‘Parks and Recreation’ recap: “William Henry Harrison”/”Ron and Leslie”

Last week Parks and Recreation‘s last season started, and NBC is burning off the remaining 13 episodes in back-to-back airings on Tuesday nights. The premier was very strong with some solid writing, and great updating of the characters in the jump to 2017. Because we’re nearing the end, recurring characters are making welcomed returns, and references are made to past seasons. One of the biggest revelations in the ensuing years was Ron is no longer with the parks department, and is Leslie’s nemesis. On Tuesday’s episodes, we finally get to the bottom of the feud and the eventual reconciliation. The premier episodes were great to bring the fans back to the world of Pawnee, and last night’s episodes were even better.

“William Henry Harrison”

Parks and Recreation

Named after the president with the shortest time in office (a month), the first episode continues Leslie’s quest to get the Newton land made into a park, despite Gryzzl’s intent on using the land for a corporate campus. What I liked about this episode is Leslie’s affinity for Harrison. It’s interesting that such an obscure footnote in American history becomes a central theme in this episode because his truncated presidency is a neat allegory for Leslie’s campaign to get the Newton land. Sparked by an interested local historian, Leslie hopes to get the land deemed historically significant because there may be ruins of his hunting lodge in the area. Hoping to exploit this angle, Leslie, April, and Andy head off to the William Henry Harrison Museum, which is predictably stupid and “lame” (April’s words, not mine). Still Leslie thinks she’s found her way into getting what she wants.

Parks and Recreation

On the other hand, Ron is working with Tom and Donna and Gryzzl to get support for the corporate campus, and so on the urging of a treadmill-running Gryzzl veep, Ron, Tom, and Donna visit returning recurring character, Annabelle Porter, Pawnee’s answer to Gwyneth Paltrow. Annabelle, for those who don’t remember, runs a site called Bloosh, which dictates trends and modes in fashion, food, well, everything, really. Ron doesn’t have much time for Annabelle, but he’s not about to concede to Leslie, either, so for the time being the two forge an uneasy alliance.

Parks and Recreation

The dueling press conferences allowed for Leslie to appear at her worst. Without much to say, she piles on historical trivia without saying much (“quantity over quality”), and is quickly usurped by Gryzzl’s flashier presentation that includes smoke, laser, dancers, and Annabelle Porter. Even though Leslie accused Ron of pandering, he made a good point: Leslie’s presentation, while more homespun, was no more substantive than his.

While all of this is going on, Ben and Terry are on a Groundhog Day-like day from hell because Ben needs both Leslie and Ron to sign some papers, but each refuses to meet together, so he has to dash between the both of them, but then something goes wrong, and he has to get new forms. It’s a very minor plot that doesn’t do anything for the rest of the episode, except give Terry and Ben some screen time. Though it has to be said, no one does exasperated frustration better than Adam Scott.

Parks and Recreation

The episode felt like filler, mainly to set the scene for Ron and Leslie to reconcile, and to let viewers know what happened to break up their friendship in the first place. Still, it’s a solid episode that leads up to probably one of the best episodes in the show’s seven-year run: “Ron and Leslie.”

Random notes:

  • Because the final season is all about bringing in elements of Parks and Rec past, I loved the inclusion of the Church of the Reasonablists (“Hail Zorp”)
  • “So hold on to your straws, everybody, ‘cuz mama’s going graspin’!”
  • It’s neat that Tom has to translate slang to Ron, like an interpreter
  • In 2017, Bloosh won a Pulitzer.
  • The bio on Harrison, Barely a President – looks really interesting, actually….that would be something I’d read.
  • Annabelle’s predictions for this year’s trends? “asymmetrical overalls, angora toothbrushes, locally-sourced Italian flip-flops…beef milk.”
  • How very Pawnee that its answer to the Kennedys is Zack Harrison, a descendant of William Henry Harrison.
  • Leslie’s reaction to the remote possibility that she’s George Washington’s descendant is priceless: “we shared very similar jaw lines.”

