Parks and Recreation: New Beginnings (6×11)

Summary: Leslie returns to the Parks and Rec department full-time and struggles to adapt with how things are done now. Ben starts his job as City Manager, which leads to Andy, April, and Donna pranking him. Chris and Ann can’t make up their minds on whether they should get married or not.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Was I the only one that didn’t realize that Leslie had actually left her job at the Parks department until this episode? Because I specifically remember Michael Schur saying they decided Leslie was going to win the city council seat when they realized she didn’t have to leave her job at the Parks department.

Either way, Leslie has been out of the world of Parks for a hot minute before this episode and they seem to be functioning just fine without her. Which, of course, bothers Leslie. To the point she keeps trying to sabotage Tom’s presentation on bringing a lemonade stand to one of the parks by trying to talk Stu’s Stews out of retirement just in case Tom blows it.

Donna and April bonding though made my life. OVARIES BEFORE BROVARIES. []
Donna and April bonding though made my life. OVARIES BEFORE BROVARIES. []
Okay, maybe “sabotage” isn’t the right word. It’s more like a lack of faith in Tom’s abilities and character growth since she was elected on city council. He has indeed come a long way since Entertainment 720. And even if he isn’t as thorough as Leslie’s 80 step plan for a presentation, he’s probably learned a thing or two from Leslie over the years he’s worked for the Pawnee Parks and Recreation department. Which he clearly has when he shows hard data mixed with his usual flash. Tom is actually a savvy businessman now, not just a wannabe.

Leslie, stop worrying. The Parks department has this. Even Ron sees this, much to his annoyance of being the head of an efficient government office.

Meanwhile, Ben starts his job as City Manager, which clearly has him wound up tighter than usual. To the point where he’s establishing rules against Facebook, cell phone use, and bathroom breaks longer than five minutes. Donna, Andy, and April decide to prank Ben to loosen him up.

Of course, their idea of a prank is exploiting Ben’s fear of the police and having him get “arrested” for smuggling unpasteurized cheese into the country.

If you grew up with a father in law enforcement like I did, this is a legitimate fear. []
If you grew up with a father in law enforcement like I did, this is a legitimate fear. []
That’s… kind of shitty, guys. I’m all for Ben loosening up, but there’s something really awful about bringing up someone’s worse fear just to tell him to stop being a hardass. Let’s put it this way: it’s like what would happen if Sam and Therese decided that I’ve been working too hard and decide to play a prank on me that involves telling me I need to finish everything I have in my queue tonight. I’m sure their intention would be not sweat the small stuff, but stuff like that usually triggers me into a panic attack at worst and staying up all night to exhaust myself at best.

Maybe that’s a bad example, but it still is massively not cool.

Ben agrees to that, but it ends with him coming down harder on the three of them. Andy tells him that he should just prank back instead of doing this. Since Ben hasn’t pranked anyone ever, Andy agrees to help him. Of course, even with Andy’s help, Ben gets too nervous and blows the elaborate prank by explaining what he was going to do and getting fake blood all over everyone. April being April rather enjoys getting fake blood on her. She takes a selfie with Ben and thanks him for the awesome prank.

The four of them make up at the bar later and Ben even shares a beer with the cops. So maybe we can get over that shitty prank earlier.

There’s a third plot with Chris and Ann not being able to make up their mind if they’ll actually get married or not at a jewelry store. It’s kind of stupid, and Friends did the plot line better when Phoebe couldn’t make up her mind over whether the money Mike and her saved for their wedding should go to charity or not. And that one had Paul Rudd instead of Rob Lowe. The best part of that plot was the exasperated jewelry store owner, but the episode didn’t really need it. I guess it’s the writing crew trying to squeeze in all the Ann and Chris they can before they leave.

This episode was okay. Not spectacular or mind-blowing. Just… okay. I was happy to see Leslie come around to seeing Tom’s maturity, but it was still just meh on the whole episode. It seems like the series is setting up for Leslie to move on from Pawnee, which is totally fine, but it worries me when Bob Greenblatt is saying that Parks will have a seventh season. The show can survive without Andy Dwyer and will probably be fine without Chris Traeger or Ann Perkins. I just don’t think it can survive without Leslie.

Of course, we don’t even know if Leslie is going to leave yet. This is probably way too much speculation for what was generally a mediocre episode.

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