Premieres: Thursday, Sept. 26, at 8 p.m. on NBC Stars: Amy Poehler, Adam Scott, Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari What to expect: Leslie (Poehler) heads to…

Taking a page out of the Tiger Woods Guide to the Holidays, Leslie Knope found herself at the center of a sex scandal last night on Parks and Recreation.

The episode began at a Christmas party for local government employees, where Leslie and the rest of the department were providing the entertainment for the evening. Along with a rousing closing number, Leslie did a sketch where she spoofed local councilman Bill Dexhart, specifically harping on his long history of affairs.

The next day, Dexhart requested Leslie’s presence at a meeting. She was convinced the meeting was about the sketch’s inappropriate jabs at his personal life, but the councilman says he merely wants to know who gave Leslie the information about his latest (ehem…) transgressions, which include a lovechild with the babysitter and sex with five women (four nurses and the wife of a liver transplant patient, for those keeping tabs). Stunned that her playful bit had more truth than she bargained for, Leslie made a quick exit after telling him that she’d never heard any of that before just then. Oops.

Back at the office, Leslie learned that a local tabloid had printed photos of her and Dexhart’s meet-up, claiming she is his new conquest. Ron gave Leslie the day off in light of the scandal and splis her duties among the rest of the staff. But they learned quickly that she does a lot of things to keep operations running, from giving menial presentations to keeping the Sanitation Department happy with an occasional case of beer.

Meanwhile, Leslie meet up with her beau Dave, who informed her that his Army Reserve unit has been called into active duty. He was leaving in four days for the rough terrain of…San Diego. He invited her to come with him, and Leslie considered it, especially in light of the scandal. ”This whole Dexhart thing is not making me feel very attached to Pawnee right now,” she told him. The moment was one of a few somewhat serious scenes in this week’s episode.

In a move most of us saw coming since ”Hunting Trip,” April made her first major pursuit for Andy’s attention and asked him for advice on what she should get her gay boyfriend for Christmas. Andy – dense as ever – suggested Brokeback Mountain on DVD, oblivious that April actually wanted ideas on what she should get him. Later on, he suggested (and consequently received) a Reggie Wayne jersey. (Wayne plays with the Indianapolis Colts. The fantasy football league of which I am an honorary member of would be ashamed that I had to Google that.)

Still in the midst of a scandal and with a big decision before her, Leslie turned to Ann for advice. They decided to meet with the councilman and ask him to clear the air. He refused, saying his and Leslie’s scandal is much less damaging to his reputation than the real one.

When the local news aired photos of the girls’ meeting with Dexhart, claiming Ann and Leslie are lesbian partners, Leslie decided to go on the program and clear the air once and for all. But her plan was foiled when the program also invited Dexhart to appear. He claimed their relationship is true and that his proof lies in a very personal detail: Leslie has a mole on one of her butt cheeks. Leslie refuted the claim by mooning the host. ”There is no mole. There is no mole on Ms. Knope! No Mole-gate!” the host says.

Feeling justified and victorious, Leslie told Dave that she can’t go to San Diego with him. He let her keep the plane ticket he’d given her and says that he’d like for her to visit. I hope we see Dave again.

The episode concluded with a Christmas tree lighting and with Leslie back in the office, where a frustrated Ron handed her a large padfolio and said: ”There’s a bunch of messages waiting for you about a bunch of things I don’t understand.”

In the past, this show wasn’t on my list of must sees. But I’m a sucker for TV with heart, and that’s exactly what Parks has been giving me this season. Fitting really, considering the series has captured mine.

Quick hits. I TOTALLY loved:

– Ron’s lackadaisical dance moves during the Christmas party dance number.

– Jerry’s reaction after Leslie suggests that everyone use the bathroom before his or her stint as Santa Claus at the Winter Wonderland. ”It was only farts,” he said of the previous years’ misfortunes.

– The idea of a tree lighting being broadcast on satellite radio

– April’s crush on Andy

– Leslie’s dreams of being a government official involved in a sex scandal

Best quotes:

”He got off easy — and often.” Tom, about Councilmen Dexhart’s scandal-filled career

”Women love diamonds, even the super left-wing chicks who saw Blood Diamond and cried. When they get one, they’re like ‘Yea! Give me more blood diamonds. Make them extra bloody.”’ – Tom, giving Mark advice on what to get Ann for Christmas

”I have to go. I’m expected at two different maternity wards.” – Councilman Dexhart

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the fall finale of Parks? Are you excited for it’s return in 2010?

Episode Recaps

Premieres: Thursday, Sept. 26, at 8 p.m. on NBC Stars: Amy Poehler, Adam Scott, Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari What to expect: Leslie (Poehler) heads to…
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