Previously published in The Daily Star of Hammond, LA
It happened over the phone.
“I’ve discovered something terrible, and I need your help to solve this case,” a good friend said in a whisper-yell (the kind of voice that sounds like a whisper but is loud enough for anyone in the room to hear it, making it just a very breathy, high-pitched, grating way of saying something).
“Whoa,” I said. “Calm down first and then tell me what’s going on.”
“Check your email,” my friend said. “It’s all there.”
So I fired up my personal computer, the research tool that’s made everyone a private detective and capable of creating their own “Serial” or “Missing Richard Simmons.” That’s when I saw the shocking subject line at the top of my inbox (The entire message was in the subject line too which makes things even weirder):
MISSING PERSON REPORT
Missing Person: Mark Brendanawicz
Reported by: No one in Pawnee, IN
Last Seen: Taking a buyout from the Pawnee government to join the private sector in Season 2 finale of the NBC sitcom “Parks and Rec.”
“Wait,” I said. “This is your case?” Then, after 10 seconds of total silence on the other line (way too much silence on the phone in 2018. He must’ve been doing meal prep by grinding flax seeds into a smoothie) he finally spoke.
“The game is afoot,” he said followed by the beep beep an iPhone make when a call ends(Hanging up the phone was cooler when there was a click followed by the flatline-esque tone. It made every phone conversation feel like the stakes were higher).
Brendanawicz left his job as the city planner at Pawnee City Hall when the local government was shut down and he was offered a buyout to leave and help cut the cost. The buyout combined with his girlfriend of several months, Ann Perkins, broke up with him right before he was going to propose to her, so with no job and a broken heart, Brendanawicz wandered off to find himself while staying in Pawnee.
The strangest part of his disappearance is that he never showed up or was mentioned by any person in the “Parks and Rec” world for the next five seasons of the show after being one of the main characters for two seasons. What happened to the khaki-wearing, bland, former womanizer viewers came to tolerate known as Mark Brendanawicz?
An easy answer would be that Brendanawicz left town to get a better job (probably selling paper since he was a Jim Halpert-wannabe), and moved on with his life away from Pawnee. But that’s no fun, and the “Parks and Rec” universe portrays people living in Pawnee as crazy people who never want to leave town so what else could have happened?
When Mark left City Hall, Chris Traeger and Ben Wyatt showed up to help the Pawnee local government get out of its deficit and get the government shut down to end. Chris is the first suspect, since he is played by Rob Lowe, who’s appeared to have found a fountain of youth that makes him look young forever, and the character of Chris Traeger is into health and desires to be the first man to live to be 150 years old.
To achieve this feat, Chris must’ve figured out a way to live forever by stealing the youth of others. So when Chris got to Pawnee, he found Mark wandering the streets in a depressed state and kidnapped him to take his youth to continue looking 15 years younger. Stealing a sad Mark’s youth would also explain Chris’ issues after getting dumped by Milicent Gergich.
Another explanation is that Mark decided to go out on the town to try to forget about Ann and his job and ran into Ron Swanson’s ex-wife, Tammy-Two, who used her strange powers to seduce him and turned him into a Ron clone like she did Jeremy Jamm. Brendanwicz’s even keel persona would make it easier for him to become like Ron without feeling like he was betraying too much of himself, but then Tammy-Two would’ve shown up with him at some point, so this is unlikely as well.
Right when I was about to give up, it all became crystal clear. Mark couldn’t leave Pawnee because the town is like a whirlpool sucking in people. Brendanawicz is an architect, and in season seven of the show, the city exploded when Gryzzl came to town. Mark must’ve become a private contractor to help build the new headquarters and other new buildings with Pawnee’s economy booming.
So I called my friend while lighting a case-closed cigar and gave him a voicemail:
It’s so simple; sometimes the best answer is the most straight-forward one.