Parks and Recreation Recap: This Is Where It Started for Me, This Is Where It Ends

“2017”/ “Ron and Jammy”—Aired Jan. 13, 2015

I don’t have a list of things I want from the final season of Parks and Rec. I think Mike Schur knows what I need better than I do, so I haven’t worried about this season beyond worrying what will happen to me when it’s over. But even if I had expectations, I never would have seen this coming. Ron Swanson and Leslie Knope have had a falling out.

It hurts. It’s wrong. The relationship between Ron and Leslie defines Parks and Rec as a show about people who like each other not only in spite of their differences, but because of them. It’s a friendship built on respect and a platonic love that shows itself in action, which is exactly the kind of love that Leslie extends to her town. Ron and Leslie’s ability to bridge the gap between them, and their desire to bridge it, makes this show what it is.

I absolutely believe that the same stubborn conviction that Ron and Leslie admire in each other could come between them, but this fight cannot stand. Their relationship has to be fixed. Save Ron and Leslie, save Pawnee, save the world.

And save the world's cakes.

And save the world’s cakes.

So how did we get here? What turned 2017 into a future I want no part of? Nobody’s saying much, but we know that after Leslie took her job with the National Parks Service, Ron eventually left the Parks Department to start his own company, Very Good Building and Development Company (“I wanted to convey the quality of our work without seeming flashy”). We know that Leslie is very upset about something called Morningstar, which Ron says happened two years ago. He seems to want her to let it go. Leslie’s still fired up, but Ron just looks sad.

If he wants to patch things up, he’s going to have to get past the latest bump in the road: Jessica Wicks. I never expected the former Miss Pawnee to hold this town’s fate in her hands like a small bird, but everyone on this show goes places and even characters who seem minor keep coming back until they suddenly mean something and that’s LIFE. On behalf of the Newport family trust, Jessica is selling 25 square miles of undeveloped land, because real estate prices are booming, and “it’s time to trade those dumb old trees for a buttload of cash.” (“It is. it truly is.”) Tech company Gryzzl, here to legitimize your fear of fake-chill startup bros, is the number one contender, as it is apparently now running the world. Gryzzl wants to open a campus (oh dear God why is everything called a campus) in Pawnee, and they’ve hired Ron’s company to plan and build it. I look forward to many months of Ron looking on in horror as these guys present their ideas in word clouds.

Leslie wants the land for a national park, but she needs money, so Ben suggests that she ask for donations at the bicentennial gala being held in his honor. I’m just so proud of both of them. He’s a respected public official; she’s the reason this town can now hold fancy galas populated by the kind of people who once ate crepes at Eagleton town hall meetings. But those same people aren’t big on the idea of handing Leslie their money, even when she offers to buy Ken Hotate’s bolo ties in exchange. (“My son sells them on etsy. He is a huge disappointment.”) Leslie is a force, but no one gets there alone, and she doesn’t have her team by her side. This is exactly how the “Emergency Response” gala would have gone down if she’d tried to make it happen on her own. She wants to get the band back together, but Ron already promised Tom that he could build a restaurant on the Gryzzl campus, and he hired Donna’s real estate agency to broker the deal.

"I simply took a skewer for one shrimp and added many shrimp to it."

“I simply took a skewer for one shrimp and added many shrimp to it.”

Everyone on the team is doing so well for themselves. Tom is a restaurant mogul now, and Donna’s killing it with Regal Meagle Realty. She’s also getting married. Donna Meagle, who once confused drama with happiness, is settling down with Joe. He proposed a few days ago, and she kept everything off social media so she could tell Leslie in person.

parks and rec donna ring

There’s no ill will between Leslie and Donna or Leslie and Tom. They didn’t have a fight; they’ve just all been busy with their lives, and they don’t see each other as often as they used to. That’s sadder somehow. It’s so much harder to fix a busy life, and now Leslie can’t even count on her friends’ support in this fight. She accuses Ron of stealing her team, and it ends in cake. (“They’re still gonna serve that cake, right?”)

It isn’t Leslie’s proudest moment, but there’s no one better at pulling herself together and getting the job done. She meets with Jessica Wicks and makes an impassioned case for the land. The Newports have been in Pawnee since the beginning. Now, on the town’s 200th anniversary, what better way to celebrate that legacy than to help found Newport National Park? “Your name will stand for something good for generations to come,” says Leslie, and I flash back to that time when she decided to take this job after looking at a name on a sign. Leslie wants to create something that lasts. She believes that’s all anyone should ever want.

