Title Galentine’s Day
Two-Sentence Summary Leslie’s hosts an impromptu Galentine’s Day brunch to try to find a replacement for Ann, only to find herself learning from new-mom Ann that she has room in her heart for many female friends—even if none of them can ever fill Ann’s shoes. Meanwhile, Ron helps Andy after the latter knocks out his own tooth, and Ben discovers that he genuinely likes Jerry/Larry.
Leslie: Now it’s lady time.
April: You sound like a tampon commercial.
My Thoughts No television show honors friendship with the same honesty, warmth, and sense of importance as Parks and Recreation. If “Ann and Chris” was this season’s love letter to friendship, then “Galentine’s Day,” was the perfect little P.S. to that letter. And it had the added bonus of not making me weep into my sweatshirt sleeve like “Ann and Chris” did. Instead, “Galentine’s Day” was one of Parks and Rec’s funniest episodes of the season.
Besides being primarily about friendship, there was another uniting factor between “Ann and Chris” and “Galentine’s Day”: Neither episode was burdened with Leslie’s career struggles. These episodes were about character-driven stories rather than plot-driven ones, and that’s always been when Parks and Rec is at its best.
The unity concert was still a springboard for the action in one part of this episode, but it was Ben, Tom, and Jerry/Larry (Seriously, what should I call him?) who took the reins in that storyline instead of Leslie. And the plot didn’t even matter very much. Yes, the fedora bits with Tom were funny, and the tent company names were even funnier. (My favorite? Tent Offensive) But the real reason those three characters were put in a storyline together was to bring about a huge character epiphany for Ben: He genuinely likes Jerry and thinks he’s a good friend.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’ve felt the Jerry-bashing was getting out of hand this season, but I was so happy to see that it actually led to this storyline. Of course it would be Ben who was able to look past everyone else’s opinion of Jerry and form his own—that’s who Ben is. Ben appreciates people who have big hearts and approach life with the best intentions; he did marry Leslie, after all. So it didn’t surprise me one bit that out of all the characters on the show, it would be Ben who finally stood up for Jerry—both literally and figuratively in that perfect Dead Poets Society reference.
As if we needed more reasons to love Ben Wyatt, this episode proved that—on a show filled with people who are truly nice at heart—Ben may be the nicest. I actually got a little emotional when he asked Jerry about his girls because it was such a nice little display of how friendships are built in the real world. There was a warmth there that felt believable, and I was so happy that this little bit of character development that was a funny subplot in “Anniversaries” was fleshed out here. I was also happy to see Jerry actually do something helpful in getting the information about the tent company code violations. It was about time this character had a winning moment. And for those who still like some humor to keep things from getting too sweet, the well-timed fart joke at the end of the episode was a good balance for the kind gesture that came before it.
While Ben and Jerry’s friendship has been a new one for Parks and Rec to explore, “Galentine’s Day” also brought back one of my favorite male friendships on the show: Ron and Andy. I’m not sure if you can really call it a friendship since it mostly consists of Ron trying to help Andy navigate through life without harming himself or others, but I suppose there is no one set definition of friendship, after all. I loved the way this storyline helped Ron see that there’s no switch you can turn off to stop being a parent for a few minutes, and Ron has actually always been very paternal with Andy. Calling Diane to offer to get ice cream for the girls (and Andy) was the perfect understated gesture of kindness for Ron as a character.
The reason I love Ron and Andy so much isn’t just because they represent one of the many kinds of friendships espoused on this show; I find them hilarious together. In terms of comedic styles, I’m not sure it gets more complimentary than Nick Offerman and Chris Pratt working together. Offerman’s deadpan delivery balances Pratt’s childlike exuberance perfectly. There were plenty of funny moments between them in this episode, but my favorite was Andy telling Ron he found the three differences between the pictures in the Highlights magazine, only for Ron to point out that Andy was looking at two completely different pictures.
The male friendships depicted in this episode were great, but you knew that with a title like “Galentine’s Day,” it was going to be ladies’ night on Parks and Rec. And what a wonderful ladies’ night it was. Leslie loves big; it’s who she is and how she defines herself. So it made perfect sense to me that she would be lost without having Ann to channel all that love towards. Yes, she has Ben, but a husband isn’t the same as a best female friend. Falling in love doesn’t make every other relationship in your life less important, and I once again have to applaud Parks and Rec for reminding us of that (in hilarious fashion by Ben thinking he could talk about Sandra Bullock’s skirt length with Leslie). You can’t replace your best friend; not with a husband and not even by a carefully-designed search process.
This episode could have been about Leslie transferring all of her pent-up love onto Ben, but I love that Leslie is a character who understands the importance of female friendship. She knows what all women know; some things can only be discussed with your girls. So instead, Leslie tried to find a replacement Ann. But can there really be another beautiful tropical fish in the sea?
The way Leslie finally discovered that the answer to that question is “no,” was perfect. If “Galentine’s Day” was written just to get all of the best female characters on the show in a room together, then it was a success. I loved learning more about these women—from Donna’s two annulments (one for pleasure and one as part of a long con) and Scandal obsession to Shauna’s very obvious need for a therapy session with Dr. Richard Nygard (whom Leslie thinks was just Chris talking to himself in a mirror). The funniest moment of all came from Shauna saying she didn’t believe in women making the first move, and Leslie telling her that doesn’t apply to therapy. Amy Poehler’s delivery was flawless.
The real point of the failed Galentine’s brunch was to show that you can’t objectively choose your best friends, and you can’t try to force your friendships to all follow the same pattern. Every relationship we form in life is different, and that’s how it should be. Donna and April may not be Ann, but that doesn’t mean they don’t love Leslie. And it doesn’t mean they’re not worthy of Leslie loving them, too. The end of this episode was so great because it featured those three women acknowledging that their friendship is special in its own right. And by giving Leslie the stuffed rabbit with Ann’s voice (and also April’s creepy voice), Donna and April showed Leslie that they weren’t jealous of the fact that Ann will always be her best friend, which is a common trope the show could have played into. Instead, it focused on the fact that all three of these women (and Ann) can appreciate each other for who they are; they value their friendships on their own merits instead of on some crazy ranking system.
And who helped Leslie realize that ranking your friends was horrible idea? Why, none other than that powerful muskox herself, Ann Perkins! It was such a nice surprise to see Rashida Jones back on the show already and to meet baby Oliver, too. Like Ben, Ann has a way of helping Leslie calm down and see for herself when she’s being ridiculous. It’s not just romantic love that helps us be our best selves; the love we find through friendship can do that for us, too.
Cuddled up on the hospital bed, talking about Friday Night Lights, Leslie and Ann were the picture of everything Parks and Rec does right when it comes to female friendships. There was something so warm and so wonderfully real about that moment. It was two women talking with a familiarity that’s not easy to get right about something other than the men in their lives. Their shared interests brought them together, but they didn’t have to have all the same opinions in order to be best friends. That’s such an important lesson (couched in a perfect discussion about a great television show); you don’t have to be exactly the same in order to be best friends with someone. What matters is that you love each other for your similarities and your differences.
As Ann said, Leslie loves bigger than anyone, and it’s always fun to that love take center stage in an episode. Leslie thinks Ann has all the strengths, and that’s how I feel about episodes of Parks and Rec like this one. Sometimes this show isn’t perfect, but other times it gets pretty darn close. So yes, Parks and Rec, on a day like today I can say it: You have all the strengths.