The Story Behind ‘Challenge Day,’ The ‘Parks And Recreation’ Episode That Never Happened

One of the many episodes of Parks and Recreation that qualifies for the category of “The Best Episodes” is “The Fight,” the 13th episode of the third season. From Dennis Cooper’s hilarious public meltdown, which featured a number of offensive signs about his cheating wife’s STDs, to everyone getting wasted on Tom’s Snake Juice at the Snakehole Lounge, the episode had plenty of memorable moments and instant classic one-liners. Of course, the most important moment of them all was…

What was most notable about the episode was the fight between Leslie Knope and Ann Perkins, as it was the first time that the best friends got into it with each other. Leslie was disappointed in Ann for partying with the Douche instead of preparing for her city job interview, while Ann was pissed at Leslie because of her general bossiness and lofty expectations for everyone to live their lives according to her detailed master plans. In the end, though, the women made up with each other as they violently heaved a combination of Snake Juice and shame into the Pawnee City Hall toilets, and Ann would end up taking a part-time job as the new health department public relations director.

But that wasn’t supposed to be the story of a big fight between Leslie and Ann. As we learned from the creators and writers of Parks and Rec while putting together this week’s oral history of the series, the best friends were instead supposed to face off in an episode entitled “Challenge Day,” which would have been based on the middle and high school program that challenges kids to work together in understanding and accepting diversity. However, in Pawnee, that would have meant that Leslie and Ann, serving as the adult leaders, would have been at each other’s throats, presumably over something ridiculous.

MICHAEL SCHUR (Executive Producer and co-creator): The idea was that Leslie and Ann would sort of being doing a health class/self-esteem workshop with a group of middle school-aged girls, and they would be talking about the importance of self-esteem and not being mean to each other. And then the ending was they would have something they were in conflict over and they would start fighting and basically become 8th grade girls. We really tried to break it a million times. We tried so hard because we were convinced that there was a story there and we were just never able to quite do it.

GREG LEVINE (Writer and the first person hired on the series): Leslie and Ann are in some kind of a fight and they wind up, at the same time, helping out a youth girl’s group and use the group to act out their own problems in a kind of back-to-school special way. Like, girls are supposed to find their voice and learn good values, but Ann and Leslie are using them and these trust activities to fight with each other. That episode we worked on so much and so many different versions of it that that idea of “Challenge Day” didn’t happen, the fight wound up happening with Ann and Leslie at the Snakehole Lounge. But “Challenge Day” didn’t happen.

Executive Producer and co-creator Greg Daniels credits writer Katie Dippold, who has also been tasked with writing the screenplay for Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters film, with the idea for “Challenge Day”…

GREG DANIELS: I love “Challenge Day.” That was from a really good writer, Katie Dippold. I’m a big fan of her. She also wrote “Beauty Pageant,” and I really liked that. I don’t know why that never broke as an episode. Part of it is I think that was about Amy’s and Rashida’s relationship, and there was an aspect of conflict there in the notion of that episode. They became such good friends, I guess there wasn’t a place in the arc of the show for conflict for them.

But I remember that episode, it was very good. I always thought it was too bad that we couldn’t figure out a way to use that.

Dippold, however, said that the idea originally came from someone else before she added personal experience as the driving point.