Nearly midway through last night's bittersweet Season 4 finale of Parks and Recreation, titled "Win, Lose or Draw" Andy uttered what sounded like a dreadful foreshadowing: "This is the worst thing to happen in Parks and Rec history." Of course, Andy wasn't talking about the results for Leslie Knope's campaign for City Council (he was talking about his wife April's monumental work flub, but more on that in a bit.) But for an episode that was going to be the culmination of a season of holding our breath for our beloved Leslie, those words resonated like some sort of awful premonition.
But before we get to whether or not Leslie's election results turned out to be "the worst thing to happen in Parks and Rec history" lets start from the very beginning. (I've been told this is a very good place to start.) Leslie and Ben met with Jennifer (Kathryn Hahn, don't go!) at a voting committee meeting to discuss yet another unfair Bobby Newport trick in this election. This time around the Newports made candy-dispensing voting booths that treated voters for picking Bobby and asking Knope supporters if they were sure of their vote and cried when they didn't change their mind.
Even with all their tricks and bamboozles (clearly the Newports knew not of Leslie's victory in the art world) Leslie was only separated from Bobby by a "razor thin" margin. And, even though she was on the "verge of a nervous breakdown" (in her exhausted state she almost ate her cell phone with cream cheese) Leslie, as always, had her head in the game. Still, even the most determined and headstrong, like our own lovely Leslie can't help but eventually feel the brevity of what's happening to them. After a puzzling meeting with Bobby (her endlessly hopeless rival earnestly told her he was voting for her because voting for yourself is "illegal") and an even more puzzling conversation with her boyfriend/campaign manager/Sexy Elf King Ben.
Her partner-in-crime revealed that Jennifer had offered him a position as a coordinator in Washington, D.C. for a congressional campaign for a Senator. Oh, and he'd be gone for six months and he'd have to make a decision in two days. Leslie could have eaten an cell phone with cream cheese and waffles (mmmm) and it would have been entirely understandable.
But Leslie had to put all those distractions aside: She had to head into the voting booth and fulfill her lifelong dream of seeing her name on a ballot in Pawnee. Teary-eyed and overwhelmed with pride a joy, Leslie voted for herself. And when Leslie Knope cries tears of joy, the whole world cries tears of joy. (Or at least I definitely do.) And when Leslie Knope cries "My dream is dead....oh, f**k" after she finds out that Bobby Newport beat her in the hard-fought election by 21 measly votes, the whole world cries "Oh, f**k" right along with her. What a gut punch that moment was as Leslie watched her lifelong goal be handed to her undeserving foe.
Speaking of people crying "Oh, f**k," April was back at the Parks and Rec office freaking out after she erased all the files from all the computers. ("You did the right thing by hiding under the table," her husband reassured her.) After some plans to run away and start a new life (Andy suggested they burn acid on their fingertips and switch faces, if need be) Donna, as always, came to the rescue and saved the day. Turns out, she created a backup system because Gerry does it all the time. Dammit, Gerry!
Back at the Jermaine Jackson Suite (ha!) things were taking a turn for the better, too. After encouraging Ben to follow his dream and go to Washington (if anyone can survive a long-distance relationship, it's these two) and waiting out a recount, beautiful Ann came back with news: It was still a victory by 21 points. Only, those 21 points were won by the new City Councilwoman Leslie Knope. Victory speeches were made (Ben, sweetly, didn't even bother writing a concession speech), happy tears were shed, and Leslie hung her photo up on the wall with pride. (As well she should, she was the only woman up there.)
While its Thursday night brethren Community and 30 Rock have already been picked up for new seasons, Parks and Rec still hangs in the balance. But, if this were to be the very last episode of the series (weep!) not even silly side plots like Chris hooking up with Jennifer or Tom and Ann getting back together can take away from how wonderful this was for Leslie. (Michael Schur, thank you for going with your gut.) I hope more than anything that our wonderful friends at Pawnee return. Ron may always want things to stay the same (after all, he turned down Chris' position) but life doesn't always grant us that. If we don't see you again Leslie, just know, we'd jump off that cliff with you, too.
