Parks and Recreation Season 7 Episodes 8 & 9: “Mrs. Ludgate-Dwyer Goes to Washington”/ “Pie-Mary”

Parks and Recreation

Are we really sure that Parks and Recreation has to end this year? With only four episodes remaining and two weeks left on NBC, the long-running sitcom is fresher and funnier than it has been in years, as it showed yet again in last night’s two terrific episodes.

While most of Parks and Recreation‘s episode pairings have shared some sort of story or theme, that’s not the case for “Mrs. Dwyer-Ludgate Goes to Washington” and “Pie-Mary,” which are very different from each other but still two excellent half hours of comedy. Each one of them continues a major season arc, provides nice emotional payoff for long-time viewers, and is filled with hilarious cameos.

The first episode centers upon April and her continued search for her right profession, a search that she has been keeping secret from Leslie, but after feeling pressured by her friend and boss to have a career in the federal government, April finally cracks and spills the truth as she and Leslie are speaking on their newly christened bench in D.C. April doesn’t want to work for the government anymore; her job was just something she fell into because of how much she respected and cared about Leslie. She’s yet to find her true calling.

While Leslie is first hurt by the news (and the fact that April waited so long to tell her), she quickly comes around on the idea, after some wise words from her Washington friend (that’s right, friend!) Madeleine Albright. She takes April to a foundation where they will help her find the career that she wants, but what April realizes immediately is that she wants to work at the foundation–telling other people what to do and what they are good at; in her mind, it’s the perfect job.

While I’m still not sure how I feel about April’s new chosen profession (it’s so random), how she gets to that decision makes for a spectacular episode of Parks and Rec. Her and Leslie’s adventures in Washington are filled with too many political cameos for me to even try to list here (although I will say that I need to find out where I can listen to Senators Orrin Hatch and Cory Booker’s Polynesian folk band Across the Isle), but while all the comedy works, it’s the emotional payoff that’s most important. April’s speech to Leslie is a culmination of the pair’s relationship over the past six-plus seasons and another acknowledge of the incredible growth that April has undergone over the years. Moments like these, where you get to watch your favorite characters reflect on their history and how far they have come, are what make final seasons of TV so great, and both Aubrey Plaza and Amy Poehler knock it out of the park in this scene.

It’s the April and Leslie relationship in “Mrs. Dwyer-Ludgate Goes to Washington” that reinforces what Parks and Recreation is really all about, which is family and what the members of this particular family will do for each other. We see how April was willing to work for Leslie and did not want to hurt her feelings, how Leslie wanted to help April find her dream job, and also, back home in Pawnee, how the rest of the parks department banded together to find the perfect profession for April (even if their methods, specifically Andy’s, were a little too creative).

And if “Mrs. Dwyer-Ludgate Goes to Washington” was about reflecting on how far April has come and what her future holds, then “Pie-Mary” was the same but for Leslie and Ben’s characters. This half-an-hour focused on Ben’s campaign for Congress and the scrutiny that he and Leslie are bound to face.

Ultimately, “Pie-Mary” has lot to say and not just about its characters. While the episode is certainly a reaffirmation of the strength of Leslie and Ben as a couple and also a look into the somewhat difficult future ahead of them, it’s also a smart and funny commentary on gender equality shown through Leslie’s initial refusal to be a part of the “Pie-Mary,” a pie-baking competition for congressmen’s wives. When it’s all said and done, she and Ben end up delivering a great speech together about the strength of their relationship and about how traditional gender roles don’t need to be accepted anymore–there is no pre-decided place for men and women in their families, or in life in general, no matter how much people try to push that idea.

An even though the message of “Pie-Mary” has the possibility of overshadowing its characters, Parks and Recreation ensures that its commentary on the state of society never gets in the way of the always interesting and compelling stories it continues to tell about our favorite citizens from Pawnee. The episode is primarily interested in Leslie and Ben and how they will deal with his campaign as it continues, throwing more obstacles at TV’s strongest couple, and they, like always, rise above them.

Two very different episodes of Parks and Recreation last night, but both of them were equally enjoyable. I’m really not ready to say goodbye to this show.

Other thoughts:

– I’m so happy that Ben got to return the accounting firm one last time in this final season, and that he, yet again, had to let Barney down, even after making him laugh with all of his accounting puns.

– Another highlight from the first episode: meeting Ron’s brother/brothers (those other guys were definitely related to him), who he won’t admit that he has. So funny.

– Nothing will ever make me smile more than Ron Swanson getting excited about going on a scavenger hunt. His, April, and Andy’s search for the key in “Pie-Mary” was great, as was the scene between him and April at the tree. A nice reminder at the father/daughter-like relationship the two of them share.

– Something else that will always make me smile: Ben Wyatt singing “Highway to the Calzone Zone.”

– You want to know what was also great? How sweet Donna and Garry’s storyline was last night. The two of them reminiscence about all of his biggest screw-ups, but Donna’s unexpected act of kindness, returning all of Garry’s lost possessions, before calling him the b-word–“buddy”–was my favorite moment from both of  theepisodes and one of my favorite scenes of this final season.

– One thing missing from last night: Tom. Where was he? Although we did get a cameo from Brandi Maxxx.

– “On our bench of all places.”

– “You kept yelling ‘Team Voldemort’ until we were kicked out.”

– “Daddy want pie!”

– “You turned me into someone with goals and ambition…and I just want to say thank you and I love you very much.”

What did everyone else think about last night’s episodes of Parks and Recreation?

[Photo via NBC]

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