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  • If you still feel bummed at the end of "Lil Sebastian" I highly suggest looping around again to the beginning of "The Bubble" and you will automatically feel ten times better:


    Reason #887 why I need Leslie Knope to be real and for us to be best friends immediately. BUT HER WORST QUALITY BY FAR IS HOW THOUGHTFUL SHE CAN BE. I also highly enjoyed Andy schooling us all on the properties of gases and Ann's disgruntled office-mate Stuart (it's almost a shame he moved down the hall). And in Tom/Ann Stealth Endgame Watch '11: Welcome to City Hall, Cupcake!

  • I'll admit that it bothered me a little bit that we didn't get to see the direct fallout from The Kiss That Shook the Fandom last week. I usually love the mockumentary format for the interesting shots, talking heads, and glances to the camera, but I swear when it comes to these two I think the format might actually kill me. It makes sense that the conversation (and ~anything else) that followed the kiss might not have been filmed, and that Leslie and Ben would be shown talking about secret smooching and hand-holding more than doing those things, but don't they know these things are relevant to my interests? I'm glad, at least, that we got that wonderful conversation about their feelings at dinner in "Road Trip" and I'll just keep my fingers crossed that season four will bring us more of the same. And more makeouts. For, you know, storytelling purposes.

  • I loved the return to the fourth floor, though despite Tom's obvious distress it didn't seem as menacing as it did during its previous appearance (maybe they fixed the lightbulbs). The metal detector that was constantly going off was a nice touch though. I also enjoyed the contrast between Tom and Andy's enthusiasm (or lack thereof) for the work, which provided the best line of the episode for me: "When life gives you lemons make lemonade. I read that one on a can of lemonade. I like to think it applies to life." Sage words my friend!

  • The Chris vs. the Parks Department storyline was interesting to me in that it seemed to emphasize what I talked about in my last recap about Chris being extremely image conscious. The changes he made in the department were primarily aesthetic (i.e. relating to the layout of the office space) and he seemed less pre-occupied with people's actual functions so much as their titles (for instance, when Tom confronts him Chris reiterates that Tom should be happy to be called a project leader, irregardless of his feelings about the actual work). This image obsession is never more apparent than in his final scene with Ron. Chris gives in relatively quickly and does not seem all that passionate about his changes. His line "there's no way that I can just roll over on this" is very telling in that it's clear that what he's most concerned with is the appearance of authority rather than the rightness of his cause. I also loved the contrast between Chris, who appears to be a people person and a people pleaser but doesn't really get the Parks Department at all, and Ron, who puts on a show of not paying attention to his colleagues but very clearly has a much better handle on his co-workers. What I'm wondering about Chris is this: does he just fail at reading people, or does he read people well but chooses not to use that information?

  • This might just be the single greatest sight gag they've done on the show:


    I cannot stop cackling every time I see it.

  • I wanted to highlight this Ron-Donna scene because it's so great:



    DONNA: This isn’t going to work. Okay, you did not just swivel away when I was talking to you. This spaceship keyboard is driving me crazy! I’m down to one word a minute, and the word is “perflipnisklemp,” because I can’t fly spaceships!
    RON: Donna, you know as well as I do that these city manager shakeups always peter out. You just have to wait.
    DONNA: Usually I’m with you, but this is Chris Traeger, the six million dollar man. He won’t quit. So you need to swivel your ass down to his office and have a word with him.

    I love the idea of Donna being one of the few people that can put Ron in his place. While Leslie and Ron's relationship is based on mutual respect and admiration, I think Donna's influence on Ron stems from both sheer force of personality as well as a shared history in the trenches of the workplace. In "Ron and Tammy" Donna mentions that she's been in the Parks Department longer than even Leslie, and along with Jerry she's probably been there the longest of any of the other staff. This conversation touches on that shared history nicely, and it sort of comes up again in the next episode as it's Donna who warns Ron about the arrival of Tammy I.

  • I pretty much loved everything about the storyline with Leslie, Ben, and her mother:


    Let me just take a brief moment to mention BEN IN A CARDIGAN.


    I think they hit all the right notes with the character of Marlene. Her making a pass at Ben was awkward and funny as hell (oh my god their synced head tilts), but in the end she was supportive of the relationship. It was a nice surprise for her to give Leslie her approval.

