Welcome, fellow Parks and Recreation fans to the first of my weekly recaps for this show’s final season! I hope you’re all ready to laugh and cry with me as we spend these last few weeks in Pawnee together.
Title 2017/Ron and Jammy
Two-Sentence Summary As we catch up with the gang from Pawnee in 2017, we learn that Ron and Leslie had a falling out, and both of them are competing for land that the Newport family is looking to sell; Leslie wants to build a national park, while Ron is helping Gryzzl with their bid for the land. The two call a momentary truce, however, to get Councilman Jamm out of Tammy’s evil clutches.
Favorite Line “Who cares if they have more money. I have the most valuable currency in America: a blind, stubborn belief that what I’m doing is right!” (Leslie)
My Thoughts It felt so good to have Parks and Recreation back. There’s nothing on television quite like this show, and no other show makes me feel as ridiculously happy as it does. It’s been tough for me to even think about Parks and Rec over the last few weeks, because whenever I do, I want to cry. However, the winning combination of “2017/Ron and Jammy” made it possible for me to finally look at this final run of episodes with excitement instead of sadness. It may be the final season of one of my favorite television shows of all time, but if these two episodes were any indication, it’s going to be a triumphant final season full of all the things that make Parks and Rec so special.
With this being the final season of Parks and Rec, I’ve been thinking a lot about its legacy. In my opinion, the most enduring thing about this show should be its message that kindness and warmth are strengths and not weaknesses—that nice people can be funny, too. This was never a comedy for cynics, and, as such, it turned out to be the perfect comedy for me. Despite the three-year time jump dealt with in this premiere and all of the changes that came from that, some things about our favorite citizens of Pawnee stayed the same, and one of those things was their collective big heart—no matter how reluctant some of them may be to show just how big their heart really is.
I thought every character’s development over the course of the three years we skipped over was perfect, and it was because they grew in some ways but stayed the same where it mattered.
Perhaps the biggest change we discovered was the dissolution of Ron and Leslie’s friendship. Ultimately, though, it made sense that these two strong-willed people with very different opinions (who’ve clashed before) would have had a major falling out at some point. By putting us in medias res in terms of their feud, it spared us from dealing with long stretches of episodes without them interacting and also piqued my interest for finding out what served as the straw that broke the camel’s back between them (What’s Morningstar?!?!). It also allowed both Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman to act outlandishly petty with each other without being obnoxious, because it was in such a small dose and was followed by a brief teaming up in “Ron and Jammy.” In fact, one of my favorite moments in both episodes was Leslie giving out her “Prepare for War” cookies. It reminded me in the best possible way of her giving Chris his Christmas gift in “Citizen Knope” and following it with a pointed “See you in hell!”
We all know that Ron and Leslie’s feud isn’t going to last, and that’s what made it fun instead of grating to watch in this premiere. By the end of the hour, they’d already made strides towards an eventual reconciliation, thanks to a shared need to free a struggling man from the clutches of Tammy.
This was the most I’ve ever liked Jeremy Jamm, and so much of that had to do with the humor of seeing another man brought down by Tammy. Megan Mullally is one of the best recurring guests to ever show up on Parks and Rec, which is saying something because this show is filled with amazing guest actors. (After this episode’s “If anybody wants to hang, I will be at Subway!” line, I’m adding Jon Hamm to that list, too.) And the scenes where Ron and Leslie were prepping Jamm to turn down Tammy reminded me that this show shouldn’t just be remembered for being sweet; it should also be remembered for being hilarious. From Poehler’s perfect Mullally impression to the homemade crotch-blinder (which Jamm had inside him all along), that was moment-for-moment the funniest scene in a very funny pair of episodes.
While Ron and Leslie’s dynamic was at the forefront of “2017/Ron and Jammy,” these two episodes also took the time to give many of the show’s other strong dynamics a moment in the spotlight. We saw that Leslie and Ben are still an adorable married couple who are now parents to three toddlers, and of course Leslie can convince them that peas turn into cupcakes in their tummies because she’s the master of saying ridiculous things with enough conviction to make them sound absolutely plausible. We saw that April and Andy are also still an adorable married couple but are scared of becoming boring. (He takes Zantac before eating olives; wine makes her sleepy.) However, their impulse decision in this premiere to buy a new house proved that they’re still the couple who got married on a whim and drove to the Grand Canyon because it felt right.
Andy’s impulsive nature also came out in his scenes with Tom in this episode. After a drunken decision led to a cab ride to Chicago, both of them had to think on their feet, which worked out much better for Tom than Andy (who hilariously started believing the lie that he got a job in Chicago, showing us once again that Chris Pratt is a gift none of us are worthy of). Tom may be a business mogul in Pawnee now, but he’s still trying to figure out his personal life, which I think is a very relatable thing for career-minded people around his age (myself included). I liked the decision to bring Lucy back as a potential love interest for Tom (because we know that boyfriend of hers isn’t lasting). Tom’s always been one of my favorite characters on this show, and I’d like for his story to end with love—given to him by someone besides himself.
We all know that Tom’s narcissism is a mask that hides the fact that he’s a little guy with a very big heart, and this premiere reminded us of that fact in a genuinely sweet way. I loved that his speech for Ben predictably turned into a speech about himself, but what I loved even more was that it set up the best surprise of the hour—Tom coming to Ben with his real, heartfelt speech, which made them both cry in spectacularly ugly fashion. I’ve always enjoyed the dynamic between Tom and Ben, and it was nice to see their friendship get such a prominent place in the first episode of the season. It’s also nice whenever this show gives its supporting characters moments of real humanity (because so few comedies do that to the extent this one does), and Aziz Ansari always runs with it when he’s given a chance to show Tom’s often-hidden sincere side.
Another member of this cast who always crushes it when she gets to show her character’s more human side is Aubrey Plaza. Out of everyone in this stellar cast, she was probably my MVP of this premiere. She had plenty of very funny moments, but she excelled in April’s moments of vulnerability. In fact, the scene where she was watching Joan deliver her speech about loving her job was my favorite moment in the entire premiere. Plaza made April’s growing sense of panic feel so believable it made me actually want to cry. Maybe it’s just because I’m not that far away from “Saturn’s return” myself (Side note: Donna was as fabulous as ever in this episode—and she’s engaged!), but I was so surprisingly moved by April’s sense of confusion over what she should be doing with her life. That’s what Parks and Rec does best—it makes you laugh, but then it makes you feel in a way that sneaks up on you.
April’s quarter-life crisis gave her a chance to spend much of the second episode interacting with Ben, and those two characters make up one of my favorite relationships this show has ever featured. There’s such a great big brother/little sister vibe between them, and that extended to their scenes in “Ron and Jammy,” too. Ben is the perfect match for Leslie because he’s just as supportive of the people he loves as she is, and he showed that in his steadfast support of April discovering what career she really wants. And April’s rare moments of affection for people other than Andy are some of the show’s best and most moving moments. So naturally her hugging Ben almost made me cry.
I’m sure there will be plenty of almost-crying and crying to come as Parks and Rec continues its last season, and I’m sure there will be plenty of laughing and smiling to come, too. I would expect nothing less from this show, and this premiere had me believing that nothing about this final season would feel like anything less than a victory lap for a beloved show that’s more than earned this extended farewell.