This park could be the sign with Leslie’s name on it, but it wouldn’t be the first time she’s thought so. She thought the pit would be her legacy once, and now it’s just a stop along the road. She and Ben can look back on “turning a pit into a cool little park” like it was a Saturday afternoon project. She’s still immensely proud of it, but it’s no longer the height of her accomplishments, and that’s precisely because she treated it like it would be. Leslie approaches everything in front of her like it’s the most important work she’ll ever do. There was nothing bigger than the pit, so she made it happen. Now there’s nothing bigger than this park. What’s next?

parks and rec leslie work

Her bid to Jessica is zero dollars (“I have to say, that’s one of the lower ones we’ve seen”), but her passion keeps her in the running. The Newports announce that they’ve narrowed down their offers to Gryzzl and the National Parks Service, giving Leslie time to plan her next move, which involves dessert. She marches into Ron’s office with a basket full of cookies. “They say ‘Prepare for war’ on them, but the o in the word ‘for’ is a heart.” That sums her up. Leslie’s battles are personal, but she doesn’t take them personally. That’s why she and Ron were able to work so well together in the first place. The cookies are for Tom and Donna, but Ron eats one too, because he totally wants their friendship back.

ron cookie parks

Progress on that front comes from an unlikely ally: Jeremy Jamm. Jamm is still on City Council, which is both inexplicable (who votes for him?) and perfect (Leslie’s out there changing the world, and he’s just spinning his wheels in that same desk chair). The Council is voting on whether to rezone the Newport land for commercial use, so Leslie reaches out to convince Jamm to vote on her side. She finds a different problem entirely. Jamm is dating Tammy 2, and he is broken.

Tammy doesn’t care about Jamm’s health. She definitely doesn’t care about his emotional stability. She wants Ron back, and as long as that’s off the table in JJ’s diner where they had sex once, she’ll settle for turning Jamm into Ron instead. When she had the actual Ron in her clutches, she turned him into someone else, but she wants Jamm to be the Ron we know—the Ron not under her spell. Tammy doesn’t actually like being with Ron. She just likes what she can’t have.

That makes Tammy the enemy to unite all other enemies. She’s all about the games, and our characters are all about the people. Leslie can’t let Jamm go down like this. To get him the help he needs, Leslie demands an uneasy truce with Ron, which he accepts only after he sees the shape Jamm is in. Together, the once and future friends train Jamm in the art of Tammy resistance (“In this scenario, she will be coming at you pantsless”), and he breaks up with her while she stands naked in a library. He then refuses to choose between Ron and Leslie, so there will be no tie-breaking vote. The fight for the land goes on.

Ron and Leslie are far from fixed, but they’re at least reminded that they can still come together for a cause they believe in. More importantly, they’re reminded of the integrity that they respect so much in one another. Leslie could have accepted Tammy’s offer to throw the vote her way if she’d leave them alone, but she didn’t. Of course she didn’t. This is the same woman who refused to owe her career to a wrongly convicted possum. Ron didn’t have to help Jamm, but he did. They’re still good people who put others first. They’ll get there.

parks and rec ron and jammy

Elsewhere in Pawnee, April Roberta Ludgate-Dwyer is having a crisis. She’s happily married to Andy (who has a Johnny Karate TV show, because at least one thing about 2017 has to be beautiful), but she’s afraid of what they’ve become. They used to eat turkey chili out of frisbees, and now they’re planning crock pot meals. Even when they set out to get into trouble, they find reasons to talk themselves out of it. Adulthood found them when they weren’t looking.

