“London” (S6, E1/E2) – Parks and Recreation
Leslie: This is like a waking nightmare of happiness!
And that pretty much summons up this deluxe, drama-length episode of NBC’s little sitcom-engine-that-could.
Besieged and beleaguered by the recall-happy residents of Pawnee (egged on by one Kathryn Pinewood), who refuse to warm to their can-do, Pollyanna-ish councilwoman even after she scrums scum from the river overpasses and organically rids a constituent’s footpath of slugs:
“I want them gone, but not killed — I love animals. But get rid of them, they’re gross. But make sure they’re happy But not too happy.”
Leslie happily takes off for London to accept the prestigious International Coalition of Women in Government award that April nominated her for.
Admittedly it doesn’t fit into Leslie’s 40 phase plan to win over the residents of her hometown – including #26 “No Problem Too Small” which is where the slugs come in – but she happily accepts it thinking it will be a lovely diversion from her political troubles.
Unfortunately as Leslie all to quickly discovers, you can’t run too far from your troubles since they have a habit of following you, and a combination of a perky much loved Danish councilwomen played with glee by Heidi Klum (whose town teaches a reindeer to dance for her before they eat it: now that’s love!), a bitter acceptance speech when she calls the residents of Pawnee “peepeeheads” and an ill-advised (and not communicated to Leslie) live streaming of the awards ceremony back home combine to make her escapist jaunt to London a lot less pleasant than she’d imagined.
Perhaps things would have gone better if Leslie has simply taken April’s advice and meowed “really loudly for eight minutes”?
(This is the same April by the way who bonds quickly and forever with a Mongolian woman – who’s more than a little reluctant to turn it into a mutual admiration society – who’s also an aware recipient, and who has one of the best jobs in the world, a Wolverine Wrangler.)
Even though Leslie is thrilled to receive the award – no really she is – and excited to be sightseeing in London:
Leslie: The Knotting Hill bus tour starts at 2. The Love Actually tour starts at 2:30. Oh, but the Bridget Jones bus tour starts at 2:30 also. What do we do? Ron-your pick.
the truth is she is preoccupied mightily with Kathryn Pinewood and her campaign to rid Pawnee Council of one of the most likeable people on TV. How can Kathryn not love Leslie like we do? How?!
Meanwhile Andy, whose convinced that Buckingham Palace is Hogwarts:
Andy: I can’t believe we’re at Hogwarts!
Ben: That’s Buckingham Palace. Hogwarts is fictional … Do you know that? It’s important to me that you know that.
and Ben tried to convince the goofiest of lords ever, Lord Covington, whose family is so wealthy he might in fact own Scotland (news to the Scots no doubt), to back their envisaged music education charity.
OK to be fair, it’s actually Ben’s idea, who bravely pushes ahead with trying to convince the flaky lord, who is a perfect match for Andy with whom he bonds instantly over a shared love of remote control helicopters and paper bags that looks like flying birds.
Yes dumb meets dumber, leaving Ben despairing he will get the fund she wants till the lord admits he has no idea what to do with all the money he’s sitting on, and agrees to hand over all the money Ben wants if a newly slimmed down Andy (amazing what no beer will do for a guy! And that Chris Pratt’s role in Guardians of the Galazy) will stay in London for three months to oversee his nonprofit foundation.
Andy isn’t sure he’s up to it but April convinces him to give it a go:
Andy: I have no idea how to run a nonprofit.
April: Hey, you shined shoes for two years and never earned a profit.
He doesn’t get off to a good start on day one ending up on the wrong train and in Stonehenge but Ben at leasts gets four corgis as a present from Lord Covington (or Lord Fancyface as Andy dubs him).
So win-win all around right? Hmm …
Ron meanwhile gets to do a lot of things that make him, well, Ron.
For a start he gets married! Yes married!
After Diane (Lucy Lawless) confesses she is with child:
Ron: I warned you. Standard birth control methods are usually ineffective against a Swanson.
