‘Parks and Recreation’ recap: “Ann & Chris” – a tribute to beautiful and foxy Ann Perkins

Photo from the episode "Ann and Chris"

Rashida Jones is one of my favorite actresses/comediennes, ever since she starred as the peppery and disaffected drone, Karen, in The Office. But she even was more delightful as the gorgeous, level-headed if slightly kooky nurse, Ann Perkins on Parks and Recreation. Unfortunately, the writers didn’t know what to make of the character most of the time, and she became the resident straight woman to all the insane characters that orbited her. So even though Ann rarely had some hilarious comic gems to herself, she was always a sound source of reason. But her main purpose on the show was to be Leslie’s soul mate. And for that I loved her. I loved the relationship Leslie and Ann shared because it’s so rare to see women supporting each other and loving each other unconditionally. The friendship was  one of the reasons I watched the show.

But realistically speaking, Jones is much better off now, reportedly cast as the lead in Steve Carrell’s new sitcom. And so we bid Ann Perkins adieu in “Ann & Chris” the episode that is probably one of the most heart-breaking, but also beautiful. For the whole season so far, we had a chance to get used to Leslie going it alone without her foxy sidekick. In fact, Ann and Chris seemed to be spun off in their own domestic sitcom – a Mad About You for the 2010’s. Leslie had to face her problems – losing her place on the city council and trying to find herself and her identity – and a lot of the times she faced them without Ann, who was tending to her pregnancy.

And though Parks and Rec has been renewed for a seventh season and there are no talks of an end in sight, this feels like a penultimate season. Leslie has grown exponentially since the first season – she no longer is a goof, but an ambitious and intelligent woman who has outgrown Pawnee. Much of this season so far, has been about how Leslie is destined for larger, better things, and that the only thing keeping her in Pawnee is her unwillingness to let go. With Ann’s departure, that just might happen.

I don’t want to give Chris the shaft because he was a great character and Rob Lowe was consistently funny in the show. And in “Ann & Chris” he and Ben have some great moments together. It’s interesting because we were introduced to Ben and Chris as Leslie’s adversaries, flown in to fix the disastrous finances of the Pawnee government. They were adversaries, threatening to shut down the parks department and sack everyone. But once the two characters were successfully folded into the gang, they developed great relationships with the other characters: and both eventually found their partners: Ben married Leslie, and Chris and Ann decided to start a life together.

And though Ben and Chris are tight, it’s Ann’s and Leslie’s friendship that was a lovely constant, that acted as the sugary, gooey center in the middle of the tart coating; and in “Ann & Chris” we get one final Ann and Leslie vs. the world adventure. When the two met in the first season, Ann was disaffected and disgusted with the government because of the lax attitude it had toward the empty lot outside of her house. Making the lot into the park was the windmill in Leslie’s life, and as a surprise she wanted a groundbreaking, ribbon-cutting blowout before Ann left. But bureaucracy got in the way, and the two had to go on a spinning quest, that involved getting local news anchor Perd Hapley to endorse Sweetums so that a civic employee will loosen some restrictions, and the park can be built. It was a sweet moment to see the two run through the town to get a task done – something Ann and Leslie have been doing throughout the years.

But as much as I liked the hijinks, I really enjoyed the emotional moments. April and Ann had a nice one – I never bought the idea that April hated Ann – April just shows her affection in a very hostile way. So even though it was sweet when April finally admitted that she loved Ann (though she mumbled it from the side of her mouth), it wasn’t all that surprising.

The ending was perfect, too – Leslie and Ann through tears try to get through a casual goodbye. “It’s no big deal,” Leslie says, though her voice quivers, and Ann simply answers, “I love you.” But it is a big deal. And we’re meant to understand that – Ann was Leslie’s rock and a constant in her life. And yes, Ben is great and one of the greatest TV husbands, but a husband is no substitute for a girl’s BFF.  And though this past season showed that even without Ann, Leslie will be okay – aside from Ben, Leslie also had great moments with April, Ron, and Donna, proving that even though Ann may have been her soul mate, she still has some great family with her colleagues.

Television needs more female friendships, and the loss of Ann and Leslie is a shame. What with reality television shoving misogyny and girl-on-girl violence regularly, we rarely get the sort of powerful sisterhood Leslie and Ann shared. The friendship the two shared will recall Mary and Rhoda, the girls from Sex and the City, and Lucy and Ethel. These kinds of relationships are important to show.

It’ll be interesting to see how the show moves forward. It feels like there’s a definite ending coming –

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