After last week’s huge announcement, it seemed strange that Parks and Recreation didn’t dive straight into its season finale. What could follow up the news of Leslie’s pregnancy besides a huge showcase of famous bands? It only takes a few minutes of “One in 8,000” to learn what’s even bigger than one child on the way, not to mention what that otherwise somewhat baffling title means (and doesn’t that number seem startlingly high? Yikes). There was also something wonderful about taking Ben and Leslie’s happiness at the news of their pregnancy and immediately complicating things, though if anyone can handle triplets, it would have to be Leslie Knope.
Oddly, Leslie and Ben’s panic about their forthcoming trio was only a small part of the episode, which otherwise concerned itself with how Parks’ characters have been maturing. April and Andy’s relationship is still endlessly interesting, and any friction between them runs an interesting line between anger and play. April is frustrated with her husband for keeping a secret from her, but this is also ultimately a game for them, and she acknowledges at the end of the episode that she preferred it that Andy somehow kept his word. Getting some sort of actual management behind his singing work, plus keeping that secret for an entire episode, shows Andy becoming more adult. Not much more, granted, but for him any growth is a big step. He’s still a big kid, but he has started prioritizing things and recognizing that his actions can have painful consequences for those he loves.
Elsewhere, Ron asks Donna for help volunteering at his children’s school, which is something we may have thought he’d never do. In return, she asks him to run interference on her Tammy, which is to say the man who makes her into someone she doesn’t want to be. That man is played by Keegan Michael-Key, and he turns out to be a ridiculously fantastic elementary school teacher who seems to be up for sainthood. While Ron does his job, he can’t help but notice this, and he’s smart enough to put together that Donna doesn’t like being with him because he’s stable. Donna’s life is about exotic vacations and fast men and glamorous clothing. Keegan’s character may be perfect, but is it necessarily a good fit for her?
We’ve only really heard about Donna’s adventures in the background. It’s hard to say what exactly she’s doing in her life, as until this season she was only a supporting character, but we still feel like we know her. I’ve complained in the past, in fact, about her cartoonishness, the way she seemed to be set in stone while the rest of the cast has changed drastically over the last six years. Here, though, she actually takes Ron’s advice, while at the same time mentioning the way pre-family Ron would never have asked her out there to volunteer and never would’ve had the patience to deal with children or even Donna’s problems. This is also a tacit acknowledgment that perhaps it is time she tried a little change herself, that this could be positive, and it isn’t long before she approaches her ex-boyfriend. While there’s certain to be a lot of friction in this relationship, this choice has added some depth to Donna and makes me look forward to her continued prominence next season.
During all of this, the main story is about Ben and Leslie’s stress, and of course because of who we’re dealing with here, the main thing they’re stressing out about is not being stressed. In terms of storyline, this part of the episode was overshadowed by everything else, as it was mostly just the pair of them freaking out, but it might have been the funniest material, even beating out the look April gives after she rubs Larry’s back. Amy Poehler and Adam Scott do a typically extraordinary job with these heightened emotions, and the auction’s already wonderful trainwreck was made sublime by Craig’s outbursts. The story ended sweetly, and predictably, but it was a hilarious few minutes of panic before they arrived there.
With another excellent episode, Parks has successfully turned the end of its sixth season into something interesting after the somewhat-dull turn it took following Ann and Chris’ departure. Next week’s double finale has been long-awaited, given the myriad of already announced guest stars, but what I really look forward to is the way it (hopefully) ends the Pawnee/Eagleton merger story. In any case, the end of the season promises to be big, even if there’s no way it can top last week’s news.