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RON F***ING SWANSON IS MARRIED.

That felt like an appropriate way to start off this review, as it’s pretty much the very first thing that happens this season. In fact, it happens so quickly that Leslie can’t even keep up with the spontaneous wedding, first succumbing to surprise-induced paralysis, then cursing the municipal building for not keeping rice on hand for such occasions. It’s one of the most amusing reactions Leslie’s ever had in the series, and makes the cold open about 4 solid minutes of laughter.

But regardless of Leslie’s freak-out, Ron Swanson joyfully married his girlfriend-turned-baby mama-turned-fiancé Diane, and it was about as no nonsense as could be. Which makes sense for a no nonsense kinda guy like Ron, who would much prefer watching a movie in a dark room while eating a steak, then any sort of birthday party. Parks and Recreation is almost as good as Leslie Knope when it comes to throwing character-specific parties. For April and Andy there was a casual “dinner party” wedding after a few months of dating, complete with dead doves and Mouse Rat (duh), and creepy, creepy Orin. For Leslie and Ben there was a beautiful, romantic celebration that incorporated the people that Leslie loves (Pawnee), and then the people that she really loves (the Parks department, and ANN. duh). And for Ron and Diane, there was a quick ceremony on the fourth floor after an engagement only moments earlier (sadly without the handmade engagement canoe).

So if we’re keeping score of best cold opens of the new TV season - I think Parks is winning this one.

A month after Ron and Diane’s quickie-wedding, Leslie’s fighting the recall, and it’s not going great - even though she’s got a 40 phase plan. April nominated her for an award, thinking it might help, and it turns out Leslie won. Which means one month later, the gang’s heading to London!

Ben and Andy go to talk to Lord Covington about their music charity, and it turns out he’s like a rich, British Andy. Ben can’t seem to steer the conversation back toward the charity and away from toy helicopters, but it turns out that Lord Covington just doesn’t know what he’s doing, so he doesn’t know what to say. However, he’d like to be involved with the charity if Andy could stay for a few months and run things with him - thus alleviating the issue of a missing Andy while Chris Pratt films Guardians of the Galaxy in London.

Leslie can’t stay away from Pawnee for too long, so even though she’s in London, she jumps on the computer to check the news. What she finds is not great - based on a Facebook picture she posted from London, her adversaries are criticizing her for “gallivanting across Europe,” and they don’t like people that gallivant across Europe. On this frustrated note Leslie gets ready to forget the award and take a Home Alone-Mother style journey, involving various plane rides, and driving which would eventually only get her there a couple hours earlier than planned. Instead she heads to the awards ceremony, where April meets her idol and Leslie gives the infamous “Pee-Pee Head Speech.” Due to Jerry’s dependable ability to screw everything up, this angry speech is webcast to the people of Pawnee.

Ron’s time in London is mostly haphazardly snapping pictures for his pregnant wife, and getting frustrated with England for not being America. And then he finds a pub between two butcher shops, and things are okay. Ron eventually makes his peace with the UK when Leslie sends him on a trip through Scotland to Lagavulin, where he gets to drink scotch. It is the surest way into Ron’s heart.
Back in Pawnee Tom’s having issues with his new competitor - who’s not Jay-Z or Akon (much to Dona’s disappointment). After a little bit of sleuthing, Tom finds out that Dr. Saperstein, Jean-Ralphio and Mona-Lisa’s father, is his competitor, and he opposed him because of the ways in which Tom supposedly hurt his children. The twins’ lies include Tom stealing the business idea from Jean-Ralphio, and apparently taking Mona-Lisa’s virginity - that one gets a good laugh. Oh, and of course Tom finds all this out while intruding on Ann and Chris’ ultrasound, because ANN’S PREGNANT.

That’s right, Ann’s finally pregnant! With an olive. Or a chickpea. But either way, Chris and Ann are going to have a baby (which will most likely play into their midseason departure - small moment of mourning. Alright, moving on). They try to share the news with others, but it doesn’t go as they planned. Tom finds out during his fight with Dr. Saperstein, Donna deduces using her heretofore unmentioned hyper-observational skills, Jerry overwhelms the couple with pregnancy info and a truly terrifying baby impression, and Ethel Beavers couldn’t care less. Luckily they get the reaction they were hoping for from a self-medicated Leslie, high off a mix of sleeping pills and whatever Israeli fighter pilots take to stay alert. Needless to say Leslie was very excited for her best friend to start a “new and better human race,” even though she thought Ann was a giant crab.

The episode ends with Leslie and Ben in their spot, in front of the sunflower mural, talking about seeing the world. Does Leslie want to leave Pawnee, her once beloved hometown? Leslie conducts a little experiment involving Ben wearing a barrister’s wig, which is…decidedly not sexy. Failed experiment.

There is a lot of change happening in this episode, as it sets up the year ahead for these characters. Ron and Diane get married and are having a baby together. Ann and Chris are having a baby together. Tom is fighting for his store, something he’s finally been successful at and wants to continue. April’s going to vet school while Andy stays in London for a few months with British Andy (Lord Covington).

And yet while most of the Parks department, and those adjacent, move on to new chapters in their lives, Leslie is down in the dumps. The town and the citizens she loves, and for whom she works hard and makes numerous personal sacrifices, are trying to kick her out of office. While Leslie safely removes slugs from their gardens, they still say she’s doing it wrong. Ron reminds her, when you do a thankless job, you can’t expect to be thanked for it. But her “children,” the citizens of Pawnee don’t care what she’s done for them, and Leslie is finally starting to reach the end of her rope, as we saw in the infamous webcast “Pee-Pee Head” Speech. Luckily she’s got April to give her some appreciation, such as in her heartfelt recommendation letter (yes, you just read “April” and “heartfelt” in the same sentence - I’m telling you, times they are a-changin’). Leslie’s got some obstacles to overcome at the start of season 6, but since when have we ever seen Leslie Knope give up when times get tough?

Waffle Toppings:
- Andy ends up at Stonehenge instead of work.
- Ron Swanson’s Photography Style: Hold up a camera and click. No looking necessary.
- April loves the Mongolian police chief/mayor/wolf wrangler, and wants to head back to Mongolia with her.
- Leslie forgets who Jerry is on the phone.
- Ann is a pliable, chestnut-haired sunfish. Of course.

Sorry for the Leslie-Knope-Idea-Binder size of a review - the hour-long episode covered quite a lot. How’d you feel about the return to Pawnee? Happy to see your old friends, or tired of the slug-loving pee-pee heads?


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