"I'm a simple man. I like pretty, dark-haired women and breakfast food. But this stock photo I bought at a framing store isn't real. Today, I got the real thing. A naked Tammy made me breakfast this morning. I should've taken a picture of it." -RonThere have been over 100 episodes of "The Office," and now 14 episodes of "Parks and Recreation," and I'm not sure a talking head segment on either show has made me laugh as maniacally as that one did. I had to pause it at one point to catch my breath, then rewind and start over, only to begin cackling all over again. (Eventually, several co-workers wandered over to see if I was okay.)
What made that monologue work - really, what made all of "Ron and Tammy" work so well - was that Nick Offerman and the "Parks and Rec" writers have combined to turn Ron F'ing Swanson into a man who can say completely demented things with absolute certainty, as if they were the most natural thing in the world. Dwight Schrute carries himself similarly, but with Dwight there's never any doubt that he's insane. Whereas when Ron goes on about his love of breakfast foods(*), or his absolute hatred of the town library system, he sounds reasonable - even admirable.
(*) "Parks and Rec" co-creator Mike Schur says the poster, and the talking head about it, were came from a happy accident of sorts. In season one, Ron had a poster of Bobby Knight up in his office, which they had to remove for legal reasons, so the production team spent a long time combing through the Corbis image library, "just typing in things we thought Ron would like. I saw that picture of the woman holding breakfast food and thought: perfect." And then it came in handy for this episode.
All throughout "Ron and Tammy," Offerman says these completely ridiculous and/or surreal things - saying of his ex-wife "I honestly believe that she was programmed by someone in the future to come back and destroy all happiness," or describing sex with Tammy as "like doing peyote and sneezing slowly for six hours" - but there's this incredible conviction to it all that makes it seem both rational and incredibly funny. (I swear, I'm having trouble going back over my notes for this one without laughing. If this show should ever become a big enough success for someone to publish "The Quotable Ron Swanson," they need to devote a whole chapter to this episode.)
Or maybe it's just the mustache that gives him the credibility.
And where some real-life spouses can have problems connecting on camera, there were no issues between Offerman and wife Megan Mullally as Tammy. Mullally won a couple of Emmys for playing way over the top on "Will & Grace," but she shows here that she's perfectly capable of coming down to a more realistic level (as in her first scene with Leslie), then getting ridiculous in a way that still matched the tone of this show. (Mike Scully's script also gave her a few awesome lines of dialogue, like Tammy telling Ron that Leslie is "jealous of me - and the things I got to do to your body and face.")
Though Ron and Tammy dominated the episode, Leslie played an important role in the story, getting played by Tammy at first - because Leslie takes people at face value until they give her a reason not to - and then triumphing because her innate selflessness woke Ron from his stupor. (And I love that we didn't actually see what happened during the couple's final confrontation, but just saw Ron running from the building missing part of his 'stache.)
Much like last week's vendetta against Greg Pikitis, Leslie and Ron's shared hatred of the library was a funny reminder of just how small-scale this world is - Leslie's two big enemies are a 16-year-old kid and the head librarian. The Ron/Tammy ring of fire relationship overtook the library hatred for a while, but Leslie's suspicious glance at the camera crew while Tammy was trying to make nice was a perfect moment from Amy Poehler in the middle of an episode where she was largely in support of Offerman.
A great episode for an increasingly-great comedy.
Some other thoughts:
• Chris Pratt is too funny for the show to abandon just because he and Ann aren't together and he no longer lives in the (non-existent) pit, so the writers are smartly bouncing him around different jobs in and around the parks department. My favorite joke of the Andy subplot had nothing to do with the shoeshine job, or his obsession with getting Ann back, but the gag of Ann explaining that Andy used to film lots of audition tapes for "Survivor" and "Deal or No Deal," followed by a video of a shirtless Andy gutting a fish and declaring that he'd be a great contestant on "Deal or No Deal." Structurally, that's an ancient joke, but very nicely-executed.
• Speaking of the pit (or lack thereof), it seems to me that filling it in has taken a lot of urgency away from the committee. Ann, after all, never really care about a park; she just wanted the dangerous hole in the ground taken care of. It's not a big problem for the series (we've seen this season that there are tons of stories to tell that don't involve the pit), but it does open up some story possibilities - like Ann trying to back away from the sub-committee now that the problem is solved to her satisfaction. I did like her confession that she'd prefer a library branch in the neighborhood to a park, followed by her trying to play along with everyone else's raging library hatred.
• One other nice Poehler moment: the loud indignation in Leslie's voice as she asks, "What kind of lunatic would rather be Cleopatra than Eleanor Roosevelt?"
• Just as "The Office" slowly started giving personalities to people like Stanley and Kevin and Oscar, we're seeing minor characters like Jerry and Donna start to develop. Donna had a nice moment where she slowly affixed the "Told ya so" post-it to the window of Ron's office while Leslie watched. And, like Ann's nursing buddies, she clearly prefers Andy to Mark.
What did everybody else think?