In the Season 5 finale of Parks and Recreation, appropriately titled "Are You Better Off?," we find Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) on the first anniversary of her election to the Pawnee City Council. For her unofficial victory lap, she has gathered the town together to ask that titular question — do they believe they are better off now than they were when the year, and Leslie's reign, began?
As is the way of these public forums, Leslie quickly loses control of the crowd. Contrary to her well-laid plan, the meeting devolves as each person Leslie confronted (except, mysteriously, Councilman Jamm) in the past year raises concerns against her. Remember when Leslie banned gigundous soft drinks in restaurants? Well, the head of the Pawnee Restaurant Association is out for blood. We also meet a rotund gentleman who resents that a Paunch Burger wasn't built on the vacant lot and crazy Marcia and Marshall Langman of abstinence only sex education have returned. It seems the only people willing to speak in favor of Leslie are Pawnee Video Dome owner Dennis Lerpiss (Jason Schwartzman) and porn star Brandi Maxxx, who want to thank the councilwoman because, as Brandi says, "If it weren't for Leslie Knope, there would be far, far less pornography in this town." And maybe that's not such a good thing.
While it was nice to see some familiar faces return, the airing of past grievances and the flashback footage that accompanied them seemed lazy. Is this a clip show or a season finale? Instead of looking ahead to Leslie's and Pawnee's — and, inherently, the show's — future, it seems we are getting bogged down with the past. You're better than this, Parks and Rec. Or at least you were.
Leslie's conflict comes to a head at the annual Founders' Week Parade. Chris "Nipple King" Traeger (Rob Lowe) warns Leslie of an unflattering float seconds too late, causing Leslie to come face to face — or face to inflatable knee cap, really — with a larger than life, finger-waving, glowering Leslie Knope. "Leslie Knope Says No to Fun," the banner reads, and no amount of huffing, puffing, yelling, or irate gesticulating from Leslie can convince the town otherwise.
Then, Icky Mean Restaurant Lady (who doesn't deserve to be named… also, I forgot her name) drops her bomb. She has started the Committee to Recall Leslie Knope and she won't sleep until she sees Leslie kicked off the city council.
At first, Leslie is heartbroken. She has failed her people and ruined their lives, she thinks. She may have lowered the obesity rate by an amount equal to 800 pregnant manatees but the people hate her for it. Luckily, Leslie married the best pep talker of all time. Ben (Adam Scott) asks Leslie to look deep within herself and answer the question, does she think Pawnee is better off?
She does. Of course she does! Because Mary Poppins ain't got nothing on Leslie Knope — Leslie Knope is actually perfect in every way. Leslie throws a press conference for herself and tells the Committee to Recall Leslie Knope to bring it on, step up, and stomp the yard, honey (which is also a dance movie, starring Jessica Alba). If the Aesop's Fablesy sheen Parks and Rec has developed in recent seasons has taught us anything, it's that Leslie (the good guy) is going to be just fine.
The other characters' storylines are linked together as Andy (Chris Pratt), who has resurrected FBI Agent Burt Macklin for one final case, tracks down the owner of a mysterious positive pregnancy test he found in Ron's (Nick Offerman) cabin. It must be one of the five ladies present at the Parks Dept. retreat, he deduces. Which means either Ann (Rashida Jones), Leslie, April (Aubrey Plaza), Donna (Retta), or Mona Lisa (Jenny Slate) is expecting.
Burt/Andy begins to narrow the ladies down. After a few red herrings and much good news — Ann and Chris are happily fornicating, April got into veterinary school (!!!) — Andy has ruled out all the women present at Ron's cabin. So then, who is pregnant?
Tom, meanwhile, is faced with a difficult decision: an anonymous client (who may or may not be Jay-Z but is definitely not Diddy) has offered to buy Rent-A-Swag. Tom ultimately declines the buyout in favor of building up his business, which is obviously successful. In a twist, Tom's benefactor becomes his adversary when his lawyer announces that his client will just build a competitor, called Tommy's Closet, across the street from Rent-A-Swag. Tom best get ready to bring his A-game.
