A trip to D.C. illuminates the professional future for both April and Leslie.
Credit: Larry French/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…

We're officially past the halfway mark of this final season, chugging along to when our window on Pawnee and its inhabitants will eventually close. There's many ways to wrap up a beloved series, from ambiguous fade-outs to big redemptive acts to illustrating the unchanging cycles of urban purgatory, to whatever Matthew Weiner cooks up for Don Draper. Parks and Recreation appears to be going for the warm and fuzzy, more-or-less neat wrap up of its main characters lives. This week's first episode is April's spotlight.

April and Leslie are headed to Washington D.C. on a work trip, aiming to convince a bunch of senators to support the National Parks. Leslie is as excited about this trip to our nation's capital as she is about, well, everything—there are so many historic lampposts! They've been prepping, and even April's attempts to undermine her preparedness with out-there jokes can't sink Leslie. At this point she knows a monologue about werewolves is just a cover for April to hide how thorough and hardworking she truly is.

April, on the other hand, is quietly freaking out about having to break it to Leslie that bureaucracy is not her calling. Trying to move out a of a job that's not fulfilling you can be terrifically tough, particularly when, as April, you don't really have a plan to jump into. But even harder can be telling a boss that you need to move on. As a friend, Leslie is loyal, thoughtful, and caring to a fault. She's also stubborn and thoroughly convinced she knows what's best, not only for herself, but for literally everyone around her. See: Her five-year-plan governmental career binders for April. In the past, crossing Leslie has led to tantrums, fits, and distasteful scheming. Certainly doesn't make it easier to express ambivalence or a desire to change.

Meanwhile, back in Pawnee, Ben and Andy get their heads together to brainstorm some new jobs April could pursue. Their first stop is Very Good Building and Development, where Ron is just giddy to hear that his protégé is leaving government work. Unfortunately, the deliberate and routine work available in construction and development doesn't quite fit April's need to think creatively. He might not be able to hire her, but Ron's on board to convince someone else to take her on.

Their second stop is the Tilton and Radomski accounting firm. Gosh, those poor accountants, so eager and willing to be Ben Wyatt's doormat. Go forth, Barney! Find a nice egghead who loves and appreciates you for who you are! Stop letting Ben Wyatt build you up with his actuarial puns and then leaving you like a… oh man, guys, I can't even finish this metaphor because I know zero accounting terms. You get the point. Anyway, the accounting firm is opening a consulting arm, and the boys think that would be a perfect fit for Ms. Ludgate's talents and desires. They gather everyone together and create their own awesome binder extolling her virtues (including a cool $500 bribe, because Donna Meagle knows how to grease a palm). Even Andy's pyrotechnic attempt to sway the accountants can't screw this up.

April does work up the nerve to tell Leslie that she's not feeling—well, tell is generous. More like, April is stressed out by the vision of an inexorable National Parks career bearing down on her and blurts out her anxieties. Leslie doesn't take it well. She also does not take it well that Ben was involved ("We had a good run. He's dead to me now."). A lunch with Madeleine Albright sets Knope on a more even keel, and she's able to apologize to April for flying off the handle (growth!). And April is able, once Leslie's not looking at her, to thoughtfully and carefully explain to Leslie that her desire to explore a new job is not a rejection of Leslie's influence but a product of it. Also, she loves her. It's a very sweet moment—pigs' blood showers for everyone to wash away all those feelings. In the end, Leslie introduces April to a non-profit organization that conveniently fits her like a glove. Looks like the Ludgate-Dwyer household will also be moving to D.C.

Leslie has her own much smaller journey of career development this episode. A spot has opened up for Deputy Director of Operations of the Interior, and it's all hers if she wants it. The new position requires a move to DC, enrollment in 44 weeks of intensive courses and notetaking denoted by an incomprehensible acronym, and, the cherry on top, a confirmation hearing. Leslie's died and gone to bureaucratic heaven. Unlike last season, there's no angst for her about taking this position—it dovetails neatly with Ben's nascent House run, and Leslie chats cheerily about splitting her time between Indiana and Washington. The Knope-Wyatt household was always meant for bigger things. It's no surprise their ambitions would reach beyond the confines of Pawnee, but the peace Leslie has with leaving means the past three years have been filled with real growth.

Notes and Jokes:

  • "Creativity is for people with glasses who like to lie."
  • If last week's episode was a celebrity guest palooza, this week's a nerd-celebrity palooza. Members of our political elite who took time out of their busy schedules of legislative deadlock to appear: Barbara Boxer, Kirsten Gillibrand, Madeleine Albright, John McCain, and Cory Booker and Orrin Hatch (promoting their Polynesian folk music band Across the Isle).
  • Leslie keeps a binder-guy on retainer. Seems about right.
  • I found the whole introduction (and pointed non-introduction) of the Swanson brothers mystifying. Who are you Don Swanson, really?

Life in 2017: Breathe easy, Boxer and McCain, you hold onto your seats through the 2016 election cycle. Seems Twin Peaks 2.0 got at least two seasons.

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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