“Parks and Recreation”: Morningstar

Seclusion is no secret remedy for getting things done, whether individually, in a group or a pair striking a deal, studying for a test, deliberating, cooling off or reconciling. Honestly, when hasn’t this tactic worked?

Parks and Recreation is counting on it when everyone locks Leslie and Ron inside the Parks Department to talk out their problems and hopefully come out friends again. It’s the simplest play to make and the smartest. Parks throws it’s two strongest characters and two best improvisational talents into an office to hash out their differences, and what we got was one of the show’s best episodes.

“Leslie and Ron” is the equivalent of the parents locking their kids in a room and saying, “Don’t come out until you get along.” Not coincidentally, there’s a baby monitor in the room that will act as their link to the outside world should they reconcile. But both are unforgivingly stubborn, which makes for a full 30 minutes. By the end, we’re rewarded with a strong emotional revival of close friends, who’d forgotten what started their feud in the first place.

Morningstar was the name dangled during the first two episodes as being the source of the tension, especially on Leslie’s end — for good reason, it turns out. Morningstar was one of Ron’s first private-sector projects, a luxury apartment community that was built on and around Anne’s old house. He destroyed the site where Parks left so many happy memories, like Andy and April meeting for the first time and where Leslie and Anne’s best-friendship blossomed. Ron almost bulldozed the house without Leslie’s knowledge, but when she found out and tried to stop it he did it anyway.

Ron’s source of anguish was Leslie, who gets really creative in “Leslie and Ron” with her torture techniques in trying to get Ron to talk about his feelings. She botches the lyrics to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” she sticky notes his entire face and body and tries a number of different, hilarious things that we see in short clips. Finally, though, she does what Leslie does — timelines.

When her timeline relates the day she hired April away from the Parks Department, I assume most of us could already guess the real reason. Yes, April is very important to Ron and is a close friend, but it’s not only about her. It’s about Leslie.

The story Ron tells is like one of a man watching his life go by. From Day 1 of Parks, Leslie was the pillar holding everything up. When she left, everyone went by the wayside. April, Andy and Terry all went to work for Leslie’s National Parks branch. Tom’s business blew up and Donna went into real estate. Ron, meanwhile, was left to watch Craig turn the Parks Department upside down, so he left. Of all things, he went to ask Leslie for a job — a job in the federal government — but she was too busy and forgot they’d set a breakfast date to catch up.

This Pawnee tragedy puts great perspective on the three-year jump Parks made in the season six finale. “Leslie and Ron” put it in the past and the show is moving forward. The gigantic jump in time didn’t feel right the moment we watched it last year, but now it does. Looking back, Parks saved us from the hardship Ron felt. Parks saved us from watching a place filled with happy memories get bulldozed to the ground by some young, excitable loud mouth named Craig.

Leslie and Ron got their revenge in the end, reorganizing the Parks Department into the one they built together, into the one it should be.

My favorite thing: What I would give to have been there when Ron interviewed Leslie for the first time.

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