Who knew the apocalypse would be this much fun? Granted, this week’s episode of Parks and Recreation, titled “End of the World,” didn’t actually bring us mass destruction and death, as so prophesied by a lovably lunatic fringe movement called The Reasonabilists (“Weirdly brilliant!” declared Ben Wyatt), but it provided a clever backdrop and/or theme for the three stories, as well as some heavenly bits of comedy (Andy’s bucket list! the E720 party!). What do you say we recap this cult fave before Zorp melts off our faces?
Our story began in Leslie’s office, as Herb Scaifer (Robert Pine, a.k.a. a former CHiPs sergeant and Jim’s dad on The Office), leader of those town wackos who ran the town in the ’70s (“Nutbrains!” declared Chris Traeger), told her that the great Zorp would wreak fiery havoc all over humanity at dawn. (I picture Zorp looking like a 8-bit face of evil made out of trail mix. You?) Their here-we-go-again familiarity was charming; here, and at the end of the episode, Leslie humored him like she would a drunken/senile uncle. And with good reason: Every few years, the Reasonabilists declared that a certain day would be our last on Earth, but, as Leslie noted, the only horrific thing ever to happen on said dates was Lance Armstrong dumping Sheryl Crow.
Ben, who was trying hard not to make every day a whiny road after ending his relationship with Leslie so she could run for office, was told by Chris that he’d be spending time with Leslie, supervising the Reasonabilists’ all-night vigil. It was nice/bittersweet to see the pair sharing the screen again; he clearly was dreading the awkwardness of spending time with her, while for Leslie, any Ben time was good time. Except when that involved Pawnee’s most trusted reporter besides Perd Hapley, Shauna Malwae-Tweep, asking Leslie about Ben’s romantic status. Poor Leslie short-circuited, regressing into an unbalanced, flustered mess as she tried to scotch any connection between the two (“Ben hasn’t bored you to death by now?” she quipped to Shauna. “He’s so boring”). As Shauna flirted with Ben, Leslie crazily played out their love story to Ann, which ended with Leslie being hypothetically annoyed that he changed his name to Ben Wyatt Malwae-Tweep. Hey, it does roll right off the tongue.
Leslie’s descent into madness continued as Shauna departed for an End of the World party that Tom was throwing. That sounded good to Ben. Leslie tried to distract him by offering up a 15-hour game of chessRisk (curiously, Ben did not not geek out over this), and then suckered him into her car to show him something amazing, something mysterious, something…that was a rundown gas station, marked with “Pawnee sucks” graffiti (the work of April?). Cutting off her story that the “M. Jagger” who owned this gas station was likely Mick Jagger, Ben firmly told her that they can’t hang out because “every time we do, it just makes it harder, you know?”
Crushed, Leslie returned to the park, and poured out her heart to Ron, saying about Ben, “If the world was ending tomorrow, I’d want to be with him.” Ron gently explained that the sentiment was “significant,” but “the sun’s gonna rise right over there. It’ll be a regular Friday and you’ll be in the exact same position as you were in before.” (Ron is a man of few words in these situations, but almost of all of them are wise.) Leslie journeyed to Ben’s place to apologize for the Tweep-blocking and to explain that she got it: The romantic part of their relationship was Zorped. When she asked if she could apologize to Shauna as well, Ben explained that she wasn’t there…. Wait, why was Leslie smiling? A small victory: At least Shauna didn’t spend the night.
Next: Ron plays flute like there’s no tomorrow
Back to Ron for a second. We knew he marched to the beat of a drum he made himself, but was he so offbeat that he was a friend of the Reasonabilists? (“Hail Zorp!” “Congratulations to all of us for reaching the finish line”). Sure, he stood for religious tolerance, but he also wanted to move some high-priced flutes from his woodshop, and the Zorpies featured them in their ceremonies. (The check-cashing exchange was pretty priceless.) While not quite a Duke Silver-level discovery, Ron performing “Symphony for the Righteous Destruction of Humanity in E Minor” with the Reasonabilists was a tiny revelation. (And for final exit music, you could do a lot worse.) Meanwhile, Chris, having speed-read two Reasonabilist books, engaged Herb in a reincarnation discussion that quickly scared him away (“This morning at dawn, you will take a new form — that of a fleshless, chattering skeleton when Zorp the Surveyor arrives and burns your flesh off with his volcano mouth”). Chris did, however, seem to enjoy Ann’s wise nugget that the problem with reincarnation is that you spend so much time focusing on the next life that you forget to enjoy the current one. (Should Millicent be worried and Jerry be happy? Is Chris perking back up to Perkins?)
Two themes permeated the B-plots: Empty your funds, and turn up the fun! We’ll start with Tom and Jean-Ralphio, who were down to $5,000 each following the crash of Entertainment 720. While workers wheeled away the company’s possessions from HQ (not the big chair!), Jean-Ralphio suggested they start a rap label with his next car-on-pedestrian accident settlement. Tom countered that they used their funds to throw one last bash that would represent everything they wanted the company to be — “a party for the end of the world.” And a bash they threw, which included a Centurion Club Elite VIP area (“No one’s allowed in there, not even us”), giant ball that you could walk around in, craps table, caged tiger, drum line, money-blowing glass box optimized for hot chicks. (I loved how the camera operators were complicit in the pair’s absurdity; witness the dramatic reverse zoom when Tom declared: “It’s a grand experiment and I am a party scientist. Welcome to my laboratory.”)
