Parks and Recreation
Season 6, Episode 18: Prom
Season 6, Episode 19: Flu Season 2
Posted by Sage
There are good surprises and there are bad surprises.
Bad surprises are like, say, when the boyfriend of the protégé you’ve chosen to assume your mantel and be the caretaker of your legacy is revealed to be your greatest enemy. And the good kind? Well, say you’ve been craving burgers all day. They’re all you can think about. You’re having visions of all-beef patties. You get home after a hard day’s work, and your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse/roommate/mom(?) says, “Hey, I’m about to drive over to Five Guys. What do you want?”
Well, buddy, I got some good news for you.
Baby Knope-Wyatt is on the way, so it’s probably a good thing the pharmacist didn’t honor Leslie’s request for “the ‘Mariah needs to sing tonight’ stuff.” How time flies. It feels like we were just at prom last week. Wait.
Forever a preserver of ritual and tradition, Leslie takes it upon herself to put on the Pawnee High prom that had been nixed by budget cuts. And you know she won’t let her inexperience in ancient Italic languages keep her from valiantly rescuing a taxonomically valuable class too. Leslie Knope saved Latin. What did you ever do?
While Tom and Ben – known at the ones and the twos as DJ Rumple Drop and Zoot Suit Wyatt, respectively – try desperately to get the party started, April and Andy regress to their high school comfort zones. Andy’s the most popular guy at schools he doesn’t even go to. And we see April’s misanthropic shenanigans as the defense mechanism that they are, more clearly than ever. High school magnifies the best and the worst of us. If it comes easily for you, you’ll probably never have to break a sweat. And if it doesn’t, then you might be working over time, all the time, just to let the world know how much you don’t care.
It freaks April out, just how different she and Andy are on paper. And it’s a nice callback to their crushing days. She kept him at arm’s length for a long time, not because of their age difference, but because she worried that Andy was too optimistic for her – that once he really got to know her, he’d be repelled by her darkness. Instead, he lit her up. April would have never dared to care publicly about anything or anyone until Andy.
Prom, like most senior year traditions, is about celebrating the past and welcoming the future or, if you’re like me, bidding good riddance to high school and forgetting it EVER HAPPENED. Leslie has a mini-me in Prom co-chair Allison, another blond bundle of energy who’s also handy with a Juan Julio Oficina Supplies binder. Leslie becomes consumed with the idea of Allison taking over the “April Ludgate Summer Solstice Druid Festival and Buffalo Wing Eating Contest” (that’s the Parks Department unpaid summer internship to the layperson), thereby starting her down the path to Leslie-dom, and enters into a stand-off with Ron, who delights in wooing the over-achiever to a well-paid summer job over at Tim’s saw mill.
Rather than proposing chopping Allison in half, the school principal shames Ron and Leslie for using an impressionable teenage girl and her future to simply illustrate a point. (“I wouldn’t say ‘harassing’ so much as ‘persistently tormenting.'”) Leslie’s angling towards a 10 on the Ron Swanson Scale of Knope Insanity for this one. She missed the second half of the two-fold purpose of the Prom; she grips her past in a white knuckle grip. It’s fine that Tom doesn’t share the tastes of a gymnasium full of 17-year-olds. It would be sad if he did. But the Chicago job offer has Leslie scrambling to ensure the future of her town. The work isn’t done – it never will be, which is why Leslie Knope is made for it. But she can’t move on to bigger things while still holding the reins in Pawnee. She can’t have it both ways.
“Making a blueprint for the future,” Ron tells her, “is a fool’s errand.” (I have a head canon that Ron becomes a Robert Frostian poet in his retirement.) And whatever plans she’s still cooking up despite Ron’s advice surely didn’t include finding out she was pregnant in Chipp McCapp’s recording studio. Is that it for the Chicago gig? Leslie and Ben will certainly want to raise their children in Pawnee, at least for now. It’ll be a tricky transition for the show to get just right, insofar as what it means for Leslie to choose – in this case – family over career. She’s a feminist hero, yes. But she’s a feminist hero because she’s a fully-developed person with rock-solid motivations and desires. It doesn’t do us any good for Leslie to do ~what’s right for womankind~. It does us good for Leslie to do what she wants to do. And baby or no baby, we’ll always have her standing between our children and our society’s oppressive gender roles. No pink on girls’ soccer uniforms as long as Leslie Knope draws breath.