The final moments of the episode are the most jaw-dropping. The pregnancy test belongs to, you guessed it, Ron's girlfriend Diane (Lucy Lawless). Or, at least, so we are lead to believe. As Andy is expressing his frustration with his failed investigation to Ron, Dianne walks into Ron's office and says she needs to talk to him in private. We are treated to a shot of Ron's paling face as the meaning of Diane's words set in. Is Ron, a loner who despises change, ready to become a family man?
This raises the question, will every central plotline next season have to do with babies? Ron: baby. Ann and Chris: trying to have a baby. Leslie and Ben: have talked about starting a family (which means having a baby). Going on record now as saying that's too many babies.
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Parks and Recreation's fifth season is off and running. There is an outbreak of Sexually Transmitted Diseases running rampant in Pawnee's elderly population, and Leslie and the gang are on operation Wrap it Up. But will Marcia and Marshall Langman's insistence on abstinence only sex education stand in their way? Only time (approximately 30 minutes) will tell. Add in a dash of Tom's Internet addiction and Ben's robot boss and we have all the fixin's for a rip-roaring good time.
What if the Banana is Soft and Mushy?
It's so handy to have Nurse Ann around in the event of an old-timer STD pandemic (or pawndemic… get it?). She's got all the answers: No, your pubic hairs don't get longer when you get old; You should never eat lube; See a doctor immediately; She does not have sex with people over 40. The more you know. So, with brains full of sex knowledge and bags full of produce, Leslie, Ann, Andy, and Donna head down to wherever it is that old people gather for a little Sex Ed 101.
Things seem to be skipping along nicely, albeit uncomfortably, until — cue daunting music — Marcia and Marshall Langman arrive in a flurry of frenetic arm movements and snippy pronouncements to shut Leslie's operation down. "Old people can't have sex!" they decry. "No one can have sex!" And for once, there is nothing Leslie can do to shut these naysayers down. Because, you see, they have the law on their side. In Pawnee, it is illegal to teach any form of sexual education that is not abstinence-only, says a law buried somewhere next to the ones that bans women from holding paying jobs and Native Americans from having lives. Could this be the end for Leslie's genital health crusade?
His name is Tom Haverford, and he has a problem. After getting in a minor vehicle skirmish with a fire hydrant caused by the dangerous habit of tweeting while driving, a judge has banned Tom from using any and all screened devices for a week. We suspend our disbelief and put aside any thoughts of how it is impossible in today's day and age to get any work done without a computer, and instead chuckle at Tom's attempt to create an analog Pinterest board and paper iPhone.
Ron, however, doesn't find Tom's obsession with electronics as humorous as he does disturbing, so he packs up Tom and heads out to his cabin in the woods for an intervention of sorts. if a weekend of fishin', huntin', and choppin' wood with a mustachioed, flannel-wearing man isn't enough to remind you that there is life outside of the Internet, I don't know what is.
Why Would a Robot Eat Organic Matter?
Back in our nation's capital, we are finally introduced to Congressman David Murray, the mysterious man Ben and April can call their boss. He's handsome, well-groomed, and very tan; but, as April soon discovers, there may be something sinister lurking behind his chiseled facade.
You see, it appears that Congressman Murray is a robot — and I mean that in the most literal sense. As Murray sits at his desk all day staring straight ahead, it seems more and more plausible that he is made up not of flesh and bone, but gears and machine-y things. "Stay cool… It's a hot one!" he chimes — but can he even feel the temperature?
It's Not My Favorite Shirt, But it is My Least Favorite Shirt.
Back in the land of promiscuous pensioners, Leslie continues to fight the good fight for condoms for all. After a brief hesitation, that is. As a member of the City Council, Leslie is beginning to let her conviction become overshadowed by government's red tape, and in the process she has let slide issues that she believes in — like free condoms for all. Ann points this out in a way that is not so nice. To even the score, Leslie tells Ann that she loses her personality and wears ugly shirts when she dates boys. The two get mad for approximately two minutes and then hug and make up and Leslie tells Ann she is beautiful and all is right with the world again.
Oh yeah, and somehow Leslie decides to keep handing out condoms even though it's against the law but that's okay because she's Leslie Knope and she can do whatever she wants.
Best line of the night: When you check your email you go to Alta Vista and type "Please go to Yahoo.com"?
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[Photo Credit: NBC]
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