornrowed horn dog of a trainwreck. But what a clever idea to have this season’s nemesis — the ominously buttoned-up, frosty, Jedi-like ex-wife called Tammy One, who delivered him when he was born, taught him Sunday school, math, and driver’s ed — reduce him to the frightening opposite extreme: a cheerful, dorky, subservient public servant who was blissfully unaware that he was being scammed by a fake audit. (Good thing that was bogus, because most of his receipts were pieces of paper that read: “I bought supplies 2007,” which is a sure ticket to jail. Jail, Ron. Ron, Jail. Jail! Jail! Jail! ) Of course, just because the audit was phony doesn’t mean the danger wasn’t real: She was here to raid his stash (of gold) and shave off his ‘stache (of awesome). I’m not sure which violation of Ron is worse.

Tiny treats came in the form of April’s entrancement with Tammy One, and Andy’s gleeful reaction when Tammy One sniped at Ron, “Oh, are we playing a game where everyone says something stupid?” Initially dominated by Tammy One, Leslie gathered enough strength to confront the beast, only to discover that Tammy One was literally a gold digger, so she tried to cut a deal with the other devil: Tammy Two. Alas, Tammy Two had been scarred mentally — and physically — by Tammy One and was too scared to help. (Too bad. Would’ve been cool to see her face down Tammy One.) Then came a field trip to the home of Tammy Zero, Ron’s lightly deranged mother who favored shotguns over showers (Andy: “Oh my god, there’s a room full of just guns!”), and who was itching to bring little Ronald back home. The battle for his soul took place over a prairie drink-off, which involved the Swanson family mash liquor, a solvent so potent Ron had to issue three delightfully descriptive warnings. The stakes: If Tammy One won, she’d claim Ron; if Tammy Zero won, she’d claim Ron, and if Leslie won, Ron would stay where he belonged. With lightweight Leslie collapsing early (loved her troubled, drunken “What is that?” response to the little action figure in her hand), and her substitute April spitting and quitting, Ron would save himself by chugging the jug with an impressive cradle technique, sending Tammy Zero back to the compound and Tammy One back to Hades.

Speaking of hell, Ann became trapped in her own version when she tapped Chris to tape a PSA about diabetes (“Diabetes!”) prevention, and he took this simple task — like every other — way too seriously. The microchip wasn’t compromised; it was definitely overloaded, as he tried to bring his message to the massive masses (“’Fat equals splat, as in you’re dead.’ Is there something there?”) with Ann’s patience serving as collateral damage (“Let’s do one more, then five more, then 20 in a row”). But just as she questioned what she ever saw in him romantically, he became human again, explaining that he was only trying to be the best Chris Traeger that he could be, and thanking her profusely: “You really are an amazing human being.” That’s all the reminder that Ann needed. If it’s not going to work with Ann, I hope the show tosses him another love interest, so we can further explore his core — and his man-versus-machine make-up. On a sidenote of no purpose, I would totally buy a GPS device featuring the voice of Chris Traeger . (“You will drive precisely 500 yards ahead until you see a toll booth. You will decelerate gradually until you are literally at a complete stop. You will hand the attendant three crisp one-dollar bills….”)

While Ann navigated the antics of Chris, Ben found himself in similar raised-eyebrow mode with Tom, who was out to exploit his nerdy number-crunching skills. Preying on Ben’s desire to be his buddy, Tom pulled the friend card and asked him to look over some financial paperwork for Entertainment 720, which was less of a business and more of a corporate D-bag fantasy, complete with rainbow-swirled sculptures, disco balls, hot women perched in various nooks, monitors showing footage of boats, and most inexplicably, former Indiana Pacers forward Detlef Schrempf and current center Roy Hibbert playing one-on-one. (Given the looming NBA strike, though, Tom is onto something when he says that Hibbert “used to play for the Pacers — now he plays for Entertainment 720.”) In the great white room, we reconnected gloriously with Jean-Ralphio, who greeted Ben with a circus of words (transcribed below) that included a new name for Ben and a replacement name for that one. Our bewildered voice of reason ultimately couldn’t persuade them that printing money with their faces was not a sustainable business plan, and exited the premises without taking a free iPad. Only later did Tom mea culpa his way back to Ben, explaining that five out of five accountants supported Ben’s assessment. (Might’ve been fun to see Tom and Jean-Ralphio actually learn their lesson somehow, as opposed to having Tom just explain it in a sentence.) In a nearly touching moment, Tom gave him an iPad — not one of the free ones; one that he bought with his own money! That’s friendship right there, baby.

