We begin with a confetti explosion! Ben is terrified, but I’m sure the rest of you are excited because there’s only one thing a confetti explosion from your top desk drawer could possibly mean. That’s right, kids, we’re going to prom!
Does it actually make any sense, from a government-of-a-small-town perspective, that the Parks Department would be in charge of sponsoring and organizing the prom for newly merged Pawnee and Eagleton? It strikes me as unlikely. But we have to step up, okay? Harvey almost died from a VCR electrocution and someone needs to honor his memory. YAY, PROM. Also, our budget is basically zero.
Now we meet Allison. Dear, sweet Allison, a bite-size Leslie Knope, complete with preliminary plans outlined in a binder organized using binder tabs that can only be acquired through Mexican backchannels. Leslie is already imagining a future where the Parks Department is in good hands even after she hightails it to Chicago with Ben, because she can groom Allison to take over. The first step on this path that Leslie has mapped out from Pawnee to the White House: a summer internship, which she let April name for some reason and is technically called the April Ludgate Summer Solstice Druid Festival and Buffalo Wings Eating Contest. In an interesting twist, this internship is unpaid. (Aren’t government internships usually paid, though? Minimum wage? I mean, come on, it’s not like Leslie works in journalism.) Ron intervenes, because he and Allison are totally friends—“Is there some secret society for the greatest humans on Earth? Do you meet Tom Hanks and Elena Kagan in the Statue of Liberty’s crown? God, this fake club I’m inventing is amazing!”—and, not wanting to see Allison waste away in poverty in service of the government, offers to hook her up with a paying job at a sawmill. Let the battle for Allison’s future begin! I like her so —
Wait, why does this Allison kid get to suck helium out of balloons and do fun voices with Amy Poehler? I want to suck helium out of balloons and do fun voices with Amy Poehler! BOO, ALLISON. A+ for Leslie, though. That is, until she and Ron get called into the principal’s office for harassing a teenager into choosing a life path when they should be letting her make up her own mind and enjoy her prom. (Plus all the corsages show how distraught Leslie gets with the principal when he says he’s disappointed in her: “I think what matters is whatever A-pluses may or may not have been handed out earlier.”)
Because none of us would be able to go to bed if Mom and Dad were still fighting, Leslie and Ron make peace. Ron, as per usual, has sage advice about the uselessness of planning for an unpredictable future. Leslie knows he’s right. “I just wish, once, you would say something stupid so I could ignore it.”
I love the story line with April and Andy. It has a way of making perfect sense for who they are — Andy loved high school and was loved in return; April was an outcast who hated everyone — and yet reveals a surprising, sweet vulnerability in April. Who hasn’t wondered about the way fate influences our relationships or worried that, but for something out of your control, you and your favorite person in the world might never be together? If you met your childhood best friend at your office, would you even like each other? If you weren’t related to your siblings, would you be friends? Or, as it dawns on April: If she and Andy met in high school, would they have even talked to each other, let alone dated or gotten married?
What’s so perfectly handled here is that the show, through Andy, doesn’t try to pretend that Andy and April were meant to be no matter what because fate is nothing in the face of true love. The truth is, yeah, maybe they wouldn’t have liked each other in high school. Because, as Andy so eloquently puts it, “Kids in high school are idiots.” Andy and April met at just the right moment to be just the right people for each other, which is how happy couples happen the world over, and isn’t that kind of heartwarming and exciting and reassuring? Come on, let’s go hide some mops so the janitor will think he’s crazy.
Sidebar: Allow me to go on the record and say I hope to never, ever, EVER see Orin dressed up as some undead-witch version of “April’s mom” again. It’s quite possibly the creepiest thing I’ve ever seen. “My baby is all grown up. Have her home by 11.” I was brought back to happiness by the sight of Champion as “April’s dad,” but still: shudder.
Tom goes through that kind of Edith-Zimmerman-in-the-Times slow epiphany: He’s just not up to speed with the younguns anymore. But wait — is that bad? Ben argues that it’s okay for Tom to lean into being a grown-up; after all, no matter how old Tom gets, he’ll never be as old as Ben. Meanwhile, who cares what these kids think is cool? Especially that one guy who “only listens to CDs, that’s the way music like this was meant to be heard.”
Another highlight of the night: learning how every character spent his or her prom. Ben’s parents threw him a prom in his living room. Tom was only at his prom for 15 minutes (too busy putting on that suit and tie). Donna didn’t go at all because she was dating an older man. Ron left the prom early to go to his shift at the quarry. He was 12. He never went again. “I felt like I’d outgrown it.”
And now, a balloon drop of some of my favorite lines:
- Tom, explaining how dope drops have to be in order for a song to be a “banger”: “Are acoustic instruments used? If so, it is not a banger. I once accidentally downloaded a Lumineers song. I had to throw away my whole computer, just to be safe.”
- So apparently lake can be used as a verb to mean “trying to make your car go over a lake but not being able to do that, obviously, and therefore your car just winds up in the lake.” For instance: “We only have one car because Andy laked mine.”
- Ron, about Leslie: “I have tolerated Leslie’s pro-government ways because her annoying kindness and generosity sneakily made me like her as a person.”
- Ben describing his records as being in “near-mint condish!”
- April doesn’t want to dance. Instead, “I’m going to go to the girls' bathroom to check the trash cans for babies.”
- Ron, to the children: “Continue with your awkward close-quarters gyrating.” Leslie’s follow-up: “And if this is the evening you decide to have sex, use protection!”
- Girl, to April: “Where’d you get that dress?” April: “I was buried in it.”
- One more thing: the return of Greg Pikitis! The Pawnee prankster! Leslie’s nemesis! Of course Allison is dating this guy. She’s getting her bad-boy phase out of her system. She’ll come around and find her Ben someday. Never forget: Kids in high school are idiots. Although Allison’s braid/ponytail game is top-notch.