    Not only was the storyline hilarious, but I think it was a great showcase for Ben. It sort of reconciled the various aspects of his character. Obviously the return of Ben Wyatt: Human Disaster was a highlight, and his awkwardness was consistent with what we've seen before. Like in "Ron and Tammy Part II" his nervousness stemmed from meeting someone intimidating, and he found himself falling apart because he's unprepared to deal with something personally uncomfortable as in "Media Blitz". I also liked the continuing thread of Ben's most awkward moments happening off-camera and being reported on afterwards ("And at one point, for no reason, I just took off my shoes. and held them in my hand"). We also saw glimpses (Cute) Fascist Hardass!Ben from "The Master Plan" and "Freddy Spaghetti". While Leslie did help coach him, I think Ben's self-confidence was always there. He just needed to tap into it again. We even saw him being assertive with Leslie herself when he demanded that she tell him everything there is to know about her mom, and again when he barges in to Marlene's office to tell her that he and Leslie are dating. It's not a side we've seen of him in awhile, so I loved that in this episode we got to see multiple facets of Ben.

    Another thing that I loved about this storyline is that we got to see a bit of a tiff between Leslie and Ben when he confronts her about lying about her mom, but they're able to resolve it with relative maturity (Leslie's continued insistence on solving her problems by sending them away to a foreign locale aside). I think it was a really nice moment between the two of them.

  • I'm so glad that at the end of the day they brought it back to Leslie and Ron and his desk prison:



    LESLIE: Kind of figured you’d be back in your office by now.
    RON: You know how new city managers are.
    LESLIE: Seems like everyone else is back to normal. …How long do you have to do this?
    RON: A week.
    LESLIE: Citizen request. Swivel, swivel, swivel. Hello! I can help you in here, sir.

    Aww, she protected him from a citizen! Flawless friendship is flawless.

  • THIS WAS SO CUTE WHY WOULD YOU CUT THIS WHY:


    God, they're so smitten. Because Leslie Knope would not normally let some dude wipe her face but it's Ben and he's not being condescending, he's just looking for any excuse to touch her and she loves that and let me die.

  • I was so happy that after their great scene together in "The Fight" that we got some more interaction between Ben and Ann (even if it was just in the Producer's Cut):



    BEN: Hey! …Hey, Ann, how’s it going?
    ANN: You don’t have to pretend, I know you’re supposed to meet Leslie here.
    BEN: But I’m also curious about how it’s going.
    ANN: Leslie’s busy, she’s working on the Li’l Sebastian Memorial Service, but, you know what, she gave me this note to give to you, and she also wanted me to kiss you deeply which I’m gonna have to pass on.
    ANN: I really like my new part-time job here. My officemate moved down the hall, so I have this whole room just for me. …And Ben and Leslie, who secretly meet here. 40 times a day.
    BEN: She drew a kiss monster! On the- on the note.
    ANN: Yeah.
    ANN: Look, you guys are totally welcome to use my office, just don’t do anything on my desk.
    BEN: Oh, we don’t… you know. We just like to work in the same place, and then we talk and hold hands.
    ANN: Yuck. That’s somehow worse.
    BEN: Yeah, it sounded bad when I said it.

    Again, so smitten! SHE DREW A KISS MONSTER ON THE NOTE.

  • The scene between Leslie, Ben, and Ron was hands down my favourite of the evening (this dialogue needs to be transcribed in all of its glory):



    RON: How long have you been sleeping with Ben?
    LESLIE: That’s disgusting and wrong. I don’t even get- why would- I, I’ve never had sex with anyone anywhere. It’s none of your- you have- the nerve, the audacity. Ben is my boss. Technically. And he is terrible facewise, and how… how do I know, frankly, that you’re not sleeping with him? Maybe you are. Maybe you’re trying to throw me off. Hm. Check and mate. This is an outrage! Who do I call?
    BEN: Hey! Hey.
    LESLIE: Hey. Hey.
    BEN: Hey. Hey, Ron. Listen, you’re just who I was looking for. Are you… did you forget the uh… did you, can I- can I get that thing? Can we just, uh… did you bring it? …This isn’t convincing.
    LESLIE: How did you find out?
    RON: We’ve worked together for awhile now. I’d like to think I know you pretty well. Plus, Ben butt-dialed me last night.
    LESLIE Okay, okay. And this is how Eleanor Roosevelt would kiss.
    BEN: Whoa, Eleanor likes the tongue. Show me Pelosi again!
    LESLIE: Okay, lay down.
    LESLIE: Please tell me you hung up before Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
    RON: Unfortunately not. This is a scandal waiting to happen. If you get caught, which you clearly will… Chris will fire you. And I won’t be able to stop him.
    LESLIE: Ron, we’re being very careful.
    LESLIE: Oh, President Reagan, my blazer popped open.
    BEN: Well, Maggie Thatcher, let me help you with that. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride to this summit meeting. Our countries have had a very special relationship—
    LESLIE: Okay. Yes.
    LESLIE: Oh, no!
    LESLIE: You’ve proven your point.

