“Oh Ann Perkins, you beautiful sunflower. You totally changed me, you know that?”
I’d like to say that Leslie and Ann’s story ended where it began—with the pit and a promise—but we all know their story isn’t over. What began as a friendship of necessity between a nurse and “that parks lady” stopped being about parks a long time ago. This is the strongest relationship that Leslie Knope and Ann Perkins will ever have, and while Ann might be moving somewhere all bright and new, Leslie’s still the one she’ll call for the important things.
The fact that they’ll be friends for life doesn’t make this any easier, though. They don’t even know which holiday they’ll share next! I’m still ugly crying like you wouldn’t believe. My eyes are basically useless right now. Last night I gave in to emotional exhaustion (in the form of a six hour nap) after I made the mistake of listening to “Wildflowers” to get pumped up. In retrospect, I should’ve gone with Sarah McLachlan. Parks has always had one of the best memories on television, and “Ann and Chris” was a Buddy Box full of callbacks.
- We began by flashing back to Leslie and Ann’s first meeting, which was the first clue that this episode was going to be rude.
- Andy wore a Scarecrow Boat shirt, in a nod to the time when his life and Ann’s were most entwined.
- Chris and Ron shook hands over their burger cook-off. (“Turkey can never beat cow, Chris.”)
- Tom held one last, resilient bottle of Snake Juice, given to him by the man who once made him shut it all down.
- Ann handed the Pawnee dating scene to Donna, who had her back at that singles’ night. Dating is a zero-sum game, but wingwomen are forever.
- Chris danced, because anything is dancing music if you have the right attitude.
- Tom flirted one more time before letting Ann go.
- Chris had some openly intense feelings for Dr. Richard Nygard, in honor of that dark place he’s not in anymore.
- The Microchip wore Bumbleflex (“I have Bumbleflex!”) and raced a planet (“My goal is to run to the moon.”)
There was character progress all over the place in this episode. When Chris encouraged April’s potential and told her how proud she made him, April didn’t try all that hard to hide how happy his approval made her.
She’s so much warmer now, and it’s thanks to the people who’ve loved and believed in her. Andy stood in for all of us when he could barely believe that he and Ann dated once. It’s so fitting that his memory went a little bit fuzzy here, because Andy took off once he let go of Ann. There’s been no need for the two of them to look back on that time, because they never worked as a couple like Andy and April do, and the show is better for letting them move on. Ann loves April and Andy as friends, and she’s glad they have each other. No regrets at all. I lost it when April finally told Ann that she loves her. Remember when Ann essentially forced friendship upon her? That’s a trick I think she learned from Leslie. Never give up.
And that’s why it’s the hard hats that really get me: because Ann and Leslie rubbed off on each other. Back in the day, they were kickass together, but now they’re two totally kickass women all on their own. If you tell them no, they’ll break down your door, put a lady in a headlock, and make you say yes, because they’re real pains like that. Leslie Knope and Ann Perkins wait for no man.
They got their park, you guys. It’s not done yet, but that doesn’t matter. For an episode that’s so full of memories, “Ann and Chris” is really about the future: the empty Buddy Box, the work that’s still to be done, the life that goes on with the people who are left. This is how endings actually work. They’re messy and unfinished. We can make 103 scrapbooks and throw 30 parties at once and make big symbolic gestures, but our actual goodbyes are spoken as we lean through our car windows and all we can do is hold hands. We wave people off and, if we’re lucky, the people we love buy us breakfast and watch out for us until we’re ok again.
It fits Parks and Rec perfectly that Leslie would have to say this huge goodbye before the story’s done, because this is a show about how the hardest and best things in life are the most ordinary. And Leslie Knope, for all of her steamrolling, is a woman who wants her friends to be happy.
Run away, go find a lover
Run away, let your heart be your guide
You deserve the deepest of cover
You belong in that home by and by
Amy Poehler’s voice cracked twice. She deserves more awards than Chris and Ann can fit in that tiny trailer.
As Ann and Leslie ran around Pawnee, all I could think was, “Leslie Knope gets as many favors as she wants…Because she’s the kind of person who uses favors to help other people.”
“This one has PLATES name on it!”
“I already shook his hand. Twice. Anything more than that would be excessive.”
“Ugh, I wish you guys were Donna.”
Ron’s eyes are shining at the meat. You do you, Ron.
“Holy mother of Malia! And Sasha. I love them both equally.”
It’s always a good day for Orin to be in a bunny suit.
“Ok, knock or ring the bell?” “Bust in unannounced.” “Love it.”
“I just wanna say that I’ve always thought you were hot.” “Yes I know!”
“You’re literally the best friend that I will ever have.” His last literally. Hold me.
“Ann, you tricky minx.”