Reunited and it felt so good. It had been six long weeks since we last saw our favorite parks and recreation employees from a small, fictitious Indiana town. (Suck it, Eagleton!) With Leslie's campaign, and thus the rest of season four, drawing close to the end, there was no time for plot lines about coming up with campaign theme songs or finding time in the day to "Treat yo'self." It was time to get down to business.
If there's any testament to the staying power of Leslie Knope (an increasingly Emmy-worthy Amy Poehler) in this already rocky campaign, it was during last night's new episode of Parks and Recreation titled "Live Ammo." When we last saw Leslie she had a disastrous, drunk interview with Buddy Wood (Sean Hayes). So what could possibly be worst than that? Killing puppies. Sweet, adorable, innocent puppies.
Of course Leslie wasn't actually killing puppies (or in the words of Tom, puuuuuupies.) But she did face the dilemma of having to close the local animal shelter, thanks to a budget cutting stand-off with Councilman Pilner (the always-great Bradley Whitford, back in political West Wing mode) before his impending retirement. Leslie would soon find out she would have to snap out of parks and rec mode and into a city council mindset. For a person who smiles 90 percent of the day, this is no easy task. But, come on, this is Leslie Knope we're talking about here.
After being faced with the even worst prospect of losing the shelter and employees being cut in the budget (including her best friend, beautiful tropical fish Ann), Leslie put one whole, risky idea together. In a bold stroke of genius, Leslie convinced Bobby Newport's (we miss you, Paul Rudd) campaign manager Jennifer (Kathryn Hahn) to have her rival use his bottomless trust fund to save the animal shelter in exchange for no more negative campaigns and a negotiation with Pilner to save jobs and the budget. While the risky maneuver would undoubtedly give Bobby the edge with voters that week, Leslie quickly reminded Jennifer that the clueless, spoiled Bobby would have to face her in a debate soon. And nobody beats Leslie Knope in a debate.
As if the stakes weren't high enough for Leslie, she has more than just her political future hanging in the balance — she has to consider Chris' future as well. After spending the day testing to see if Ron was a flexible enough coworker (by taking him, hilariously, to meditate) to appoint him as Assistant City Manager, Chris found out that if Bobby were to win, he would lose his job. Literally the worst news ever.
NEXT: The coolest thing since *NSYNC, Aerosmith, and Nelly performed together at the Super Bowl.
While the idea of losing one's job, or complete upheaval of the entire government, may have thrilled the unintentionally zen Ron, the idea shook Chris to his typically very strengthened core. But leave it to Ron freakin' Swanson to know that it's not meditation that would help the struggling Chris. ("We're all just molecules, floating around in random patterns devoid of meaning," he said, hopelessly, if not accurately.)
No, it was a glass of whiskey (the nectar of the Gods, if you will) and the shockingly sound advice of "Don't try so hard" that did the trick. (In fact, a newly enlightened Chris may have looked at his ex Ann in a whole new light. Sorry Tom! But, not really. Please break up, in spite of your amazing apartment.) Ron may not care about the government, but his quiet devotion to his friends and coworkers is a different story entirely.
But Chris wasn't the only one facing the awful truth that, as an adult, sometimes no matter how hard we try, things don't always pan out and our once sound worldview can be shaken to its very core. (Wow, I guess I see I have more in common with Chris than I initially thought.) April had the very anti-April task of taking over for Leslie, a job which she soon found out was not, as Leslie had promised a "non-stop thrill ride." Before Leslie negotiated to keep the animal shelter open, April took on the task of trying to save it and recruited Andy, Tom, Donna, and Gerry for help. April may be the anti-Leslie, but that doesn't mean she's incapable of having good ideas and a big heart, too.
When taking in all the animals from the shelter, including a headphone-eating piggy, April came up with a plan to hold an adoption drive at the park. An idea Leslie wonderfully described as "The coolest thing since *NSYNC, Aerosmith, and Nelly performed together at the Super Bowl halftime show." While April's plan was arguably a little bit cooler than that, they wound up leaving with more animals than they arrived with, crushing her spirit and reinforcing that hard work doesn't actually pay off. And much like Ron playing spiritual guru to Chris (let's all let that sentence sink in), Tom stepped up and played moral compass and cheerleader to a disappointed April. (Hey, thanks for taking our advice, you guys! Now please just break Tom and Ann up.)
"Live Ammo" may not have been the laugh-out-loud episode Parks and Rec fans had been waiting for during the Lil' Sebastian-sized hiatus, but it was an important one. There were subtle, but tremendous shifts with characters and the roles they'll play for the rest of the season, if not the series. (April could, against all odds, become a force in local politics and Chris could evolve from a one-note joke to a versatile, perhaps lovable character.) We're not just rooting for Leslie anymore in this campaign, we're rooting for everyone again.
NEXT: The night's best lines!
The best lines and moments from last night's Parks and Recreation:
--Leslie owns "sneak around" clothes.
--Tom's "girl heaven" apartment includes cozy blankets, a fridge full of coconut water, and amenities galore.
--A particularly saucy Leslie around the puppy-level cute Ben. ("I'm just really into you. Gimme a spin, baby.")
--The visual of stern Ron standing behind a meditating Chris was total comedy bliss.
--Tom's invention of the Beeryonce. That's just beer in a "sexy ass mug"
--Tom's pronunciation of cashmere. ("Cashmuuuuuur." If he and New Girl's Schmidt ever were in the same room the Douchebag Space Time Contiuum would collapse in on itself.)
--Ben's priceless, horrified reaction to a house full of animals.
--Donna's made-up back stories for the animals, including Ray Charles' seeing eye dog and a cat that appeared in Boogie Nights.
--Andy setting up cards in hopes that all the dogs would play poker.
--Chris hoping to play Cranium while drinking whiskey and wheat grass shots with Ron. (Sorry, but does that sound fun to anyone else, too?)
--Leslie thinking that being a nurse mostly consists of "shaving wieners and dodging knife attacks from meth heads."
--"I will walk deeper into the belly of the beast if it means I'm able to further limit reckless government spending. I mean I have so many ideas. Some are simple, like take down traffic lights and eliminate the post office. The bigger ones will be tougher, like bring all this crumbling to the ground." — Ron's genius government platform
--"I'm not sure I'm interested in that. No, I am sure I'm not interested in that."— Ron, on meditation
--"I'm filling in for a person who smiles 90 percent of the day." — A distressed April, aka Lil' Sparkle
--"It's crazy boring, it lasts forever and you're going to wish you were dead. Wanna borrow my yoga pants?!" — Ann, not quite selling the meditation sizzle to Ron
--"I don't know what the hell these other crackpots were doing." — Ron, after he "didn't" meditate
--"I just had five cats on me at once! Wanna come in here and try and break my record?" — Andy
--"They should be rewarded for not being people. I hate people." — April, on animals (Did anyone else notice Andy in the back playing with a toy monkey?!)
--"There's a hot, spinning cone of meat in that restaurant next door. I don't know what it is, but I'd like to eat the whole thing." — Ron. Be still my heart, Ron Swanson.
What did you think of last night's episode? Were you disappointed in the levity of it or were you glad they moved the story along as much as they did? Will Leslie be able to take this campaign right out of Bobby Newport's entitled hands? Between this and Cabin in the Woods, is anyone having a better week than Bradley Whitford? And seriously though, Ron. Freakin'. Swanson.
[Photo credit: NBC]
Follow Aly on Twitter @AlySemigran