Last year's "Ron & Tammy" was one of the most amazing things Parks & Recreation has ever done. Other than the brief glimpses behind the Duke Silver and Ron "Fuckin'" Swanson curtains, it was the first time we'd had a chance to really get to know the man behind the mustache—and see what he's like when part of that 'stache gets torn off. "Ron & Tammy" demonstrated that Ron Swanson has his weaknesses, and when he flies off the handle, he doesn't mess around. Megan Mulally was pitch-perfect as the psycho ex-wife, and the pair—a real-life married couple—were able to push the envelope of borderline disgusting physical love and provide unadulterated face-smashing and lines like "The woman knows her way around a penis." It was a celebration of all that makes Ron Swanson weird and wonderful.
I was a bit worried for "Part Two." Could it possibly live up to the glory of its predecessor?
Yes. Yes it could.
Chalk it up to the way the writers have developed Ron Swanson over the course of the last two seasons. After "Ron & Tammy," Ron softened, particularly to Leslie. He became a confidant for just about every character, despite his apprehension; he put up a fight about never wanting to be in the middle of Andy and April, but he was hanging out with the guy—what could he do? He became helpful, sometimes even constructive, at his job. And as demonstrated at the beginning of "Part Two," he's developed coping mechanisms for dealing with Tammy's unwanted advances. After all, he's in a functional relationship and seems to have picked up enough perspective to ensure nothing like "Ron & Tammy" ever happens again. And, for a moment, I believe it.
Ron's fall back into madness was perhaps inevitable, but the writers were deceptive in how they set it up. The episode starts with Tammy beckoning Ron to her office. Leslie joins Ron expecting a fight, but Ron demonstrates uncanny cool in denying Tammy's thong-ful advances. The episode slowly crumbles Ron's resolve—first with Wendy moving back to Canada, and then by having Tom show up with Tammy as his date. Still, Ron remains levelheaded. He's obviously bummed about Wendy, but thanks her for being a great girlfriend ("a… partner") and maintains his composure as Tom and Tammy dance like animatronic sex robots. When he calmly tells Leslie he and Tammy are leaving to talk things out, we're to believe it's actually going to happen. The next scene shows Ron and Tammy in jail, humping loudly—Ron sporting dreadlocks and looking more blearyeyed than ever. The writers trumped the first episode, and their decision to show this scene—rather than what led to it—is a vote of confidence.
There were so many great moments in "Part Two," but my favorites were accompanied by awesome Ron Swanson deadpan, whether he was delivering it or simply watching the madness unfold. Of course the line of the night (perhaps season) was "It rubbed off… from friction," but I also got a kick out of watching him watch himself on video, completely unaffected. Same when he sat and watched Tom get the shit kicked out of him by Tammy—kind of sad, actually—then finally broke and carried Tom out in his arms. It doesn't take much to break Ron, and while doing so yields glorious results, it's reassuring to see him snap back to form.
Everything else about "Part Two" was magnetic as well. It continues Leslie's plight to make the harvest festival happen, and this episode is focused on the police department. Little glimpses of the guys on the force—hearing them describe what went down when Ron and Tammy feud at the bar—offer insight into even more Pawnee townspeople. These guys hate calzones like Leslie hates the library, and they'll do anything for the girl who tamed officer Dave. There's a sweet loyalty in this town, which rubs directly against Ben and Chris' status as outsiders. Ben has become the perpetual punching bag, where Chris is the white knight promising a land far beyond the racist murals and Sweetums-brand treats. The mythology of Parks & Recreation is deepening; "Ron & Tammy: Part Two" is just about as good as it gets.
- "Seriously, Jerry?"