Parks and Recreation Season Finale Recap: The Return of Burt Macklin

Parks and Recreation

Are You Better Off?
Season 5 Episode 22
Editor’s Rating 5 stars

Parks and Recreation

Are You Better Off?
Season 5 Episode 22
Editor’s Rating 5 stars
Photo: NBC

This episode was everything I hoped the season finale would be: goofy yet government-y, romantic yet ridiculous, with major plot developments in unexpected and/or underutilized places.

We begin at Ron’s cabin, with Ron regretting that he ever told his co-workers that he had a cabin. Rookie mistake, Ron. The Parks team is preparing for Founders’ Week — a much more impressive celebration than the mere “Founders’ Day” festivities of Mystic Falls and Stars Hollow — and Leslie is trying to get feedback from the gang about Pawnee life. April’s contribution: “City Hall is run by the walrus mafia.” Should I start a band called “Walrus Mafia”? I mean, yes, definitely, I don’t even know why I’m asking your opinion about that. Mona Lisa is borrrrreduhhh so she’s going to have sex in a tree.

Andy found a positive pregnancy test in the trash at the cabin. This looks like a job for … BURT MACKLIN, FBI. Macklin runs through his list of suspects and, in a great winking move, we get a series of shots of female characters doing typical proof-of-pregnancy things: Leslie turns down a beer, Mona Lisa pukes behind a tree, April pulls her sweater over her stomach, and so on.

I would just like to say that I appreciate Burt Macklin’s Homeland-style “corkboard with photos and yarn method” of keeping on top of his case.

The rest of this episode is littered with clues. Are most/all of them red herrings? Well, yes, but I think it’s going to be more fun if we just freak out about all of them as if each is a sign that could open up our eyes because life is demanding without understanding.

First: April gets a phone call. She gives one-word answers and is acting weird. Ooooohh!!! But Burt eliminated her as a contender from the get-go. Smart call (OR WAS IT?). He goes through the other ladies one by one. Each scene is a little gem. Of course Ann’s first reaction is to be pissed that someone is pregnant and that the someone isn’t her. Burt then asks Donna if she’s “one and one-ninth” of a person. (For this interaction and all her other heavy-lifting this episode, DONNA WATCH is satisfied.)

Burt thinks it might be Mona Lisa — after all, “Womb! There it is” is her go-to brand of pregnancy test, and she did say earlier that her tum-tum hurt (also, in a Mean Girls twist, that she frenched her cousin once). Tom gets a pretty great story line, too: He goes from thinking Diddy wants to buy Rent-a-Swag to finding out that he’s about to get some competition across the street (not from Diddy, probably). Time for a free lesson in capitalism, except it’s going to cost him.

Mona Lisa pretends that she’s pregnant for all of 30 seconds before dropping the ruse. “Do you know how many different pills I take, birth control or otherwise? There is no way I could be pregnant with a human baby.” Jean-Ralphio: “You dodged a BULLET baby, congratulations!”

So … is it April? Burt sure thinks so! Their whole conversation is so sweet and reminds me (1) how much I love the Dwyers as a couple, and (2) why the TV “rule” that once a couple gets together they turn boring is totally wrong. April tells her husband that she’s not pregnant. “We’ve talked about this. I want to wait until we’re 50 and then adopt a set of adult twins from Romania.” But she does have some news: She’s been accepted to veterinary school! She’s worried about spending so much time away from Andy, but he insists she go: “As I’ve known about you for the past twenty seconds, this is your dream.” Awww!

As for which Pawnee lady has a pint-size Pawneean on the way? Not to say I called it, but …

Mazel tov, Ron and Diane! I can’t even start on how much I am looking forward to Ron’s parenting skills. Omigosh, Ron with a baby — think of the possibilities. Will there be baby bacon?

As for our leading lady, Leslie is hosting a special Founders’ Week public forum. Here’s an important announcement from Chris that made me laugh so hard I had to pause the episode until I could calm down: “Due to a tragic misunderstanding, the prettiest pig beauty pageant has been replaced by a pork rib barbecue competition. [A beat as the truth dawns on him.] Oh no.”

Leslie expects this forum to be a victory lap. After all, Pawnee raccoon attacks have decreased so much that people can finally feel safe in the parks, and grocery stores, and hospitals! She asks everyone if they’re better off than they were a year ago, and the answer is a resounding … no.

Despite the progress she’s achieved — Pawnee is now only the ninth most obese city in America, down from the fourth; they lost the weight of 100 pregnant manatees! — past nemeses rise up in outrage. There’s Kathryn Pinewood from the Pawnee Restaurant Association who battled Leslie on the soda tax; the sanitation workers who resent Leslie’s requirement that they employ at least one woman, because they had to turn one men’s bathroom into a ladies’ room (says Leslie: “That sounds like a horrible price to pay for something as trivial as gender equality”); and Marcia and Marshall who opposed Leslie’s efforts to provide sex ed to the elderly and insist the town has become “a horrifying sex den where people can put their body parts anywhere they want to with impunity.”

Leslie’s fans are exactly the kind of people she doesn’t want sticking up for her: porn star Brandi Maxxx, who had a small part in Argo and the porno version Our Goo, and porn DVD emporium owner Jason Schwartzman.

This is such a fun way to relive season five! For us, I mean. Leslie is probably not enjoying it. Especially not when Burt Macklin bursts in, waving the positive pregnancy test in the air demanding to know if it belongs to Leslie.

Leslie is pretty bummed, but not so bummed that a parade and Ben’s bum (butt-themed wordplay! Whatever, why not, this town is already a horrifying sex den) can’t cheer her up. Until Nipple King Chris alerts her to a float with a kind of accurate-looking evil-twin of Leslie Knope, shaking her finger at all of Pawnee. The float represents 300 people who want to recall Leslie Knope. “Let’s kick her out of office!”

As a supporter of dear Leslie Knope, I am scandalized. As a viewer, I am so. So. SO. excited. Leslie is never more fun to watch than when she is facing a challenge that seems insurmountable, especially if said challenge is made up of the crazy local folk she wants to destroy/but then she desperately wants to help them and improve their lives/honestly it’s a complicated relationship but that’s why it’s so awesome to watch.

Ben and Leslie have a beautiful talk wherein we learn Leslie woke Ben up on their honeymoon at 3 a.m. to watch Meet the Press because “It was Elizabeth Warren, like I’m not going to watch that live?” And then Leslie holds a press conference and tells her opponents to bring it on: “Step up. Step up to the streets! All I can think of are dance movie titles … Stomp the Yard. You got served. Silver Linings Playbook—kind of.”

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am so ready for this battle to take Center Stage next season. Let me know what you think — dance-movie puns encouraged but not required — on Twitter, @jessicagolds, and we can bask in the excellence of this season finale together.

Recall schmecall, honey.

Parks and Recreation Season Finale Recap