Parks and Recreation Recap: Gov Buds for Life

“Did anyone ever tell you that your tenacity can be intimidating?” John McCain asks Leslie. “Yes, every month of my life since fourth grade," she replies. Photo: NBC
Parks and Recreation
Episode Title
Ms. Ludgate-Dwyer Goes to Washington
Editor’s Rating

There is only one thing that Leslie Knope cannot do for her friends. She can and has: baked cookies, made binders (and backup binders), designed elaborate scavenger hunts, knit quilts and embroidered pillows, hugged both with and without consent, and planned over-the-top welcome-to-your-new-job and going-away parties. But there’s one thing that Leslie, sunshine personified, can’t seem to do for those nearest and dearest to her.

Leslie can’t take good-byes.

Leslie — with the gumption of Tracy Flick and the heart of Reese Witherspoon — can’t bear to see her friends leave. Instead, she steamrolls over their good-byes until something, or someone, intervenes to gently point out that maybe Leslie has to be a good friend by doing the opposite of what she really wants to do: She has to let people go.

So April, understandably, is having a hard time gearing up to tell Leslie that she wants to quit her job with the National Park Service and find out what she truly wants to do with her life. After all, when Leslie found out April was getting rid of her bangs, Leslie called 911. (Are they just trolling me with the bangs references now? I miss Leslie’s Swiftian fringe so much.) The mature, responsible thing to do would be to sit Leslie down — the sooner the better — and have a calm, reasoned conversation with her about this choice. But April, obviously, is not going to do that (let’s be real; few of us would) and instead opts for a technique that I have definitely utilized and cannot recommend enough: She procrastinates, tells other people her secret so as to implicate a grand conspiracy of allies in her lie, and eventually blurts out her news at the inopportune moment.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. April and Leslie are going on a field trip to Washington, D.C., on official NPS business. What’s the pitch again, April? “In today’s fast-paced society, national parks are still the best place for full-moon werewolf transformations.”

Before April even has the chance to come clean to Leslie about her desire to leave the NPS, Leslie uses their 26 minutes for unstructured chat time to "talk about April’s future," a.k.a. plunk an enormous five-year-plan binder on April’s lap. “I had to make some guesses about your ultimate government objectives and your fashion choices, etc.,” she says, and April’s voice rises in horror: “I KNOW, I FEEL SO RELAXED!” Leslie has already had some “Gov Buds for Life” T-shirts made.

Then we are treated to an ultimate hit parade of political cameos. A quick rundown (with bullet points, not numbers):

Senator Barbara Boxer: Literally says, “If it’s good with Leslie, it’s good with me.” Smart way to go through life, BB. Then Leslie tries to crash her meeting with POTUS.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand: This former roommate of Connie Britton signs her book for Leslie, even though Leslie has already written a very glowing inscription … to herself. There’s room for a P.S., though!

Senator John McCain: He’s been on the show before and, it appears, has seen quite a bit of Leslie since we last saw him. “Did anyone ever tell you that your tenacity can be intimidating?” he asks Leslie. Her reply: “Yes, every month of my life since fourth grade.”

Senators Cory Booker and Orrin Hatch: Between Brian Williams taking six months' unpaid leave and Jon Stewart stepping down from The Daily Show, last night was a rough one for Jersey natives such as your faithful Parks recapper. Fortunately, Booker was half of the second-best cameo of the night, as he and Hatch share a passion for Polynesian folk music and are in a band called Across the Isle. (“Get it? It’s like a pun. It’s a play on words.”) Hatch says it’s eight bucks now, ten at the door for their Georgetown show. “Fiscal conservative!” Booker cheers. “Love this guy!”

Then Leslie gets some huge job news of her own: Because Ol’ Norbs has to step down (actually, his marriage is falling apart; his wife’s having an affair with his best friend), Leslie is up for a promotion to deputy director of operations of the interior. She’d have to move to D.C. and take the Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program. Leslie promptly loses her mind with excitement. It’s so much intensive test-taking and note-taking! There’s a freaking confirmation hearing! “Ma’am, do you mind if I borrow your hat? I just want to throw it up in the air victoriously.”

I was surprised that Leslie jumped at this opportunity so quickly. This diehard Pawneean wants to split time between D.C. and Indiana? Where will her kids go to school? Won’t she miss her beloved hometown? Or is the endgame of Parks for Leslie like the endgame of Friday Night Lights for Coach and Tami? Does she have to end the series by leaving this place behind when we do?

