I’ve been whining for the last few entries in my ongoing assessment of Parks and Recreation that Ann and Chris are boring, Ann and Chris are leaving soon so there’s only a paucity of stories available to them and Ann and Chris are just taking up valuable April and Andy room (narratively speaking), and I think I’ve been right about this on all counts. When it actually comes to them saying goodbye and driving their little trailer out of Pawnee for the bright lights of wolverine-filled Michigan, however, it packs a surprisingly emotional punch. Honestly, I think I might just miss those crazy guys. I guess you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone. Hmm, maybe I’ll write a song about that.
I think the major strength of this episode was that they kept Ann and Chris largely separate for most of it. As friendly and lovely as they are, there is no conflict there. While Ann is a conduit for other characters (she allows Leslie to be Leslie and Tom to be Tom), Chris needs something solid to bounce against, like Ben, or Ron or Donna to become funny.
Putting Chris with Ann makes sense because they are the two most attractive, available people, but I don’t think it makes sense on a narrative level, nor that it would happen in real life. What their relationship does is expedite the process of removing the characters when they become staid, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun when they’re on the way out.
“Ann and Chris” is a bit of fun to remind us of the best parts of those characters, and a little hark back to how the show used to be, before we move into the next phase of it. Of course, I thought “the next phase” of the show would come when Tom became Business Liaison, but that didn’t happen, so I suppose we’ll have to wait and see about next week. Needless to say, this was a great episode. Really, really good. Nice low-key humor mined from the idiosyncrasies of each characters in a way that was not only satisfying on a narrative level, but also really funny. It also tied up a few loose ends in the process.
The episode centers around a party than Leslie is throwing for Ann and Chris’ departure which, in a typically Knopian twist, is actually thirty parties in one. It’s all the parties that Leslie and Ann will miss being so far apart in one mega-party, bringing in New Year, Chinese New Year, Easter and Christmas, under one roof. While it makes for a couple of great visual gags – my favorite was the reveal that the Easter Bunny lingering in the background was Orin the goth – it also works because it gives the episode a great party atmosphere, and actually feels like a real send off for the departing characters. It feels like the writers set out to put everything that says classic Parks and Recreation – rushed negotiations with douchebag business owners, physical violence towards Eagletonians, Ron – into one brilliant episode, and they pulled it off it.