Can we talk about how many feelings there were last night? So many! So let’s get through this good-bye together, checking in at regular intervals with my newly patented Feelings-o-meter, just to make sure we’re all doing okay or, at least, that we’re all crying together.
Leslie is throwing Ann an epic going away party with everything Ann’s ever wanted and a bunch of things Ann doesn’t remember wanting but Leslie will push for anyway — hey, she casually mentioned three years ago that she thought indoor fireworks would be really cool! In a beautiful coming-full-circle thing, Leslie wants to break ground on Pawnee Commons at midnight, the very park that brought these two best friends together in the first place. Here we get a flashback to Ann demanding Leslie do something about the pit and Leslie swearing her most solemn vow: “It’s more than a promise. It’s a pinky promise.”
Feelings-o-meter rating: As full of joy and nostalgia as 103 scrapbooks.
As we all know, Leslie Knope will try something once, and if that doesn’t work,
she’ll give up and go home because it probably wasn’t worth the effort anyway she will do every thing humanly possible to make sure her dream is realized to the fullest extent. April, whose growth as a character is probably the most remarkable transition we’ve seen in Pawnee, puts on this whole act about how Ann leaving town is “the greatest day of my life.” Perhaps April thinks we’ve forgotten about her amazing rendition of “Time After Time” with Ann and Donna. April would be wrong. If I had the technological savvy to do so and if this were still a thing that people did, I would make that jam my ringtone.
Feelings-o-meter rating: Caught up in circles, confusion is nothing new.
The boys are helping Chris pack it up, pack it in, and among all the cardboard boxes of Chris’s belongings — workout clothes, office supplies, that portrait he’s been keeping in his attic, because how else are we supposed to believe Rob Lowe continues to look as Sodapoppin’ as ever (you didn’t think I’d leave that out in his last episode, did you?) — are Buddy Boxes! There’s no time like the present (fun pun alert!) for mementos of friendship.
Ron gets a bronze burger to commemorate his burger-off with Chris; he says he would have preferred a regular hamburger for eating, but somehow that strikes me as unlikely. Ben, the Sum-dance Kid, gets a framed copy of the 2008 Indiana audit spreadsheets — that year was insane. Larry gets a picture of himself officiating Leslie and Ben’s wedding in which his face is almost, but not quite, visible. Tom gets Snake Juice. “I thought these were destroyed by the FDA!” Andy opens the box for “Plates” but still manages to find his gift: a poster from the Farewell to Lil Sebastian concert (RIP) featuring Mouse Rat (also RIP).
Feelings-o-meter rating: Like I just drank a whole bunch of Snake Juice: I might do something as crazy as 2008 tonight, and I don’t even care how I’ll feel about it tomorrow.
In classic Leslie fashion, her party for Ann is over-the-top, completely unrealistic in both scale and turnout (who are all these people? Does Ann have other friends we never see?) but who cares, it’s adorable and I love it. “Ain’t no party like a Leslie Knope party because a Leslie Knope party is actually 30 parties.” Is this a shout-out to 30 Rock, where a Liz Lemon party was mandatory, or just a well-placed Coolio bit?
As for the park: Harold is preventing Leslie from getting into Pawnee Commons! He locked her out — like her specifically —with both her name and her face on a sign. “Holy mother of Malia! And Sasha, I love them both equally.”
Feelings-o-meter rating: I guess I feel like, it’s hard to — ORIN. STAY IN CHARACTER.
I find it hard to believe that it wouldn’t have occurred to Ben to do something more meaningful for Chris, especially as Leslie was out-Knoping herself for Ann. (When Ben says, “She’s just running, trying to pull off an elaborate, thoughtful surprise for you” to Ann, he only confirms my belief that he wouldn’t have dropped the ball here.) While Ron thinks he’s covered all the necessary bases by shaking Chris’s hand twice — “Anything more than that would be excessive” — Ben realizes the guys need to step up their game. Then this great exchange happens:
Tom: Time for the three C’s: cashmere, concert tickets, caboodles of cash.
Ben: Those sound like perfect gifts for you.
