Parks and Recreation Recap: Ben Wins Indiana Woman of the Year
“Ms. Ludgate-Dwyer Goes to Washington”
This week’s two episodes truly feel like the beginning of the end for Parks and Recreation. Both episodes feature touching farewell conversations between April and her two greatest mentors, Leslie and Ron. More on those preliminary waterworks later—for now, let’s have at the first episode, a real who’s-who out of Washington, D.C.
Leslie and April are off to our nation’s capital in an attempt to convince a bevy of well-heeled U.S. senators to preserve national parks spending well into the next decade. Before heading to D.C., we learn that April is near her breaking point. She madly wishes to tell Leslie that she wants to leave her post working for her, and confides in Ben about her dilemma.
As Leslie and April canvass Washington, the boys (Andy, Ben, and Ron) set out to find a new career for April. Initially they try to make her a comfy new home at Ron’s company. From a makeshift legal-pad resume, Andy runs through a list of things April enjoys, including being creative. Cue Ron: “Creativity is for people with glasses who like to lie.”
Alas, these well-meaning fellows come to a dead end, realizing Ron’s company might not have the kind of role that pairs well with April’s passions. This leads them back to our favorite accounting firm, where Ben is “actuarially” well regarded for his use of puns. The boys eventually persuade Barney Varmn (John Balma) to meet with April despite her lack of experience. Barney: “What did she study? Economics? Accounting?” Andy: “She made up her own major. Halloween studies.”
Barney finally concedes—to Ben and Ron—that he will offer April a job as consultant. But she immediately calls Ben to say she doesn’t want the role due to finding her ultimate calling while in Washington. (True fans of the show will recall that this is the same professional-emotional roller coaster that Ben himself has put Barney through in the past.)
Back to D.C.: Leslie and April encounter a bevy of real-life senators, including Barbara Boxer, Kirsten Gillibrand, John McCain, and this ep’s runaway faves, Cory Booker and Orrin Hatch. The latter have formed a Polynesian folk band called Across the Isle, set to perform later that night in Georgetown. Hatch: “Tickets are $8 now and $10 at the door.” Booker: “Fiscal conservative. I love this guy!”
Later, Leslie is offered the role of Interior Department deputy director of operations—do these things always happen on park benches?—which she accepts. This means she will have to move to D.C. Leslie meets up with April to tell her the news and express a desire for April to join her in Washington. Things come swiftly to a head for April. She breaks down, telling Leslie she’s not happy and wants to quit. After a fleeting fight, they make up and have what feels like a farewell scene with each other. Whether it is indeed that—real emotion between the actors—or simply the dog on my lap, my eyes get a bit watery at this scene.
In true Knope fashion, Leslie has a plan. She escorts April immediately to the American Service Foundation (ASF), an organization that helps young people find their passions and places them in jobs around the globe. After meeting with a counselor, April realizes that, as it turns out, she yearns to work at the ASF: “I want to tell people want to do and then send them far away from me.” In the end, April gets the job—which means she and Leslie will both be moving to Washington after all.
The night’s second ep focuses on Ben’s campaign for Congress (hooray for more Jen Barkley!) and Ron and April’s relationship. Let’s dive into the latter first.
Upon learning that April has a new career, Ron makes this assessment: “You are out of local government, and that is a step in the right direction.” He then asks April to return the key to his house that he gave her nearly eight years back when she signed on as his assistant. At issue: April doesn’t know where it is. She traces her steps to find it, discovering that she created a scavenger hunt to hide said key so as to protect Ron’s privacy. Ron, a self-proclaimed Scavenger Savant and Lover of Puzzles (of course), gleefully agrees to help April track down his key.
At the end of their hunt, the pair wind up underneath a beautiful old tree. April has this explainer: “This tree reminds me of you. It’s strong and quiet and always here when you need it.” The two share their very own farewell moment under the shade of said tree.
Meanwhile, Ben and Leslie once again meet with Jen Barkley. Fool her twice, shame on her: Jen arrives at the Knope-Wyatt home outfitted in a poncho, and she’s ready to discuss the official kick-start to Ben’s political campaign. Her biggest concern is, naturally, Leslie: “Being the wife-of is a minefield. If you were just a ding-dong, I would just slap a flag pin on you. I’d pour some Valium down your throat and shove you way upstage. It’s the smarties that freak people out.”
On the campaign trail for the first time, Ben and Leslie instantly meet controversy when she refuses to participate in the Pie-Mary contest, a pie-baking and -tasting contest among Pawnee women. She ultimately relents, agreeing to participate so as to refocus the attention on Ben’s campaign in lieu of herself. That backfires when Elise Yarkin of the Indiana Organization of Women approaches Leslie to relay word that IOW will physically protest her appearance. Thus Ben and Leslie put their heads together—which always leads to great things—and decide to flip the contest on its head. Ben will enter the Pie-Mary, which allows him to return to “the zone”—creating one of his favorite things in the world, a calzone.
After much ballyhoo, Ben Wyatt is named the Indiana Woman of the Year, to which Leslie mutters under her breath, “Son of a bitch.”
Li’l Sebastian Droppings:
» Leslie’s confidant is Madeleine Albright, with whom she shares woes over waffles. (And props to @Madeleine for her deft use of hashtags!)
» In an attempt to get April the accounting firm’s consulting gig, Andy offers to break into her former college and change her major to accounting. Was anyone else looking for the return of Burt Macklin?
» Leslie keeps a binder-maker on retainer in D.C. Obviously.
» Like the rest of us, Jen Barkley enjoys tequila shots.
» Donna and Garry share a warm farewell storyline: She keeps him company as he fishes his keys (and subsequently more belongings) out of a courtyard grate … again. She later saves the day by retrieving his things herself. The Queen of Treat Yoself sure knows how to help a friend.
» When can we expect a real copy of Leslie’s cookbook, The Feminine Mesquite?
» All hail the return of Joan Callamezzo, Brandi Maxxx, and Marcia and Marshall Langman—the ultra-conservative couple fighting for family’s rights.
» Leslie once again succinctly explains the need for men’s rights.
Hard to believe we are about two weeks away from our final farewell to Pawnee. Are you bracing for it?
See our Parks and Recreation final-season recap blog and more coverage here. The show’s series finale airs February 24 at 8 p.m. on NBC.