Title Gryzzlbox/Save JJ’s
Two-Sentence Summary Leslie attempts to turn the tide of the Newport land battle in her favor by exposing Gryzzl’s privacy invasion techniques. However, she finds an even better solution while trying to find a way to save her beloved JJ’s Diner.
Favorite Line “Was it Putin? Voldemort Putin? Of Russia?” (Andy)
My Thoughts “Gryzzlbox/Save JJ’s” had the seemingly unenviable position of following “Leslie and Ron,” which was described by many (myself included) as one of the best and most emotional episodes of Parks and Recreation in the show’s history. How do you follow that?
It turns out, you follow that with a pair of episodes that touched on nearly all the high points of seven seasons of Parks and Rec mythology over the course of one highly entertaining hour: town meetings, Perd Hapley, Leslie’s scrapbooks, Burt Macklin, Ice Town, Dennis Feinstein, Treat Yo Self, Dr. Richard Nygard, JJ’s waffles…
This pair of episodes honored the show’s history in its details, but it also honored the soul of the show in its overall theme of the power of a group of good people working together for a cause that means something to them—whether that cause is a new national park or the preservation of a great plate of bacon and eggs. Just like last season’s finale, this pair of episodes could have felt too neat, its conflicts too easily solved by the power of positive, creative thinking. But Parks and Rec is a show where the good guys win, where good things happen to good people. And in a television landscape that grows more cynical and antihero-driven by the day, I like knowing that I can watch Parks and Rec and feel good and happy and hopeful when all is said and done.
Maybe it’s just because of the back-to-back episode airings, but this season of Parks and Rec seems to be flying by in terms of its plot. Last week, Leslie and Ron made up when I thought it would take weeks to get them back to a good place. And this week, the Newport land bidding war already came to a satisfying conclusion. This leaves me wondering what the rest of this season has in store for us (besides Donna and Joe’s sure-to-be-fabulous wedding and April working her way through her quarter-life crisis). However, if these first six episodes have taught me anything, it’s to trust this show as it heads into the home stretch. I feel so confident that the second half of this final season will be just as satisfying as the first, and I haven’t felt that way about a show’s last episodes in a long time (if ever).
I think “Gryzzlbox” and “Save JJ’s” were perfect examples of this show’s sense of humor. I laughed a lot while watching both of these episodes—at moments as varied as Perd saying he lost his “judge hammer,” Andy interacting with his little ninjas, and Leslie crying over people trying to put kale in her milkshake. (Amy Poehler’s funniest line reading so far this season.) And I’m not sure I’ll ever stop laughing about Leslie and Ron’s failed high-fives. Sometimes a simple bit of physical humor goes a long way, and I’ve already watched both of those missed high-fives more time than any sane person should. (Thank God for Tumblr’s endless supply of GIFs.)
Another thing this hour of Parks and Rec excelled at was using its supporting cast. While last week’s focus was on Ron and Leslie, all of the characters we’ve come to know and love were given storylines in these two episodes—another benefit of the back-to-back episode decision. Even Craig got ample time in the spotlight. It’s always great to see Billy Eichner in my TV screen, and I loved that Craig has taken Chris’s place as Dr. Richard Nygard’s star patient. His calming list of things he loves was absolute perfection. (Thinking about Victor Garber, Jennifer Garner, and Keri Russell’s hair always helps me feel better, too. Also, is Craig a fan of all of J.J. Abrams’s work, or just Felicity and Alias?)
But what I loved even more about Craig than his self-soothing was the wake-up call he gave to April about her bitterness. Sometimes it’s easy to get so upset by feeling stuck in a place that you forget how much you learned and grew there. It’s easy to feel resentful; it’s harder to acknowledge the positive impact a job had on you while still wanting to move on from it. April needed Craig because, while channeling Leslie in a positive sense helped her in the end, she was channeling Leslie in a bad way in her projecting and overreacting—two things Leslie has been known to do.
April’s story is the one I’m most excited to watch develop over the course of this last handful of episodes. I love the impact Leslie has had on her, and I truly hope we get a scene sometime soon with these two women talking about April’s struggles. Aubrey Plaza has been bringing her A-game this season, especially when it comes to adding new emotional notes to this character’s repertoire. There was a moment in this pair of episodes where she was talking about wanting to save the interns where you could see tears in her eyes, and I love the sense of realistic panic she’s been bringing to April’s journey so far this season.
April and Craig made for a fun character pairing in these episodes, but I think we all know who the star character pairing was: Donna and Tom. “Treat Yo Self” has become a pop culture sensation and one of the most-used hashtags on social media. (I’ll admit to using it on basically every other Instagram post.) So its return was a perfect way to highlight one of the most unexpectedly permanent ways this show has impacted pop culture. From the DJ and the singsong “Treat Yo Self 2017!” to the cake and the champagne, every detail was a perfect callback to the first Treat Yo Self Day. (Not that I expected anything less.) And the addition of a trip to Beverley Hills was so perfectly in-character for Tom and Donna, and it allowed for the show to have some more fun with the time jump by describing the lives of celebrities in the future. (My favorite was the imagined sequel to Hitch because Tom’s love for that movie is one of my favorite quirks of his.)
When “Treat Yo Self” first happened, it ended up being a way for Ben to deal with his feelings about breaking up with Leslie. In “Save JJ’s,” it also led to some emotional catharsis—this time for Tom. My favorite part of this storyline was the way it brought out two of the best sides of these characters: Tom’s vulnerability and Donna’s wisdom. Tom is such a sincere character under his bluster, and Donna is as grounded as it gets despite her love for the finer things. And this pair of episodes was able to showcase just how multifaceted these characters are. On any other show, Tom and Donna would probably be horribly one-note and stereotypical, but on Parks and Rec they have layers and nuances that are so wonderful to see. In addition, I’m pretty sure “When it comes to matters of the heart, treat yo self” is some of the best advice I’ve ever heard.
Tom did treat himself when it came to his heart, and it paid off with a date with Lucy. That was one of dozens of heartwarming moments throughout the hour—from Leslie comforting Ben at the kitchen table about his Ice Town fears to Ron and Leslie sharing a drink at the conclusion of “Save JJ’s.” While “Leslie and Ron” was a roller coaster of intense emotions, “Save JJ’s” was a plate of breakfast comfort food designed to remind you how warm and happy this show can make you feel.
Leslie Knope has always loved two things: parks and waffles. “Save JJ’s” ended with her saving those two things through creative thinking, perseverance, and a lot of help from her friends. It was a fitting way to honor all of the best things about this show before we say goodbye. And it left me more certain than ever that Parks and Rec is going to go out on the top of its game, which is exactly how it should be remembered.