    LET ME COUNT THE THINGS I LOVE ABOUT THIS SCENE:

    - The way Leslie adjusts her dress just before walking through the door.
    - Her dress in general. And her hair.
    - The fact that Leslie's babbling was improvised by Amy Poehler (GODDESS DIVINE).
    - Ron Swanson's face the entire time and, later, how protective he is. Eventually I'd like to see him approve of Leslie and Ben's relationship (and ultimately I think a Libertarian like Ron wouldn't approve of the government interfering in personal relationships), but I think his reaction makes sense considering he doesn't know the depth of their feelings at the moment. He's just looking out for their jobs, mainly Leslie's since she's the one he knows well (side note: all I want in the world is for there to be Ron and Ben scenes next season, because I think that relationship has an untapped wealth of comedic potential). Also he's still hung up on Lil Sebastian's death so he's probably grumpier than usual.
    - Just... everyone's horrified expressions.
    - POLITICIAN ROLEPLAY. OH MY GOD. And not even sexy politicians (I bet he does Joe Biden just for her). I'm thinking that left-learning Leslie chose Reagan and Thatcher because as quintessential conservatives they probably seemed kinkier than liberals.
    - The throwback to "Go Big or Go Home" and Leslie believing that clothing popping open is, like, the sexiest thing ever.
    - The frankness about sex. "White wine, cuddling, and crazy amounts of... History Channel documentaries" and all that. The show is still operating within sitcom standards, but in general there is a sense of sex positivity on the show that I appreciate. I'm reminded of a quote from Amy Poehler where she says, "What I do like about the show is that they are adults and they're having sex. People are actually having sex. And it's not the kind of show where you take five seasons to have sex with someone. You do what you usually do in real life, which is you take like five dinners." Leslie and Ben clearly like each other for a lot of reasons, but I like that one of those reasons includes includes just honest-to-god wanting to tap that. We saw some of that in "Jerry's Painting", and we're seeing it again in this episode, and I love it. GET IT, KIDS.
    - Adam Scott totally breaking when they pan back to him following the Reagan bit. I demand a million takes of this scene on the gag reel.
    - HE IS TERRIBLE, FACE-WISE.

  • I love that these two are so enamoured with each other that their attempt to discuss professional physical contact leads to a kiss. Obviously:



    LESLIE: So the only people that know are my mom, Ann, and Ron, and they’re not going to say anything.
    BEN: Right, just, no more fooling around at work.
    LESLIE: Okay, yeah, we can’t.
    BEN: Well, I mean, you know, the situation could arise where you do something good and I congratulate you. Like with a professional hug. You know, kind of like… like this. Oh, congratulations!
    LESLIE: That feels appropriate.
    BEN: Yeah, I think so.
    LESLIE: Yeah, I think we can get away with that, as long as we don’t do stuff like this.
    GEORGE: Hey, lovebirds! What do I do with these?
    LESLIE: …You can just leave it there.
    GEORGE: Okay.
    LESLIE: So, my mom, Ron, Ann, and that guy.

    BUT GODDAMNIT BEN YOUR SHOULDER. Dear Parks and Recreation directors: next season, let's try a new angle because I WANT TO SEE HER MOUTH ON HIS MOUTH. Part of me wonders if this blocking is purposeful. In a way it feels appropriate for the current state of their relationship that we're only getting obscured kisses. Their relationship isn't fully out in the open, and neither are their kisses. It also keeps the audience wanting more, which is probably a smart move on their part. At least we still have forehead touching and faaaaaces.

    I also really love the visual parallels in this scene to their scene in "Freddy Spaghetti" after Leslie finds out Ben paid for the titular character to attend the concert at Lot 48. Once again we have Leslie and Ben shot through a fence next to a stage, but look how far they've come! THIS NARRATIVE ARC APPRECIATION LIFE.

  • You know what I also love?