Tom: Those are perfect gifts for anyone! Ugh, I wish you guys were Donna!
Feelings-o-meter rating: The world would be significantly more awesome if everyone were more like Donna. Not just everyone on the show; I mean everyone, everywhere.
Ann, to Ben, about Chris: “I told him ‘One Headlight’ by the Wallflowers isn’t dancing music, and he said, ‘Not with that attitude.’”
Feelings-o-meter-rating: Literally laughing out loud so hard I have to hit pause, rewind, watch it again, and repeat that a few more times before I can keep going.
Leslie and Ann go on a mission that takes them to poker night, then to Katherine Pinewood who says she doesn’t have time “for disgraced former politicians and unmarried preggos,” but sings a different tune when Ann puts her in a headlock, and then to Pistol Pete’s house, who they cannot convince to endorse “Sweetum’s Dunktastic 3-point B-Ball Blast.” Then they go to Perd, who is charmed by their heartfelt appeal and gives in. Good thing Ann went on that date with him way back when! Wow, she really did try everyone in Pawnee.
When Harold sees the two ladies again and learns of their victory, he tells them they’re a couple of real pains in the ass. Little does he know that that’s the greatest compliment he could ever give them.
Feelings-o-meter rating: This makes me so happy, I am going to kiss you now by putting my mouth on your mouth.
Chris: Donna, are you grabbing my butt?
Donna: Can you blame me?
Chris (gleeful): No!
This is followed by a great meta-reference to Rob Lowe playing Kennedy: Chris puts on a JFK mask and does a (great? Terrible? It’s kind of hard to tell with Kennedy accents, honestly) impersonation of POTUS No. 35.
Feelings-o-meter-rating: I feel like I imagine Chris’s butt feels: incredible.
When Ann asks April if she and Andy are going to stay in Pawnee, it’s interesting to see April kind of hedge with her answer (that the Dwyer’s only plans involve moving to Transylvania when they’re both, like, a hundred). Andy and April seem like the two most likely characters, after Ron, to stick around and build a happy life in Pawnee. They sure seem more inclined to stay than Ben, Leslie, Tom, or Donna.
April mumbles to Ann that she loves her and then … she initiates a hug! Leslie missed the nice moment. But we got to see it, and I will never delete it from my DVR.
Feelings-o-meter rating: Fine, iloveyoutoo. Don’t make me say it out loud.
The guys catch Chris before his beat-the-sun run to give him their real present: a new Buddy Box, handcrafted by Ron and burned with everyone’s initials, to fill with memories for your little buddy.
“This tear caused by the overwhelming thoughtfulness of my friends will be my baby’s first memory.” I am making open-mouth squealing sounds of glee like that baby polar bear seeing snow for the first time. Then Ron says saltwater will warp the wood, so “keep your tears in your eyes where they belong.”
Feelings-o-meter rating: I don’t care what you say about wood-warping, Ron! THE TEARS ARE OUT AND THERE IS NO GOING BACK.
Ann and Leslie bust out their shovels and do the groundbreaking themselves, ceremonial scissors be damned. And finally, on moving day, we see Chris and Ben have their moment, too. Chris calls Ben out for being the mastermind behind the new Buddy Box — “It had that trademark Ben Wyatt mix of thoughtful and resourceful” — and tells him, “You are literally the best friend that I will ever have.”
Leslie Knope and Chris Traeger full-name-finger-gun at each other one last time — well, until they visit, but it feels like the last time, and off Chris and Ann go to Michigan, with their sandwiches and caffeine-free iced tea and the mix CD that’s heavy on the Sarah McLachlan and, I assume, light on the banjo and “learn Mandarin” clips.
The closing shot is perfect. Everyone drives together to JJ’s Diner, and “Wildflowers” is playing, maybe as a reference to the wildflower mural in City Hall, or because Ann is a perfect sunflower, or just because it is so the right song for this moment. Good-bye, Chris and Ann! You are my proof that gorgeousness gravity is real! You will be missed.
Feelings-o-meter rating: So much sadness. I guess I’ll have to go out for waffles now. After all, there has never been a sadness that can’t be cured with breakfast food.