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Monday, February 3, 2014

PARKS AND REC Bids Goodbye to "Ann and Chris"

Article first published as PARKS AND REC Bids Goodbye to "Ann and Chris" on TheTVKing.

NBC's Parks and Recreation bids farewell to two of its long-term main characters this week as "Ann and Chris" move away from Pawnee. In true Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) fashion, she throws her bestie Ann (Rashida Jones) thirty parties in one, and then there's an even more touching surprise on top of that. Meanwhile, the guys try to match Chris' (Rob Lowe) thoughtful parting gifts.

I am sad to see Ann and Chris go mostly because the other characters are sad to see them go. Ann has never been my favorite, but I'll miss Chris' eccentricities, which were always funny. Their roles have pretty much run their course, and it's wise to send them off now, before they go stale. Plus, their departure will affect the other characters, which should add more forward momentum to the rest of the season.

Leslie is the most upset because Ann is her best friend. For five years they've been nearly inseparable, always in each other's lives. Perhaps, though, this will be the boost Leslie needs to kick her career back into high gear, channeling her grief and extra energy into a campaign for another office. Or maybe she'll make a new best friend that isn't so much of an enabler to Leslie's craziness, though Leslie is a force of nature not easily swayed.

The parties are perfect for Leslie, but I even more enjoyed that Leslie's final gift to Ann is the ground breaking of the park that started their relationship. It's a nice way to tie things back together in the end, and exactly the sort of thing that Leslie would do for someone she cares so much about. The fact that a grump city official (Chris Bauer, True Blood) stands in their way, leading to several obstacles and the natural return of a few familiar faces in this important episode, only makes the end result mean more, and demonstrates the love she and Ann have for one another.

April's (Aubrey Plaza) heartfelt farewell to Ann is much more toned down, as is appropriate, but shines through as a memorable moment, too. They've always shared their connection to Andy (Chris Pratt), which actually has stood between them, rather than bringing them together. But April is developing as a person and it's nice that she sees past the guy and can admit some small shred of emotional to Ann. Nice, too, that Ann understands April enough not to push her past her limits and be grateful for what she gets.

"Ann and Chris" is unusual because the guys and girls are, mostly, split up during the installment, a grouping the series doesn't do too often. But then, it always makes for an interesting dynamic when they do.

Donna (Retta) is part of neither grouping, unfortunately, but given the way the story plays out, that makes sense. She wouldn't really fit on the girls' mission, and she would also seem out of place with the boys, so for once, she just doesn't belong here. But she's still a fantastic character, and her goodbye butt squeeze to Chris is hilarious.

While traditionally men are less in touch with their feelings, and Parks and Recreation even has Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), the much-admired stereotype of this, the male side of "Ann and Chris" is just as moving as the female side. Chris gifts each of his male friends a special present that demonstrates how well he knows them. They chip in for a gift card for him, which they quickly feel bad about as not being personal enough and resolve to correct. Except for Ron, that is, who thinks his two handshakes are plenty.

Of course, Ben (Adam Scott) is the one that eventually saves the day, knowing Chris the best. And what he comes up with includes everyone else, especially Ron and Gary Jerry Larry (Jim O'Heir). So it works in ending this subplot appropriately for them all, with not a single person feeling left out.

The very end of "Ann and Chris," with Leslie telling Chris he's almost good enough for Ann, the whole group watching the couple drive away, and Ron offering Leslie copious amounts of breakfast food to numb her pain, is about as emotionally satisfying as Parks and Recreation has ever gotten. The whole half hour is a love letter to these characters, not just Ann and Chris, but the whole ensemble, and their love for each other. The last scene is perfect, and while I'm supremely glad this isn't a series finale, it's great that two important players are sent off right.

Parks and Recreation will return to NBC Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. EST after the Olympics.

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