Once upon a time, Little Benji Wyatt didn’t have a legacy to speak of. No, really, he never wanted to speak of it. He ping-ponged all over Indiana to run away from “Ice Town” and “Boy Mayor,” which is why it takes him a case of blueberry wine and a bonfire spirit cleansing to figure out why he was so upset over his crazy parents selling their summer lake house. It’s just now occurred to him that he’s got something worth sharing.
But really, I’ll take any excuse to get Ben Wyatt sick, drugged up, or drunk. The show knows how beautifully Adam Scott plays an impaired Ben of any kind (“You just do your thang, baby Smurf.”) and keeps on bringing it back. This episode is titled “Flu Season 2,” which positions it as a sequel of sorts to the Season 3 outbreak. “Flu Season” was way early days Beslie, with Ben being both frustrated and inspired by sickly Leslie’s commitment to her commitments. “That was a flu ridden Michael Jordan at the ’97 NBA finals. That was Kirk Gibson hobbling up to the plate and hitting a homer off of Dennis Eckersley. That was…that was Leslie Knope.” He’s already there. While the season 3 episode was planting the seeds of the mutual respect that would define their relationship, last week’s kept Ben and Leslie physically apart until the final, poignant moment. They’re so surprised to find themselves ready, and now I’m wondering if Leslie’s general absence from Ann’s pregnancy storyline was meant to distract us from what now seems like an inevitable development.
The evolution of Tom’s Bistro continues with a b-plot that sends Tom and a group of thirsty hangers-on to a sommelier certification event and reveals another tantalizing tidbit about our friend Crazy Craig. He’s a wine expert and HERE’S HIS DEBIT REWARDS CARD. Billy Eichner is making his case for taking this character from one-note guest role to valuable member of the extended ensemble cast. Everyone plays so well off of him too. And with Craig installed (behind soundproof doors) in the wine cellar of Tom’s, we can be sure that we’ll be running into him often.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I closed out this recap without acknowledging two other inspired guest spots in this starry episode: boy genius comedian Bo Burnham as Chipp, breakout country star, morally bankrupt singer of the the pandering hit single “Beautiful Like My Mom (Support the Troops)”; and Jeff Tweedy as Scott Tanner, frontman of long estranged rock band Land Ho!, who Andy and Leslie convince to reunite for the Unity Concert. Tweedy got to sing a few bars of Andy’s “Karate Chop Master,” but hopefully we’ll hear more of him and Land Ho! (Wilco??) on the season finale. Other confirmed guests include Ginuwine (which we knew), Yo La Tengo, The Decemberists, and LETTERS TO FUCKING CLEO. Does Kat Stratford know about this? This Unity Concert is going to be better than Coachella. I’ll bring the booze, Ben Wyatt will bring his vintage Letters to Cleo shirt, and the troops will bring the freedom.
- Parks gave S.H.I.E.L.D. a run for its money last week, surprise ending-wise. I never expected the return of Greg Pikitis, Pawnee’s answer to Joffrey Baratheon.
- “I thought we as a culture agreed to forget the year that everyone was into swing.”
- Ben said the word “banger” and that means a lot to me.
- “I hope that high school auditorium is big enough cause I’m bringing 10,000 Maniacs.”
- “Shut your mustache.”
- “Where’s my Yeezus mountain?”
- “I feel like I told you to wait in the car.”
- “SILENCE!” Andy’s reign as Prom King is terrifying.
- If I have to go, I want to go being “mentored to death” by Leslie Knope.
- “Put some alcohol in your mouth to block the words from coming out.
- Leslie and Andy on karate: “That’s not first aid.” “It is if you do it right.”
- Everything about Craig describing wine: “There’s so much pumpkin it’s like a CHARLIE BROWN HALLOWEEN SPECIAL.” “Something bold and dry LIKE DAVID SEDARIS.”
- I love that “your mother’s butt” is now a recurring joke.
- “Hey, it’s your me. It’s wife.”
- “Don’t act like you don’t know the word ‘thing.'”
- April thanking all the people who got her where she is: “Norbit, Pluto Nash, all the Klumps…”
- Donna said “allons-y” TWICE to that French guy, and I know she would climb Ten like a tree.
- “Dude – are you a ghost?” “Am I?”
- “That’s the sign for petting a dog that’s sitting on your lap.”
- “Same way I got a perfect score on the SATs: broken Scantron machine.”
Is it time for Leslie to be a mom or do you think the show jumped the gun? Leave it in the comments!