The Very Best Of

10 best Leslie Knope-Ron Swanson moments

A timeline of the 10 best Leslie Knope-Ron Swanson moments
As professional and political frenemies Leslie and Ron, Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman enriched Parks and Recreation like no other tandem. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson could function without one another less than they could with each other. They knew that throughout their shared saga on Parks and Recreation.

Over time, the sunny, energetic deputy director and adamantly apathetic director found more co-dependency than contention. As such, they enriched the storyline and elongated its branches of humor and emotion alike.

When the series closed in 2015, the double-act of Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman arguably surpassed all other losses. While they exhausted all they can generate from their Pawnee alter-egos, they remain in joint demand.

Hence their return to NBC this Tuesday via Making It. Appearing as themselves and judges, the actors will oversee what Lisa Boone of the Los Angeles Times forecasts as “friendly camaraderie over cutthroat competition.”

Assuming that assessment holds, the Parks and Rec alums will cause viewers more yearning to hang out with them. They did plenty of that for seven partial or full-length scripted seasons.

Ahead of NBC’s Poehler-Offerman reunion, here is a look back on how their characters evolved together in their first shared project. This chronology rounds up to 10 with each season’s best Leslie-Ron moment plus three wild cards from Season 7. The toughest cuts include “Hunting Trip,” “Sweetums,” “Li’l Sebastien,” “Doppelgangers” and most Ron-Tammy episodes.

“Boys’ Club”
Being inherently subjected to double standards, Leslie cannot help exercising extra caution to prevent or address potential scandal. Despite seeing little purpose in their department, Ron demonstrates how well he knows and admires her for this.

When April’s (Aubrey Plaza) underage drinking brings a barrage of questions Leslie’s way, Ron vouches for her integrity. In his office, the two dish up some truths that would be funnier if they were less spot-on.

“You’re a white Protestant man with a full, rich moustache,” Leslie says, explaining why this seems so minor to Ron.

“Please don’t make this worse,” he concludes.

So she doesn’t. She announces above-and-beyond measures to rectify the problem, adding that she does so because Ron chose not to “blow the whistle.”

“Woman of the Year”
Leslie expects the title of Dorothy Everton Smythe Woman of the Year. Ron is likely the last person in Pawnee who wants any award. Lo and behold, the annual recognition for women’s empowerment goes to him.

A peculiar perfect storm unites the two characters’ causes. Both have distinct reasons for believing this plaque presentation is a joke, thus join forces to make it just that. Sparse, confused, uncomfortable applause and one “Get off the stage!” heckle follow their display of award hot potato.

In a July 2011 interview with The A.V. Club, series co-creator Michael Schur spoke protracted paragraphs about this episode’s subplot. While engrossed in Pawnee’s rivalry with the title town, Leslie makes time to pursue the perfect Ron birthday party.

Amusement ensues as the expectations defy Ron’s preferences but typify Leslie’s oozing-with-care personality. Ron joins the audience in not knowing how perfectly Leslie exemplifies herself until she unveils his customized party.

As part of his assessment, Schur told the website that Ron “at some fundamental level understands her and what kind of person she is and respects her, and she respects him: That’s when the show is at its best for me, when it’s really meaty and personal.”

“I’m Leslie Knope”
Ex-wives, ex-boyfriends and to-run-or-not-to-run dilemmas send Leslie and Ron to shared, self-imposed exile. At that juncture, their unification is a prerequisite to the protagonist’s inevitable return to her office.

Following this Season 4 premiere, The A.V. Club’s Steve Heisler declared that “any trace of animosity was banished forever.” That assertion proves premature, as the start of the final season shall confirm. But for now, the least likely of Leslie’s colleagues has effectively launched her next career leap.

If anyone can deadpan “All right, party time,” it’s Ron. Those who know him know he is genuinely enthusiastic about his emperor-sized meat platter, despite his unorthodox delivery.

Almost equally perplexing is how quickly Leslie shifts away from their ideological debate. Once their food comes, she compliments Ron’s “pretty amazing” chowing speed.

Give them credit, these in-house rivals know where and when to put their friction on hold.

As Leslie contemplates bigger opportunities beyond her lifelong home, Ron steps in with wise words to allay her ambivalence. In response, she reaffirms both her long-standing differences with her boss and concession that he makes compelling cases.

“I just wish once you would say something stupid so I could ignore it,” she says.

A Poehler character gets a hilariously unbecoming, lowbrow confrontation with a mustachioed Ron after all.

Barely a decade after losing the part of Veronica Corningstone in Anchorman to Christina Applegate, Poehler combines with Offerman for their characters’ post-fallout altercation. This time there is no need to restrain or pause the pugilism, as Leslie and Ron work for clashing entities.

Because Parks and Rec fast-forwards three years for its final season, we are unclear on what precipitates this full-fledged feud. Nonetheless, the season’s compelling arc is established, as we wonder how these series-long frenemies will make up before the finale.

“Ron and Jammy”
Leslie’s disdain for all things library and Ron’s bygone marriage to library director Tammy have made a natural two-versus-one alliance. That off-and-on dynamic has been in place since the second season. In the latest chapter, the events and aftermath of “2017” are momentarily on hold.

Now that Tammy has Jeremy Jamm (Jon Glaser) under her sexy spell, even the sleazy councilman has Leslie’s pity, though not too much. She and Ron help themselves to abundant catharsis by spraying and slapping the man they themselves hoped to manipulate in conflicting political manners.

Leslie’s impression of Tammy Two (Megan Mullaly) is the syrup on this sundae. Perhaps Bob’s Burgers should let Poehler record a few Aunt Gayle lines and see if anyone tells the difference.

“Leslie and Ron”
Frankly, after Ron divulges the purpose of the lunch meeting that never happens, the balance of this scene’s dialogue needs no elaboration. This is the turning point bridging the conflict set in the season premiere with its full resolution in the finale.

Though there are more reparations to come, this installment ends on a fitting note. After their tumultuous night together, Leslie and Ron revisit their bond over breakfast food, established in Season 2.

“One Last Ride”
Here is the culmination of that patching-up everyone waited for. Leslie has established Pawnee National Park while Ron, having conquered all he can in business, seeks a new purpose.

As Ron approaches Leslie for career counsel, neither party is missing their defining traits. He still circumvents emotion via phrases like “workplace proximity acquaintances,” while she works through a bottomless barrel of upbeat determination.

While she needs no extra motivation, the events of “Prom” surely leave Leslie eager to reciprocate a favor. She does so by boldly arranging to secure Ron’s oversight of the peaceful park.

Leslie delivers her spin on Ron’s emotional allergen with the right balance of eloquence and accessibility for him. She does what she does best in pitching a public-sector position for an outdoorsman who will handle it best.

Al Daniel

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