One of the episode’s surprise laughs came after Tom’s ex Lucy showed up, explaining that JR invited her to this special occasion. Taking him aside, Tom thanked Jean-Ralphio “for real,” and JR topped him, saying, no, thank YOU. For everything. While they hugged it out, I thought: “Annnd here comes the joke… Oh. Maybe no joke. That makes sense. Tom, and more importantly, Jean-Ralphio, need that emotional moment to balance out all of their douchery.” And then came his confession to camera: “I actually forgot they ever dated. I was trying to hit that.” Tip of the drum major hat!
But if the show faked us out then, it delivered the goods when the party emptied out. As Tom thoughtfully arranged for designated drivers and shuttles, Lucy approached, and chatted him up. Tom fretted about his prospects – refreshingly not in player mode — and Lucy responded by praising his party and planting a legit kiss on him. Whoa. To camera 1: “You saw that.” To camera 2: “You saw that too.” There was Tom Haverford, finding a little analog happiness in his digital world.
Let us not forget about April and Andy, a.k.a. the most entertaining married couple on network TV right now. She challenged him to figure out a weird activity — “it could be the last night on earth” — instead of their usual pizza-Xbox-prank-calls-booze-makeout situation. Andy suggested they check things off his bucket list. And what a list it was: Catch a winning Super Bowl touchdown! Make the most amazing grilled cheese sandwich EVER! Remake ‘Kazaam’ with Shaquille O’Neal but this time “get it right”! Outrun a hippo! Scoff at people as they walk by your seat in first-class! It also included going down to Pawnee Credit Union, emptying out almost all of his account, and holding $1,000 cash in his hands, which proved to be really disappointing in $100-bill form and totally kickass in $1-bill form. (His manchild glee is always a sight to behold. To the teller: “Have you ever seen this much cash in your entire life?” Then: “Nickels. I want nickels! A billion nickels!”)
Next: The return of Burt Macklin and Janet Snakehole!
a pretty awesome the most amazing grilled cheese, April and Andy reenacted a thoroughly amusing Burt Macklin/Janet Snakehole scene from a Cold War action film, which involved Andy crashing through a sliding glass door, and rescuing Janet from the butter-knife clutching clutches of Jerry. (Two things: One, April and Jerry do hang out, Leslie! And two, “Ohhh, my face!!! My face… is fine, Mikhail Petrov!”) With these ridiculous exploits completed, April pointed out one unchecked item on his list. Andy nixed it at first, claiming their car would break down. Noting that she could steal her dad’s car, April gave him the pep talk: “Look, this is a stupid idea but right at this exact second we have enough momentum to do something stupid before we realize how stupid it is.” And so they sweetly drove off together to wherever. When they arrived the next morning at the Grand Canyon (!), we were treated to the kind of scene that Parks excels at: an unexpectedly touching moment that’s suddenly goosed by one perfect joke. Andy hugged April and thanked her (“I would have never done this without you”), and as they marveled at the gorgeous scenery, he asked: “Where’s all the faces?… The presidents?”
In the episode’s final scene, Herb was back in Leslie’s office, explaining that his calculations were in error. “Well, math is hard,” sympathized Leslie. After a careful re-evaluation of his sacred texts, he realized that May 19 was the new day to die. Alas, Leslie checked the calendar before reporting back grim news: The Spring Spectacular Free Ice Cream Giveaway was using the park. May 20, he asked? Yep, that was free. Let’s just hope that Andy and April are not off searching for the witchiest witch doctor in South America, checking off items on April’s list, because those two kids kicking it with the Reasonabilists would be absurd. In all the right ways.
(If you want to see more of their road trip, check out these webisodes — especially the one where April tricks Andy into thinking that a random desert spot is the Four Corners because she’s too lazy to drive six hours out of the way.)
TEN ADDITIONAL LINES OF MERIT
• “They have an all-night vigil in the park. It’s super-annoying. Turns out when you think the world’s ending, you don’t aim so carefully in the porta-potties.” –Leslie
• “These people live on Planet Nutbrain. I live on Planet Nutbran. Bran and nuts are very helpful for your colon.” –Chris
• “Ben and I don’t hang out that much these days. Big deal. Lots of people don’t hang out. Jerry and April. Obama and Madonna, probably? We’re in good company.” –Leslie
• “My company is no better than a company where you ask a fake butler to Google things for you.” –Tom
• “You had me at ‘every dime we had left.'” –Jean-Ralphio, to Tom
• “We also hired 10 huge, scary bouncers with earpieces. [Fist-bumping of them] What up, Keith? [to camera] He actually once tossed me out of a club three years ago. Water under the bridge.” –Tom
• “When Zorp shows up, your faces will be melted off and used as fuel.” –Herb, overhearing Leslie tell Shauna that her face will be red if Zorp shows up and she’s not here
• “Looks like this Siberian husky’s going to be rushin…[puts on glasses]… off to jail.” –Burt Macklin (Andy), after neutralizing Mikhail (Jerry)
• “Normally no. But given there’s only 20 minutes until the end of human existence…also no.” –Ron to Leslie, after she asked to speak with him about a personal matter
• “Yeah, I’m trying to find a way to be annoyed by it but I’m coming up empty.” –April, admiring the Grand Canyon
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