When we last saw Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) at the end of Parks and Recreation's fourth season, she was sliding her portrait into the wall of City Council Members amid thunderous applause and plenty of tears. (I know my eyes were far from dry.) But as Leslie fulfills her lifelong dream of winning elected office, change also comes to Pawnee, Ind. Leslie's "lover" (and owner of the cutest butt this side of the Atlantic), Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott), is headed to Washington D.C. to spearhead a congressional campaign and April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza) is making the trek to our nation's capital as well to work as Ben's intern. Back in Pawnee, Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) must take responsibility for the Parks Department as Leslie settles into her new role as City Councilwoman. As for the rest of the gang — well, I guess it's business as usual for most everyone else.
As we kick off the Season 5 opener, Leslie and Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt) are headed to Washington for, as Leslie puts it, "Romantic reunions, government meetings, self-guided museum tours" and food truck waffle sundaes. Always the busy sugar-fueled bee, Leslie plans to make use of her time in D.C. — she has scheduled a meeting to try to get federal funding to clean up the Pawnee River. Andy, on the other hand, just wants to do a whole lotta makin' out with April (but can you blame him?).
In Pawnee, Ron is eager — or at least adamant — to infuse his own leadership style into the Parks Department. With Leslie inhabiting a new part of City Hall, Ron is forced to do his least favorite thing: organize people. So, to everyone's surprise, he calls a meeting and announces that he will be taking charge of the Parks Department Employee Appreciate Barbecue. (Formerly known as "Leslie Knope's Employment Enjoyment Summerslam Grill Jam Fun-Splosion.") But there will be no popsicle eating contest, no watermelon carving, no gazpacho off, and no one-woman show about the parks' rules and regulations. There will be one thing only and plenty of it. Meat. This is a Ron Swanson barbecue; would you expect (or want) anything less?
Back in D.C. —this is kind of a ping-ponging episode, location-wise — Leslie is beginning to understand what it feels like to be a small fish in a big pond. We're talking a minnow in the ocean. As she discovers that her "presentation" about the river funds has been reduced to placing her proposal in a bin with a sky-high pile of binders, and that the congressman will never get to hear her babbling brook CD or watch her frolicking otters DVD, Leslie looks crestfallen. To add insult to injury, a totally non-helpful secretary (who probably hates waffles and miniature ponies) tells her there are eight cities by the name of Pawnee in the U.S. Now I know what the moment of disillusionment looks like.
At the great Ron Swanson BBQ of 2012, the troops are getting restless. No, they don't want to eat a pig they just met (even if his name is Tom), no they don't want to wait four hours for Ron to perfectly season their meat, no they don't want to pee in the trees — strike that, they don't want Jerry to pee in the trees. And as Donna, Chris, Ann, and Tom become perilously close to their boiling points, Ron Swanson also begins to heat up. I'm talking about his temper here, not just his grill. After a little more whining and whinging from the peanut gallery, Ron declares, "No meat for you!" and drives off with his smoking (literally) grill in tow. Friends, we call that a Ronper Swantrum (I'm working on it).
Speaking of Ann (Rashida Jones) and Tom (Aziz Ansari), as everyone expected, their drunken decision to give their relationship another shot — and move in together — lasted about as long as it took them to sober up and down a greasy omelette to cure their hangovers. But since Tom bet Donna $1,000 that he and Ann would last a month, mums the word. I have a feeling there's only so long these two can keep up the Great Cohabitating Glitter War, where not even names like Sparkle Suds, Disco Dairy, and Sparkle Skin makes it okay to put the herpes of craft supplies into every semi-gelatinous liquid you own.
Let's ping pong back to D.C., where no cocktail party with highfalutin political muckety-mucks is fancy enough to free Leslie from her newfound feeling of ennui. Even meeting Senators Barbara Boxer and Olympia Snowe, numbers 4 and 26 on Leslie's List of Amazing Women, can restore her faith in government. So Leslie hides in the coat closet and unwittingly says the truest thing that's ever been said of John McCain: "Nosey people have no respect for personal space."
At the beginning of the episode, Leslie asks, "Am I living the dream?" While Leslie initially has a rough go with all the tall and polished Washingtonian ladies — or, as she likes to call them "Hot Rebecca" — and D.C. bureaucracy, Andy is able to remind her that she has never been one to give up. Who needs Washington to clean up the Pawnee River when Leslie has her own two hands and a great pair of galoshes? As Ron prepares corn (a f**king vegetable) for the Parks Department and Leslie Skypes with Ben's cute butt, it's clear to see that not all change is bad.
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[Photo Credit: NBC]