Planning Ron Swanson's surprise birthday party — steak dinner for one, a bottle of scotch and The Bridge on the River Kwai — had been long in the making on Parks and Recreation.
"We had the idea for a long time that Ron had his birth date redacted from all government documents," executive producer Mike Schur told TVGuide.com. "That led to the idea that Leslie would find out about it and try to throw him a surprise birthday party."
And in Thursday's episode, Leslie put Ron (Nick Offerman) through the wringer by enlisting April (Aubrey Plaza) to pretend she was planning an elaborate Pawnee rager. (April on the phone in front of Ron: "I have a question about your inflatable saxophones. Do those come in different sizes? I'm gonna need about 40 dozen of those. Also, what about your neon gangster fedora hats?")
In the end, however, Leslie had secretly put together the ultimate Ron Swanson affair: a meat-ful evening alone. Why? Turns out Leslie was offered Lindsay's (Parker Posey) job in fancy Eagleton years ago, and it was Ron who wound up convincing her — in his own Ron way — to stay.
Leslie: Do you remember what you said to me five years ago when Eagleton offered me that job and I asked you for your advice?
Ron: Do whatever the hell you want. What do I care?
Leslie: Right, but then after, when I pressed you, what did you say?
Ron: I believe I said that I thought we worked well together, and that I might disagree with your philosophy but I respected you. And I said that you'll get a lot of job offers in your life but you only have one hometown.
Leslie: Yes, that's how I remember it.
The moment resonated with star Amy Poehler. "It's really sweet and it's just an example of how it's important to Leslie who she works with. It's just as important as the job itself," she said. "I completely relate to that."
Rashida Jones, who plays Ann, was also moved: "There have been times in our read-throughs where I've been legitimately teary in the end. That moment broke my heart."
"I loved finding out that Leslie wanted to work with Ron, and that it was a big part of why she stayed," Poehler added.
Schur called it his favorite scene of the season — and a real coup for the comedy to pull off. "It's just very risky do stuff like that sometimes because if you haven't earned it, and the audience doesn't think you've earned it, then it just comes off as a cloying ploy for sentimentality."
"But Amy and Nick are just so good," he continued, "and the relationship between Leslie and Ron is deep enough, and broad enough, where we can write something like that and they just perform the hell out of it."