Parks and Recreation Recap: “Flu Season 2″/ “One in 8,000”–The Biggest Curve

I don’t know of a lot of places with just the usual four seasons. New York has a second winter, which turns out to be harsher than the first because it comes with the sunburn I got when I thought it wasn’t winter anymore. Boston sets its calendar by its sports. Growing up in Florida, we had hurricane season and caterpillar season, lovebug season and snow bird season, and that one week in December when we could almost justify wearing scarves. And in Pawnee, they’ve got flu season.

The flu doesn’t hit Pawnee like it hits the rest of the country. It knocks out the whole town, because, as Leslie explains in the director’s cut, Pawnee’s got just the right cocktail of hygiene issues, people who put their whole mouths on water fountains, and public officials who don’t seem to understand how sneezes work. This flu takes no prisoners. They can dress it up and crown someone Miss Influenza all they want (“the CDC called the pageant ‘ethically reprehensible’”), but it’s still really inconvenient for the people who are out there doing things.

tired sweaty parks and rec

Leslie doesn’t have time to get sick right now, especially since Ann’s not here to be the most beautiful nurse in the world. She has to get ready for the Chamber of Secrets Commerce Unity Concert. Andy has adorably taken point on the headliners, and his wish list is deep. (“Bob Dylan’s friends?” “I just thought maybe they could get Bob Dylan to come.”) The lineup hits a snag when Indiana singing sensation Chipp McCapp backs out, so Andy and Leslie head out to his studio to change his mind and maybe pee on everything he loves.

They’re not uncivilized; Leslie’s just taking a pregnancy test. And yes—Leslie Knope, breakfast advocate, founder of the Pawnee Goddesses, and tireless crusader for Team Aniston, is pregnant. She’s having a baby. As it turns out, three babies! Three small humans with Ben’s hair and Leslie’s everything else. These kids will be unstoppable.

nice work leslie flu season

The best thing this show does is tell us early. This pregnancy isn’t an eleventh-hour surprise at the end of the episode or at the end of the season. It isn’t a plot twist. It’s not about the suspense of waiting to find out Leslie’s news. It’s about Leslie waiting to share that news with the man she loves, because this is their thing, and it’s going to change their lives in very real ways. Will they still move to Chicago? Probably not. It’s not that Leslie can’t Have It All, it’s just that she now has a very good reason to stay in Pawnee and work to make it better. There are future generations waiting to call it home.

Everyone’s been pushing Leslie all season to dream bigger, trust that she’s laid a good foundation at the Parks Department, and stay open to new opportunities. That doesn’t change. It might even be more relevant now, because she’s got to think about the future. She has to see the big picture, and that means trusting her friends with more of the details.

andy get back to work now

Part of Leslie’s success is wrapped up in her ability to bring out people’s strengths. When Chipp turns out to be a little jerk, Leslie throws a hail Mary with Andy. They track down Scott Tanner, lead singer of Land Ho/ not a member of the Full House Tanners (I had to think about it), and try to convince him to reunite the band. And they do. But really, it’s Andy, with his sincere passion for the music, who wins Scott’s approval. He uses “nice” and “band,” you guys.

Leslie is so much better now at stepping back and letting her friends do what they do. This is exactly the kind of mom she’s going to be. Leslie deals really well with chaos and stubborn people and oversized kids who just want candy (“TWO?!”), so she knows she’s got that on lockdown. But the bigger mom things—selflessness, patience, and the ability to be comfortable with things outside her control—are all traits she practices every day at work.

leslie immune to stress

It’s so unbelievably fitting that Leslie and Ben are having triplets. Look at Ron. He wasn’t even a dad this time two years ago, and now he’s got three kids and a wife, and he’s wingmanning his coworker with a crown on his head. Donna is so right: his family has made him patient and empathetic in a way he never was before. (“You take that back.”) This isn’t the story of one kid who changed everything and refocused his entire life. It’s the story of how Ron has opened himself up to loving more people than he ever thought possible. That’s the kind of opportunity Leslie has always been waiting for. She wanted the whole town at her wedding. She likes to put her energy toward as many people as possible, and she deserves a community that loves her back. Now she’ll have at home what she already has at the Parks Department.

Of course everyone in the office is ready to do anything for Leslie. She’d do it for them, but we’ve reached the point where that doesn’t even matter. They’re not giving back out of obligation; they just care about her. Ron is making a triple crib, and he’s going to love every second of it. Ben’s budget didn’t account for these people (don’t you DARE make a terrible movie with that tag line. I CALL IT). Also, the prospect of Ben as a panicked “stress ShamWow” is maybe even MORE exciting than the prospect of Leslie trying to stay uncharacteristically calm. Adam Scott is going to be the death of us all.

ben massage leslie head

Baby snaps:

Drunk Ben is a prince among men. “I was just saying to Ron that my dog’s Jewish.”

“Hold on Ron, hold that thought, just for a sec.”

ben parks fence home is that w ay

“Baby snow owl.” “He’s right.

Retta said at the cast’s latest Paley Fest appearance that one of her favorite things about Donna is how much she loves Tom. I’d like to add April to that list. Donna willingly bankrolls April’s quest to mess with people because she genuinely gets a kick out of it. “Oh hell yeah pimp.”

