A death in Pawnee puts things in perspective.
Credit: Greg Gayne/NBC
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…

It’s the penultimate episode of Parks and Recreation, and much like those butchers that run Game of Thrones, it’s the time for Mike Schur and company to scythe through the ranks of our beloved Pawneeans. I mean, sort of. They don’t actually bump off any of our beloved Pawneeans, so much as two members of Pawnee we’ve never seen before. But, goddamit, we will miss them (well, Ron and Ethel Beavers will)!

Stiff number one: Pawnee’s longtime mayor, Walter Gunderson. And I, for one, am glad we never got to see him, because this means we get a delightful Bill Murray, who gifts us with a video “goodbye forever” and his corpse lying in state in the city council chambers. This also gives us the indomitable Ethel Beavers publicly revealing the Gundersons’ open marriage and the 46 years Walter spent exploring her many nooks and crannies. “Grow up you prudes! We’re all adults,” she snaps before declaring her love.

The death of Mayor Gunderson leaves a bit of a vacuum of power in Pawnee. Someone 30-plus needs to be the symbolic face of the town, and it’s on Ben to find them. He enlists April and Garry to help him. This plotline initially seems like a way to maneuver Ben Wyatt into exorcizing his mayoral demons, and indeed, April keeps suggesting him. Luckily, this is not where we go. Ben does end up embracing and accepting his Icetown folly—it brought him to Leslie and Pawnee, after all. But he’s moving on. Hell, he’s running a congressional campaign. What’s mayor next to House rep?

Before Ben reaches this conclusion, we get a delightful parade of candidates to fill Gunderson’s shoes. Bobby Newport (Paul Rudd) drops in but has to decline because he’s taking a space vacation. Joan Callamezzo can’t—she’s only 27 years old. Doctor Saperstein (Henry Winkler) is just too busy with his practice, his other business, and his two terrible children. Mona Lisa shows up to prove exactly how much of a handful she is. Howard Tuttleman, better known as The Douche (Nick Kroll), brings an equal ratio of competency and crudeness to the interview, though maybe a little more crudity (when do we get that animated fart emoji, Apple?).

Ethel Beavers’ speech kicks off the second major plot thread. Leslie’s concerned about the amount of endings that are coming for her merry band of men and women. Donna and Joe are moving to Seattle, Leslie and Ben and April and Andy are all going to D.C. Garry’s retiring again, not that it matters. She’s anxious for a sign of life, of growth. Tom returns to provide her with this necessary chance to help something new take root. He’s back from a trip to New York with Lucy, and things are getting serious. In true Leslie fashion she winds this up into Tom proposing ASAP. Admittedly, it doesn’t take much to wind Tom up, and before you know it he’s on the same page, planning a grand multi-platform media experience by way of Michael Bay.

Their frantic proposal-on-steroids plan includes hundreds of white doves, a giant banner, a black-and-white action scene wherein Tom’s stunt-double takes down a gang of toughs led by Jean Ralphio, and meeting Lucy at the airport in a tux. As he sees his beloved getting off the plane, though, Tom scraps the elaborate show for a simpler plan: pancakes at the Snakehole Lounge. In a rare moment of awareness, Tom realizes that Lucy doesn’t need the elaborate pyrotechnics—she just needs him to be heartfelt and thoughtful. And so their insanely (like, seriously, didn’t she move down from Chicago like a week ago?) fast-paced courtship reaches its happy conclusion.

Stiff number two: Ron’s longtime barber Salvatore has also died, just days before his monthly appointment with Swanson. Ron finds this out from his deli guy at the Gunderson funeral, and the epitome of stoic manhood is staggered by the news. Ron got his big character-moment episode when he and Leslie reconciled, and “Two Funerals” highlights the point made there about Ron’s aversion to change. While being as unchanging and steadfast as a mighty oak has its good qualities, it also means that Ron has a hard time adjusting to the swiftly shifting lives of his friends.

Some post-funeral whiskies lead to a run-in with Ron’s nemesis/doppelganger, Ron Dunn. He suggests Ron pursue some eastern wisdom in order to assuage his grief. This gives Donna a very literal idea and leads to Ron opening up, begrudgingly, to a small change: a new barber. Typhoon, last seen at Donna’s wedding, steps in to take care of the Swanson coiffure. At first, he appears to be everything Salvatore wasn’t: talkative, expensive, a hair artist. But it turns out they both detest Europe and bicycles. It’s all going to be alright.

And who will be our mayor of Pawnee? Who does get the big, showy presentation? It’s good old Garry Gergich. Ben names him the interim mayor—and Garry was excited just to notarize the new mayor! Leslie channels her Leslie-talents (and harangues her banner-man) into creating a full-on inauguration spectacle, complete with Centurions, gospel choir singing K-Ci and JoJo, and a hot air balloon. Guess Garry’s not retiring after all.

Notes and Jokes

  • Donna Meagle’s end of life planning: “Before I die I’m freezing my head like Ted Williams. Wait a thousand years, thaw it out, slap it on a robot, keep on ballin’.” Treat Yo Self 3017 to some fine motor oil, Terminator Donna!
  • Let’s get a spin-off show about the long-suffering small businessmen of Pawnee. Ted the jeweler and Ian the owner of Sing-tologist can commiserate.
  • Alright, The Douche, “my oral” office is pretty good.
  • “Why are you like this?” “Piiiillllssss, baby!” God bless Jean Ralphio.
  • “This is from the Isle of Islay in Scotland. This is as Eastern as my wisdom gets.”
  • Sam Elliott looks really… off without his trademark mustache. It is unsettling.

Life in 2017: Seriously, Shia LaBoeuf is taking over the wedding industrial complex. He’s also lord of the wedding rings.

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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