They got me, y'all. All season long, we were thrown little hints about possible Parks and Recreation pregnancies, and then in the season finale, the tension builds beautifully up until the moment I found out that I guessed the damn red herring. Aside from being incorrect and thus not getting the bragging rights, Ron Swanson being a father-to-be is more than I could have hoped for. I legitimately clapped at the end of the episode, and later had a brief nightmare about Tommy's Closet. It's probably a good thing that I'm getting a break from this show -- and, for the record, I'm pretty optimistic about a renewal.
I was pessimistic at the beginning of "Are You Better Off?," as within the first 30 seconds, we got Ron once again complaining about everyone being at his cabin while Mona-Lisa popped out to hog all of the episode's attention and continue to torment that already bogged-down Tom. Fortunately, this intro clip was wisely used to set up the episode-long mystery of The Case of the Positive Pregnancy Test, tapping the sorely missed Bert Macklin to crack the code. Meanwhile, the writers got political on us and channeled the Seinfeld finale by bringing in a handful of periphery Pawnee townspeople to point fingers at Leslie Knope for taking away their freedoms, led by none other than the evil Kathryn Pinewood of the Pawnee Restaurant Association in a nod to corporations coming between a well-meaning government and the citizens they're trying to actually help. Elsewhere, April's going to veterinary school in Bloomington, Ann and Chris are going to make it work while working it (see what I did there?) and Tom's got some actual competition. I'm invested in these cliffhangers, and after a season that was essentially about self-discovery and figuring out what you really want, it looks likes Season 6 will focus on fighting for what you finally have. Let's talk about the plotlines -- though I'll forgo individual grading because everyone gets an A because why the hell not?:
Leslie, Ben and Chris
I really enjoy flashbacks when they're done well and don't overwhelm the episode, and so I thoroughly enjoyed seeing some familiar faces returning to try to recall Leslie. (Though I still say the best use of "flashbacks" was in Community's "Paradigms of Human Memory.") I'm not quite as excited about seeing where this storyline goes as I did with the Season 3 finale where we learn Leslie is going to run for City Council, but Chris as The Nipple King pretty much made up for any disappointment I could possibly have in this world, plus Amy Poehler's physical comedy as she wagged her finger in front of her finger-wagging float was incredible and Adam Scott was a perfect straight man, as always. Oh, I loved the little shout out that the Parks gang is still cleaning the Pawnee River on the weekends.
Chris: "Due to a tragic misunderstanding, the Prettiest Pig Beauty Pageant has been replaced by a pork rib barbeque competition. Oh no!"
Chris: "Together, as a town, we lost an amount of weight equal to a hundred pregnant manatees."
Leslie: "A gym opened -- and in stayed in business. And people checking into the ER after ingesting a whole candy wrapper is down 40 percent!"
Ben: "Maybe it's not you... maybe it's Kate Upton?"
Leslie: "Well, it was Elizabeth Warren -- like I'm not gonna watch that live?"
Leslie: "Bring it on! Step up! Step Up 2: The Streets! I'm sorry, my adrenaline is pumping so all I can think of is dance movie titles. Stomp the Yard -- there's one! [...] You Got Served! Silver Linings Playbook -- kind of."
Chris: "Last one to pick up 100 rusty cans... has still accomplished a great deal."
Leslie: "Just remember to use protection... wait, no, don't. That would defeat the purpose. Okay, no -- do your thing!"
Andy, Ann and April
Macklin, you son of a bitch. It was so nice to see him back, especially given that it didn't occur to me that ol' Bert wasn't truly gone for good. The whodunit elements were so much fun (I'd argue even better so than when Bert solved the pie mystery in "Bus Tour") and the reveal was nothing short of amazing. Andy and April are adorable, I thought the writers perfectly captured Ann's frustration about not being immediately pregnant and I just really didn't want this plotline to end.
April, on why Pawnee is the best city in the world: "Most murders per capita, the guillotine was invented here, City Hall is run by the walrus mafia..."
Ann: "I mean great and I'm happy for them and congratulations whatever but ooh! No! Boo!"
Andy: "This case just remained interesting."
April: "I wanna wait until we're 50 and then adopt a set of creepy adult twins from Romania."
Andy: "As I've known about you for the past 20 seconds, this is your dream."
April: "I'm really glad I married you."
Andy: "Yeah, we made a good call on that one."
Tom, Mona-Lisa and Jean-Ralphio
Much as I'm bummed that Tom is still with freaking Mona-Lisa despite the outs that the writers had last week, I'm glad she was around for last night to heighten the stakes of the mystery, reveal her deep feelings about her cousin and get sing a duet with her brother. Furthermore, the Rent-A-Swag buyout makes total sense and I am super excited to see who the competition is. We've got to know him, right? I'm putting my money on Dennis Feinstein, but I would love to know your guesses in the comments.
Tom: "I could add a baby section over there, call it Li'l Swaggers. I could add some old peoples stuff, call it Rent-A-Sag. Ugh, no, old people are gross."
Tom: "Babyface heard my demo? I will accept a record deal."
Jean-Ralphio: "I'm gonna be an uncle? Is that a real thing? Is that gonna happen? No, that's too much responsibility for me... I gotta find a way out of this."
Ron, Jerry and Donna
Excellent use of all three, especially in giving Tom business advice. Ron getting a solid storyline is far overdue, and I'm so happy that he'll finally have one next season, TV gods willing.
Ron: "I never should have agreed to this, or let you know that I have a cabin. Or gotten to know any of you!"
Donna: "Cost of living is cheap. In about three years, I will have saved enough to pay off my condo in Seattle... I like the rain and the fish markets."
Donna: "Imagine the kind of Treat Yo Self Day we could have with the profits. I'm talking pedicures on pedicures on pedicures."
Jerry: "I miss you guys!"
Honorable mentions: Hot-sounding lawyer Trevor Nelson, who is not representing Diddy; Dewey from Sanitation, who, like Leslie, thinks an extra bathroom is more important than gender equality; Bourne Lerpiss (I have no idea how to spell that!) and his frustrating morning commute; Marcia and Marshall Langman for bravely speaking out against the fact that now in Pawnee, people can put their body parts anywhere they want to without impunity -- "this town is going to hell in a Gucci knockoff handbag, girl"; The Nitrous Guy! Possibly my favorite person in Pawnee right now; the very sweet Brandi Maxxx, channeling her inner Troy McClure while promoting her work: "I had a small part in Argo... as well as the porn version, Our Goo."; Knope supporter Dennis Lerpiss (any relation to Bourne, I wonder?), who has seen the first 90 seconds of Our Goo and thinks it's thrilling; Harris and Brett (Brett chanting "Legalize weed!" when everyone else was chanting "Recall Knope!" slayed me); Wilson Gromling of the Liberty or Die Party, I guess, why not?; Shauna Malwae-Tweep who is better off. She hasn't had a date in a while, but she's learning about her. In conclusion: Recall, Shmeecall.
Thanks so much for another fun season, and not yelling at me for not being snarky enough about this show, which would honestly not be an unfounded complaint. Now, let's re-watch the episode again and hug our TVs when we're done:
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