NBC’s Parks and Recreation this Thursday said farewell to Ann Perkins (played by original cast member Rashida Jones) and Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe, who joined the series in Season 2), with an episode that involved 103 scrapbooks, six buddy boxes, one party that was actually 30 parties and a mix tape that’s heavy on Sarah McLachlan.
With parents-to-be Ann and Chris set to move away, Leslie’s No. 1 priority — aside from a goodbye party that celebrates every holiday she and her bestie will miss spending together this year — is bringing their friendship full circle by breaking ground on Pawnee Commons, the park that drew Ann into Leslie’s orbit.
Thing is, Harold from Public Works hits Leslie with some red tape, and no amount of snacks featuring a touch of hazelnut crunch will grease the works enough. Ultimately, Harold’s price is this: the return of Sweetums’ Super Fizzy Fruity Pop. To make that happen, Leslie needs to secure a local celeb’s endorsement for Sweetums’ new Dunktastic 3-Point B-Ball Blast sports drink. Pistol Pete wants no part of it (“Their slogan is, ‘It’s All About Basketball'” the fatigued hoops legend notes), but Perd Hapley comes through when Ann beseeches him to do it “for old times’ sake” — revealing that she and the verbose newsman once went out, during Ann’s date-anything-that-moves days.
As they wait for the ribbon cutting guy to (never) show, Leslie and Ann reflect on their friendship and promise to always touch base on Jennifer Aniston’s decisions, State of the Union addresses and during Tootsie rewatches. Calling Ann “a perfect sunflower,” Leslie thanks her friend for teaching her how to find balance in life, be (more) patient and throw caution to the wind when it came to Ben. Also: Say no to tulip skirts.
Chris, meanwhile, gifts Ben, Tom, Ron, Andy and Larry/Jerry with a “buddy box,” inside which is a thoughtful reminder of their time together (e.g. framed 2008 Indiana state audit sheets for Ben, who effused, “That year was insaaaane!”). Ben struggles to come back at Chris with a gift more meaningful than a few pans and a bag of paper. What they eventually arrive at is a hand-crafted Ron Swanson special, an empty “buddy box” in which Chris is to store new memories (or Twizzlers) — starting with a tear he sheds.
As the half-hour drew to a close, with their car ready to drive away, Chris told Ben he was “literally the best friend I will ever have,” while Leslie told Chris that while no man is good enough for Ann, he’s “pretty damn close.” And with a mix tape from Leslie in hand, Ann and Chris drove away.
All told, it was a thorough and thoroughly satisfying episode, affording both Ann and Chris a chance to share at least a moment with everyone else. Ann fielded warm words from Larry, only to lose it when Ron shared, “I have enjoyed parts of our time together.” She left knowing that Donna would “run this town,” man-wise, with her out of the mix, and even coaxed frenemy April — who at one point was reveling in the idea of Ann’s day full of “painful goodbyes” — to mumble an “I love you, too.” Ann saw Andy remember they once dated, witnessed Tom delete her from his phone and amusingly traded notes with Ben on how to manage their respective mates, now left to their own devices.
Chris, too, got his goodbyes, which included an ass-grab from Donna and a sweet exchange with (again!) April, who “blah-blah-blah”d an approximation of his farewell speech. “That was remarkably close to what I was going to say. Also: I’m proud of you.” (There was also a random moment with a JFK mask, which maybe was a meta nod to Lowe’s recent portrayal of the president?)
“Keep your tears in your eyes where they belong”? Impossible. What moment had your waterworks working hardest?