Parks and Recreation: Ann and Chris (6×13)
Summary: As Ann prepares to leave Pawnee, Leslie tries to tie up the one loose end of their friendship. The boys try to think of a good gift for Chris. Everyone cries.
If you’re a Parks and Recreation fan like I am, this episode was literally the most perfect goodbye Ann Perkins and Chris Traeger could have gotten. It wasn’t flashy, but it was the perfect kind of Parks and Recreation episode that shows off what the characters are about and how far they’ve come as they prepare for the next step in their lives.
The episode revolves around Leslie throwing a giant party for Ann and trying to tie up the final loose end on their years of friendship: The Pawnee Commons. Leslie schedules a midnight groundbreaking for Ann, but Harold in Public Works isn’t having any of it. He doesn’t like that Leslie went over his head for approval and goes as far as to put a fence around the lot and hire security guards to keep her out. This puts a damper on the giant All Holiday Party Leslie throws for Ann (that includes Waffle Day and Talk Like A Pittsburgh Pirate Day), but Ann reminds her that they don’t wait around for anyone.
This leads them on a classic Parks and Recreation adventure where they go around the city all in one night to get something done. They bust into Harold’s house unannounced, Ann gets Kathryn Pinewood in a headlock, and Perd Hapley agrees to help them because he went on a date with Ann once. It was the kind of storyline that made me fall in love with Ann and Leslie’s friendship and it ends with them succeeding and finally breaking ground on The Pawnee Commons while wearing hardhats that say “Kickass.” I’m so glad it’s in character for Leslie to remember everything (their friendship covers 103 scrapbooks!) because those callbacks were super sweet without feeling forced.
Meanwhile, while the boys were helping Chris pack boxes, he gives them “Buddy Boxes,” which have gifts that are fitting for their friendships with Chris. They’re all touched, but they feel guilty when they realize that all they got him was a shitty gift card. They struggle to come up with something better, but can’t really get it right. Chris tells them it’s okay and that the Buddy Boxes were meant to represent the past. This gives Ben an idea, which he gets done with Ron’s help. They all make a nice wooden Buddy Box for Chris that is ready to be filled with new memories. While Chris’ relationship with the guys on the show may not have been as strong as Ann and Leslie, it was still super sweet and made me tear up to see them band together to give him a good gift.
Really though, I think my favorite parts of the episode were the little goodbyes each of the characters would have with Ann and Chris. Ann and Donna commiserating over dating. Donna grabbing Chris’ butt. Ann and Ben exchanging tips on how to care for Leslie and Chris. Ron saying he enjoyed some of his time with Ann! They’re such small moments, but they were wonderful and perfect for each of the friendships. I even enjoyed Tom’s weird little speech to Ann and Andy JUST NOW remembering they dated.
The best though was how clearly emotional April was about it throughout the episode. April always seemed resentful to Ann, even after she and Andy got married. However, this episode proves that she did actually care about Ann Perkins and is just as sad as everyone else to see her go. She even cries and admits that she loves Ann. Well, kind of. April will never admit that she was actually crying about it and she mumbles the words “I love you.” Lucky for our sour April, Ann’s final gift to her is to not needle the “I love you” out of her. Which ends with them hugging and Leslie lamenting over missing a sweet moment between them. I’m glad the viewers didn’t though. I didn’t really realize it until that moment, but the two of them really needed that kind of conclusion. April shows the persona of antagonist for her husband’s ex, but it makes me happy to see that deep down, she wants the best for Ann too.
The end of the episode is what really made me tear up. As Leslie and Ben say a tearful goodbye to their best friends while ‘Wildflowers’ by Tom Petty plays, Ron suggests going to breakfast. Because “there’s never been sadness that can’t be cured by breakfast food.” Never has a truer statement been uttered by this show.
This was the most bittersweet of bittersweet episodes. Ann and Chris are gone, but not before having moments that remind us why we love them and their friends. In the end, Leslie fulfills the pinky promise she made Ann in the first episode. The one their entire friendship was built on. I couldn’t imagine a better ending for those two than that.
Of course, it’s not really a total end. They still have all their futures ahead of them. They’ll still be friends. It’s just an end to their time in Pawnee together. That’s not really what friendships are about though. If Leslie’s words to Ann while they sat together in the Pawnee Commons before breaking ground reminded me of anything, it’s that friendships aren’t measured in beginnings or ends, but the lessons learned and memories shared. Leslie became a better person because of Ann, and Ann’s life was never the same after she met Leslie Knope.
Oh geez, I think I’m going to cry again.
Parks and Recreation resumes on February 27 after the Olympics. What’s the future of our intrepid cast now that Ann and Chris have moved away? No idea as of right now, but at least we have the bobsledding promos.