‘Parks and Recreation’ Recap: End of the World

ALTS4E6: Now that a week’s gone by, I can honestly say that I’m so-so on this season of Parks and Recreation. There have been some highs, but there have been some lows, and when you love a show this much, the lows feel practically subterranean.

So imagine how delighted I was to see an episode that kicks off in the vein of the previous episodes then evolves into one of the more touching half hours the show has ever known. Surprise, surprise!

“Keep your pants on, I mean keep your pants on…guuurl! I mean I like your pants.” – Leslie

Turns out, Pawnee has its very own Harold Camping in the form of Herb Scafer, who arrives at Leslie’s door one day to preach the arrival of Zorp, a being returning to Earth to melt the faces off the world population and turn them into fuel. No big deal. Leslie recruits Chris, Ben and Ann to tag along with her to Herb’s apocalyptic park camp out, allowing the Parks and Rec team to field press questions and keep everyone safe.

Unfortunately, Shauna (the reporter Leslie’s always pitching headlines to) arrives with more on her mind then just the end of the world. She’s taken a fancy to Ben, and her inquires to his singledom spur Leslie to go into a jealous rage. After a few so-so episodes that I felt never really utilized the characters we know and love, this is exactly the kind of storyline I was hoping to see. Not playing Office-style Pam and Jim games with Leslie and Ben, but placing them in grounded, awkward situations post-inner office romance. Suddenly, everything Leslie put on the backburner in order to maintain a political career bubbles to the surface—and she jumps into action. Manic action. The kind of action that involves kidnapping Ben and driving him to an abandoned gas station supposedly owned by Mick Jagger.

“I am a party scientist. Welcome to my laboratory.” – Tom

Last week saw the bankruptcy of Tom’s media conglomerate/time-waster Entertainment 720. My reaction: good riddance. While I’m a big fan of the delusional Tom and Jean-Ralphio’s antics, the endless pile of money they had at their disposable was making their stories pointless—and this episode starts that way. They’re going to throw a party, a big party, and like the past few through-lines, it’s all about extravagance. The “End of the World” party has tiger cages, moon bounces, a shrimp cocktail wall and bubble balls. The end all be all of shindigs.

Thankfully, the Parks and Rec writers throw one last curveball into E720’s conclusion: the return of Tom’s ex-girlfriend Lucy. Or really, the return of everything that made Tom a great character. Lately, he’s been a total dork, but instantly as Lucy steps on screen for the first time, Tom’s heart melts—and so do ours. Lucy returns to grad school, but momentarily, there’s hope for Tom to have a bright future.

Bravo, Aziz Ansari. Your best episode yet this season.

“Looks like this Siberian husky is Russian…off to jail.” – Andy

Even if repetition is the key to good marriage (says Andy), April decides to inject their love life with a bit of spontaneity. After discovering her hubby has a secret bucket list, the duo decides to throw caution to the wind and execute the dream, running around town fulfilling Andy’s wishes, little (hold $1000 in cash!) to middle (be an action star!) to big (go on a road trip).

Like I mentioned, I’ve found this season on a whole to be a little thin in the character department, relying more on the residents of Pawnee’s eccentricities rather than focusing on what makes them special and human. This episode really brings April and Andy out of their shells, making them less crazy and more crazy in love. When faced with a 30 hour trip to Andy’s bucket list destination, the two take a moment to really profess their love…then steal April’s Dad’s car. Today it was announced that April and Andy’s Grand Canyon road trip will be chronicled in a series of webisodes, but even the short drive to the middle of the canyon was satisfying.

April puts it perfectly: “I’m trying to find a way to be annoyed by it, but I’m coming up empty.”

“If it makes you feel any better Leslie, we’ll all be dead in 20 minutes!” – Herb

“Yes, it does make me feel better, Herb.” – Leslie

After making a fool of herself in front of Ben, Leslie seeks guidance from the grandmaster of wisdom, Ron Swanson. He tells her he wants nothing to do with her personal problems, but it’s the umpteenth time he’s been there for his co-worker and he once again sets her on the right track. He reminds Leslie that she chose a political career over Ben, and she has to live with that decision. I think it’s safe to call Ron a softy now.

Leslie heads from the park grounds to Ben’s house, where she finally lays down the law (mostly so she can hear it herself): “The romantic part of our relationship is over.” Leslie’s the only one who ends the episode without the loving embrace of her companion, a guy she obviously loves, and for a 22-minute sitcom, that’s a hard beat to sell. But that’s Parks and Recreation at its finest.