TV Review: Parks and Recreation 5.9, “Ron and Diane”

“Ron and Diane” goes a step further by not only bringing Tammy II into the mix, but acknowledging that to Diane Tammy is nothing more than a hormonal monster whereas Leslie is a real threat because of the intimacy which she shares with Ron.

Joseph Kratzer

Contributor

Rating: ★★★★☆

As the title cleverly suggests as a parody of the past “Tammy” episodes, and as the plot goes on to confirm, Diane Lewis has become Ron Swanson’s main lady – after steak, scotch, and sweet, sweet jazz, of course. “Ron and Diane” actually had two separate settings for its plots, the Indiana Fine Woodworking Association Awards (the IFWAAs) and Jerry Gergich’s swanky Christmas party. While Leslie and Ron battle Tammy II and fight for Diane’s trust, Tom, April, and Andy fight to get into Jerry’s party. Each story in “Ron and Diane” explores fairly deep elements of the series’ mythos and one focuses on the women in Ron’s life while another the women in Jerry’s.

I’ve previously written on how well Parks and Recreation tends to avoid spinning its wheels by directly confronting issues which can’t help but to inevitably clash – like Tammy II and every new love interest Ron acquires. “Ron and Diane” goes a step further, however, by not only bringing Tammy II into the mix, but acknowledging that to Diane Tammy is nothing more than a hormonal monster whereas Leslie, Ron’s self-appointed emotional guardian, is a real threat because of the intimacy, platonic though it may be which she shares with Ron.

I like that the show decided to bring this into focus because it’s a totally understandable, realistic problem which I’m sure many couples must eventually face. Diane very wisely dismisses Tammy’s behavior because she realizes it’s based in shallow, temporary roots (though if she saw the episodes of this show which we have, she might reasonably think otherwise), and I think her confronting Leslie was a great move on the writers part. This story could have easily devolved into Diane storming off in a jealous rage or attempting to fight or otherwise disparage Leslie, but instead both Diane and Leslie act like perfect adults by talking things out with Ron (and getting a little taste of The Duke Silver Trio) and accidentally arousing Tammy II while fighting her in a dumpster for Leslie’s car keys and continuing on a vicious game of cat and mouse which happened to include an axe rampage – you know, healthy, adult behavior.

Meanwhile, everyone else eventually coalesces at Jerry’s Christmas party. While Chris, Ben, and Anne all got their invitations, Donna, Tom, April and Andy did not because of their Jerry filters – the firewalls which block all of Jerry’s texts and emails. While those who did not receive invitations are on their way out to Jerry Dinner – a supposed tradition we’re just now seeing after five years – a dinner funded by a year’s worth of Jerry’s mistakes each one of which the group contributes one dollar for – Donna decides they should at least swing by Jerry’s to invite him along thanks to some moral hypocrisy on Anne’s behalf. Seriously, where does Anne get off scolding the others for ridiculing Jerry when we’ve seen her harass Jerry just as much as everyone else? And although I could understand Tom wanting to get into the party, what with its beautiful blonde bevvies and delicious food and drink, why would April want to attend such a saccharine sweet, Norman Rockwelle-esque Christmas party? Anyway, once the others discover their Jerry filters have actually been keeping them from realizing how nice and thoughtful Jerry really is, they decide to offer Jerry their $517 fund as a Christmas present and eventually join the party while also locking Jerry out of his own house.

Inside the party Ben is busy acting as Chris’ emotional guardian by offering him support when faced with historically destructive triggers like ingesting fatty foods, finding a grey hair, and seeing his ex-girlfriend, Malificent Gergich, and her new fiancé, Carl, the young, handsome rafting instructor. Turns out though that thanks to Chris’ fifteen therapy sessions a week he’s doing well dealing with his fears of death and loneliness. This hardly qualifies as its own plot since there was no real conflict, but it was funny watching Ben and Chris be absolutely dumbfounded as to how Jerry could end up with such a drop dead gorgeous wife and kids, but we know why.

Despite Chris’ non-plot and Anne’s weak stand-up material and moral high horse, I found “Ron and Diane” to be another one of Parks and Recreations high caliber episodes which deftly blend solid stories with laugh out loud humor that expertly explores its characters and mythology.

By the way everyone, Happy Holidays with some Swanologues!