Elsewhere in Pawnee, Ben finally gets to reconnect with the man who brought him to this town in the first place: Chris Traeger. It’s about time! The old friends hardly have any time for each other lately, what with Ben’s serious relationship with Leslie and Chris’s serious relationship with his therapist, Dr. Richard Nygard. I will never stop advocating Stephen Fry for this role. Do your job, internet.
Ben and Chris decide to roll into the Gergich family Christmas party together, sealing the deal with a Traeger Hug. The party turns out to be a minefield of ex-girlfriends, gray hairs, and full-fat eggnog, but Dr. Richard Nygard must be doing something right, because Chris handles it all like a pro. Remain calm, America (and please read “remain calm” in your most soothing Adam Scott voice): Chris Traeger is YOLOing.
Ben stands by Chris through it all, and he’s rewarded by an experience rarer and more life-altering than full-fat eggnog: he meets Jerry’s wife.
There is no logical explanation, but it’s not actually about logic. It’s about how this show is unapologetically moving all of its characters toward happiness in a way that feels so genuine and so hard earned. Of course Jerry gets the most baller home life; he takes more lumps than anyone in the Parks Department.
Take Jerry Dinner, a time-honored tradition wherein every laugh at Jerry’s expense goes toward a dinner that he’s not invited to attend. (“It’s like talking about people behind their backs—everybody wins.”) Halfway to a very expensive meal, Donna wises up and realizes that Jerry deserves to be included, which is how she, Tom, Andy, and April wind up outside Jerry’s back door, begging Ann to let them in. They try every excuse in the books, including but not limited to the old “April needs someplace to deliver this baby” routine, which NEVER fails.
It fails. (At least with Ann. It’s possible that Andy believes her.)
Man Perkins grants entry to Donna, but everyone else has to stand in the cold and think about Jerry Filter. The spam filter designed to weed out Jerry’s useless work emails also contains three years’ worth of heartfelt messages and party invites. Oops. This time, when Jerry opens the door, April, Andy, and Tom hand him all of the Jerry Dinner cash, explaining that they collected a dollar every time they were mean to him–which is actually true. Jerry declares himself the luckiest man on earth. And they all make faces.
Are they feeling human emotions toward Jerry?! This really is Christmas magic. With any other show, I’d say this kind of overt sentimentality is a sure sign that the writers are preparing for the end. They know they might not get renewed, so they’re wrapping everyone’s stories in neat, happy bows. That might still be the case (and if it is, you can find me in the fetal position, hollering “MAKE YOUR FACE BETTER” at everyone around me). But Parks and Rec is one of the few shows that can make its characters this happy without backing the story into a corner. It’s just a natural part of life in Pawnee.
As natural as Jerry getting accidentally locked out of his own Christmas party.
Chris Pratt is on fire in this episode, but my favorite moment might be his reaction when Ann shows up at Jerry’s party: “And Ann! I didn’t even know she KNEW Jerry.”
Ann the standup comedian: “It’s so cold out here, it reminds me of my wife’s lasagna.” April: “I actually like that one.”
The most scandalous insult Leslie can hurl at Tammy: “Shouldn’t you be at the library, forcing people to borrow books?”
“Excuse me, one man’s worst nightmare is every other man’s total package.” YES, Leslie Knope is everything TV needs.
“It might be cold outside, but it’s about to get warm all up in my jazz.”
“Protect your eyes; she’s a gouger.”
I just can’t even get over this episode. How does a show that’s always this happy still manage to make happiness seem so hard fought? Are you all happy with Duke Silver’s Duchess? Will Gayle (or Jerry Filter) change the way the gang treats Jerry? Will we ever meet Dr. Richard Nygard?!
A very belated, merry congratu-Christmas to you all.