The last time we saw Ann Perkins and Chris Traeger, they were planning their futures and talking about having a baby. This week, it was reported that Rashida Jones’ Ann and Rob Lowe’s Chris will only last 13 episodes this season–they’re leaving the show. This means two of the show’s main characters are leaving, including Leslie Knope’s best friend. What else does this mean?
This is sort of unprecedented. I don’t remember a show (and I’m only thinking about NBC) that loses two of its main characters in one season. “The Office” lost Steve Carrell’s Michael Scott, but that was toward the end of the series. Even then, the show was never really the same, but there were characters–Jim, Pam, Dwight, Andy–who could still carry the show.
Michael Scott left, though, because it was time for his character to move on in his life. Settling down and starting a family was what Michael always wanted, so he had to do it. Maybe that’s the case for Ann and Chris.
Think about it. Ann and Chris were outside of the Parks and Rec offices. Chris is the city manager and Ann, well, I don’t even know what Ann actually does. Chris had his time with the Parks and Rec crew, helping Leslie run for city council and getting the budget back on track with Ben. Now, it felt more and more like he might be on his way out. I could see him returning to the statehouse in Indianapolis.
Ann’s a whole other deal–I’m not really sure what to say about her, but i’ll offer this via a Vulture article: She was always a little bland. She had this same problem during her role in The Office. Michael might have thought she looked exotic, but I bet she didn’t get great viewer approval because she wasn’t very dynamic. Or was it that she wasn’t Pam? She’s the same in Parks and Rec. She’s the sane one of the group, but almost too sane. She broke up with Andy Dwyer in the first season, a character we’d grow to really love. She was just kind of nurse who hung around the Parks and Rec office a lot, for a while. Then she got a job in the city building, but that job wasn’t a big emphasis in the show.
All things considered, Ann and Chris may have run their course; however, each of them also have some kind of importance to the other characters on the show, even if Chris is just a perfect specimen to Donna and nothing else matters now that Jerry is retired. Besides that, they had important roles with the others.
LESLIE: Ann keeps Leslie grounded. Countless times, Leslie’s ideas are so far fetched that Ann has to sit her down and explain that she’s being ludicrous. Moreover, Ann is an important advice-giver for Leslie–think of her as Leslie’s silent adviser. Meanwhile, Chris lifted Leslie to some important chapters in her life, namely city council. Also, Chris’ enthusiasm kept her afloat during difficult times and when Leslie needed some press, Chris was always there to take Shauna Malwae-Tweep out to dinner, to butter her up a bit.
TOM: He gained actual aspirations because he was around Chris. Entertainment 720 and Rent-A-Swag were all pushed forward by Chris because he had the confidence that Tom could do it–and look at how successful Rent-A-Swag is. Chris’ role into Tom’s growth (no, not height) cannot be underestimated. Meanwhile, one of the comedic relationships of the show will come to an end–Tom’s relentless love for Ann. Their real relationship, and then the fake one was fresh and it’s all coming to an end.
RON: Ron’s relationship with Diane might be one of the reasons why Ann and Chris have run their course. Vulture made a great point in a recent article, wondering how many relationships Parks and Rec could support. Leslie and Ben, Ron and Diane, April and Andy, and Chris and Ann might be one too many. That said, Ron was personally warming up to Ann last season and just started getting used to having an enthusiastic city manager in Chris. I wonder what Ron will do (or will not do) with Chris is gone.
APRIL: I freaking LOVE April Ludgate with a fiery passion and these departures do nothing to change that. However, like Tom, Chris helped April grow from a teenager into a working woman, even though his over-the-top enthusiasm always bothered her to the point that we all laughed so hard at their interactions. As for April’s arch enemy, Ann, they actually got along every so often last season, so maybe it’s good timing for Ann to exit stage right before that actually becomes a thing; though, I never think it would be anways.
DONNA and JERRY: Chris must be a figment of Donna’s imagination and I’m not even sure she knows who Ann is. Jerry is probably in a bathtub somewhere as we speak.
BEN: All of the “holidays” Leslie had with Ann will be gone, as far as we know (remember, we don’t actually know how Ann will exit the show). That’s going to be the most stressful part of losing Ann; in fact, without Ann, Leslie is probably going to lean even more on Ben, at least in the initial aftermath. Ben may be more impacted by Chris’ exit, who he came to Pawnee with. Depending on where Chris goes, Ben may be effected differently–say, if Chris returned to the statehouse.
ANDY: Chris had more of an impact on Andy than anybody else on the show. He gave him so much confidence, encouraging him to apply to the police academy. There was something really special about Chris’ support that was different from the unrelenting support April gives him. Andy really looks up to Chris, more than he lets on. Their relationship is very father-son. Meanwhile, Andy has a history with Ann, but it’s pretty unimportant. His relationship with her is non-existent and doesn’t matter.