If Parks and Recreation doesn't get renewed, "Win, Lose, or Draw" will be its series finale. Showrunner Mike Schur said he approached it as such, and that sense of happy-ending finality percolates through the entire episode. Don't you just love it? When everything goes right?
"Win" introduces Chekov's recount in the first seconds of the episode, enumerating the circumstances that would trigger a recount or other possible election outcomes. "In the event of an exact tie, the seat is awarded to the male candidate, and the female candidate is put in jail," said the election official, in yet another of Pawnee's hilariously obscure and woman-hating laws. (Recall that in Pawnee, any woman caught laughing is a witch.) In addition to the esoteric election bylaws, the Knope campaign was also facing Sweetums-sponsored voting machines, complete with vouchers for Sweetums bars for those who voted for Bobby Newport. Knope voters were treated to the sounds of crying babies.
As a West Wing obsessive — and I mean obsessive, as in I listen to MP3s of the DVD commentary tracks on a regular basis and am the not-very-proud owner of a WW novelty Tumblr — this whole episode had echoes of the Santos-Vinnick election episodes, although thankfully no one died. (R.I.P. Leo and John Spencer.) Leslie's exhaustion, Chris and Jennifer's secret sex decathlons, everyone crowding around the TV to watch the returns, the faraway job offers, and the careful ticking off of how many precincts were reporting their results all felt very West Wing–ed, which revealed a secret truth about this show: It could easily work as an hour-long dramedy.
The episode revived the Ann-Tom pairing again, thanks to Tom's prophetic dream that he and Ann would reunite. They drunkenly did, although I spent Ann's entire slurred scene at the end assuming that she was about to snap into sober mode and chide Tom for believing he had a chance. I guess once you high-five Blue Ivy Carter in a dream, anything can happen.
While Leslie and Bobby Newport chitchat for the cameras, Jennifer offers Ben a job in D.C. I ... do not care for the Jennifer character. We've been shown that Pawnee is sort of an oasis of weirdness, and that outsiders like Ben and Chris might find its residents to a little on the oddball side. Chris embraced it, and Ben tries to, too, but Jennifer's for-rent antagonism rings incredibly false. We already have Joan Callamezzo or the library department as the thorns in Leslie's side, and the doofiness of the Bobby Newport character was fun and silly without the added cynicism. All the other characters on Parks and Rec really mean it. Perd Hadley really means it, Crazy Ira and the Douche really mean it, Tom really is that into textiles, Ron really does support a return to agrarian culture, the weird townsfolk really did want multiple time capsules, and the spirit of Lil Sebastian really does reside in all of us. Jen was the one person on the show who doesn't mean it, and it just felt mean for no reason.
Back on the earnest side of things, April was flipping out about having accidentally deleted some files, so she did the only natural thing to do, which is hide under a table and call Andy. He tried his Xbox repair strategy of blowing on the computer and pushing it to the ground to no avail. They ran through their options: Leave town and start a new life, with new identities? Or call Donna and have her fix everything, which she did in two seconds? They picked the latter, but not before making a list of places they could live ("moon," "Chicago," "Winterfell," "Pegasus," a list of the places mentioned in the song "Kokomo") and jobs they could have, like every possible law-enforcement position, or a warrior/witch, or psychic/dental hygienist. April doesn't strike me as the kind of person who'd want to touch anyone else's mouth, but she does seem like she'd be comfortable telling you when you were going to die.
Ben tries not to tell Leslie about his new job offer, but he cracks almost immediately. "Are you happy or angry?" he asks, and a confused Leslie stares at her clenched fists and says, honestly, "I don't know." They decide they'll talk about it after Leslie votes, which she reminds him is the fulfillment of her lifelong dream. Leslie gets a little choked up in the voting booth, and honestly so do I, because ... America.
Three of the other names on the ballot, below the city council vote: Phon Du, Martin Lockheed, and Tuck Nabisco.
At the Jermaine Jackson Ballroom, Jerry bellies up to the bar with Ron, who plants the seed of worry that Leslie could lose by one vote and it'll be Jerry's fault. (Though if he had voted, then she would have tied Bobby, and then she'd be in jail, so ... ) I actually did worry that that was going to be the "twist" at the end of the episode, but mercifully it wasn't. Next up to the bar is Ben, who tries to order a gin and tonic even though "clear alcohols are for rich women on diets," according to Ron. Of course Ron's advice to Ben is the highlight of the episode:
I've never been one for meeting new people or doing new things, or eating new types of food, or traveling outside of Southern Indiana. I've had the same haircut since 1978, and I've driven the same car since 1991. I've used the same wooden comb for three decades. I have one bowl. I still get my milk delivered by horse. [Ben, incredulous: You do?] But you and Leslie like to hold hands and jump off of cliffs together, into the great unknown. You two have a good relationship. I don't personally know what that's like, but I am given to understand it means you're going to land on your feet.
First, awwww. Second, Adam Scott's "you do?" reaction is amazing, and I can only assume there were dozens more old-fashioned things that Ron does that got left on the cutting-room floor. Third, Ron Swanson is a secret West Wing fan. That part about holding hands and jumping off the cliff is straight out of Danny Concannon's spiel to C.J. toward the end of the series, where he tells her, "We're both about to fall off a cliff ... So, if I'm gonna jump off the cliff, and you're gonna get pushed off the cliff, why don't we hold hands on the way down?" I assume Ron was rooting for CJ and Toby there at the end, but that's just a guess.
When election results come halfway through an election episode, we all know better than to trust them, so when Bobby Newport "won" the election thirteen minutes in, it was a pretty safe bet that the recount was going to swing the other way. A demoralized Leslie sat in the city council chamber until Ron tracked her down and delivered his second wonderful pep talk of the night. "We didn't volunteer to help you to wrap ourselves in personal glory," he tells her. He helped her because he cares about her, and this is her dream, and that's what you do for the ones you love. So much tearing up in this episode! The talk convinces Leslie that she has to tell Ben to go to Washington, which she does, only to be interrupted by Ann telling her that the recount is over and this time she won. What a difference four minutes make! Also, Knope We Can! Knope 2012! Knope We Can Believe In! America!
At the victory party, Andy's playing the campaign song he wrote, and Jean Ralphio and his stripey scarf are advocating for a gig at the parks department. Ben confesses that he never wrote a concession speech for Leslie, so we all get to cry a little bit one more time. Leslie gives a rousing acceptance speech, April convinces Andy that he should become a police officer, and everyone decides to get celebration waffles. Dammit, Jerry!
Other great lines and moments
• "It's Brandi Maxxxx, the porn star. What is this, Italy?"
• Rob Lowe whipping his jacket off while heading into the supply closet.
• Ben not being able to drink the booze Ron ordered him.
• "I have had eleven whiskies."
• "No takebacks, partner! We're cowboys!"
We'd all be very, very sad if this were it for Parks, but if it is, at least they went out on a high note.