Parks and Recreation, “Ron & Tammy: Part Two”

Bringing back successful supporting characters is always a  bit of a crapshoot. If their initial introduction to the series and its world is so tremendous, it’s always going to be hard to top or create a story that lives up to the fans’ expectations. And one of the easiest ways to try to avoid any letdown is by making that character’s next appearance bigger and louder. This is basically the same formula media producers use for sequels.

The return of Megan Mullally’s Tami Swanson was most likely always going to fall victim to the bigger and louder sequel syndrome. Though season two’s “Ron and Tammy” is a fun, hilarious episode, it is still one of the series’ broadest, both in terms of comedy and general logic. Tami is such an evil, awful human being that there was no way she was going to return be completely subdued or changed, especially when Ron’s been stepping out with Tom’s ex-wife and thus presumably happy. And so, “Ron & Tammy: Part Two” is definitely the most obvious, broad and therefore “worst” episode in this still-young season of one of television’s best comedies.

I have no problem with some broad, absurd humor from Parks and Rec, I just prefer the series to be quieter and more emotionally impacting. But that’s not what Ron and Tami’s relationship is about, their horrible pairing is all about insanity, release and a whole lot of sex. Again, while it is obvious that Tami’s hold over Ron is a heightened version of love and relationships, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few hilarious moments along the way.

In her first appearance, Mullally was more front and center with the narrative, but here, she’s used a bit more sparingly — of course those few spots in the primary montage of their actions are even crazier than before, but still — leaving the spotlight to Ron’s inner battle with Tami’s influence. Leslie gets him away from Tami fairly quickly and tries to hold an intervention, which gives Nick Offerman the time to make this version of Ron more insane than usual. The cornrows were a nice, creepy touch and pastRon’s video to himself about the dangers of Tami was most certainly the highlight of the story. And heck, I even laughed a good deal during Tami’s throwdown with Tom, who realized it was time to put his personal feelings aside and help his friend, which is definitely the broadest, most absurd this series has done that hasn’t involved Chris Pratt following into a hole.

But in the end, I think I’ve had my fair share of Ron and Tami together at this point. I wasn’t bored by this episode or this story in the least bit, but there’s a danger of both trying to top yourself and wearing out the character’s welcome. It’s always nice to know that Tami and the library are lurking in the background of the Pawnee world, but I think running the same story gambit in 20 episodes is enough for now. If they want to bring Tami back as more of a foil for Leslie with one scene with Ron, I’m up for that, but at this point, we’re entering law of diminishing returns and I don’t want that to happen in a third season. The writers should be the Tami card in their back pocket and save it for a rainy day in the middle of season four (fingers crossed), and only if they can come up with a good story to go along with it.

Thankfully, despite my issues with the A-story in “Ron & Tammy: Part Two,” this episode had so many other great, little moments not associated with that primary narrative. Ben and Leslie are beginning to get comfortable with one another and their little attempts to ask the chief of police to help with Harvest Fest security was simply charming. I loved that Ben’s previous awful experience as the young mayor has totally destroyed his outward confidence when it comes to talking to city officials, so all he can blurt out to the police chief is his random love for calzones, which of course becomes a cute running joke for both the police chief and Leslie. It was also nice for Ben to continue to see how important and impressive Leslie is in this little town, which is something that’s obviously attractive to him. I’m in no rush to see them together romantically because Adam Scott and Amy Poehler are doing a wonderful job in this phase of the relationship, but I expect it to be awesome when it finally comes around.

The thread with April working for Chris filled up about two-and-half minutes of screentime, but it was fantastic. Really smart choice by the writers to take April out of her comfort zone with Ron and into the happy, motivated fire that is Chris Traeger. And Chris’ “you could be something” speech to her at the end was totally earned, even with the small amount of scenes leading up to it. That’s probably because Rob Lowe jumped right into Sam Seaborn when he delivered that speech and I may or may not have gotten chills.

And I can’t forget to mention Jerry, who apparently just loves engagements and wedding showers. What a putz. Never change, Jerry. Never change.

I mentioned that this was the worst episode of the season, but that doesn’t really hold much weight as a negative criticism. I think the first three episodes were all in the A to A-minus range and this one would probably get a solid B grade from me, which is far from awful. I know that the series is going to stick more with the kind of stories it told in “Part Two”‘s B and C threads than it presented in the primary narrative so there is absolutely nothing to be concerned about.

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