Ron whisks impulsively asks her to marry him – winning the sweetest, most romantic line in the process (an award I never thought would go to Ron Swanson) “I’m tired of not being married to this woman” – and they rush to the 4th floor to make it all official, running into a scum-stained, wader-wearing Leslie and April, fresh from scum-scraping duties on the way.
Aghast that Ron would get married just like that – she forgets of course that this sort of stripped down pragmatic if romantic approach is quintessential Ron – she and April go with them, with Leslie, desperate to make it special, arranging for a bouquet of brightly-coloured high lighters for Diane.
Alas Diane is too sick to accompany Ron to Europe, on what was supposed to be there honeymoon, and insists Ron go alone to take pictures for her, which he does but not with any great enthusiasm, abhorring everything about “socialist” Europe, and dismissing it every chance he gets:
Ron: Look—a clock. We don’t have that in America. You call that a tower? Try the Sears Tower, friend.
Ron: History began July 4th, 1776. Anything before that was a mistake.
In the end though a well thought out, and timely gift from Leslie, where she presents him with a book containing an itinerary he insists she follows to the letter, takes him to a remote island where he finds to his delight the Lagavulin distillery where he drinks some of the finest Scotch around and gets uncharacteristically misty-eyed reading a moving Robert Burns poem that Leslie insists he read out loud on the wind swept bluffs.
It’s proof yet again that Ron has come a long way in six seasons and that Leslie is the best friend ever.
Why don’t they like her? Why?
Meanwhile back in Pawnee, Tom is still trying to figure out who’s running him out of business – turns out it’s the father of his best friend Jean-Ralphio and his nut job sister Mona-Lisa, Dr Saperstein (Henry Winkler) who decides to keeps his store open even after he finds out that Tom didn’t steal Jean-Ralphio out of a business idea.
Apparently his store, which is a carbon copy of Tom’s Rent-a-Swag is making heaps of money and so even with revenge no longer a motivator, he keeps it open, an act which simply encourages Tom to fight to keep his venture.
Henry Winkler is an absolute gem, stealing the scenes he’s in and you can only hope that he sticks around in Tom’s nemesis mode for a while yet.
And lo’ it’s not just one pregnant woman but two, as Ann and Chris, who has to be the most upbeat person I have ever seen – yes he manages to out-Anne of Green Gables Leslie Knope! – announce their pregnant to absolute and complete indifference.
Well with everyone they actually like away in London, they’re left with proclaiming their good fortune to the denizens of City Hall, none of whom seem to care very much, much to Ann and Chris’ disappointment … until of course Leslie comes back and makes up for all of that with the sort of hug and delight you want from a close friend.
While I am sad that Ann and Chris are shuffling off the Parks and Recreation coil, I’m glad they at least got to share this very lovely moment with Leslie.
And I couldn’t finish off this recap with reproducing in full April’s nomination letter to the International Coalition of Women in Government award people.
It’s touching and sweet and more proof that Parks and Recreation’s writes are masters of keeping what we love about characters – love the eye-rolling! – while still fleshing them to very pleasing degrees:
Dear Award Committee:
Where I live, there are a lot of apathetic people, people who don’t care at all about what they do or how they do it. They let the world wash over them and barely notice anyone else is even there. Leslie Knope is not one of these people. She cares about everything and everyone in our town. I don’t know how she does it; people come to her with the pettiest, stupidest problems, and she cares — like, really, actually cares — what happens to them. And, if you’re lucky enough to be her friend, your life gets better every day. She spends every waking moment thinking of new ways to make her friends happy. There is something wonderful about seeing someone who has found her true purpose on earth. For some people, I guess that’s being an astronaut or a hot dog eating champion. For Leslie, her true purpose on earth, her true meaning, is helping other people with their dumb problems. That’s what I love about her, and that’s why she deserves this award.
VERDICT: While it suffered a little pacing and character-interaction-wise from being largely away from Pawnee – on the road episodes can be fun but rarely feel exactly like the show as The Brady Bunch and any number of other show illustrate all too well – it gave everyone bar Donna, who was hardly given a thing to do, for shame, plenty of room to shine and make us laugh.