In a lot of ways, that’s for the best. Back in the day, April and Andy couldn’t visit Bed Bath & Beyond without, like, a 30% chance they’d both die. They kept their bills in the freezer. That life was never going to last. But for two people who resisted responsibility so fiercely, it’s easy to mistake growing up for selling out. April is still in panic mode when she and Andy come across a creepy old house with the perfect backstory. (“Remember the Pawnee dollhead factory?” “This was the dollhead factory?” “No. This was the holding cell for people who went insane on the assembly line.”) On a whim, they buy it—because it excites them, and because they’re still those spontaneous kids who got married within a month. Being a financially stable couple just gives them new ways to be weird.

parks and rec april andy table

With one freak-out taken care of, April moves on to the next: Does she even like her job? It’s a question that she never thought to ask until Joan Callamezzo’s book signing. Joan has multiple books now, and she’s gone off the deep end. (“Last year, she did a show where she called all of her ex-boyfriends while sitting on a washing machine.”) She credits her success, such as it is, to the fact that she knew what she wanted to do with her life at age 10. Joan believes that loving what we do is what makes life worth living.

April hasn’t really thought about it like that before. I don’t think she’s just now realizing that she might not be happy at her job. I think she never thought liking her job was an option. She kind of hates most things, so she always figured that she was meant to hate her job, too. She goes to Ben for advice, because they’re friends who went to Washington together, and it’s about time they get back to that. April saw Ben take a leap for something he really wanted to do; maybe he can help her do the same.

"and ask people riddles before they cross."

and ask people riddles before they cross.

Ben suggests that April think back to her goals when she was 10. She wanted to be a mortician, which sounds about right. They pay a visit to the local funeral home, but April walks when she realizes that the job requires training and starts with paperwork. That does seem to be the problem with most jobs. She’s immediately discouraged, but Ben won’t let her give in, promising not to stop until they’ve found the job for her. Everyone fits somewhere, and everyone deserves to be happy.

The key is just in recognizing that happiness might not look the way we always expected it to, and that what once made us happy might change over time. Tom is the entrepreneur he always wanted to be, but he’s sad. (“I must be the first person ever to have money, power, and notoriety but still feel empty.”) He wants someone to share his life with. Andy helps Tom go through his old Gryzzl contacts, and when Lucy—handshake queen/ all-around wonderful person—sends him a message, the guys are just drunk enough to go to Chicago and find her. Tom asks her to come work with him, and she’s in. She has a boyfriend, but like Andy’s food, he’ll be gone soon.

andy five second rule parks and rec

Tom is ready to commit now in a way that he wasn’t when he first dated Lucy. His swagger was always for show, but it no longer covers insecurity or neediness. He just cares more than he knows how to express. When Tom uses Ben’s gala as an excuse to talk about his accomplishments, he seems for a minute like his old self, like maybe these people lose themselves when they lose each other. They don’t. They’ve spent so much time together that even falling out of touch can’t undo all of the ways they’ve made each other better.

parks and rec loud sobbing

Bicentennial snaps:

“I’m already so bored thinking about that one day off.” We should all be Leslie Knope.

parks and rec ron bangs

“Yes, the land has good sky.”

Pick a time, Jon Hamm.

parks and rec jon hamm

“I only have two million dollars in the discretionary fund, and I’ve already used some of it to make Thomas Jefferson sexier in those Mt. Rushmore promotions.”

My favorite thing is how turned on Leslie gets by hard work and intelligence.

parks and rec leslie orchestra ben

“Bacon-wrapped shrimp? I fit seven on this one. It’s a masterpiece.”

parks and rec amazing humble

“Meanwhile you and I are already on a boat. To the airport.”

“Is Oprah involved in your bid?”

“People seem to be scared off, on account of it being haunted. And disgusting.”

april andy house 1

april andy house 2

“After 47 years living here, I decided to move to Orlando to be closer to Disney World.” CUT TO: multiple people informing me that this is my future.

“When did you, why would either one of you, you know, why? Dear God why?”

“She saw me nail ‘Gangstas Paradise’; I saw her bite the door guy.”

We need Game of Joans.

  • “I estimate that all pop songs were written about me.”
  • “I once fell asleep while falling out the window of Mr. Belvedere’s apartment.”
  • “I have Randy Quaid’s email address.” (“That’s how it ends!”)

parks and rec joan washing machine

“On a separate note, I think that America should have a purge night. Let me explain why.”

“No, he’s, uh, working at a nonprofit.” “No, what? Am I? Oh that sucks.”

Ron still has his burger cook-off award, and he still hasn’t given up on Mulligan’s.

“Uhhhh, have you ever seen Monsters Inc?”

“Uhhhh, have you ever seen Monsters Inc?”

