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'Parks and Recreation' Season 3, Episodes 15 and 16 (Season Finale) Recap

by Joel Keller, posted May 20th 2011 3:00AM
'Parks and Recreaton' - 'Li'l Sebastian'['Parks and Recreation' - 'The Bubble'/'Li'l Sebastian']

As much as these two episodes are linked together as a "season finale" (there are even "Part One/Part Two" titles before each episode), the only thing that really links the two is the story of Leslie and Ben and the lengths they're going to in order to keep their relationship a secret.

Let's just say that they're not doing a very good job of it. Leslie, usually someone who's good coming up with ideas, can only think of ones where someone leaves the country. And Ben is so smitten with Leslie that he can't help but smooch and tickle her in very public places. Leslie loves being in "the bubble" of a new relationship, but she knows that under these conditions, it's not going to last long.

But before we get to the many stories we saw in these episodes, let's talk about the last seven minutes of the finale. It was a humdinger, wasn't it?

When I talked to Mike Schur about the finale, he told me that he and the writers purposely decided to mix things up at the end of the episode. "You're trying to do an episode that's so compelling that you're going to have people waiting all summer to find out how you solved the problems you created. And so there's no sense in pulling your punches." (Shameless plug: look for the entire interview with Mike later today). It feels rushed, but when you think about it, the changes are a natural outcropping of the characters and what we've seen of them this year:

-- A creepy search committee tells Leslie that she'd be a great candidate for office in Pawnee, maybe even a mayoral candidate. She assures them there are no skeletons in her closet, even though she knows that the thing with Ben could sink her ambitions before they even have a chance to grow.



-- Andy asks April the most important question he's ever asked: "April ... will you be my manager?" She says yes. The Indiana music community just had a collective chill go down its spine.

-- Chris and Ann are warming to each other again, and after Chris had his "health scare" (i.e. some shoulder tendinitis) he's reconsidering Ann in the romance department.

-- Tom leaves Parks and Rec to start a multimedia company with the ever-grating Jean-Ralphio. They have a lavish office and a celebrity spokesman -- Detlef Schrempf! -- but no customers.

-- Just as Ron -- whose facial hair got burned off in a mishap during Li'l Sebastian's memorial service -- manages to resist the evil charms of Tammy, his ex, Donna bounds in to tell him that his first ex-wife, also named Tammy, is in his office. She must be pretty bad, because Tammy II ran away screaming, "Oh, sh*t!"

All of this stuff sets up an interesting fourth season. Schur promises that none of these stories will be solved off-screen in a "this happened over the summer, but it's been fixed" kind of way, which means that there will be real and long-lasting consequences to all of these changes.

What gives me pause, though, is how Leslie's political ambitions play into her relationship with Ben. As always, it's tricky to navigate the relationship waters, and Chris' "no intra-office dating" edict already felt like a bit of an artificial barrier for the two of them to jump over. It'll be interesting to see if this breaks the two of them up or makes them stronger.

What I'm looking forward to, of course, is seeing who they pick to play Tammy I. It'll be tough to match the chemistry of Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally, mainly because they're married to each other in real life. But anyone that makes even Tammy II run away screaming must be pretty formidable. Who the heck can play someone that powerful?

Now, on to what I thought was fun in the two episodes:

'Parks and Recreaton' - 'The Bubble''The Bubble' gave us the welcome return of Pamela Reed as Leslie's ball-busting mother, Marlene. What is so great about Marlene is that she's the opposite in personality to the sunny Leslie, and they play off each other well. In addition, Marlene has her needs and displays them openly -- like her love of Daniel Craig and McSteamy.

Sometimes it's hard to see a mother-daughter pair that's only about 20 years apart in age, but it makes for a much more interesting dynamic; Marlene is attractive, powerful, and gets what she wants. And what she wants is the newly-bad-ass Ben, who got that way thanks to Leslie's help. Leslie tried her best to keep Ben's exposure to her mother at a minimum -- she said Marlene was a Filipino -- but Ann was right; it was just impossible. So now one more person knows about them.

Meanwhile, we see The Power of the Mustache come into play when Ron tells Chris why he should roll back his changes to the Parks department. Jerry can't be in the spotlight, but Tom loves it when it's shining on him. April hates everyone, and Donna can't use the most ridiculous-looking keyboard ever made. Again, as much as Ron makes it look like he's not paying any attention, it turns out that he really is. He knows his people well, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. He's even willing to compromise -- something he never does -- in order to get things back the way they were. Too bad Ron is fictional; he seems like the best boss ever created on television.

More fun stuff from 'The Bubble:'

-- Tom: "No, I hate the 4th floor! The last time I was up there I saw someone buying crystal meth out of a vending machine!" The 4th floor gags have been very funny, because there is always one floor in an office building where hope goes to die. The writers just made this floor look even worse.

-- April's memo to Jerry? "You are going to fail."

