‘Parks and Recreation’ Review: “Ann and Chris”
On tonight's all-new episode of 'Parks and Recreation,' we bid farewell to Ann and Chris, as Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe leave the show and their characters move on to the next chapter of their lives. Leslie has planned a farewell party, of course, and tries to fulfill one last promise to sweet, beautiful Ann before she departs. Meanwhile, the guys try to find a going away gift for Chris. Grab your tissues -- it's going to get weepy in here.
If NBC had aired "Ann and Chris" after Donald Glover's farewell on last week's 'Community' episode, I don't know if I could have handled all the emotions. In fact, for much of tonight's 'Parks and Rec,' I felt okay about Ann and Chris leaving. Leslie's over the top celebration for Ann was fitting, cramming in all the holidays of the year into one night just in case she didn't see her BFF for a while, and we even got to see creepy Oren in an Easter bunny suit. It was all very typically Leslie, from the 103 scrapbooks documenting their entire friendship, to her determination to break ground on Pawnee Commons before Ann leaves for Michigan. After all, it was that very lot that brought them together in the first episode, with Leslie's promise to turn that pit into a beautiful park. And I think Pawnee Commons has been forgotten quite a bit since Leslie's victory with it, but it's been sitting there, just waiting to be built. Ann's departure is a good time to revisit it and remember what started this whole series in the first place.
'Parks and Rec' and 'Community' both share a similar plot device tonight, with characters on missions to get what they want and finding themselves at the mercy of the whims of others. Like Annie having to bribe the heads of various departments in "Analysis of Cork-Based Networking," Leslie and Ann have to bribe public works head Harold (guest star Chris Bauer of 'True Blood') with some Sweetums soda, which means getting Sweetums the local celeb spokesperson they want, which means Ann having to sweet talk Perd Hapley (and discovering that Ann once went on a date with Perd, which was exactly how you might imagine it). But unlike 'Community,' 'Parks and Rec' is thankfully more brisk with this thread, and definitely more light in tone, so we get gags like Ann choking out Sweetums exec Kathryn Pinewood and a visit with Pistol Pete Disellio.
Meanwhile, Chris gets all the guys super sweet and thoughtful gifts -- a burger trophy for Ron for that time they had a burger cook-off, a framed spreadsheet for Ben, a photo of Jerry (or Larry, jeez) officiating Ben and Leslie's wedding, a Lil' Sebastian memorial concert poster for Andy, and a bottle of Snake Juice for Tom (amazing). But the guys' present of a gift card doesn't quite measure up, so they spend all night trying to get something just as thoughtful in return, and when they put their heads together with Ron's skills, they come up with a beautiful wooden box to echo Chris' gift boxes, which he called his "buddy boxes," only this one is for his special new buddy -- his baby -- and has his friends' initials all engraved inside. It's too sweet.
Also sweet tonight are moments like Ron telling Ann he enjoyed "part of the time" they had together, which is an emotional explosion for Ron Swanson, and Chris telling April he's proud of her. Speaking of April: when Leslie and Ann finally make their way to break ground on Pawnee Commons in the middle of the night, it's too adorable watching April break and mumble to Ann that she does actually love her before they share a cute little hug.
But nothing compares to the friendships between Ann and Leslie and to a lesser extent, Chris and Ben. The former share a nice moment, promising to keep in touch, but we'll just have to imagine that friendship continuing in all the moments 'Parks and Rec' doesn't show us, won't we? Their final goodbye is incredibly touching and you can feel something very genuine because this group really has made something very special over the last five years, and seeing a couple of their own leave them is bittersweet. And it is for us, too! As much as Ann and Chris have had some issues as characters from time to time, they've been so delightful, and their relationships with Leslie and Ben and with each other have been a joy to watch. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't sobbing at the end. Goodbye, Ann and Chris. You will be missed dearly.