This episode started off with one of my all-time favorite things: plot continuity! Sure, I know that’s not the most glamorous, edgiest thing to adore, but I’ve come to appreciate these little gestures that show the people making television will reward us for paying ridiculously close attention. So that binder Leslie turned in during her trip to Washington, the one she assumed would be lost among the stacks of nearly identical binders, a symbol of her disillusionment at our nation’s capital? It’s back! You know who read it? Grant Larson, director of the Midwest branch of the National Park Service. Now, he’s not the bad boy as that guy from the Department of the Interior, but he’s still a pretty big deal.
Leslie is ahead of schedule — banner unfurling! — on the Unity Concert, which marks the 100th time Leslie has been ahead of schedule — second banner unfurling! — in her Parks career. She also has the inspired idea to tear down this wall separating Pawnee and Eagleton, so that their merger (which so far is not going well) can be more, you know, merged. It’s a huge day for her; it might be the first day she actually crowd-surfs! (Empty your pockets, just in case.) But then it turns out the wall was filled with bees, stinging many an Eagletonian and, as far as Pawneeans go, sparing almost everyone but (ugh) Councilman Jamm. Everyone thinks Leslie pulled some Clooney-worthy prank. Her efforts at smoothing things over do not go smoothly. Leslie winds up with a huge black eye. The merger is a sinking turd nugget. It’s so bad, even April is sorry.
Grant tells Leslie he can’t help her make Eagleton Hills a national park. Leslie is crushed but hilarious: “Thank you for coming by and plunging a dagger into my already bleeding corpse.” But then Grant reveals himself as someone who already knows who Leslie is because HE READ HER BINDER! He declares it the most thoroughly researched grant proposal he’d ever seen! And then he offers Leslie this awesome job, running a branch of the National Park Service. An offer she cannot accept, because Pawnee.
This is where her plot loses me. As always, Ron’s moment with Leslie warmed my heart like a newly rewired radiator, but for the first time in forever, I didn’t really agree with the gist of what he said. “You like fixing this town, you always have,” he tells her. “You know it’s an uphill battle, but you love the struggle.” And this is apparently reason enough to convince Leslie to turn down this amazing job with the National Park Service (!!!) in Chicago (more !!!) so she can make sure that Pawnee is in capable hands. (Conveniently enough, the gears of government grind so slowly that Leslie can just take almost all the time she wants to decide.)
But … but … who exactly does Leslie think is coming out of Ron’s impeccable woodwork to replace her? Clearly she’s going to hand the keys of the Parks Department over to some promising young underling (cough, cough, April, cough) sooner or later, and the show isn’t really convincing me that there’s a reason to make this “later” other than the obvious, external reality of Parks, which is that they have the rest of this season plus another season to fill, and they can’t fill it in Chicago.
The Leslie that we know and adore is ambitious, hungry, and gutsy. She loves Pawnee, despite the fact that Pawnee is literally punching her in the face. But she and Ron have already discussed the fact that Pawnee is a stop on the way to a bigger, brighter stage, filled with new challenges, new obstacles, and new opportunities. As a fan, all I want is Parks to keep on keeping on until April and Andy are senior citizens boarding that flight to Transylvania. But from a “does this work, plot wise?” perspective, I’m not really buying it. She would at least, I don’t know, interview, or go to Chicago and scope out the offer in person. Or talk it over with Ben and not just Ron. Or something. Anything. Anyway.
The other plot that didn’t quite hold up for me: Tom’s new business. We’ve watched this guy have an unrelenting stream of hilarious, off-the-wall business ideas for years. Years! And now this angel donor drops out of the ether to make all Tom’s entrepreneurial dreams come true and the best Tom can do is … a restaurant? An Italian, old-timey-ish bistro? Seriously? Did he fall asleep at Orin’s show, wherein our resident weirdo dislocates his shoulder to Billy Joel, and accidentally get Inceptioned by “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant”? What happened to the ahead-of-the-curve, style-savvy mind that brought us Rent-a-Swag? Why would Tom, lover of brand names, technology, status, and celebrity pitch some brick-and-mortar throwback restaurant? Where’s the cool new app, where’s Pawnee’s answer to Uber, what’s the next luxury Tom could make accessible to regular people? Part of what made Rent-a-Swag so great was how it felt so true to Tom’s character. Unless I’m missing something about Tom, this feels like an idea that anyone could have had, and not exactly an earth-shattering or especially exciting one.
Oh, and one more unacceptable thing: Where was Donna? I can’t go more than a week without my dose of the amazing Retta, so we better get a whole lot more of her next week.
I am, however, over the moon about the way that Ron deals with having a baby. That is, by not drawing attention to it whatsoever. I wish everyone would try this. How great would that be? Imagine the Facebook feeds! Sorry to be a buzzkill, baby lovers/baby-havers/people who announce due dates with, like, chalk on your hipster driveways or what have you, but I think the baby-publicity machine has gotten out of control. Whatever Ron is doing—what’s the pregnancy/birthing word for eloping? — I am all about it. Welcome to the world, John Middle Name Redacted Swanson.
Here, in no particular order, are a bunch of other things I loved in this episode:
- More Craig! “One guy told me he was Jackson Pollock-esque and I told him that’s finger painting for adults and I HATE IT.” Also: “Someone follow me, I’m distraught!”
- “Pearlies for girlies! It’s unisex.”
- Has Tom always disliked Ben? It’s sort of random, but I guess I can be into it for lines like “If all goes well, this may be one of the last times I ever have to see you.”
- Andy, running full speed into the wall: “On it, boss!” [slams into wall] “The Kool-Aid guy makes it look so easy.”
- “My son is several weeks old. He is familiar with the sound of power tools.”
- Not technically story-related, but Amy Poehler’s hair looked so good last night, am I right? Are Leslie and April sharing a curling iron?
- “This is like listening to a Ted ztalk by the color beige.”
- How do you all feel about Mike Patterson, Eagleton’s most tenacious reporter? I prefer Perd and Joan Callamezzo, but that may just be proof of my Team Pawnee status.
- Ron tells Leslie, “To most people, that story would be boring.” Leslie’s reply: “That’s ridiculous. It’s a story about a radiator.”
- “That is my ideal conversation, aside from no conversation.