    LESLIE: Ron Swanson loves his facial hair. And we burned it off. This thing, that we’re doing? It’s unsustainable.
    BEN: What, you want to break up?
    LESLIE: What? No, I like you!
    BEN: Well, then— You want to tell Chris.
    LESLIE: What? No, I like my job!
    BEN: Well, then, what do we do?
    LESLIE: Okay. Operation Shutdown. No more secret handholding, no more smooching in Ann’s office. In fact, when we’re at work, we just shouldn’t talk to each other at all.
    BEN: Okay, well, that’s going to be really hard, and we could still get fired.
    LESLIE: I know, but… it’s worth the risk if I can be with you.
    BEN: All right. Well, then, I’m in.
    LESLIE: What are you doing, are you kidding?
    BEN: I am sorry, no, it’s a force of habit.

    The fact that they've been making out so much over the past couple of weeks that kissing Leslie has become a force of habit for Ben. Let's talk about that. A FORCE OF HABIT. ALSO IT'S WORTH THE RISK. ALSO THEIR FAAAAAAACES. (Also "shutdown" - nice parallel with the season two finale).

  • One of the best things about Parks in comparison to other comedies is its commitment to pushing its characters forward. So many sitcoms allow their characters to become stagnant, but Parks has always been about progress, even if it's in tiny increments. Whether it is in terms of the relationships between characters, the goings-on in Pawnee, or internal character developments things happen. I think the show left us with some really interesting threads going into season four:

    » April/Andy:



    ANDY: April I need to ask you something and it's the biggest thing I've ever asked anybody in my entire life.
    APRIL: Honey we're already married.
    ANDY: No this is way more important than that. April Ludgate... would you be my manager?
    APRIl: Seriously? Okay... yeah.

    I was pleasantly surprised with the direction they took April and Andy this season. I wasn't sure if they would work as a married couple, but I find them even more adorable now than when they were a will-they-won't-they couple or just dating. I also think their marriage opens up a lot of storytelling potential, and I've been thinking of this quote from Mike Schur a lot in relation to April becoming Mouse Rat's manager: "What if they just got married? What if they did something impulsive and young and foolhardy? It seemed like it would lead to interesting stories down the line where whatever is going on in their relationship the stakes would automatically be higher because they’re married, instead of just dating." I haven't seen a lot of people talk about it, but I think April acting as Andy's manager will definitely lead to some tribulations, both comical and dramatic. We already saw in "Road Trip" that they have very different musical philosophies, so I'm interested in seeing how this develops.

    » Chris and Chris/Ann:



    "What's the point of doing 10,000 pushups, if you’re going to do them alone? I’d much rather do 5,000 pushups with a wonderful woman... sitting on my back to increase my resistance."

    THE MICROCHIP HAS BEEN COMPROMISED! Honestly, this is the most interesting I've ever found Chris (well, I've always found him interesting but more from a construction point of view rather than as a character to care about). I don't ship Chris/Ann and I don't really want to see them back together (though I'd love for Chris to go in for a kiss and have Ann reject him), but I do like seeing the affect they have on each other. Ann's line "he always just throws me off" encompasses their dynamic perfectly; I like seeing Ann thrown a bit off-kilter. I think in this episode we finally get to see Chris thrown off his axis a bit and see Ann have a modicum of control in their relationship, which is great after all she's been through.

    » Tammy I:



    DONNA: Red alert Swanson, your ex-wife is back.
    RON: No kidding Donna.
    DONNA: Not her, the other ex-wife.
    RON: Tammy I.
    DONNA: She's in your office.

    Who is this she-beast who can send Tammy II scurrying away in fear? I'm definitely curious to see who will play Tammy I and what type of personality she'll have. I'm assuming she'll be different than man eater Tammy II. I just don't want the role to go to Molly Shannon because I feel like her type of comedy is too broad, loud and physical. No one can top Megan Mullaly in that regard so they should go for something different.

    » Tom:



    JEAN-RALPHIO:Why don't you live your life like that cow from the video?
    TOM: He was a horse!
    JEAN-RALPHIO: Yeah, because he followed his dreams!

    Tom's departure from the Parks Department for Entertainment 720 was one of the more interesting developments of the finale, and one of the most satisfying from a progress perspective. I think it's fantastic that they've taken a character that could have been one note and given him an actual arc. Instead of having his aspirations be mere comedic fodder they're actually going places with them, and it's so exciting to me. I think eventually he'll be reincorporated into the government fold, but for now it's nice that this character is being given an opportunity to pursue his dreams, however foolhardy (I'd like some Tom-Ben scenes next season wherein Ben tries to give Tom financial advice, please and thank you). Of course this storyline also means MORE JEAN-RALPHIO! Always appreciated. Unlike a lot of fans I don't want him to be a series regular in season four, as I think he works best in smaller doses, but I do love seeing him on my screen. "Which one floats your penis."