She tells April her good news and passes along an updated binder, but April can’t take it anymore. She admits that she doesn’t even know if she likes her job or working for the government. Leslie is scandalized that April would do this to her, “and on our bench of all places!” Ah, Leslie’s friendship weakness: getting so invested in the lives of her loved ones that she forgets to let them be their own people, making big events in their lives — like Ann’s move to Michigan — all about her.

Leslie turns now to the best guest star of the night: Madeleine Albright!!! The pair have been keeping up: They have had lunch together five times thus far, eight if you count that time Leslie shows up at her office unannounced with mini-muffins. Maddy — can I call her Maddy? I feel like we’re all such good friends here — hasn’t seen Leslie this upset since she forgot Ann’s half-birthday. “Sometimes you’re so focused and driven, you forget about people’s feelings,” Maddy tells her. For instance, “You were so wrapped up in your story that you actually ate my waffle.”

Leslie goes back to April and, as we knew she would, says she just wants April to be happy. And then …

UGH, I HAVE SO MANY FEELINGS. Everybody turn around, okay? Look the other way. Now take your shoes off and wear them like mittens over your ears.

April’s speech to Leslie, in its entirety, which I typed through my tears for you because we are all in this sad good-bye together:

“When I started working for you, I was aimless and just thought everything was stupid and lame, and you turned me into someone with goals and ambition, which is really the only reason why I’m even thinking about what I really want.” [April hugs her, like a hug of her own volition not even one Leslie forces on her, it’s just a spontaneous hug from the heart.] “And I just want to say thank you. And I love you very much. Which is why I have decided not to turn you into a sea urchin, which I could do, because I am an actual witch with powers and I’m evil and I hate everything.”

Leslie kicks the job search into high gear and immediately — accidentally! — finds April the perfect position: working at the American Service Foundation, placing people in jobs across the country to help communities.

But April hasn’t told Alyssa from ASF that she wants a job yet, because she wants to get Leslie's approval first. Leslie tears! (My tears!) “April, you don’t need me. You could get any job you want, all by yourself. Obviously I’m going to vet your résumé, we’ll hold some mock interviews, and I’ll choose your outfit and everything, but you can get this sucker on your own.”

Back in Pawnee, unaware that April is finding gainful employment on her own, Andy enlists Ben and Ron to help him find a dream gig for April. (Can I just say, maybe not the best move to surprise your wife by finding her a job, behind her back? That’s a really big thing to pick out for another person! But I digress.) First, they think April could work for Ron, even though Andy has no idea what Ron’s business actually is — “Assassins. Hitmen! Doctors. You guys are doctors” — and Ron doesn’t do a great job of selling the place. “This is a door. These, of course, are walls.” We find out Ron has at least three brothers that we’ve never heard about (one of whom is played by Offerman’s real-life brother!), and we revisit that accounting firm where everyone is obsessed with Ben and his dopey puns (“Would that compound your interest?”), but their bid falls flat again upon April’s return.

April’s temporary return, that is. The Ludgate-Dwyers are moving to Washington.

And a few other things …

  • Wait, did the Parks writers know there was going to be a Twin Peaks reunion, or did they write this joke before the reunion was announced? Mike Schur sees the future!
  • Leslie’s reaction to April’s fake suggestion that they change the font on the itineraries is so perfect. It’s ridiculous but, come on, we all have that person in our lives who is so obsessed with planning and organization that their voices would jump an octave if you suggested something like a typeface alteration.
  • Ron, on creativity: “Creativity is for people with glasses who like to lie. Although I suppose she could use creative ways to organize and stack the vinyl sheeting. No, that’s insane. We used the Towson method, it’s tried and true.”
  • I would like to try the Andy Dwyer diet: “Let’s grab some ice cream, then some after-ice-cream tacos.”
  • April’s list of job requirements is great. “Don’t care if people like me.” Her résumé is just a signed photograph of Alf.
  • April designed her own college major: Halloween studies.
  • So what Andy is describing is basically the plot of Good Will Hunting, but with the math all wrong, right?
  • Leslie keeps a local binder-maker on retainer in D.C. Of course.
  • April can’t distract Leslie with fake historical trivia; Leslie knows those lampposts have only been on the Reflecting Pool since the ‘70s.
  • Craig adds a personal testimony to April’s job-application packet. “This guy better appreciate it because I do NOT compare people to Mary J. Blige lightly.”