Hooray, Parks and Recreation is back! And so am I, here to break down the weekly adventures of the best sitcom on TV. Don’t trust me? Ask the Emmy voters. What’s that? Modern Family bought out the comedy awards? What a scandal! Speaking of scandals, we last left Leslie Knope and her fellow Indianans in quite the pickle.
It’s uncommon for a sitcom to have a few serial cliffhangers at the end of a season, much less four. So to recap: Leslie and Ben are alive with love, Lil’ Sebastian is dead, Ron will be dead now that Tammy One has returned, Tom’s dream of owning an entertainment congolmerate is alive thanks to Jean Ralphio, and Leslie is dead if any scandals come out. Why? Because a political recruitment team tries to convince her to run for City Council, feeding Ms. Knope’s childhood ambitions.
So that’s where things left off in May. Where do they begin four months later? Well, actually, the show picks up minutes after Leslie is talking with the political recruiters. Nervous about entering the ring, she approaches Ron for advice, but not before he’s scared sh!tless by Tammy One, ransacks his emergency rations, and takes all 288 vacation days off in a dash of terrified Swanson glory.
Cut to the present (or at least three weeks later) and Leslie is weighing her options personally and professionally, April has taken over Ron’s office, and Rob Lowe fired his hair stylist. (Seriously, who said that was a good idea?) Oh and Tom is hanging around the office throwing around 720 swag. The episode attempts to juggle addressing all the cliffhangers of the finale while entertaining with a ripped-from-the-headlines Anthony Weiner controversy. Someone in government is sending out sexts to all the women in the office.
I wasn’t exactly a fan of this plot line, even the eventual revelation that Jerry does indeed have one thing going for him, but it offered a couple of laughs. The Perd Hapley interview Leslie did probably had the best lines of the night. (“It had the cadence of a joke…”it” was the thing Leslie Knope just said about this situation.”) Better for her, it provided the first great soundbite for the fledgling Knope 2012 campaign.
There’s just one problem: Leslie has to break up with Ben. Say it ain’t so! In order to pursue her lifelong goal, established in season one, Leslie must break up with her boss– in turn causing all of the show’s female fans to reach for the Kleenex. After much rangling with what to do and consultations with Ann, the decision is made. Leslie will…run away from her problems with someone else in the same situation!
Yes, Leslie finds Ron in all his bearded wonder, hidden in a secret cabin. It’s a majestic sight, and after a bit of shooting fish in a barrel, both head back to Pawnee. I’m shortchanging the moment here, but scenes between Leslie and Ron are always top notch, as the two characters understand each other and carry the show’s non-romantic heart.
Back in civilization, Leslie takes Ben on a lovely last date to…bail again. So, yes, the whole thing was drawn out a little bit, and sapped the episode of some emotion and tension, but at least the end was sweet. Ben, having already figured out when Leslie acted out campaign speeches in her sleep, gives her a campaign button and takes the break up into his own hands. She uses the next day to announce her intentions to run for city council with a beaming smile.
It’s a moment of triumph, and a promising beginning to season four. I’m hoping that the season travels to more neighboring cities, fleshing out the Pawnee worldview even further, while providing some timely political humor. “I’m Leslie Knope” was far from the funniest episode Parks has done, but we will see where things go. After all, last season premiere wasn’t gut-busting hilarity, but then we got “Flu Season”, the episode that almost won Parks an Emmy or two. The stage is set for a season-long campaign, and Andy is moving up the job ladder. It seems the one thing that’s not scandalous is that Parks and Recreation is off to an interesting fourth season.