“If you believe in something, you sign your name to it.”
Remember when Leslie accidentally performed a marriage ceremony for gay penguins, and suddenly everyone had an opinion on her, and it threw her into a panic? Pawnee doesn’t like it when government officials take a stand. This town will do everything in its power to tear down anyone who makes herself visible. That’s still true, but Leslie’s not afraid anymore. She’s signed her name to this town merger, and she’s going to make it work.
So she tracks down an old couple who married across town lines and tries to turn them into media darlings, an inspirational success story for the people of the new Pawnee. It doesn’t work, because Pawneeans and Eagletonians really can’t stand each other and can apparently only marry when it’s the Cold War and death seems imminent. Leslie’s ship sinks on live TV, and she’s lost a whole day that could have been spent with Ben, enjoying some anniversary surprises.
Instead of wallowing in dashed plans, Leslie looks to the next generation. She puts together a youth committee to brainstorm the future of the merger, and they come up with the Pawnee Unity Concert (featuring Genuwine!). And when the big reveal of that big idea turns into yet another town disaster, Leslie can’t help but try to fix that too, one personalized apology at a time. It’s that attitude that caught the attention of Grant Larson, Director of the Midwest branch of the National Park Service. They’re opening a branch in Chicago, and he wants Leslie to run it.
This could be Leslie’s dream, but all of a sudden she’s not sure. One and a half years ago, Leslie dropped a grant proposal in an overflowing bin in Washington and went home to stand knee-deep in river water and do the work that nobody else was willing to do. She helps her town, even if she never gets noticed, because Leslie Knope believes that what we do matters, regardless of how it turns out.
That’s why she’s not upset that she never got to ride in Ben’s elaborate horse-drawn carriage (“I watched Enchanted three times to get all the details right and then another two times because that movie is amazing”). Just the fact that he did so much for her is gift enough. Ben got his wife a massage, a waffle buffet, a Hillary impersonator, a dance class, and a cooking class, and she doesn’t even care that Larry enjoyed it all in her absence. Leslie genuinely appreciates any act of kindness, even if it goes a little bit wrong, even if she never sees or experiences it. She learned that lesson from a town that never gives her the same courtesy.
It’s like Ron says: “You like fixing this town, Leslie. You always have. You know it’s an uphill battle, but you love the struggle. I would also add that you’ve already done a hell of a lot to make this town better, and people, like this young man here, will benefit from your hard work.”
Loving work is about the highest compliment Ron Swanson can pay, and I’d expect nothing less of Leslie than to finish what she’s started. But when she asks Grant for more time to decide, it’s a little disappointing. She doesn’t have to be so hard on herself. Leslie doesn’t have to take so many punches to the face or let her love of hands-on work limit her career. There’s more than one way to fight for the people of Pawnee. Jen Barkley said so—and you can trust her, because she doesn’t care enough to lie.
Like Ron told Leslie after the recall, this department will be alright without her, because she made it that way. She doesn’t have to single-handedly spearhead every event anymore: the committee came up with the Unity Concert all on its own. This isn’t the Harvest Festival. The future of Pawnee is in good hands with this youth committee and John [middle name redacted] Swanson. Everyone Leslie’s ever touched is out there doing work and signing names. April’s running a dog shelter. Tom’s opening a restaurant. They’re dreaming bigger. They’ve got this.
“And the groom wore a butt so perfect it could make an angel hang itself.”
“Like, if I say ‘nutmeg,’ will she wake up and start screaming?”
“I have been kind of tense lately. Just thinking about the new Star Wars sequel. I’m worried they’ll rely too heavily on CGI, and I’m carrying it all in my shoulders.” Never change, Ben.
“Be ice cream or be nothing. Zero stars.”
“Why are we wasting our time with these old people anyway? They’re like the old version of iTunes. We’re like the new version of iTunes baby. We’re gonna be here forever. Oh my God. I’m gonna die someday.”
“Who cares, they’re old people. They eat, they sleep, they complain, they watch Family Feud–oh my God I wanna be an old person!” I hear you Andy.
Spot the church from the season two finale of Bones.
“Craig Middlebrooks. Samantha in the board room, Miranda in the bedroom. I know it’s not ideal BUT IT’S WHO I AM.”
Ben on the Iron Throne was honestly a life-giving experience for me.
“I cannot announce a unity concert in front of a picture of a bald eagle giving the middle finger.” “Yeah you probably wanna stand to the side so people can see it.”
“Just tell him I need to reschedule because I am trying to fix my bee-hole disaster.”
“This is like listening to a TED Talk by the color beige.”
“He dislocates his shoulder to the music of Billy Joel. The Pawnee Journal called it ‘why would anyone do this?’”
“That is my ideal conversation, aside from no conversation, but that feels unlikely.”
“Oh, Ron, cool baby.”