    I have to mention that one of my favourite scenes in "Lil Sebastian" is the Thelma and Louise conversation, because the music kind of swells in the background at the perfect moment and it gives it this faux-epic feel.

    » Leslie and Leslie/Ben:



    WILLIAM: All we need to know right now is are you theoretically interested in running for office?
    LESLIE: Absotutely, I am very sorry that I just used that word! But, yes! I just… I’ve dreamed about this moment for a long time.
    ...

    LESLIE: Would I have to quit my job?
    WILLIAM: Well, that’s a long way off.
    LESLIE: Of course.
    WILLIAM: But, listen. When you run, even in a local election, your life becomes an open book. So, if you so much as stiff a waiter on his tip, or use a government stamp for personal mail, it will come out. So before we go any further, I need you to tell me, is there a scandal out there? Is there anything at all you need to tell us about your life?
    LESLIE: ...Nope.

    ALL. OF. THE. FEELINGS. Damn, this scene was beautifully done from FACES FACES FACES (Her little half-smile! His knowing look!) to the way the scene ends as we hear the line "things I really want to do" from "Two Birds Holding Hands" in the background. I also can't help but remember Leslie and Ben's conversation about running for office in "The Master Plan" and ugh ugh ugh my actual heart.

    Now that I've had some time to let my feelings on the finale settle, I think I'm actually at a really good place mentally and emotionally with regards to this development (oh my god this is a television show I need to stop). Leslie's "nope" is ambiguous, but I don't take the cynical perspective I've seen in a lot of comments on various reviews. First of all, Parks and Recreation is not a cynical show. The creators are invested in their characters' happiness, and I truly believe that even if there are bits o' angst in season four that ultimately things will turn out for the best because that's just how they roll in Pawnee. Second of all, Leslie is not the type of character to just give up. I can't see her sacrificing either her personal or professional happiness without a fight. I'm not sure how the show will reconcile Leslie/Ben with Leslie's political aspirations, or even how they'll reconcile her political aspirations with her role in the Parks Department, but I'm more nervous-excited than nervous-worried because these writers know their characters and care about them. If any character can have it all, it's Leslie Friggen Knope, and I doubt they'll truly make her permanently decide between being happy in either her romantic or professional life. For all Schur and Co.'s talk about not knowing what kind of storyline they're going to go with and figuring out what they're going to do next season I'm positive they already have a game plan and I for one could not be more excited to see it play out because...

    LESLIE KNOPE IS GOING TO RUN FOR OFFICE. LADY HERO! EVERYTHING SHE'S DREAMED OF! I just... want this for her so badly. I'm not sure how the show would pull it off without major alterations to the fundamental structure of the show, but I'm sure they have something up their sleeves. A loss would be devastating, but I can see it happening. Hopefully something like that would be tempered by some other promotion, or perhaps instead they'll have Leslie realize that her passion lies in the Parks Department and not public office. Regardless, there is tons of potential for storylines with a political campaign and possible secret dating. I have a feeling that her relationship with Ben might be the least of her problems when it comes to scandal. There are a ton of other incidents from her background that could be brought up to derail her - marrying gay penguins and becoming a gay icon, holding a minor against his will, "posing nude" for a painting, getting into a fight with a government employee from Eagleton and getting thrown in jail overnight, going against the Sweetums corporation, etc. Parks has always been great with continuity so I wouldn't be surprised to see some great throwbacks to earlier incidents next season.

  • RANDOM THINGS THAT I LOVED THAT I DIDN'T MENTION IN-DEPTH BECAUSE THIS IS LONG ENOUGH AS IT IS:

    - "Man, I Feel Like a Woman" and Andy's little head bop.
    - Tom's fake British accent in the Lil Sebastian tribute video.
    - "5,000 Candles in the Wind" being 5,000 times better than "Candle in the Wind" and including the lyric "spread your wings and fly".
    - Leslie and Marlene Griggs-Knope joking about their shared last name... even though they've never met.
    - April's note to Jerry ("You're going to fail").
    - That random guy smashing a coffee pot against the wall (I think he's a writer from season one).
    - CUBE BUTT CUBE BUTT CUBE BUTT!
    - Ron's military march to the eternal flame.
    - LET'S MENTION EVERYONE'S FACES AGAIN BECAUSE IT IS WORTH REPEATING.

    That's a wrap! See you next season! ACCIO SEPTEMBER!
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