Some of the other best lines and moments from "Win, Lose or Draw":
- The Jermaine Jackson Suite (He visited Pawnee once!)
- Tom referring to Ben as an "uptight nerd who shall remain nameless."
- Andy's list of dream locations to move away with April: Winterfell (!), South Africa (home of Andy's hero Dave Matthews), U.S.S.R. (Russia), the moon, Florida (Everglades), Key Largo, Montego, Cocomo.
- Andy trying to fix the computer X-Box style: By blowing on it and swatting it off the table.
- April's dream job is to be a dentist/medium so she "can clean people's teeth and tell them when they're going to die."
- April's worst fear after losing her job: Getting another lecture from Leslie on the importance of responsibility.
- Ron's motto: "I've never been one for meeting new people or doing new things, or eating new types of food, or traveling outside of Southern Indiana. I've had the same haircut since 1978, and I've driven the same car since 1991. I've used the same wooden comb for three decades. I have one bowl. I still get my milk delivered by horse." (I love you forever and always, Ron Swanson. Never change.)
- Ben spitting out the dark drink Ron, who was 11 whiskeys in, ordered him.
- Ben, trying to change the subject with Leslie: "Where can I buy some jeans?" (Her response: "You have plenty of jeans!)
- Leslie almost being swayed out of a recount with the promise of Joe Biden's phone number.
- Bobby Newport described by Perd Hapley as an "amateur go-kart champion."
- Bobby playing with the boom mic and later getting ink all over himself in the voting booth.
- Bobby's concession speech: "Honestly, I've never been more relieved in my entire life."
- The return of Jean Ralphio! Cleared of insurance fraud charges and wearing a jaunty scarf!
- The return of Drunk Ann!
- Gerry forgetting to vote and Ron ratting him out at the very end. Dammit, Gerry!
- The idea of Officer Andy Dwyer. FBI Agent Bert Macklin would be so proud.
- Leslie's promise to Ben: "We'll do it all over Washington."
- Leslie celebrating with "victory waffles" and to "stay up all night talking about our lives and our feelings." (I love you forever and always, Leslie Knope.)
What did you think of the finale? Are you relieved Leslie won? Do you fear this was the very last ep ever? Sound off in the comments section.
[Photo credit: NBC]
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Update: New details have emerged about finalist Jermaine Jones' dismissal from American Idol. The Smoking Gun reports that not only does Jones have a criminal past, but he's got five outstanding arrest warrants spread over three New Jersey counties and they've got the paperwork to prove it. The reality show contestant has failed to appear in court for a variety of criminal charges dating back as far as 2006.
His offenses range from carrying an open container to an alleged "violent crime," but the offenses that really got him in hot water were two separate times in which he gave police a false name in order to avoid being caught for his other outstanding warrants.
This is more than a few past mistakes. It seems this time Idol's squeaky clean practices are actually for the best. Earlier: It's been a while since American Idol saw one of its finalists' dreams cut short thanks to an unseemly past, but it appears Season 11 Top 13 finalist Jermaine Jones has resurrected the tradition. He tweeted March 13 that he was no longer on the series. Though his official Idol Twitter account has been removed - a pretty solid confirmation of his disqualification - he managed to send one last message to fans before it went dark: "Awww I will no longer b on the show." But Jones was already hovering in the bottom two, there's got to be something big to make Idol speed up the shuffle. According to TMZ, Jones' chequered past is to blame. While host Ryan Seacrest calls the deep-toned singer the "Gentle Giant," his reported past record is anything but. The celeb news site claims Jones concealed past crimes from the producers and that one of his indiscretions involved violence. Idol's spokespeople have yet to comment on the accusations. Idol has shown its zero-tolerance policy multiple times in the past, including kicking off Frenchie Davis for past pornographic photos and Corey Clark for his concealed arrest. Yet, every time Idol banishes a contestant for their past indiscretions, it gets fans talking: should these singers be judged for their past mistakes? Or should we accept them as they are today? We all make mistakes, and if anyone understands that its Idol judge Steven Tyler. Why does Idol require contestants to have such spotless records? Source: TMZ, The Washington Post, The Smoking Gun
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.