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Pawnee on the whole will feel a little bit emptier without Ann Perkins and Chris Trager, but there are two residents of the sleepy Indiana town who be feel particularly sad to see the expectant parents go: Leslie and Ben. After Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe bid their farewells to Parks and Recreation on this week’s episode, we’ll be seeing the show try every trick in the book to keep Ms. Knope and Mr. Wyatt from spiraling into a state of bestfriendless insanity. We’ve seen Leslie and Ann’s relationship blossom from the early days of perplexed annoyance to unremitting love, and we’ve reveled in the established Ben/Chris camaraderie that never made much sense but always felt authentic. Luckily, we’ve seen Leslie and Ben explore plenty of other terrific friendships over these past seven years, but if we had to pick a favorite pairing for each…
6. JERRY: To be honest, we’re a little over the whole “dump on Jerry” routine. Stop changing his name, at the very least.
5. TOM: Some laughs here and there, but there hasn’t been enough evolution with the hypercompetent boss/slacker right-hand-man shtick to keep it fresh.
4. ANDY: Leslie and Andy had an fun rapport in the early days, with Leslie taking Andy under her wing and turning his life around, but their stories have been few and far between lately. Plus, they might be a little too compatible to be truly interesting as a pair.
3. DONNA: Leslie and Donna are from two entirely different worlds, to the point where Leslie is bewildered by a great deal of the things that Donna says and does. The fact that they maintain a warm chemistry despite this makes for a terrific, albeit underdeveloped, relationship.
2. APRIL: Call it big sister/little sister, or probably more accurately sprightly math tutor/underachieving ninth grader who secretly envies the former’s drive even if she might skip out early to smoke cigarettes behind the laundromat. Either way, there’s something extremely heartwarming about the Leslie/April dynamic (and if you disagree, watch the Season 3 episode “Fancy Party,” wherein April admits, softly, that she loves her boss and role model).
1. RON: The big guns. The oddest coupling of the lot is the greatest friendship on the show, save maybe for Leslie and Ann. The eternally frowning Ron has doled out fatherly advice to the anxious Leslie, in turn receiving the sort of compassion to which he was never treated by his parents or wives. Although only one of them would ever admit it, Leslie and Ron love, need, and complete each other in a very special way, and it’s always touching to see them exemplify that.
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6. DONNA: I guess I like when she calls him “Wyatt,” but there’s not much going on there.
5. JERRY: Ben might actually be the only person who shows Jerry any semblance of kindness, so he gets a point for that. Still uninteresting though.
4. ANDY: Yeah, they have their moments, but whereas some odd couplings on this show derive comedy and charm from a place of unexpected internal similarities, Andy and Ben are really just a giant happy-go-lucky goofball and an uptight cynic forced to band together on occasion. Not a lot of terrific work has been done with the pairing.
3. RON: What’s kind of wonderful about this one is that we still get the feeling that Ben is terrified of Ron. He has no reason to be, and does showcase a lot of respect and appreciation for Ron, but it’s hilarious nonetheless. Plus, there’s also the tacit understanding that Ron has deemed Ben the only person good enough for his pal Leslie… so there’s that nice bit, too.
2. APRIL: Another silver medal for April! Though their rapport might be a little bit contentious, you get the sense that April and Ben enjoy a tacit bond over the shared knowledge that they are smarter than nearly everybody else around them. There’s a mutual respect there… even if it’s buried under a jungle of barbs (mostly in one direction).
1. TOM: Far too underused, the Tom/Ben dynamic we saw flourish at the end of Season 3 is a personal favorite. Both “outsiders” who don’t quite feel at home in Pawnee, both acutely in tune with their own respective subcultures, and both men of meager stature (we have to stick together, you know). Few interractions are funnier or more charming than Ben and Tom defending their respective outfits
But how could we not devote a little valediction to…
2. BEN AND CHRIS: Two weirdoes forced to travel the world (or Indiana) together, complementing one anothers’ signature style and bonding over their shared social ineptitude. While Ben and Chris might not always seem to be sensible pals, we’ve seen each of them come through for the other, and we can actually feel the longstanding friendship they’ve shared since before we met either of them.
1. LESLIE AND ANN: Here it is, people. A story that began in the pilot, closing now as Ann heads off to have her baby in Bloomington. Leslie and Ann aren’t quite the odd couple that Leslie and Ron or Ben and Tom are, but that doesn’t make them any less interesting. Since we met her, Ann has been someone on a quest to figure herself out. Someone who fit in everywhere she went, but who never really knew who she was. On the other hand, we have Leslie: someone who knows exactly who she is, but who doesn’t seem to belong anywhere. It’s really meaningful that the two women met due to a pit that needed filling, because that is exactly what they did for each other. Internally. Like, in an emotional way. Does that metaphor work? Ah, who cares. We’ll miss you, Ann. But not as much as Leslie will.