“I know everything about wine and I will prove it. My name is Craig Middlebrooks AND THIS IS MY DEBIT REWARDS CARD.”

“Someplace beautiful and warm and amazing where everyone is in great shape and the night sky is full of stars!”

DONNA SAID ALLONS-Y.

“How are we gonna convince this guy to reunite Land Ho?” “Same way I got a perfect score on the SATs: broken Scantron machine.”

andy petting a dog

“You know in the movies when the cops show up and find lipstick on a wine glass next to a dead body? This is that wine.”

Tom’s Bistro has found its sommelier! Clear eyes, full hearts, more Craig.

“He’s in witness protection.”

“The baby has two bodies?!”

Secret handshake. Alright alright alright.

“We knocked it out of the park on the first try. If we do this right, we can be parents to one third of the Supreme Court!”

“The sheik has thrown his hat into the ring.”

“Are you ready to go, my gentle dove?”

"I"m onto you, friend."

“I’m onto you, friend.”

“I’m sure you will both raise a wonderful child with whom I will profoundly disagree on nearly everything.”

“Live your life how you want, but don’t confuse drama with happiness.”

“I’ll wear that red thing when you deserve to see me in that red thing.”

“WE SPENT TOO MUCH MONEY ON MACARONS.”

So are you a Leslie or a Ben right now? Start your triplet name and surprise Unity Concert guest guesses below!

ben leslie good news

6 comments

  1. I really loved that they didn’t make the baby announcement as the season finale “cliffhanger”. Kudos for moving with story and not with cliché ratings maneuvers.

    One of the 2 things I’ve been still really digging about this show:

    1. “Donna is so right: his family has made him patient and empathetic in a way he never was before.” <– character development and continuity. Yes, Donna is right and the best thing is that Ron is still Ron. All of these characters are changing and growing, but the writers have managed to still have the characters remain who they really are. Not all shows pull this off (Bones, for example, has struggled with this).

    2. Stupid, ridiculous things still happen – even when they make you cringe. Leslie still messes up when she pushes the internship on that high schooler in the prom episode. The auction starts out horribly (and Jam gets to name the children's tent? How awful could that end up being? You know what I will really love – is if they follow through and tell us what that name ends up being during the season finale). Ben's website gets hacked in the worst way. And they can pull all of this off because then they go ahead and make me teary when Larry says "don't buy anything, please" – helping them in a way he doesn't even realize is HUGE for poor accountant Ben.

    "Tom’s Bistro has found its sommelier! Clear eyes, full hearts, more Craig." Love. That whole scene where Craig figures out how to make it work is full of awesome.

    1. I know! I love that their biggest moments come at random points throughout the season–the surprise is so much more real this way.

      And I COMPLETELY agree that this show nails character development. Everyone has grown, but it’s been gradual and organic, and they’ve never compromised the fundamentals of who these people are. Ron is still the kind of guy who likes sitting in silence with his sandpaper; it’s just that now he’s got a crown on his head.

      I think the ridiculous moments and big mistakes work for the same reason–they’re almost always true to the characters. Leslie’s most obsessive/ pushy storylines are rarely my favorites, but I love that her flaws are consistent and that they’re rooted in the same traits that make her so wonderful. She goes overboard sometimes, but that’s because she’s passionate, and she wouldn’t be Leslie otherwise.

      Oh poor sweet Ben. Larry’s “don’t buy anything” was the best gift he could ever give our frazzled little accountant.

      Craig’s “THIS IS SO EMBARRASSING” had me crying. I’m so glad we seem to be keeping him. He’s a star.

  2. “Three small humans with Ben’s hair and Leslie’s everything else. These kids will be unstoppable.”

    Seriously, I fear for anyone or anything who gets in the way of these kids and making the world a better place. They are going to give that Italian parliament kid a run for her money. (For those who don’t know of this little angel and her fierce-ass mom: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2510440/Enchanting-little-girl-following-footsteps-MEP-mother-EU-Parliament.html)

    “But the bigger mom things—selflessness, patience, and the ability to be comfortable with things outside her control—are all traits she practices every day at work.”

    She’s always been good on the nurturing and the keeping alive of the helpless things, but the timing on Leslie’s pregnancy is totally perfect because this season has been all about her letting her little birds fly. The best lesson a mom can learn, I’d think.

    “Clear eyes, full hearts, more Craig.”

    COSIGN.

    I love your comment about Donna and April’s friendship, and I hope we get to see more of them running ish at the animal shelter.

    CHRIS PRATT IS A GENIUS.

    That’s all. I love you.

    -S

    1. I adore tiny Italian parliament child and probably already ship her with one of the triplets.

      YES, I didn’t at all expect this season’s arc to lead up to this, but it FITS. Everything she’s learned this season is going to help her as a mom.

      Animal shelter storyline, please! I wouldn’t complain if it involves our old Animal Control friends.

      CHRIS PRATT IS A TREASURE and I’m so glad the world is catching on to this.

      Your quiet support means the world to me, as does your tacit endorsement of all my behaviors.

  3. I had the same reaction watching this episode: “triplets?!? Wait, what?! This is … ABSOLUTELY PERFECT.” It doesn’t feel overboard at all, it feels BRILLIANT. I can’t wait for April and Andy to babysit! 😀

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