Parks and Recreation has a special place in my heart for its cosy, warm storylines, cast and ingenuity regarding holidays. Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) was always coming up with new special days and anniversary dates and doing the most in celebrations and gifts for her friends. Leslie’s infamous “Galentine’s Day” is the most popular of these holidays, which is meant to encourage friendship among women. On the flip side, going along with the Valentine’s Day theme, some of the most romantic episodes have nothing to do with cupids.
Here is MY list of Parks and Recreation’s most Valentines-y Episodes.
The Galentine’s Day tradition has taken over; I just saw a DQ commercial advertising ice cream cakes for the occasion. The best way to understand what the holiday represents is to let Leslie Knope describe it herself, “Oh, it’s only the best day of the year. Every February 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it breakfast style. Ladies celebrating ladies.” [Parks and Recreation S2E16]
S2E16 “Galentine’s Day”
The first Galentine’s Day episode to air. At Leslie’s brunch with the women most important to her, her mother, Marlene Knope (Pamela Reed), tells a story of an old flame. Leslie gets it in her head to set the two up again at the Parks and Recreation Valentine’s event. The guy turns out to be an absolute maniac, and it’s fair to say Leslie doesn’t get a new daddy in this episode. She also realises her latest infatuation is not at all who she’s meant to be with. All and all, it’s not the most romantic episode, but it’s not supposed to be. Galentine’s Day is all about the ladies in your life! It’s the OG episode, the origin that made it all happen. However, it’s not the most iconic in the plot, but the spirit is there and lives on in the other episode iterations.
S4E14 “Operation Anne”
This Galentine’s episode has a different connotation because Anne is perpetually unlucky in love; Leslie puts it upon herself and her co-workers to find Anne a date. This is a hilarious demonstration of character. The type of man each Parks and Rec employee brings to Anne tells a story of both their personality and their relationship with Anne. The ending is also outlandish and perfectly fitting to the quirky history of Anne’s dating life. Due to the number of horrible setups, Anne ends up seeing Tom as a potential partner and double. Unfortunately, Anne stays in this relationship much longer than she should because she doesn’t want to be seen as a flaky dater. It’s bonkers, whoever came up with putting Tom and Anne together deserves jail time or a raise; I can’t decide because the episode is very funny.
S6E17 “Galentine’s Day”
Leslie and Anne’s friendship is one for the history books; they’re inseparable in the oddest ways. In the wake of Anne’s departure from Pawnee, Leslie decides to find herself a replacement best friend. It does not go to plan. Every potential new BFF turns on her because they have way too much self-respect to compete for a spot like that. In the end, Leslie faces the fact that she’ll never find another woman like Anne. This is a heartwrenching episode but also lovely. It showcases Leslie’s stubbornness and her insecurity about female friendships. It’s an ode to women besties around the world, definitely worth the watch and most definitely the most iconic Galentine’s Day episode.
Andy and April
The golden retriever and the black cat. Although I have issues with the age gap between these two characters, I also see how the characters balance out their immaturity and neurodivergent tendencies. Andy and April couldn’t be any more opposite while simultaneously being perfectly compatible. Their connection is one of the earliest to be solidified as a long-lasting canon.
S3E9 “Andy and April’s Fancy Party”
Appropriate for these characters’ chaotic energy, Andy and April surprise their family and friends at their “fancy party”; they’re getting married! Leslie, Ben, and the crew all chip in to make the event as unique as possible. This episode pinpoints a lot of what makes sense about these two together, from their family to their friends and their desire to love one another despite not having a concrete plan on how to be adults. Andy and April have zero life skills that make them fit to be living on their own but they somehow have this chemistry and connection that makes you root for them all the same. This episode is one of the only times they get a whole episode about their relationship, while the rest of the time, they’re background chaos and B plot. Everyone coming together to appreciate and encourage these two is beautiful and cosy.