NEXT: The best lines of the episode

THE 10 BEST RON SWANSON LINES

• “First of all, income tax is illegal!”

• “You won’t find any bank statements either. I’ve heavily invested in gold, which I’ve buried in several different locations around Pawnee. [To camera] Or have I?”

• “That is a gentleman’s agreement. I made that man a dining room in exchange for 60 feet of copper pipe and a half pig.” —Ron to April, when she showed him a picture of him shaking hands with another man

• “My first ex-wife’s name is Tammy. My second ex-wife’s name is Tammy. My mom’s name is Tamara. [Pauses, eyes close] She goes by Tammy.”

• “She’s no hero, April. She’s a hellacious nightmare. She did however teach me everything I know. Sunday school. Sex. She was my math teacher in middle school and my babysitter and she taught driver’s ed.”

• “Why do I only date brunettes? You know sometimes you eat chicken and you get food poisoning and then even the sight of chicken makes you sick? Tammy One is my blond chicken.”

• “Leslie, you goofball! Hey, Jer, humpday. Am I right, buddy?…. Science is a miracle. Anyhoo! Back to the old grindstone. These emails aren’t going to send themselves.”

• “It’s Swanson family mash liquor, made from the finest corn ever grown on American soil. Its only legal use is to strip varnish off of speedboats.”

• “Leslie, don’t drink that! We use it to burn warts off of the mules.”

• “April, no! That stuff will melt the shell off a garden snail.”

• “That’s decoy gold. You think I’d leave my gold in a locked safe buried underground where anyone could find it? You don’t know me at all.”

THE 10 BEST LINES BY EVERYONE ELSE

• “Grab your calculators, settle in. Operation Rescue Ron is starting. Don’t worry, I will think of a better name by tomorrow.” —Leslie

• “It’s almost too easy…. (Off Ben in the background saying, “I can hear you.”) I know you can, Ben. That’s how easy it is.” —Tom about his scheme to manipulate Ben into helping him

• “I would like you to write me a script and get it to me in a hour. And we should start thinking about wardrobe? Casual? Formal? Semi-formal? Sporty? Scary? Posh? Baby? Those are the Spice Girls. I just got caught up in my own thoughts. I’m very excited about this.” —Chris to Ann

• “Ben is that your real name? Oh, you could do better than that. I’m going to help you out right now. Your name is Angelo. Angelo, thank you so much for coming out, get a thicker tie, it looks weird on you, it makes your head look like a fish. Secondly, I don’t know where the paperwork is but when you find it, can you take care of it for us? We don’t have any pens because we’re afraid it’s gonna leak on our shirts. Lastly I hate the name Angelo, I’m gonna switch it up for you right now. Your new nickname is…Jell-O Shot. What do you think about that, J Shot?” —Jean-Ralphio

• “I mean, I would guess they’ll be bankrupt by the end of…this sentence.” —Ben just before a a waiter appears with a tray of champagne.

• “Oh, you and Ron have a big meeting, huh? I’m sure Ron will remember the meeting fondly while he makes toilet wine in a federal prison in Terre Haute.” —Tammy One to Leslie

• “She’s the cold distant mother I never had…I love her.” —April about Tammy One

• “When Ron falls for Tammy Two, he turns into a demonic sex maniac? But this? Neutered wimp? This is worse. Operation Golden Dove is in trouble. It’s a good name, right?” —Leslie to camera

• “In a sense, yes. But in another truer sense, no, it is not.” —Tammy One to Leslie, when she asks if Ron’s audit is real

• “Listen. Tammy One was my Sunday school teacher, too. She can pinpoint your weaknesses and then destroy you with just one word. And a jar of acid.” —Tammy Two to Leslie

So, what were your favorite jokes from the episode? Everybody pants now! And by pants, we mean, weigh in.

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Parks and Recreation

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