Parks and Recreation
Season 6, Episode 13: Ann and Chris
– Posted by Sage
“That parks lady is coming over and we’re gonna go take a look at the pit.”
So began a Bechdel-crushing lady friendship for the ages. Leslie Knope and Ann Perkins taught us so much in six seasons: how to tell the truth, even if it means an uncomfortable moment or two; how to respect one another’s individual needs instead of projecting our own; and, perhaps most importantly, that tulip skirts are not for everyone. And that’s okay.
I’ve been missing Leslie/Ann something fierce this season – with Ann and Chris’s baby on the way, I feel like we’ve missed some prime opportunities for Leslie to go crazy over her future godchild. But what’s beautiful about this friendship is that it’s never been just about standing next to each other while checking boxes on a life to-do list. Get married, check. Have baby, check. Plan the shower, like the Facebook pictures, buy the gifts. Ann and Leslie are purer than that. And the dearth of BFF storylines they’ve shared so far this season left us primed and ready for a big ol’ cry fest in “Ann and Chris” when the girls said their goodbyes. Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers,” Parks? Flag on the play.
The tears were left until the end. The bulk of the episode was better spent sending Ann and Leslie on a mission. A mission to break ground on Lot 48 – the pit that brought them together. I’m glad that Leslie had her freakout about Ann’s move back in “Doppelgangers,” so that Rashida’s final episode could be a proper send-off. Now was not the time to let a Knope tantrum take center stage. Instead, because Ben does not wield the “unfettered power to crush” Leslie’s enemies, the writers had Leslie and Ann doing what they do best – making things happen and waiting “for no man.”
Harold from Public Works had no idea what thunder he was calling down when he dared to stand in the way of Leslie Knope’s farewell surprise to Ann Perkins. Leslie made Ann a promise, and even if they’d become friendly acquaintances instead of soul sisters, she’d still be running all over town on Ann’s last night, making sure that promise was kept. But the Lot 48 park was never a present Leslie was going to deliver gift wrapped – it was a pledge that she made to join forces with Ann and see this thing done. So, fittingly, it was these women – who don’t ever have to knock, thank you very much – to do this together.
So while we often credit Ann for tethering Leslie to solid ground and inspiring her to be a fuller, balanced person, it was more than a little Knope that came out in her as went out to get herself a park. “If I learned one thing from Leslie Knope,” she says, “it is that we don’t take no for an answer.” And if that means using one’s feminine wiles on Perd Hapley or putting the vile Kathryn Pinewood into a nasty headlock, so be it. Leslie’s Ann (Damn Perkins) is brave. And more than willing to look ridiculous for the right reasons. Between Leslie’s 30 parties and the full group sendoff the next morning, Leslie and Ann have their private goodbye on the vacant lot, right where Leslie hashed things out with Mark Brendanoquitz a couple of years ago. But my favorite tribute to their bond was in that last interaction with the horrid Public Works guy, who tells Ann and Leslie that they’re total pains in the ass. “Harold, your tiny brain could not understand this, but that is the best compliment you could ever give the two women standing in front of you,” Leslie proudly says. When I posted it as my Facebook status, several of my favorite ladies in this universe liked it immediately.
But much as Leslie would like to make this all about beautiful Ann, Chris Traeger – City Manager, health guru, and dancing machine – also left us this week. In a nice callback to the bachelor party episode, the boys struggled to find a way to show Chris what he means to them. The buddy boxes were a tough act to follow, filled as they were with remembrances of each individual friendship. (Snake Juice!) I wonder what he saved for Plates. Aziz wins for line reading of the night. When he suggested that Chris might like “cashmere, concert tickets, and caboodles of cash,” he answered the group’s lack of enthusiasm with an exasperated, “UGH! I WISH YOU GUYS WERE DONNA.”
For someone as sentimental as Chris, the gift of the ability to make more memories (or store Twizzlers – “that’s the beautiful thing about a box”) was precisely the correct choice. He is going to use the crap out of that new buddy box and probably ask Ron to send him a new one by the time that baby hits month #2.
Chris Traeger was a tricky character to fit into this world. He seemed, as many of these guys did in their early days, to be a bundle of quirks without much depth. It was when the writers hit on his endless quest for improvement, his unquenchable need to see the people around him succeed, and his kindness, in all situations, that he came into his own. He is SO CLOSE to being good enough for Ann Perkins. I’ve written in past recaps about the way Pawnee softened both him and Ben. They came in as polite colleagues and went out assuring each other that they’d never have a better friend. “You totally changed me, you know,” Leslie says to Ann. But that statement could be applied to any combination of these people.
To sum it up: Chris is still proud of April, and April’s still secretly pleased about it. Donna still thinks Chris is a fine piece of ass, and he’s still openly pleased about it. Andy randomly remembered that he and Ann used to date, just like we did. With Ann off the market, no single Pawnee woman will have a shot against Donna. Chris is the type of man who Ron will shake hands with – twice. Tom finally lets Ann off the hook of his raw, animal magnetism. Ann loves April and April loves Ann, quietly. And, when it really counted, Ron remembered the nurse’s name.
In the musical Company, there’s a line that says, “There’s a time to come to New York and a time to leave.” I’ve never been too keen on that second part, but the fact remains that New Yorkers are so often saying goodbye to friends who’ve decided that that time has come. And when it does, it feels like the bubble has burst. Because it’s like living in a little fantasy world to get to be so close to people that you love, to make snap decisions on last minute happy hours or movie marathons or long walks to solicit much-needed advice. We’re living on borrowed time. So when the moment comes for that friendship to evolve into something else – phone calls, Christmas cards, and hopefully not sporadic visits – it’s hard to feel abused. You make that friend a Sarah McLachlan-heavy mix-tape to send her off to her new adventure and feel lucky for the time you had. And then you go out for breakfast, because there’s no sadness it can’t cure.
- The graphics department really outdid themselves with Leslie’s 103 Leslie/Ann scrapbooks. I spotted ones themed for “First Text”, Kelly Clarkson concerts 1, 2 AND 3, and something to do with Ross and Rachel that I really need to get my hands on.
- “I thought these were destroyed by the FDA!” Please crack that open and let us have Snake Juice party, Part 2.
- “Holy mother of Malia…and Sasha.”
- “I told him that “One Headlight” by The Wallflowers isn’t dancing music and he said, ‘not with that attitude.”
- “I found old receipts from lunches we had together, is that anything?”
- “Get your hopes up, Chris.”
- “Too cheesy?” “No, it’s perfect, I love you, don’t leave.”
- Is Diane on bed rest or something? I thought we’d see Ron’s bride at the party at least.
- It’s not often that we see a beautiful Pawnee. I love that the last crane shot showed us why Chris and Ann had been privileged to be there and why Leslie and the others stay.
We’re now living in a post-Traeger/Perkins world. Did you think the final episode did them justice? Were you ready to see them go? And where can I apply to be Leslie’s new best friend?