Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) may have tried to keep people at arm’s length, but Parks and Recreation‘s resident grouch occasionally shows that the beating heart of a Swanson is still flesh, blood, and feelings. Sure, he preferred his meat with a side of more meat (and a bottle of scotch to chase it) and asserted his manliness by dominating the natural world, but Ron Swanson, at his core, is a big old softie.
Let’s take a look back at (and rank) Ron’s most emotional moments.
7. Standing Up To His Mother And Tammy 1
This may not be a typical Parks and Recreation tear-jerking moment, but it does show an emotional turning point for Ron. While having a thing for powerful women is a plus, Ron also had the unfortunate tendency to let them boss him around a little too much. At the beginning of season four, Leslie (Amy Poehler) had to step in and free the beleaguered Swanson from the control his first wife, Tammy 1 (Patricia Clarkson), and his meddlesome mother, also named Tammy (Paula Pell).
When Ron eventually finds his spine again and steps in to help Leslie chug a gigantic jug of moonshine to win his freedom, it feels like a real turning point for him. Letting go of toxic influences is no joke, especially when they’re scary women named Tammy.
6. Little Sebastian’s Funeral
To quote the man himself, “I have cried twice in my life. Once when I was seven and I was hit by a school bus. And then again when I heard that Li’l Sebastian had passed.” Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) may not have understood the appeal of the miniature horse, but Ron stood with the rest of the town when the diminutive equine went to the big pasture in the sky.
While he bravely delivered the eulogy and lit the ceremonial flame, the citizens of Pawnee could see a man moved to tears. Unfortunately, thanks to the bungling of Jerry (Jim O’Heir) — no, lighter fluid is not the same thing as gasoline — Ron’s moment was ruined by a small inferno that burnt off all his facial hair.
5. Realizing He Needs To Take Care of His New Family
By the show’s fifth season, Ron was adjusting to life with his serious girlfriend Diane (Lucy Lawless) and her two young daughters. However, Ron was also a man deeply set in his ways, like dining on the Meat Tornado and burying most of his wealth in the woods. The Swanson Pyramid of Greatness isn’t exactly packed with family-friendly tips, but luckily, Ron was humble enough to see that change (just a teeny, tiny bit of change) is necessary when you reach certain phases in life.
For Ron, these changes included setting up his children financially and learning to eat healthier in order to live a longer life now that others were in it. Sure, what we saw was the hilarious scene of a grown man trying to force himself into eating a banana. But it was really a man who wanted to make sure that he had as many days with his new family as possible. Is it getting a little dusty in here?
4. Leslie’s Perfect Birthday Gift
There are many wonderful friendships on Parks and Recreation, but the platonic love between Ron and Leslie might take the cake. Leslie’s gift-giving prowess was the stuff of legend, and yet Ron was still concerned that a loud surprise party full of insipid people that he barely tolerated was on the agenda. Instead, Leslie proved that sometimes the best gift is the fact that someone really knows you. And also, a steak from Mulligans and a deep armchair.
It was a small moment, but it spoke volumes about one of the show’s central relationships. Still, however nice this moment was, Leslie was just getting started.
3. His Trip To The Lagavulin Distillery
An appreciation of dark liquors is essential to the awesomeness that is Ron Swanson. He is a simple man — he likes dark haired women and breakfast food — but even the simplest man can feel beaten down by the frustrations of life. Luckily, he has a friend like Leslie who knows exactly what makes his heart sing.
Setting up a private tour of Lagavulin Distillery while they were on their trip to the UK is basically the best gift that he could ever receive. Add in the perfect Robert Burns poem and even the coldest heart will be moved by this friendship milestone.
2. Walking Leslie Down The Aisle
Friendship is, of course, a two-way street. Ron proved his commitment to the Leslie when her and Ben’s wedding kept running into barriers in the form of Councilman Jamm (Jon Glaser) and a rushed timeline. Not only did Ron punch Jamm in the face, but he also walked Leslie down the aisle.
Ron is a man of few words, but his simple willingness to do whatever Leslie needed in order to make her day perfect spoke volumes. Ron is the kind of friend that you want by your side in times of crisis, especially if that crisis involves stink bombs.
1. His Fight And Reconciliation With Leslie
Even the strongest friendship hits some bumps along the way, and it was devastating to see Ron and Leslie separated by a rift that lasted for years (even if we were spared the torture of watching them fight for that long thanks to the time jump).
When Leslie found out that she had accidentally blown off Ron when he was going to ask her for a job, she was rightfully upset, and while it took a night locked in their old office to patch things up, these two reignited their very close and very unique friendship after rearranging some furniture, jamming on the sax, and engaging in general tomfoolery.
Everyone on Parks and Recreation grew as people over the course of seven seasons, but Ron may have changed the most. Once a grouchy loner who hid his gold in the woods, Ron eventually became a loving father of three who learned that occasionally embracing your gentler side doesn’t make you weak.