By Erin Strecker
Updated January 10, 2014 at 05:01 AM EST
Parks And Rec 610
Credit: Colleen Hayes/NBC

An unexpectedly emotional 30 minutes of Parks and Recreation found the show grappling with what the next step would be for all of its major characters. For some, like parents-to-be Ann and Chris, the answer was sweet and obvious: They’re having a baby boy! For others, like Tom, the show set the groundwork for him to move in a different, perfectly right direction in his new, self-created position as business liaison for the Parks department. And for others, like Ben and Leslie, the next step isn’t quite so clear yet — but that’s okay, too. Jennifer Barkley even said so!

It was the 100th episode of the show Thursday, and it was a welcome and long-awaited return for our favorite public servants. Parks picked up with Leslie’s last day as City Councilor, and she was coping well with having to give up her life-long dream job. Just kidding! She was, of course, a wreck, but managed to put on a brave face while showing Ingrid de Forest (Kristen Bell) around. The two even managed to do a split-second duet before Leslie realized she really doesn’t need to feel worse about herself today. (Cross-promotion missed opportunity: Bell could have sung a little Frozen!)

Ben, being the World’s Most Perfect Husband, anticipated Leslie might not be feeling so hot, so he spent the majority of the episode trying to come up with a perfect gift for her — but a singing telegram from the Requiem for a Dream soundtrack wasn’t going to cut it. Besides, after watching a press conference by Councilman Dexhart (“I also engaged in text mexting, which is when you send pictures of your junk from the restroom of a Chili’s To Go”), Leslie has a great idea: She’ll just run for Dexhart’s seat. No matter that he keeps winning and she doesn’t even live in his district. “Anything is worth me getting back on city council,” she explained to a clearly-not-enthused Ben. This is the point where I really wanted to give Leslie a hug. I also wanted to give Ben a hug here, but that’s par for the course.

Ben wasn’t the only one who knew this run was a bad idea. I was crossing my fingers from my couch that the show wasn’t going to go down this running-for-the-same-office-again road, which sounded, from a storyline perspective, like to complete re-do of season 4’s outstanding election plotline. Happily, when Leslie polls the rest of the office to see what they think, none of them think it’s a good idea, either. (But Andy hasn’t pooped in three days, so he doesn’t know what he’s saying.) Even more damning: Jerry Gerry Larry: “You’re running for office again? How can I help?” UGH.

A bit later, Ben came to find Leslie in her office and told her while he’s concerned, he’ll of course support her with whatever she wants to do. In the meantime, his present for her was buying an hour of Jennifer Barkley’s time to talk the election over with her. That’s right, Kathryn Hahn is back, y’all! She’s simultaneously hilarious and super-inspiring. “Pawnee has done you a favor; you’ve outgrown them,” she explained. She told Leslie she had so many options on her horizon, and assured her she’s not lying because, “I don’t like you enough to lie.”

With that, Barkley’s gone again, probably to go have great sex (thanks to her!) with her old high school teacher. Leslie, however, has more important things to do. At her press conference, she announced, “I will be heading to lunch with my husband at JJ’s diner. Then we’ll go home and make out on our couch.” Put another way, “A recently unemployed woman said nothing of importance.” For now, waffles and kissing are Ben and Leslie’s big plans. Well, that, and a super romantic trip to Paris for our favorite nerdy lovebirds. Excuse me, I need a few Talking Tissues of my own.

Ya Heard?:

-Ann and Chris are having a baby boy! The duo have only a few more episodes left as full-time cast members on the show, so it’s nice to see their storyline wrapping up so cutely. “It will literally be the greatest child who ever lives.”

-Tom gets a check for $32,000 for Rent-A-Swag, and — on the advice of a horrible man — tries to get people to pitch him great ideas to invest in as opposed to coming up with the ideas himself. When that doesn’t work, he pitches himself as a Business Liaison for Pawnee to Ron. As much as I liked Talking Tissues (“Blow that nose, playa!”) this seems like a much better idea.

-“I call men beautiful as well. Guess I’m open-minded as hellll.” –Jean Ralphio sings his way into our hearts, once again.

-Ron gave Leslie a “kind nod”

-“Wine is crying juice.” –Donna

-Enrique Shockwave, Harvey Dynamite, Lee Harvey Teabag… and Anthony Weiner. All acceptable band names.

-Aphonebicus (commonly referred to as a calculator).

Last night’s episode definitely set up big steps forward for all the characters. It’ll be interesting to see if this is a last hurrah before they find their final happily-ever-afters and the show ends this season, or if they all get one more go-round to spar and succeed. We know Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe are leaving (but will likely come back for guest spots), and I can’t decide what I’d like to see from April and Andy. Adopting more pets? Joining the baby brigade? Moving to London permanently? Tom’s Business Liaison role is a promising, totally-in-character move that will allow him to interact with all of our Pawnee guest-star faves, and with Ben as the new City Manager, I can’t wait to see what other shakeups are in store for the Parks department. And, of course, I’m on the edge of my seat debating what’s next for TV’s favorite leading lady — perhaps gearing up for a 2016 big-time run of some kind? (Hey, a girl can dream.)

What did you think of Parks and Rec’s return? Do you think Andy will ever get over his jet lag? Would you buy Talking Tissues? Do you want Leslie to get pregnant this season, or do you prefer if that’s held off until the very end (or never)? Discuss in the comments below; I’m going to go pretend-book a trip to Paris.

Note to ‘Parks and Rec’ fans: If you haven’t seen the nearly 20-minute look back video the show put out this week, you must watch it. Spoiler tease: Dancing Perd Hapley!

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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