'Parks and Recreation' - 'The Bubble'-- That desk that Chris got for Ron is so absurd. "What the fu*k is that?!" would be my reaction, too, though I like April's reaction to Chris better: "You look like a freak." "Swivel!"

-- Everything's relative. Tom hates working on the 4th floor because the old biddies there aren't impressed with him. Andy loves it because he gets an office, access to a 17-year-old laptop, and the biddies think he and April are cute. April just loves watching all the psychotics running around (including Dana Gould in a very funny cameo role).

-- Ann's first day at city hall involves a Waffle Explosion breakfast and a paperwork-filling-out party. And, despite what April says, the balloons are not filled with poison gas.

-- Andy: "We'd all die, because the gas fills the volume of whatever container it's in. School."

'Li'l Sebastian' felt like a season finale because it involved an event, complete with shaky-camera shots that looked somewhat like home videos. That tiny horse got a send-off for the ages, didn't he? And, despite what Ron thought of Jean-Ralphio -- "He's a clown. This is the memorial for Li'l Sebastian, not double coupon night at a strip club" -- he did a pretty respectable job with the memorial, even if it was a bit over the top.

And the machinations that Leslie and Ben used to cover up the fact that the maintenance guy caught them canoodling was a good way to set up the fact that Ron ended up burning off his facial hair. My guess is that Offerman agreed to get his face shaved because he knew it would all grow back pretty quickly. Wonder if he went into hiding while his eyebrows grew back. Anyway, here, The Power of the Mustache comes into play right before said mustache got singed. "I think if you knew one thing about me, it would be that I prefer laying wreaths to lighting torches." (By the way... I had an inkling something might happen, because through a lot of the episode, Offerman's 'stache looked odd, like it was pasted on.)

'Parks and Recreation' - 'Li'l Sebastian'More fun stuff from 'Li'l Sebastian:'

-- "Why don't you just Photoshop that out?" Li'l Sebastian wasn't li'l everywhere, know what I'm saying?

-- Andy: "What's better than a candle in the wind? 5,000 candles in the wind!" Actually, the song was goofy and catchy at the same time. Is it worth 18 bucks? Not sure. April really knows how to intimidate someone into buying two CDs for $40, when only one is $18.

-- "Cube butt! Cube butt! Cube butt!"

-- I love how Detlef Schrempf was giving Tom and Jean-Ralphio business advice. They should be building a client base before hiring him or a DJ or setting up that dope office. Loved how J-R went up for a layup and Detlef swatted the ball away just like he did when he was a Pacer.

-- "You are ... litterally ... the meanest doctor ever." Whenever you think Chris Traeger is a cartoon, he surprises you. He wants to live to 150, so a little shoulder tendinitis is not a good thing, even if he hurt it doing 10,000 pushups.

-- Ron: "This morning, when I saw the flag at half mast, I thought, alright, another bureaucrat ate it. But then I found out it was Li'l Sebastian. Half mast is too high. Show some damned respect!" Other than getting hit by a bus when he was seven, that tiny horse's death was probably the most traumatic event of Ron's life.

'Parks and Recreation' airs Thursdays at 9:30PM ET on NBC.

Follow @joelkeller on Twitter and on Facebook.

Watch the full episode here:

'The Bubble'


'Li'l Sebastian: Producer's Cut'

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Greg

it was tom that made the lil sebastian memorial awesome, not J R, which is why he decided to quit. also tom's storyline was the other thing that connected the two episodes

May 21 2011 at 1:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Greg's comment
Greg

also, you didnt mention the awesomely hysterical role-play make-out sessions between Leslie and Ben. "Please, tell me you didn't get to Ruth Bader Ginsburg?" HILARIOUS!

May 21 2011 at 1:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Greg's comment
Joel

Yeah, that was funny.... only have so much time/room, especially when trying to summarize two episodes. That's what commenters like you help with!

May 22 2011 at 12:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
EOR

I love to see love for P&R!! I read this review after the Office one, because... I felt there'd be more positive stuff to say about this finale. I know people get on you when you say something negative about the Office (haha, internet...), but I pretty much agree with you that we just have high standards for the once-amazing show. P&R is SO good that watching other, not-at-their-best-anymore shows just pales. P&R may go that route someday, but for now it's so fun!! I think my favorite thing is how sincerely Li'l Sebastian affects Ron. That guy is so layered! =)

May 20 2011 at 12:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mark

The complaining lady slowly chasing Ron around his swivel desk had me in tears. Hilarious!!

May 20 2011 at 10:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Mark's comment
Joel

Yeah, I forgot to mention that one. She made tea out of the sprinkler water, despite a sign saying not to drink it, and... surprise! She's got an infection. The people of Pawnee aren't that bright, are they? At least not the ones that come to city hall to complain.

May 20 2011 at 10:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brandon11

Very good episodes tonight. My heart was beating in my throat when Tammy I showed up. Can't wait to see what happens next season!

May 20 2011 at 4:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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