At long last, we're back to Pawnee and the election that has riveted a nation. But first, let's check in on Tom and Ann, the relationship that has confused a nation. Ann gives us a clue as to why she's still with Tom as she walks Leslie through his apartment, which is tricked out with a constant cheese plate, a full shelf of coconut water, a thermostat always on 80 degrees, and blankets, blankets, blankets! Tom has what we call in the industry a "girl house."
Next time we see Leslie, she's accosting Councilman Pillner (an always excellent Bradley Whitford, whom you should go see in Cabin in the Woods) about how he's planning on cutting the budget by 8 percent. She lays it on thick, attempting to scare him with a picture of a young girl who is surely in for a future of tribal tattoos and barfing in hot tubs if not for the intervention of Parks Department programs. He decides to stay his hand, which I'm sure won't have any adverse effects…
If you'll recall, last time we saw April she was given more responsibilities at work. We see her running a meeting described as "a nonstop thrill ride," but instead, it's a nonstop nitpick festival. After answering some emergency procedure questions and calling a man Mr. Hamster Penis, April looks to Tom for help, but Tom is too busy tweeting with Russell Simmons. (Is this Tom or Aziz?) April is frustrated, but Tom encourages her to find a project she's passionate about, like Tom's love of naming alcoholic drinks. Beeryonce and Jay-Zima, anyone?
Speaking of new jobs, Ron is also up for a new position as assistant city manager, but Chris is making him jump through some hoops — namely going to a Meditation Center. Ron checks in with Ann (it seems they are intent on putting awkward duos together in this episode, and I applaud it), and Ann confirms that meditation with Chris is, in fact, the worst thing ever.
Leslie is quite pleased that ship-in-a-bottle-obsessed Councilman Pillner was so easily convinced, a feeling that apparently makes her feel a bit frisky toward Ben. Ben is not as excited, and it turns out he's right: in order for Leslie's department to have its full budget, an animal shelter will shut down. Nope, Andy, that doesn't mean all the animals in it are going to be fine. We cut to The Word With Perd, where Bobby Newport's minion Jennifer is holding a puppy and calling Leslie a dog murderer. Foiled again. Leslie insists she'll figure it out, and does what I would do in this situation: She adopts all of the animals from the shelter and stashes them at Ben, April, and Andy's house. Do you want pancakes?
Ron and Chris arrive at the meditation center, and it's sadly tucked into a decrepit strip mall, next to a Greek restaurant. Chris coaches Ron on what to do, but Ron insists on standing, and for the entire mediation time, stands there quietly breathing, not thinking about anything. He has no idea what these other crackpots are doing.
Back at the Animal House, Andy is alternating between playing with a stuffed monkey and balancing lots of cats on his body, while April has decided to hold an adoption fair in a park. Now she's got something to be excited about. Donna makes up amazing backstories for each of them — "This cat was in Boogie Nights!" "This dog's great-grandfather was Spuds MacKenzie!" — and the adoption fair seems like a success, but after Spuds' great-granddog is adopted, no one else shows up, save for a woman who drops off her two cats and then flees as April chases her down the street. April is heartbroken. For once, she tried, and it still didn't matter. She sulks for a bit until Tom brings her a photo of the girl who adopted the English Bull Terrier. The April I thought I knew would have grabbed that digital photo frame and cracked it on Tom's skull, but this April is mollified. It's probably the pet dander.
Leslie has dropped three to five points in the polls because of the puppy-murderer smear campaign, so she and Ben search for more room in the budget, and find a few D1 employees that are on retainer but not active and can be cut to save the animal shelter. At this point I was expecting Leslie and Ben to uncover an enormous, John Grisham-style government conspiracy that goes all he way to the top, but instead Councilman Pillner accepts those cuts from the budget … and then some. He decides to cut all D1 employees from the city staff, and that includes Ann. Leslie and Ben get one final meeting with Pillner (and are treated to three more ship-in-a-bottle analogies), where he reminds Leslie that if she gets this job, she will upset people with every single decision she makes. They vow to figure something out by the end of the day. Andy manages to remove a ship from one of Pillner's bottles.
Chris has told Ron that he's got the assistant city manager position, but he may have done that too soon. If Bobby Newport wins, he'll probably replace Chris, since Chris has been supportive of Leslie. So not only does Ron not have the assistant job he didn't really want, but Chris may not have his job either. He has a very calm breakdown of the "We're all just molecules … random patterns devoid of meaning" variety, and Ron treats Chris to his form of meditation — whiskey. Ron soothes Chris by telling him that losing his job wouldn't be that bad, he'd just have to find other ways to contribute … and by the way Chris looks up at a passing Ann during that exchange, I smell a love triangle coming on.
Leslie has an idea that could save everything, and it involves committing political suicide. She and Ben meet with Jennifer to suggest that Bobby Newport use his own personal fortune to save the animal shelter, so that no D1 employees lose their jobs, and there are no cuts in the Parks budget. In exchange, they just want the puppy-murderer ads to stop. Jennifer loves the idea and is confused as to why they're so okay with Bobby looking like the hero, which is when Leslie gloats that next week is the debates and that she will annihilate Bobby in those debates. One quick warning to Jennifer not to drink the tap water, and they're out.
And so we come down to the end of the campaign — will Leslie wipe the floor with Bobby during the debates? Will she realize that she probably really doesn't want a job where she has to upset so many people? Will Ron start doing yoga? Will Ann start dating Jerry?