“Leslie and Ron”

Parks and Recreation

Finally, we know what happened to break the close friendship of Ron and Leslie – and we finally now what Morningstar is. In “Leslie and Ron” we essentially have a bottle episode. In the preceding episode, the gang lock Ron and Leslie in the old parks dept office so that they can finally have it out. It turns out that the friendship collapsed over a sad misunderstanding: Leslie’s ascendance threw Ron’s life into disarray: she took April and Terry, and Tom and Donna eventually left to become successful entrepreneurs. Seeing that his tight-knit family of coworkers have dispersed, Ron was hoping for a spot on Leslie’s new team. It’s an interesting slide of sorts for Ron who just a couple seasons before was Leslie’s boss, and it’s an ignominious act for the staunch libertarian to have to work for the federal government. Nick Offerman played all of this beautifully – his sullen sadness masked by his usual Ron-ness. Ron and Leslie were supposed to meet at JJ’s Diner so that he could pop the question, but instead, Leslie flew off to Washington, DC, standing up him.

Interestingly enough, I think it’s for the better that Ron did not get the job with Leslie, because everyone in the show got to move on, why not Ron? He deserves some progress in his life, as well. After all, he’s a married dad (though, we don’t hear anything about the lovely Diane, which makes me wonder if in the three years did they get divorced, or is Lucy Lawless too busy to guest), so he needs to do what’s best for his family.  I also appreciate how the writers get that Leslie should feel bad about being so insensitive to Ron’s feelings – as one of his best friends, she should’ve known what all of the changes would do to the guy.

Not that Ron’s blameless. Morningstar, Parks and Rec‘s version of Rosebud, ended up being a luxury condo complex that was erected in Ann’s old place. Ron bulldozed Ann’s home, which gutted Leslie, even though, Ann hasn’t lived there in years. Yes, Leslie is not completely in the right about this – after all, she can’t leave the home as a monument to her best friend (although, I’m sure she has a shrine to the beautiful Ann Perkins in her home with Ben) – but still, Ann’s home was Leslie’s HQ: the two shared some deep and cherished moments in that house, and I understand why it being torn down hurt Leslie so much.

Parks and Recreation

The two eventually patched things up (with the help of a lot of liquor). While talking, the writers gave some wonderful insights to the history behind Leslie’s friendship with Ron. He hired her even though he knew she’d be a constant thorn in his side because he admired her tenacity (and because she baked great brownies). Their friendship wasn’t based on mutual love of their shared work – instead, it was based on mutual admiration for the other. Neither backs down easily, and both care deeply about the people they love. It makes sense that Michael Schur  wrote this episode because he understands the dynamics of the show best. He gifts both Offerman and Amy Poehler with some gems, and the two comedic actors do wonders with with their respective roles (if neither is nominated for an Emmy, then I’m done with the Emmys).

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Interestingly enough, I wonder how their renewed friendship will stand their rivalry over the Newton land. In the past, both Ron and Leslie have been pitted against each other, but their love for each other, kept the fighting civil. Now that they’re friends again, what does that mean for the changed dynamic of the competition. Before their reconciliation, Ron didn’t  think twice about ambushing Leslie’s press conference (which didn’t sit well with Tom or Donna, both of whom still care for Leslie). And Leslie’s righteous fury at Ron prompted her to say some pretty mean things about the guy. Now that they have their bond resealed, it’ll be interesting to see what happens (I suspect Leslie will pull a compromise that’ll make everyone happy at the last minute).

Random notes

  • “You guys, Ron loves plastic!”
  • Leslie’s methods of breaking through Ron’s hardened shell is akin to torture. Poor guy.
  • “Steel trap of friendship nuggets.”
  • I don’t care for Billy Joel (though I think “Traveling Prayer” is okay), but I really hate, hate, hate “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and we get two awful renditions of it in this episode. Thanks a lot, Terry…
  • Morningstar’s construction date is listed as January 2015, so it’s happening right now as we speak….
  • Ron’s Claymore mine was filled with confetti and balloons.
  • According to Ron’s initial assessment of Leslie, she is “slightly to the left of Leon Trotsky.”
  • Ron in Craig’s yoga clothes. Just yes.
  • I love the montage of Ron and Leslie setting the parks dept back to the old way over the strains of Willie Nelson’s “Buddy.”
  • Three years’ worth of hugs.
  • Ron saved Ann’s front door and made a beautiful frame for Leslie…I think I’m getting a little verklempt.

 

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Filed under Comedy, Sitcom, Television, TV, Writing

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