'Parks and Recreation': The Tammy show

parks-and-rec-ron-and-tammys.jpgAnd now it all makes some sense, why Ron Swanson -- paragon of maleness, lover of beef and facial hair, enemy of taxes -- would become such an inhibition-free deviant when he's around his second ex-wife.

The answer: His first ex-wife.

"Parks and Recreation" set aside Leslie's campaign story for a week to give us the story/psychological case study of Ron's relationships with women, and because it was so different from the Tammy Two-affected version of Ron, it worked brilliantly. The B- and C-stories also clicked, making for a wall-to-wall great half-hour of TV.

As Tammy One, Patricia Clarkson lived up to just about every expectation (no small feat, considering the buildup among "Parks" cultists). Ron's former Sunday school/math/driver's ed teacher and first-ever lover makes almost everything we previously knew about him and women seem perfectly logical, in an insane sort of way.

Tammy One is blonde. Now, Ron only dates brunettes. Tammy One is icy, controlling and manipulative. Tammy Two is ... not. (OK, she's manipulative too, but her methods are completely different). Tammy One is, as Ron notes, the bad piece of chicken that gives you food poisoning and puts you off chicken for good.

I'm a little knocked out at how fully formed Tammy One feels, and would like to raise a glass to the "Parks and Rec" writers. They clearly thought about the kind of woman who would not only cause really funny things to happen with Ron and the rest of the regulars, but also fill in pieces of Ron's history in a way that makes sense. Well done.

Whatever Swansonian back story wasn't filled in by Tammy One was by Tammy Zero, Ron's mom. Ron is clearly his mother's son, and it is almost sweet that he sends her shotgun shells and cigarettes each month.

A couple other notes on the main story:

  • Amy Poehler playing drunk: Never not funny. "Everybody pants now" has been stuck in my head for days since I watched the screener.
  • April's unexpected reaction to Tammy One was brilliant too: "She's the cold, distant mother I never had ... I love her."
  • We agree with Leslie that clean-shaven, whipped, "Hump day, am I right?" Ron is creepier than cornrowed, kimono-wearing, mustached-rubbed-off Ron.

As for the rest of "Ron and Tammys" ...

The Ben-and-Tom pairing is one of the show's secret weapons, and it yielded great returns here with Ben's utter disbelief at the way Tom and Jean-Ralphio run Entertainment 7Twenty. ( Adam Scott is an absolute master of the silent, stupefied reaction shot.) The groundwork is being laid for the company's eventual, inevitable demise and Tom's return to the parks department (or Leslie's campaign, maybe), but the ridiculous details are awfully fun to look at. Plus it's never bad to see Detlef Schrempf in Pawnee again, and it's nice of the show to give locked-out current Indiana Pacer Roy Hibbert something to do.

Also nice: A Chris-and-Ann plot that acknowledges their past relationship without being completely about it. Rob Lowe dialed in on Chris' perfectionism ("Let's do one more take ... then five more ... then 20 more"), and Ann's reactions to the full Traeger experience -- bewildered, ground down and then remembering at the end why she dated him -- tracked just right.

What did you think of "Ron and Tammys"? Did the Swanson mythology click for you as well?
Photo/Video credit: NBC
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