Episode Title Ms. Knope Goes to Washington
Two-Sentence Summary Leslie experiences “small fish-big pond” syndrome when she and Andy visit Ben and April in Washington, but a pep talk from a surprising source reminds her that, despite the condescension she was treated with during her visit, she’s “Kick-Ass Leslie,” and she’s an important person who works tirelessly for the town she loves. Back in Pawnee, the annual Parks Department barbeque goes awry when Ron takes the reins, and Tom and Ann try to hide the fact that their relationship ended in order to win a bet with Donna.
Favorite Line “Could we just real quick stop at the nearest place that has free pants?” (Andy)
My Thoughts Though this wasn’t my favorite episode of Parks and Rec, it did what needed to be done in order to set up major story lines and conflicts for the beginning of this season: the challenges Leslie is going to face in her new role as city councilwoman and in her long-distance relationship with Ben (especially with Ben in such a high-profile line of work); the new responsibilities Ron is going to have to deal with now that Leslie has taken on her new role; and the adjustment period everyone is going to go through after the big events of last season’s finale.
It broke my heart to see how Leslie was treated in Washington, and so much of that came from Amy Poehler’s typically brilliant performance. This is an actress who can put tears in my eyes from both emotion and laughter within the same scene—and maybe even within the same line of dialogue. In the moment where the woman in the Secretary of the Interior’s office names the list of different states that have cities named Pawnee you could almost see Leslie lose a little of that light that makes her such a beautiful, admirable character. Leslie and Pawnee are so intricately linked on this show, and to see the city be treated as nothing special only added to the pain of seeing Leslie treated as nothing special. But Leslie’s feelings of inferiority also brought about two of my favorite comedic moments in the episode: petite Leslie unleashing her jealousy about all of the tall women Ben is surrounded by (mainly because I have felt that same height envy often) and Leslie’s breakdown in a closet being interrupted by a perfect cameo from John McCain.
Though I loved Leslie’s arc in this episode, I wish we had seen more of her and Ben in Washington to balance out the struggles we saw her facing basically alone. Their first and last scenes together were vintage “Leslie/Ben adorable,” but I felt like something was missing from their interactions—which might have just been because there weren’t enough of them. However, I loved the relationship between Leslie and Andy that we got to see in this episode. From their initial tour of Washington to their “amalgam-filled” discussion near the end, their scenes together were both funny and incredibly sweet, which is everything I love about this show. And I don’t know about anyone else, but I felt like cheering when Leslie gave her press conference back in Pawnee, and we could see that “Kick-Ass Leslie” had returned (as we all knew it would).
The B-plot with Ron and the employee barbeque was not up to this show’s usual standards, in my opinion. It seemed like it was just thrown together to give the rest of the cast something to do. Ron’s characterization especially bothered me. He seemed like almost a parody of himself. It was going for the “silly comedy” to balance out the relative heaviness of Leslie’s Washington struggles, but I’m not sure I genuinely laughed at it once (except for maybe the “Parks and Dolls” sing-along moment). I’m just hoping that Leslie being back in Pawnee will make subsequent episodes feel less like two completely different shows.
Though certain parts of this episode did not meet my (possibly too-high) expectations, I ultimately walked away from this premiere feeling incredibly happy to have my favorite comedy back on my TV. Even a less-than-perfect episode of Parks and Rec is better than most other comedies out there. And no matter what else happens in each episode, I know that I’m watching a show about a resilient, kind, nerdy, and hilarious woman who I relate to more than I probably should admit. It was tough watching Leslie struggle throughout the episode, but by the end I was left excited for this part of her journey as a character, and that’s all I can ask for in a season premiere.