It’s hard to like the way that NBC has scheduled Parks and Recreation‘s final season. Two episodes every week makes for a seven week marathon of sadness. Hilarious sadness, but compacted hilarious sadness. Tonight, though, the pairing of “William Henry Harrison” (who is, I now know, a real person that actually was the American president for just a month) and “Leslie and Ron” takes full advantage of its double feature billing. The former President sets the stage for Leslie and Ron, the pair then delving into the last three years of their friendship while they’re locked in the room that used to be their office, their home, and the very heart of this show itself.
“William Henry Harrison” was a funny episode, sure, but it was completely eclipsed by what came next. And what came next, in “Leslie and Ron” was a flawless twenty minutes.
The time jump was worth it, just to see this offspring split and recorded reconciliation.
We find out what Morningstar is (a fancy apartment block built on the site of Ann’s old house, next to Leslie’s park on Lot 48), why Ron left his job (because it wasn’t his job anymore, after all of his friends left, and it became a different role), and that before he started his construction firm, Ron went up to floor three to apply for a job. With Leslie, and by extension, the federal government. For someone like Ron, that’s huge.
Admittedly, Leslie’s always been the boss of the Parks department. While Ron shied away from work, hiring April to ignore phone calls, Leslie revolutionized the government department. And yet, she was never the number one. Ron was the head of the department, and that’s how, I think, we all still see him: as a leader. So when, in “Leslie & Ron,” he nervously makes plans with Leslie for lunch, waiting in JJ’s Diner to apply for a job in her department, it’s a sobering scene. Time has passed for our characters, and things really have changed.
Everyone left the department after Leslie did, and because of this, so too did Ron. He didn’t tell Leslie — couldn’t, after the failure of their aborted meeting (Leslie had to fly out to Washington, forgetting to tell him) — so while she was feeling betrayed, he had felt like that, at least a little bit, for even longer. Ron didn’t ever appear to be doing a lot at the parks department (besides his favorite things, like budget cutting and advising his workmates on their private business ventures), but he was doing it among his friends. And when they left, the job became just that: a job.
Parks and Recreation is a workplace comedy, but it’s never been as bleak or bored as the environment or the workers that featured on a show like The Office. The Parks Department has had its share of weirdos, sure, just look at the people that Leslie saw when trying to legitimize the Newport land as a Presidential landmark; but it’s also always been a place full of passionate people trying to achieve real change.
Ron hired Leslie, as we saw, because of her passion. Their political views and personal opinions clash in nearly every way, but they’ve always respected each other because of these opinions, and never in spite of them. Their relationship only broke down when contact slowed, and full truths weren’t shared.
It happens between people, friendships dropping away or being put on hold as time goes on, but Parks and Recreation– and Leslie herself- don’t let Ron and Leslie get away with it.
They get drunk together, redecorate the Parks office to its former glory and then go and get breakfast food together at JJ’s Diner. Parks and Recreation have plenty of guest stars left to throw at us this season, I’m sure, but I don’t think anything will be better than those twenty minutes where Leslie and Ron were locked in their old offices together, talking out their history.
If “Leslie and Ron” is an indication of what the series finale will feel like, then we’re in for a treat. A sad treat, with a lot of tears, maybe even more than were shed at Li’l Sebastian’s funeral, but a treat nonetheless. There are nine episodes left, and I’m so glad that we have them.
- In 2017 there’s a Pulitzer Prize for ‘best top ten listicle’!
- According to Tom, beef milk is new on trend. “It’s fucking milk.” Ron’s swearing was very on point these episodes.
- Are Ben and Terry no longer best friends? I didn’t hear the Enchanted soundtrack in Ben’s car, just his frustration with Terry’s incompetence.
- “I ordered 60 vege pizzas to Ron’s office, so that calmed me down a little.”
- Ben has to deal with Ron and Leslie in his role of city manager, and tries his best to coerce Leslie into playing nice: “I’ll let you rename the triplets Ruth, Bader and Ginsburg!” But then just locks them back into their old offices overnight. Parenting has clearly taught him well.
- Speaking of the triplets, we don’t actually know what their names are, but they can be seen (!) in a deleted scene that’s now on YouTube.
- The only thing better than Leslie recording the message, “Congratulations Ron you’ve been doing an explosive job!” in his gift landmine was Leslie laughing at this old joke when Ron set it off.
- “Dear Mr. Swanson, I’m sorry I raised my voice in the interview with you. And I’m sorry I called you a heartless thug.” Some things change, but others never do.