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Parks and Recreation Recap: Last Night

It’s not even 2012 yet, but society’s already got the end of the world on the brain: Harold Camping has built a cottage industry out of incorrectly predicting Armageddon, popular television show The Walking Dead scans more like a primer on how to prepare for a zombie apocalypse than a credible drama featuring “characters” “doing or saying compelling things,” and that new Rapture album is really good. In Pawnee, the remaining members of the Reasonablists cult — that name is kind of genius — who ran the town in the seventies predict every few years that their deity Zorp is coming to free humans from their physical bonds, and hold a vigil in the park to play flutes and wait for Zorp the Surveyor to come melt their faces to use for fuel with his volcano mouth. Hail Zorp!

While there are only a few scant believers preparing to meet their doom, others in the town use the prophesy as an opportunity to tend to some business. For aspiring city councilwoman Leslie Knope, it’s a chance for her parks department to show themselves as being conscientious of and sympathetic to even the community’s fringiest, most unstable citizens of voting age. For reporter Shawna Mulwae-Tweep, it’s a chance to hit on Ben. For Ron Swanson, it’s a windfall as he sells the Reasonablists hand-carved flutes and recorders at 80 bucks and 120 bucks a pop, respectively, payable by post-dated personal check. For Tom and Jean-Ralphio, it’s an excuse to take the $10,000 they have left after Entertainment 7Wenty’s spectacular implosion and throw the best party anyone’s ever seen, complete with money booth, live tigers, and drumline. For April and Andy, it’s a night to skip the usual routine of ordering pizza, playing Xbox, prank calling, and making out and instead indulge Andy’s bucket list, which includes making the greatest grilled-cheese sandwich ever, remaking Kazaam, and holding a thousand dollars cash in his hands. For Ann Perkins, something something. We’re in like Lara Flynn. Boyle. From The Practice.

It’s a nice payoff for the meandering Entertainment 7Wenty story line that Tom and Jean-Ralphio’s party actually kind of does look like the best party anyone’s ever seen; a little surprising, in fact, that Roy Hibbert, unencumbered owing to the NBA lockout, didn’t pop out of the Centurion VIP section sponsored by Sobe Life Water and offer to hire the company for an event. Instead, Tom settles for a kiss from Lucy, whom Jean-Ralphio invited as a surprise for his best friend and business partner, and also because he forgot Tom dated her and wanted to hit that. Ben and Shawna don’t make it, though — Leslie is in full meltdown mode, stammering her way through attempts to keep the two apart, resorting to driving Ben to an abandoned gas station that was certainly not ever owned by Mick Jagger between 1951 and 1958. Ben understands what Leslie’s doing, and after weeks of moping, has simply resolved that he can’t be around her socially. If this were truly the last night on earth, there’s no one Leslie would rather be with, but, as Ron tells her, even though he doesn’t want to, it’s not. The sun will come up, no faces will be melted, and she’ll still be in the same situation that required her to break up with Ben.

My bucket list now has an entry to come up with a bucket list as cool as Andy Dwyer’s bucket list. Winning $10 on a scratch-off card is cool, but becoming an action star by crashing through a sliding glass door so FBI Agent Bert Macklin can save Janet Snakehole from being killed and/or ravaged by the evil and foul-smelling Mikhail Petrov (Jerry) is way cooler. “Looks like this Siberian husky’s gonna be Russian ... off to jail.” Their spontaneous road trip to the Grand Canyon, however, is apparently the springboard for a series of webisodes, just guessing, but maybe sponsored by Volkswagen? (Aside to NBC: We’re still trying webisodes?) Andy’s confusion about the lack of carved presidents’ faces is as satisfying as April’s genuine inability to feel annoyed. Since Andy began this show as a guy who lived in a giant hole in the ground, it’s understandable that he’d feel at home here.

And in the end, of course, there is no Apawneecalypse, but circle your calendars for May 19 — oops, park’s booked, make that May 20. Until then: Repent, or just work on that grilled-cheese technique.

Photo: NBC