With the future of Parks and Recreation still hanging in the balance (NBC has yet to announce if it’s been renewed for a fifth season – and it’s kind of killing us), it’s apt that “Win, Lose or Draw” works well not just as a season finale, but also as a potential series finale.
In honor of our great love for P&R, PopGurls returns to our recapping ways (last seen in the heyday of our Degrassi obsession) to share our moment-by-moment excitement:
It’s Election Day in Pawnee and everyone’s on edge. Bobby Newport (Paul Rudd)’s hotshot campaign manager Jennifer Barkley (Kathryn Hahn) just wants the election to be over so she can fly back to the comfort of DC, where it’s safe to drink the tap water. Leslie (Amy Poehler)’s stressed because she’s running on nine hours of sleep in the past four days, and she’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown. It’s a pretty big day for her, to put it mildly. Just getting to vote for herself is enough to get her misty-eyed and emotional in the voting booth.
[I have cried every time I see that moment — amy]
Ben (Adam Scott)’s antsy because he’s dividing his energy between making sure the last day of Leslie’s campaign runs smoothly, and pondering Jennifer’s job offer to help run a congressional campaign out of DC. Ben has been remarkably competent all throughout the campaign (a fact Jen has picked up on) so it’s nice to see the return of the human disaster when he tries to hide the job offer from Leslie. Leslie’s face when she snarls, “you have plenty of jeans!” is priceless.
Can I just say that it’s kind of endearing that they’ve gotten to the point in their relationship where they don’t have to tread carefully and mince words? Leslie’s reaction here and Ben’s “What’s the matter with you?” from “The Debate” both strike me as the kind of shorthand that couples adopt after they’ve been together a while, where they don’t have to worry about coming off harsh because there’s this foundation of love that’s been laid.
Back at City Hall, April (Aubrey Plaza) is also freaking out because she accidentally deleted all the departmental files while transferring them to a USB drive. (ALL of the departmental files fit on one USB drive? I find that hard to believe considering that Leslie has binders upon binders for everything.) Fortunately, Leslie isn’t present to give her a lecture on responsibility and her man Andy (Chris Pratt) is there to distract her and take her mind off the horrible mistake she’s made.
At Campaign Headquarters, Jerry (Jim O’Heir)’s panicking as well. He spent all day dutifully passing out flyers for the Knope campaign, and as a result didn’t make it to the polls in time. To make matters worse, according to the results pouring in from the precincts, Bobby and Leslie are neck-to-neck. Dammit, Jerry!
Ann (Rashida Jones) is the center of calm in all the chaos. A brilliant friend, she takes Leslie boxing to relieve some of her pent-up adrenaline, while also using the opportunity to talk over Leslie’s dilemma with her. (Also, I’m hoping the “ambiguous ethic blend” comment means that we’ll get to meet some of Ann’s family next season.) While Ann and Leslie hash things out, Ben and Ron (Nick Offerman) do some bonding of their own. Ben is unsure if he should take Jen’s job offer, amazing opportunity that it is. Ron, always the voice of wisdom, introduces Ben to dark liquor (because clear liquor is for rich women on diets) and tells him to go for his dreams, just as he pushed Tom to go for his in the season three finale. And he gave verbal approval of Leslie and Ben’s relationship! “But you and Leslie like to hold hands and jump off cliffs together, into the great unknown.” To think that at the end of the last season he was glaring at them over buttdials.
When the results are finally called, Bobby is declared the winner by a mere twenty-one votes. Once Leslie finishes hysterically laughing because her dream was dead, Ben calls for a recount. Poor Jen Barkley, she just wants to go home. She’d do anything, even give Leslie Joe Biden’s home phone number. (Help, I think I have a crush on Jen Barkley. I really love Jennifer — obviously I love Leslie’s naïveté and her selflessness, but I also love how Jennifer is totally in charge and cool as a cucumber.)
Leslie wavers for a second, but Ben refuses the bribe, and the recount is on. Her dream temporarily resurrected from the dead, Leslie sneaks off to the council chamber to sit in one of the seats. She’s afraid that if she loses, all the hard work her friends put in would have been for naught. Ron finds her and offers some comforting words, mirroring the pep talk he gave her in the season premiere. Then, it was “you’re Leslie Fucking Knope”; now, it’s that her friends support her “win, lose, or draw” because they care about her.
[this one too — amy]
Back at the Parks office, Donna (Retta) ends up saving the day for the second week in a row. Turns out Jerry accidentally deletes files all the time, and Donna has a secret backup installed. Guess Jerry’s mistakes serve a purpose, after all.
Armed with her new realization, Leslie finds Ben and presents him with a miniature figurine of the Washington monument (she has fifty of them just lying around her office) tucked inside the box Ben gave her the Knope 2012 breakup campaign button in the season premiere. It was such a nice, touching callback. I might have teared up.
Ann, friend and beautiful nurse, comes back with the recount results. It’s still twenty-one votes, but in Leslie’s favor this time. “Catch your dreams” blasts from the speakers, there’s lots of hugging to go around, and even Jean-Ralphio, perhaps the most delightful recurring character, makes an appearance. And how amazing was his pseudo-mohawk?
And just like that, it’s over. Everyone’s drunk and happy. Ann’s even drunk enough that she’s potentially going to get back together with Tom. (This just reinforces my view that Tom and Ann are only good together when Ann’s drunk — and that’s not really healthy.) Don’t do it, Ann! You might never date again, remember? Less man time, more Ann time!
Otherwise, the episode – and the season – ends on a high note. Personally, I’ll miss both Bobby and Jen. (Though we might still see Jen next season, seeing as Ben is scheduled to be in DC through November.) Parks and Recreation has a knack for humanizing even the antagonists of the show.
Everyone’s come a long way since the beginning of the season. The main overarching storyline reached its spectacular conclusion with Leslie winning a seat on city council. Ben, who has spent much of the season adrift, is back on track. Ron comes to the realization that he likes where he is too much to take on another job, and we get the sense that he’s going to be Parks Director for years to come. Andy, who started the season as the shoeshine guy, now has a job that requires him to wear a tie (albeit over a short sleeve dress shirt) and might be on his way to becoming a police officer. Chris is revitalized and no longer moping, and Ann is similarly happy, if not necessarily in the best place, relationship-wise.
What’s next for Parks and Recreation, assuming it gets renewed? I predict lots of Skype calls between Ben and Leslie, and maybe an iMovie. “Ann, I learned how to use Skype! Ahhhhhh!” Depending on whether the show decides to build a few Washington DC sets or shoot on location, we might see Ben interacting with Jen Barkley. And of course, Ben and Leslie doing it all over Washington. I would love it if Leslie ran into Joe Biden somehow while in DC. (Isn’t one of the Obama girls a fan of Parks? Make it happen, Mr. President!)
On the Pawnee side of things, next season might see a return to Lot 48, Leslie’s personal project which has taken a backseat this season. It should be fun watching Leslie slug it out with her new colleagues, including Councilmen Dexhart and Houser. Maybe Councilman Pillner will even make an appearance at her swearing-in.
Until then, hugs for everyone! Let’s all stay up and talk about our lives and feelings. Non-negotiable!