Parks and Recreation
Season 6, Episodes 1 and 2: London
– Posted by Sage
In order to get through this recap, I must focus on how thrilled I am that Parks is back from hiatus and not how much this season premiere felt like the beginning of a farewell tour. It wasn’t necessarily the European field trip that signaled that these episodes are intended to bring the show to a satisfying conclusion. It’s the inarguable truth that every character is now firmly on the path to becoming the person that each of them is supposed to be. Think about where April started. Remember who Tom was in the pilot. And, if you can stand it, conjure the dark days when we kind of hated Andy. Dear, sweet, totally jacked Andy.
When we last left Leslie Knope, the people of Pawnee – who have never realized how lucky they are to have her – were trying to recall her City Council seat. In “London,” we find her in the middle of a multi-phase plan to get public opinion back on her side. Leslie is right at home in the “No Problem Too Small” phase, since she spent years in the Parks department solving people’s petty issues and enduring their abuse for her troubles. But humane slug extermination is no way to win this fight. The answer might be in London, where Leslie will accept the International Coalition of Women in Government Award that April secretly nominated her for. We’re going to Hogwarts!
Initially jazzed by the whole thing, Leslie is deflated when she sees how much the other women are the ceremony are appreciated by their towns. Not one person in Pawnee has ever thought to make a Leslie statue out of goat cheese or any other variety. We’ve seen this existential crisis building in Leslie for a while. Her City Council gig opened up a new world of cronyism (personified by season 5 nemesis Jeremy Jamm) and bad compromises. She is a public servant, not a politician. And I’ve wondered if Leslie’s disinclination to play dirty (well, most of the time) would result in her stepping back to a less public post where she can continue to make a difference without the constant threat of getting Jammed or being the target of a Kathryn Pinewood smear campaign.
But this is Parks, and that’s depressing and defeatist. And our show is neither of those things. The moral of this story will not be “Good people can’t succeed in the political arena, so don’t bother trying!” We want to believe that it’s possible for someone like this to affect change in a huge way. We want to know that the 20th anniversary Parks reunion special will see Leslie and Ben comfortably settled in the White House. (Ben IS the Michelle in this situation.) But she won’t get there if she’s relying on public praise to carry her. After Leslie has a meltdown during her award speech (“I’m sorry I said ‘pee pee heads.'”), Ron councils her with the most apt metaphor for her job. She’s the adult, Pawnee is her kid. When she tries to (very literally) feed them their vegetables and they scream at her, she can’t scream back. “Don’t don’t start chasing applause and acclaim,” Swansong says. “That way lies madness.” Sounds about right. And, he points out, people do appreciate her. She’s concentrating so hard on the problem at hand that she can’t see the change she’s brought about in her friends. In my opinion, April Ludgate is Leslie’s greatest triumph. She is her career highlight. Leslie took the most apathetic person in Pawnee and ninja-mentored her into being the supportive, engaged person she is at the beginning of season six.
Ben and Guardians of the Galaxy Andy make the trip to London too. They’re there to pitch the Sweetums Foundation’s successful music program to bored rich guy, Lord Covington. (“Peter Serafinowiiiiiiiiitttttttzz!!!!” here in my notes.) He’s a big kid, just like Andy, and they hit it off. And with Eddie’s invitation to stay and help him get the program off the ground, we have the show’s explanation for Chris Pratt’s Marvel-mandated absence. It dovetails perfectly with this episode’s theme of forward motion. Andy used to live at the bottom of a PIT, you guys. And now he’s roommates with Lord Fancypants.
Now, I’m just GUESSING that this will be the final season of the show, but we KNOW that this is the beginning of the end of our time with Chris and Ann. They’re where we expected them to be in this premiere: together, happy, and awaiting the birth of the tiny, spherical food item of your choice. I hope that the rest of their remaining storylines are more memorable than this one; the running joke of their pregnancy being old news after Diane’s announcement wasn’t the highlight of the episode. But one thing’s for sure: I will never be able to drink milk ever again without thinking of Jerry Gergich.
Meanwhile, Tom was left to fend for himself as Jean Ralphio and Mona Lisa’s doctor dad (Henry Winkler, in the episode’s second epic cameo, Heidi Klum was the third) launched a full-scale attack on Rent-a-Swag. He handled it with grace though, and his growth was touchingly apparent when he started the tense mediation by acknowledging how psyched he was to be standing in front of a bunch of business people in a “dope” conference room. He’s even inspired Jean Ralphio to be a stand-up guy; he admitted to years off fraternal lies (“I don’t even know what a math camp is.”), because Tom told him it was the right thing to do. I want Tom’s business to succeed (He’s basically Babyface, after all), but I also need him to be firmly integrated back into the group somehow. He’s gradually taken over the outlying role that formerly belonged to Ann. And, as much as Jean Ralphio owns my soul, Aziz Ansari shouldn’t be interacting more with a recurring guest than he does any of his fellow ensemble members.
All in all, warm fuzzies abound in “London.” But the most poignant of the poignant were the Ron Swanson vignettes that bookended the episode. The fact that Nick Offerman has never been NOMINATED for an Emmy, let alone won one, should be a national joke and scrolled news-ticker style throughout every USA syndicated episode of Modern Family. His proposal and wedding to Diane was sweetly and swiftly carried off, which seemed appropriate after the season five build-up to the Beslie nuptials. I love that he got married (third time, but this one will stick) surrounded by the women in his life: Leslie, his mentor/mentee and best friend; April, his surrogate daughter; and Diane, who is the perfect brunette mate for Ron, as sturdy as the canoe he built for her. And he was so eager to do the damn thing that he got married in a GOVERNMENT BUILDING. For a Libertarian, that’s love. It was romantic and spontaneous, and in that moment, I swear we were all Leslie Knope.
We left Ron following Leslie’s wedding gift trail, all the way to the Lagavulin brewery – his personal mecca, as April read her nomination letter to Leslie. “If you’re lucky enough to be her friend,” April wrote, “your life gets better every day.” We can SEE it. It’s happening for every one of these characters. And, even better, she’s inspiring them to do it for each other. As much as I dread leaving these weirdos behind, I’m confident that every one of them is going to be just fine.
Random Thoughts and B-Stories
- The wardrobe department really outdid themselves with Jean Ralphio and Mona Lisa’s matching denim outfits.
- Totally fine with Leslie’s rom-com themed travel plans. When I went to London in college, I took the train all the way to Notting Hill to take pictures at William Thacker’s travel bookshop. #noshame
- “Standard birth control methods are not usually effective around a Swanson.”
- The goal of the recall lobby is two-fold, as Harris is still protesting on that “legalize weed” tip.
- Britain is weak, according to Ron, because their “royal overlords are a frail old woman and a tiny baby.” He’s not wrong.
- #gpoy: “I’m having so many thoughts and feelings that I’m paralyzed right now.”
- Obligatory demand for MORE RETTA.
- I’m not THRILLED abut Ben’s lukewarm reaction to an army of cute corgis taking over his office, but I’m confident that we’ll make it through this. Related: I find “Sugar Butt” to be a wholly appropriate nickname for him.
- FREE PIZZA WITH PAPPA-RONAAASS
What did you think of Leslie takes London, readers? Does it feel as final to you? Thoughts in the comments, please and thank you.