“When it comes to Tammy, the code is the same as that of the battlefield. First, you leave no man behind. Second, you must protect yourself against chemical warfare. Tammy does not abide by the Geneva Convention.”

I HOPE AMY POEHLER’S IMPRESSION OF MEGAN MULLALLY IS MY REAL MOM.

“When I was your age, I got banned from every riverboat in Germany.”

6 comments

  1. I was just thinking about Amy as Megan this morning, because I saw an old SNL episode with Amy in it, and she did a few impressions/characters. And I realized that after P&R, she may be able to do more of that sort of thing. Like, she did singsongy voices and mocking voices as Ann or Ron or Ben or April in P&R, but she always had to do them as “leslie doing a voice” of one of those characters. but the Amy as Megan voice was more than a “leslie as tammy” voice, in my opinion–like they were like ‘screw it, it’s our last season, Amy, do your thing’. It wasn’t out of character at ALL–just a new level, IMO. And hilarious.

    I too hated the Ron/Leslie fight. That was the worst TV feeling of 2015 so far.

    1. It was definitely better than Leslie’s average impression! And I agree that it still felt true to her character. She’s studied Tammy. She WOULD be able to match her tone pretty well.

      And yesss, the fight hurt so badly. I’m so glad the resolution was worth it.

  2. So perfectly said! I’m woefully behind on this season of Parks, because of life, but I have seen those two episodes.

    I was so stunned at the Ron & Leslie rift, because that should be illegal, but on the other hand, I’m really impressed by it, too, because I love how the writers are exploring their relationship. And when we finally find out *why* Ron had it out for Leslie, it was heartbreaking, both for us and for Leslie, because Leslie isn’t That Person, but somehow in the midst of all of their crazy new lives, she sort of became That Person for a bit. It’s very true to life, but it doesn’t make it any less poignant.

    I’m so in denial that this is it for the show. I’ve never been super obsessive about it, only because it’s like comfort food to me. It’s not big on the drama, but it always leaves you feeling good, and you can rely on it for making you feel good — most of the time. Which is why the rift is so unexpected. (I think one of the saddest parts would be Leslie not being involved in Ron’s kids’ lives, and vice-versa.)

    Also, I’m a little in denial about how much I relate to April, because adulthood kind of blows sometimes and I think just about all of my friends and I have been in her position at some point. (However we aren’t buying haunted houses. Maybe that’s the secret.)

    Absolutely loved how you did the word-thing here! Sigh. So many feelings.

    1. Awww, thanks!

      Seriously, I never saw that fight coming, and it was hard to watch. I’m glad that it ended with such a great salute to their relationship. I still don’t know how I’m going to write about it. And YES, I’m so sad John Swanson lost two years with the triplets. At least they can make up for it now. And he’ll marry one of them down the line, I know it.

      I’m in the DEEPEST denial right now. I know what you mean; Parks is probably my second-favorite series of all time, but I don’t think about it as obsessively as I do other shows. A lot of that is because I trust the team and don’t feel like I have to worry, but it’s also just a difference in the way I watch comedy and drama, I think. There aren’t a lot of intense moments to process. It’s just a show about loving people.

      And they really are nailing April’s storyline. I’ve been where she is, and I could easily be there again at some point. It’s not easy to question your life like that.

      SHOW. WHAT WILL I DO WITHOUT YOU.

      1. Yes that’s it! I process drama and comedies so differently as well. Like, until this year in which I have no time to watch ANYTHING anymore, I would say that almost everything I watch is comedy, with a few dramas sprinkled in here and there. Yet, the only shows I ever write about are dramas, just because there’s usually so much more to digest. I don’t think losing Parks and Rec will hit me until long after it’s over, and I realize there are no more lady-heroes like Leslie Knope or perfect men like Ron Swanson around to cheer for. Really, it’s the overall positivity of the show that makes it so unique. Sigh.

        I never saw that fight coming, either, and it’s so brutal, because it’s just so unnatural. I don’t want to live in a timeline in which Ron and Leslie aren’t friends. I’m glad it’s resolved now, and now that you mention it, OBVIOUSLY one of the Knope-Wyatt triplets will end up with John Swanson.

      2. I’m the same—comedies are so much easier to keep up with, so I watch more of them, but it’s the dramas that tend to grab me. Parks is the exception. I’m not ready for this at all.

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