There’s only two appropriate responses to tonight’s double dose of NBC’s Parks and Recreation and they are: “Yes! Parks and Rec is back!” and “Shit! Parks and Rec is ending!” As ecstatic as I am to dive back into Pawnee, especially after that three-year time-jump cliffhanger that ended last season, it just means I’m one step closer to saying goodbye for good.
Parks has been one of the most enjoyable and consistent parts of the NBC lineup that’s been lacking plenty of enjoyment and consistency lately. The whole comedy brand on NBC, which used to be the network’s calling card, is in complete disarray, but that lack of focus is probably what we can thank for Parks sticking around this long. With no other bankable comedies to return to, the often low-rated Parks was able to hang on with additional support coming from critical adoration and a fierce cult fanbase that’s been growing with the help of Netflix, Hulu Plus, and the show airing in syndication. Also, with cast members like Chris Pratt, Nick Offerman and Aubrey Plaza garnering more attention, it seems like Parks has more eyes on it now than ever before, right as it begins its swan song.
The first part of that swan song was both sweet and familiar, and a little bit disorienting and new. The faces are largely the same, but Pawnee and its personalities have changed a bit in those three lost years. For instance, April and Andy are acting like responsible adults, Ben is being publicly honored by a town instead of derided, and LESLIE AND RON AREN’T FRIENDS ANYMORE! NO!!!!! One of the best parts of Parks and Rec is the love and admiration that the characters share for each other. It just feels wrong hearing Leslie compare saying Ron’s name to saying Voldemort’s. As unnatural as it seems, it is an interesting idea to have the two at odds in a season of Team Leslie (Leslie, April, Andy, Terry) versus Team Ron (Ron, Tom, Donna, Blake from Workaholics as the owner of Grizzle).
The two sides are at war over a piece of property owned by the Newport family that includes Lake Eagleton and the Pawnee Foot Hills. Jessica Newport intends to sell the property, valued at $90 million, to Grizzle, the company that Ben sparred with over the Cones of Dunshire. Grizzle has hired Ron, who has left the Parks Department and entered the private sector with his aptly named business Very Good Buildings and Development, to develop the land once the deal goes through. Of course, Leslie tries to stop the deal, seeing the beautiful area of land as an ideal spot for a National Park, a project that could be her career highlight. The first half hour ends with the Newports announcing that they’re both in the running for the property, with Leslie offering the family no money, but the honor of the new park being titled Newport National Park
The bad blood between Leslie and Ron doesn’t just stem from this new conflict of interest, but from an incident that’s repeatedly mentioned called Morningstar. There’s no info on what Morningstar is or what happened with it, but it would be neat to jump backwards in time and see the wedge driven between Leslie and Ron ourselves.
The second half hour sees Leslie once again having to earn the vote of Councilman Jamm in her effort to earn the property of the Newport, except Jamm is acting a little different. Can you smell that? Can you tell she’s near? Because Tammy, yes, Ron’s manipulative, succubus of an ex-wife Tammy (Offerman’s real-life wife Megan Mullally), has her claws in Jamm and is causing him to act exactly like Ron, red polo, mustache, steaks, whiskey, and all. Leslie thinks that Jammy (their couple name) will side with her because they both hate Ron and want to make him miserable, but Tammy reveals that she hates Leslie even more and has Jamm give her a classic JAM!
But when Jamm shows signs of extreme depression, Leslie puts her own cause behind her and seeks Ron’s assistance to help Jamm rid himself of Tammy. The Tammy episodes are always instant classics and this one is no different, with Ron spouting off the best incredibly hyperbolic digs at his ex-wife yet while showcasing some of his anti-Tammy devices, like his hand made chastity belt. In the final showdown with Tammy, she strips completely naked and even tells Leslie that she’ll give her Jamm’s vote if she leaves Jamm to his own lust, but Leslie does the noble thing and helps the “miserable creature,” resist the evil woman. The episode shows that Leslie and Ron can still work together and even put their own goals behind them to help others because they’re both generous and kind people at heart.
Having NBC air two episodes a night of a thirteen-episode season is going to make this goodbye go so fast, and it definitely makes it hard to recap all of the rapid fire, gutbusting moments, but I’m thankful we’ve made it to season seven at all, and it looks like we’ve got a great arc going for a memorable send-off.
The Best of the Rest
- Tom is doing very well. Tom’s Bistro is a huge success and is profiled as hot restaurant, but as always, Tom’s still searching for love. Lucy, who Tom briefly dated, messages him wanting to catch back up, and he and a drunk Andy decide to go all the way to Chicago to try and reignite the flame. Lucy hints at wanting to return to Pawnee, and Tom offers her a job as manager of his company. The only problem is that Lucy has a boyfriend, but as Andy predicts, they’re so totally going to fall in love.
- Ben is awarded Pawnee Man of the Year 2017. Tom gives the introduction but ends up only talking about himself, then Ben’s speech is cut short by the introduction of a cake. But hey, he still won an award and it wasn’t a clever ruse to throw things at him! He spends the second half hour trying to help April, who’s unhappy with her current life and job, find a new career.
- Speaking of April, her and Andy are all grown up. She has a big position in the Leslie’s Parks Department and Andy has his own Johnny Karate kid’s TV show. Everything looks to be going swimmingly except that they realize that they’ve become the boring married couple that they used to hate on and have lost the crazy spontaneity of their relationship. They decided to by a old haunted house that used to serve as an insane asylum exclusively for the workers of an old doll head factory, so yeah, it’s completely right up April’s alley. April also searches for a new job at a morgue, but it’s not lively enough for her. Get it?
- Donna is now a successful real estate agent and she’s getting married! Who would have ever thought Donna would let herself be tied down?
- Jerry goes by Terry now because there was already a Larry in the new Parks Department and he also plays Barry the Mailman on Andy’s show. He still sucks.
- When Ron says Leslie looks the same, she protests, “I have bangs now!”
- April complaining about her mature life with Andy: “We have a bank account!”
- “I have a lot to gain by being right and I have extreme tunnel vision about achieving my goals.” – Leslie
- Joan Callamezzo potentially steals the whole hour when it’s revealed that she has gone off the deep end, demanding Buddy Holly perform at her event and doing insane things like giving her audience one car to fight over.
- “Thanks Commissioner Gordon, people of Gotham.” – Joan
- Tammy calls Jamm a placeholder as he whispers, “I love you so much.”
- In 2017 the Cubs have won a World Series.
- Jon Hamm returns as the only person more inept than Terry, Ed. Here’s to hoping we see more of him.
- Leslie’s Tammy impression is also an episode highlight. She nails the baby voice and overly sexual pet names.
- Naked Tammy to Jamm: “There’s a prize inside for you.”