Parks and Recreation
Season 5, Episode 22: Are You Better Off?
– Posted by Sage
Baby talk, new relationships, fertility doctors, unstable girlfriends – little did we know that Mike Schur & co. had been setting us up for MONTHS for a season finale mystery big enough to bring rogue FBI agent Burt Macklin out of retirement.
Macklin, you son of a bitch.
While looking for the sweatshirt he accidentally trashed, Andy finds a positive pregnancy test in the garbage after a weekend retreat at Ron’s cabin. Now it’s up to his alter ego to find out which of the five women who were there is good and knocked up. Like in the classic Dawson’s Creek “who had sex?” episode, there is evidence to support any of the five theories. Let’s take a look at our suspects:
Even Andy is savvy enough to question Ann first. Everyone knows that she and Chris are back together and trying to have a baby (though not necessarily in that order.) But no success yet. She sets Andy straight, expresses some joy/jealousy re: the future parent, and joins Macklin on the case. Ann’s got everything Andy’s looking for in a partner: #1, willingness to buy lunch; #2, there is no #2.
No one knows everything that Donna Meagle gets up to in Pawnee or in the sensuous rains of Seattle. There is every chance that this woman of mystery is keeping a secret from her colleagues. But, as Burt discovers during her interrogation, Donna is not, in fact, carrying 1/9 of a person. She’s a careful grown-up, thank you very much, and there is no way she’s dipping into her pedicure budget to cover any kid-related expenses.
Blissful newlywed Leslie is also a strong candidate. In “Jerry’s Retirement,” she and Ben decide to open the conversation about starting their family, and we all know they are doin’ it anytime they’re not working. Burt barges in to Leslie’s “victory lap” town forum with Ann hot on his heels, wielding the positive test and demanding answers. Once again, excellent face-acting by Adam Scott for the split second before Leslie answered and Ben thought he might be about to become a father. But no, Leslie isn’t the culprit. And she’s got more pressing problems on her hands than finding out who is. More on that later.
Despite his genuine terror of her and Ann’s best efforts to untangle him, Tom is still with Mona Lisa. And they’re having sex in trees and parking lots and god knows where else. Burt and Ann break the news to Tom first, showing him the test. (“Womb! There It Is.” “That’s her brand.”) Tom sits Mona Lisa down to ask her what’s up, and surprise: a wild Jean Ralphio appears!
Anyway, it’s not Mona Lisa either, though she let’s Tom believe it for long enough to cause unrepairable damage to his nervous system (and for him to make a “dumb-dumb face.”) “Do you know how many different pills I take, birth control or otherwise? There is no way I could be pregnant with a human baby.” Good point. Science!
That leaves one remaining female who was at the cabin on the weekend in question. April was the first suspect crossed off Burt’s Homeland/Castle-esque bulletin board, because he was sure she would have told Andy right away. But once he and Ann have exhausted all other possibilities, it seems clear that April is preggers. The ambiguous phone call she receives earlier in the ep supports this theory. Case solved, Burt fades back into the shadows and Andy runs to celebrate with his wife. She has news, but not the kind he’s expecting. April was accepted into vet school and Andy wholeheartedly supports this dream of hers that he’s known about for nearly 20 seconds. (“I’m really glad I married you.” “Yeah, we made a good call on that one.”) He also supports their family plan for adopting two adult Romanian twins some day. Families come in all shapes and sizes, my friends. Love is love.
…so who is it?
We don’t get our answer until the last second of the final tag of the entire season, when Ron Swanson’s lady love Diane requests a private audience with him. Perfect. Ron’s journey this season has been to learn how to be more flexible and to open his life to the people that he cares about. With Ivy and Zoe, Ron has had a crash course on parenting, with all the broken princess crowns, crying jags, and amateur haircuts that entails. Is he ready to put that experience to work with a kid of his own? From the sweet and affectionate greeting he gave to Diane in “Are You Better Off?”, we can see that their relationship is as solid as ever. But he also tells Andy that his only barometer for the year is whether or not he is exactly the same when it’s over. Hmmm… Ron’s newfound docility will be put to the ultimate test if they decide to have this baby. I await the news of a season 6 renewal (somewhat) patiently, and hope that we will have a chance to see Ron holding a tiny human who is grabbing at his mustache.
Think of all the baby toys he could whittle.
In other Pawnee news, Leslie’s “victory lap” is turning into a witch hunt. Despite the fact that her year in City Council has resulted in a healthier and more diverse community, the citizens aren’t exactly thrilled that she’s making them take their medicine. One by one, every person who was an obstacle to Leslie this season stood up to chastise her for “restricting our freedoms.” Sanitation now has to hire female workers? Freedom restricted. Paunch Burger can’t sell paint bucket-sized sodas? Freedom restricted. Sweetums can’t sponsor candy-filled school lunches? You guessed it. Isn’t it fun how Parks and Rec uses comedy to expose how cheap and meaningless this kind of rhetoric is? I heart them.
Leslie is now facing the Committee to Recall Leslie Knope (the real “turds on wheels,” I’d say.) She’s worked so hard in her first year and always, always, always has the well being of every one in her town in mind. How much longer will she be able to keep devoting herself to such thankless people? Ben asks her if SHE thinks that Pawnee is better off than a year ago and if she stands behind everything she did in office. She does, and together they’re going to fight this thing. Primarily with dance movie titles.
- If not Diddy or Jay, who is the mystery buyer of Rent-A-Swag? I doubt Jean Ralphio could even plan far enough ahead to call a lawyer, let alone put together a business plan. And he has no money. We’ll hopefully find out next year, when Tommy’s Closet opens right across the street, serving teens, babies, and olds alike.
- Let’s have a silent moment of appreciation for all of Ben’s outfits this episode (vest and flannel, plaid and tie) and that scrumptious bit of stubble he had in the JJ’s scene.
- Burt Macklin puts on his jacket like Jed Bartlet.
- What happened to the Animal Control guys? Brett and Harris showed up to the forum looking more preppy than stoned. Were they groomed by Pinewood to give the cause more credibility? Despite the makeover, Brett couldn’t resist throwing a “Legalize weed!” in to the “Recall Knope” chant, so our guys are still the same on the inside.
- The porn title of Argo is “Our Goo.” Genius.
- “Parades and your butt, my two vices.”
- Apparently, the main reason that the pregnancy storyline isn’t Leslie’s is because Mike Schur feared what Amy would do to him if she had to wear a belly for an entire season.
- Chris and Ann are having “ridiculous sex,” so at least we’ve got that going for us.
- “My assistant has something she wants to show you, partner.”
- Can we talk about what a stand-up guy Tom Haverford is? He was ready to give up his business and his dream to support Mona Lisa and her horribly-deformed drug baby.
And that’s our season! We are now on Parks hiatus at least until the fall, and hopefully not indefinitely. ANNOUNCE YOUR COMEDY RENEWALS, NBC.
How do you think Season 5 stacked up against the rest?