In last season’s finale, Parks and Rec left us hanging at the edge of three different cliffs, with Leslie deciding between her relationship with Ben and a City Council run, Tom leaving the Parks Department to start up an entertainment conglomerate with lunkhead crony Jean-Ralphio, and Ron Swanson’s unseen ex-wife Tammy #1 making a surprise visit. The new episode picked up right where we left off, still on the night of Li’l Sebastian’s memorial, with Leslie emerging from the discussion about her candidacy to find Ron Swanson fleeing to avoid Tammy #1, his eyebrows and trademark moustache freshly singed by a fireball. Ron tells Leslie he has 228 personal days saved up and that he’ll be using them all now. In exactly the kind of superb bit of physical comedy we’ve come to expect from Nick Offerman, he climbs up to an air duct to fetch an emergency backpack he’s stowed away for such occasions before making a frantic run for the hills.
We were left wondering all summer whether Leslie would choose her relationship with Ben or the political career she’s dreamed of since childhood, and Leslie still hadn’t decided by the time “I’m Leslie Knope” began. In fact, she spends much of the episode waffling back and forth, procrastinating on this life-changing choice. After several failed attempts by Leslie to get up the nerve to explain the situation to Ben, he becomes aware of her candidacy on his own by episode’s end and tells her he understands that she has to put her career first. Maybe at some point in the future, Leslie and Ben will be able to get back together, but, for now, they’ve called things off. At least they broke up before things became Jim and Pam boring.
Tom Haverford drops by the Parks Department to fill his former co-workers’ arms with tacky merchandise promoting his new start-up, Entertainment 720. I’m looking forward to seeing this Tom and Jean-Ralphio arc play out over several episodes, even though we didn’t get a glimpse of Jean-Ralphio tonight (outside of his emblazoned image on the right cup of the free Entertainment 720 bra that Tom gives to Donna). Jean-Ralphio, played by Ben Schwartz, is one of the show’s best recurring characters and the promise of further Entertainment 720 developments means we should see him pop up again soon. Ben Schwartz is a busy actor and writer, who will be starring alongside Don Cheadle in next year’s Showtime series House of Lies, but Parks and Rec creator/showrunner Michael Schur has said Schwartz should appear in “at least a couple episodes.”
Tom uses his time at City Hall to try to recruit Andy to join Entertainment 720, causing Andy to contemplate his future. He looks to guidance from his wife/band manager April, who has taken on a frightening amount of power in Ron’s absence as the acting manager of the Parks Department. April helps secure Andy a new job as Leslie’s assistant, which means the shoeshine stand will probably be shutting down. It’s surprising but believable how age is slowly turning both April and Andy from aspiration-less slackers into young, upwardly-mobile professionals. The writers have put a lot of care into slowly developing these two (and the other characters) over the years, and I look forward to seeing what’s next.
The City of Pawnee’s higher-ups find themselves dealing with a sexting (God, I hate that word) scandal akin to this summer’s Anthony Weiner debacle when a male government worker e-mails a picture of his genitalia to every woman on staff. After some sleuthing (a.k.a. checking the name of the e-mail’s sender), Ben and Chris determine the culprit to be Joe from the Sewage Department and promptly fire him. Newly-installed Health Department employee Ann Perkins diagnoses Joe with mumps based on the swelling of his testicles in the photo, inadvertently becoming the go-to consul for crotch health amongst the government’s male employees. Stand-up comedian Kirk Fox, who has played Joe from Sewage in a recurring capacity since Season 2, is always funny on Parks, and I’m hoping the writers figure out a way to keep using him, even though he’s lost his job at the Sewage Department. Maybe that position at Entertainment 720 is still available? Or did we just find City Hall’s new shoeshine stand proprietor?
It was an episode with a lot of characters seeking advice from the respective authorities in their lives, with Andy coming to April over his career woes, Ann becoming a reluctant sex organ guru, and Leslie seeking out Ron Swanson, who’s been hiding out in a cabin in the woods with a full-on Grizzly Adams beard. Ron’s talk with Leslie inspires him to return to City Hall, where we finally get the glimpse of Tammy #1 we’ve been waiting all summer for. Patricia Clarkson only gets a little bit of screentime at the tail-end of the episode, but her portrayal of cold IRS agent Tammy #1 definitely left me wanting more. Ron Swanson (and his love life) can often be counted on for some of the show’s best moments, but, as he spends most of last night’s episode in hiding, we didn’t get to see a whole lot of him this week. That should change in the next episode when Tammy #1 returns along with a couple of other women from Ron’s past in what should be another hilarious look at the Mustachioed One’s romantic past.
Bradford Evans is a writer living in Los Angeles.