Ron and Diane
Ron is a complicated character with a tumultuous history with women. Tammy 1 and Tammy 2 shaped him into a very densely packed, traumatised man. Diane’s positive influence and understanding bring out another side of Ron, a softer side that Leslie had been pecking at for years and barely caught a glimpse of. Although it takes five seasons to finally see Ron healthily happy, it’s all worth it because Diane is perfect for him.
S5E9 “Ron and Diane”
Ron brings Diane to a carpentry award show. Plenty of chaos ensues due to Leslie’s eager presence in Ron’s life and Tammy 2’s sexual obsession with Ron. However, Ron reveals the one thing he’s never shown to any other romantic partner, and when he walks onto that stage to perform his saxophone with his fedora, it’s a gesture of trust to Diane. Ron is a very private and convoluted portrayal of masculinity; his expression of love to Diane is subtle but dramatic and often acts of service rather than declarations. This moment, however, is Ron’s way of shouting from the rooftops that he’s in love with this woman. It’s giggle-able; it’s so cute.
S6E1 “London: Part 1″
This episode is really about Ron’s character development and his dealing with the idea of being a father. Diane doesn’t need him to have this child, she already has two, and she did it alone. Ron’s dilemma is whether or not he believes he’s worthy and ready. It takes him a minute, but he knows he can do it. When Diane reveals to Ron that she’s pregnant, she and Ron elope in a lovely impromptu City Hall office wedding where Leslie contributes a marker bouquet and ripped paper instead of rice. The elopement between Ron and Diane is perfect for their characters and their relationship. Leslie’s reaction to the whole thing is about her desire to make it memorable, but just looking at the chemistry between Ron and Diane, the audience already knows how special it is.
Leslie and Ben
THE ULTIMATE PARKS AND RECREATION OTP! Leslie and Ben are perfect for each other; it’s clear from the moment they meet. Their relationship is effortlessly funny and quirky; their personalities complement each other so well that the chemistry is off the charts. I love Leslie and Ben so so so much! When I rewatch this show, I often start at Season 3 when Ben arrives because when you know about this relationship, it’s hard to watch the first two seasons without bouncing on the balls of your feet, jonesing to get to their storyline. For Season 3, their romance is a long slow burn for the most part, but when it reaches the boiling point, god, it is SO worth it!
After hiding their feelings from each other, Ben and Leslie confess. However, it’s complicated because their boss, Chris, prohibits interoffice romances. The two have to spend the night at Chris’s house, with plenty of sexual tension between them. It’s the tropiest concept, but they play it so well. It’s painfully funny, flirty, and frustrating, with an incredible payoff!
S5E5 “Halloween Surprise”
With Ben’s future up in the air after another job offer, Leslie contemplates their future alone in a house they’re supposed to rent. In the end, Ben proposes to Leslie, having chosen that he doesn’t want a future that doesn’t have her in it. This episode never fails to bring me to tears; they are so desperately in love with one another. After all of the uncertainty leading up to the moment, the show of love and affection between the two characters is raw. They desire to have a family to spend their lives together, no matter what is thrown at them or what it costs. They have such a deep connection! God, it’s so beautiful! And I know it’s just a workplace sitcom but my god, their romance is one for the ages. They should teach this in film school.
S5E13 & S5E14 “Emergency Response” / “Leslie and Ben”
In the wake of a new park Leslie is trying to fundraise and pass, a simulated Emergency Response draws Leslie away from the planning. It’s a spiral! And in the end, Ben and Leslie decide to bite the bullet and get married there and then at the park’s fundraiser. Yet another surprise, spontaneous. wedding! It’s right up the alley of this show to throw together events like this. It seems the underlying love language of Parks and Recreation is spontaneously organising beautiful events to make moments like this all the more special. All these characters care so much about Leslie and Ben and want them to have everything they want and deserve. These episodes aren’t just about the connection between Leslie and Ben but about their friends and how much they all care for one another. The beauty and emotion in this episode are truly a testament to this show’s writing, directing, and acting that so amazingly captures found family at its finest.
HONOURABLE MENTION: Donna’s wedding, S7E7 “Donna and Joe”—another lovely and emotional pairing of characters and display of affection.