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Not the 'stache, Ron, not the 'stache! It's been mere months since watching that glorious piece of facial hair go up in flames, now tragedy has struck again in the latest episode of Parks and Recreation. “Ron & Tammys” took us on a journey back to the genesis of our favorite libertarian, and the women that made him what he is today – or in some of their cases, what he isn't. Any time Ron is taking center stage an episode is almost guaranteed to be a winner, and while one of the episode's subplots did fall short, the other more than made up for it. What can I say? This episode was Snapple, baby.
The main focus was on Tammy 1, who is the antithesis of Ron's second same-named bride. Mike Schur and company did an excellent job in creating a wholly new form of evil, so that her role in the episode didn't just feel like a revamping of an old storyline. Well in some aspects it did, but that actually added to the charm. We've seen the effect Megan Mullally's live wire Tammy has on Ron(she's only ever been responsible for part of his mustache missing though), so to witness what a week spent with her cold-hearted counterpart does to “Ronald” only seemed inevitable, and the results were terrifyingly funny. Without the 'stache, Ron is basically Jerry, and that's just not acceptable. Ron Swanson isn't a man who says the word “pickle” unless he's making a lunch order. On her part Patricia Clarkson proved that she has the range for more than just award winning dramatic performances. She perfectly portrayed the controlling ice queen that was Ron's first ex-wife, and scored a number of laughs while doing so. It was hard not to despise her, especially for leaving Ron a bare lipped sliver of a man, but her extreme curtness and ability to rule over any room she walks into actually made her a character you love to hate.
She couldn't compete with the literal gold digger, but Tammy 0 did give us a peek at the early days of Indiana's greatest son; though Tammy 1 was creepily around for those too. Instilling in her offspring a love of guns, carpentry, and all things American(especially the second and fourth amendments), it was the original Tammy that that gave Ron his off-the-grid survival skills. Tamera's own short patience for anyone questioning her lifestyle also clearly passed onto Ron; “This is America isn't it? Then I don't have to answer stupid questions while standing on my own property.” Paula Pell, who has worked on and off camera for Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock, nailed her role as the moonshine sipping mama(step aside, Margo Martindale). One would hope she might appear again with a lengthier storyline and maybe a little more time spent in her room o' guns.
It was a little disappointing not getting to see Ron actually attend the “Battle Royale” budget meeting; Swanson giving the evil eye to other department heads until they broke down in various ways would have at least made for a humorous montage. The drink-off in the final moments between Leslie and the two Tammys did make up for it however. Drunk Leslie was quite similar to over-medicated Leslie from last season's episode, “Flu Season.” Which isn't a bad thing, as more of her off the wall ramblings are always welcome, the highlight of which here was her new hit remix, “Everybody Pants Now.” Ron's unique system of bookkeeping also garnered a few laughs, if only for how inline with his character it was to barter and trade rather than engage in actual business transactions. Best of all may have been Tammy 2's brief appearance, or as she is now to be called, Acid Foot.
As mentioned in the last review, it's great to have Ann working in city hall so she can have some of her own plots that keep her in contact with characters other than Leslie. Though this time around it might have been best not to have written in a storyline for her. Chris's unflappable enthusiasm still has its charm, and after hearing the reason for his “lust for life” last season, the character endeared himself quite a bit. But after so long of nothing but the same schtick, there are going to be times when it doesn't work; this was one of them. Ann, as she so often does, still managed to amuse as the “straight man” to Chris, with her tortured expressions and looks of disbelief to the camera. Beyond those few laughs though it all felt like filler; “been there, done that” kind of filler.
Ben's visit to the Entertainment 7twenty offices resulted in some of “Ron & Tammys” best moments. If it takes a few episodes being light on Tom(like the season premiere) to produce ones like this, than it won't be so bad not having him in the Parks Department everyday. Jean-Ralphio certainly made an entrance for his first scene of the season. The Roy Hibbert assisted dunk wasn't even the highlight, not that it wasn't an uproarious way to reintroduce us to Pawnee's biggest douche bag, “Take me there!” From that leap, right into not one, but two great nicknames for Ben; though Raphio was right, Jello Shot is much better than Angelo. Ben's befuddled reactions to Tom & Jean-Ralphio making up their own catchphrases as they go along and the “Party Switch” once again proved he was born to play a comic foil. Tom has never needed to do anything specific to entertain, but handing out iPads as visitor's gifts was especially humorous.
Though it wasn't perfect, there was plenty to love about “Ron & Tammys.” Any opportunity to study what makes Ron Swanson tick is one that should be taken, as his character alone has made the show worth watching, even way back in the less than stellar first season. More important than what's going on, is how hard we'll be laughing at it. With this episode, the answer was early and often.