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‘Parks and Recreation’ Season Premiere Review: “Ms. Knope Goes To Washington”

Parks and Recreation Season 5 Premiere Ms Knope Goes to Washington
NBC

After seeing Leslie Knope successfully elected to Pawnee’s City Council last season, ‘Parks and Recreation’ season 5 heads to D.C. with its first episode of the year, as Leslie finds her newfound authority quickly humbled by a trip to visit Ben at his new big-shot job in Washington D.C., while back in Pawnee Ron Swanson attempts to fill in for Leslie in throwing the annual employee appreciation barbecue.  Which?  Why, the “Leslie Knope Employment Enjoyment Summer Slam Grill Jam Fun-Splosion,” of course!

Last season’s ‘Parks and Recreation’ finale “Win, Lose or Draw” saw Leslie just barely achieving her longtime dream of being elected to City Council, while Ben took up the offer for a real campaign job in D.C. and Tom and Anne drunkenly agreed to move in with one another,  so how does “Ms. Knope Goes to Washington”  get us started?  What will season 5 of ‘Parks and Recreation’ bring, besides new nemeses, ‘Breaking Bad’ guest stars and Xena herself?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Parks and Recreation’ season 5 premiere , “Ms. Knope Goes to Washington!!”

We open…hey, that’s not Pawnee!  Leslie Knope and Andy survey the sights of Washington D.C., Leslie awash in the presence of her favorite things in life, and Andy mostly confused by his surroundings.  While Leslie does her best to show Andy the sights, he mostly misunderstands the significance, or attempts to search for hidden treasure in the vein of Nicholas Cage.  Naturally.

Meanwhile, back in Pawnee, Ron announces to an incredulous Parks Department that he will be taking over Leslie’s employee appreciation barbecue, though with none of the lavish shows or presentations his more enthusiastic colleague has thrown in past years.  Chris Traeger laments aside that Ron turned him down for the Assistant City Manager position, but muses that Ron needs to stay where he belongs, as in the background Ron unloads his barbecue equipment.  Ron then brings out a darling pig (named Tom, no less) before revealing with murderous glee that “Tom” is the pig they’re all to enjoy for the day!  Now, what child wants to help drain the blood?

After Ron gets shut down for lacking permits, and retreats to the Food ‘N’ Stuff for supplies, Leslie, Ben, Andy and April all re-unite at the Smithsonian.  While Ben is happy to see Leslie, even if he’s slammed with meetings, April and Andy quickly blow off the others to retreat to the hotel room.

While the hungry Parks Department waits for Ron, Tom and Anne take the opportunity to clarify for the cameras that they are no longer dating, having realized the horrible mistake of moving in together, but rather they pretend to remain together to avoid everyone’s smug “I told you so.”  Tom in particular wants to avoid admitting the truth to Donna, lest he lose a $1000 bet.  Just then, Ron returns with the food, but announces to the antsy guests it will still take several hours to prepare.  If they don’t like it, they can have a beer, and water one down for the children as well, as Ron muses that they’ll understand once they taste his food.

Leslie comments to the camera that her and Ben’s respective lifestyles make them a political power couple, but finds a harsh reality when her attempt to meet with the Department of Interiors  in the interest of restoring the Pawnee river is blocked by her appointment’s absence.  His secretary offers to bring it to his attention if she places it on the giant stack of seemingly unread proposals, but Leslie protests it has a number of audio and visual aids she had planned to do in person.  Even then, she has to clarify which of a dozen Pawnee’s the proposal is even for.

Back at Ben’s office, Leslie shrugs off telling Ben’s questions about her meeting, as the man invites them all to a swanky cocktail party full of political figures, even if it means buying Andy pants.  Meanwhile in Pawnee, the group gorges on Chris’ raisins waiting for Ron’s food, as Anne chastises Tom for his entrepreneurial ideas of putting glitter in everything, which ruins her clothes.

The cocktail party doesn’t prove to be particularly uplifting for Leslie, as she feels grossly unimportant in the role of a City Congresswoman compared to the more notable political figures.  She laments that Ben deals with such important matters compared to the relatively small Pawnee, and even shrinks away in defeat when Ben introduces her to two of her idols, Senators Barbara Boxer and Olympia Snowe.  Ben follows her out to console her, but gets quickly called away by his job.  While Leslie sulks in the coat room, Senator John McCain fumbles past her looking for his coat and asking about her mood, though she shrugs him off not noticing who he is.

Back at the barbecue, complaints from the guests finally get to Ron, and he closes up his barbecue and drives off, dragging the still-smoking grill.  Later at the office, Tom complains that Leslie ruined his moisture with glitter (regardless of how amazing an idea “Sparkle Skin” might be), but the two quickly pretend to kiss and make up when Donna walks by.  Having figured out their game, Donna offers to call off her bet with Tom and not give them a hard time, having lied about a few relationship details herself.  The matter closed, Tom and Anne officially part ways as a couple.

Having returned to Pawnee, Leslie mopes outside while Andy shows off pictures of he and April making out everywhere.  Leslie laments that she can only think of Ben in a helicopter with “Hot Rebecca,” an amalgam of all the tall, powerful women that intimidated her back in Washington, but Andy reminds her she’s “Kick-Ass Leslie,” who never gives up on things.  Even if she has trouble getting a meeting, or if Andy doesn’t know what an amalgam is.

Chris begs a word with Ron, who defends his choice to make the barbecue about food more than a puppet show, but Chris reminds him that the point of the event was the show appreciation for the department, not his cooking.  Chris also stresses that Ron could have been his Assistant City Manager, but if he wants to lead the Parks Department, he needs to actually lead, something he says as a colleague, friend, and boss.

Leslie reclaims her kick-ass attitude by calling a press conference down at the river, and announcing her intent to clean up the river herself regardless of political run-around or its awful smell, while back at the department Ron calls everyone into the main room.  As a gesture of goodwill and appreciation, he’s prepared corn for the employees, as well as poor Pig-Tom.  Though initially repulsed by the thought of eating the adorable pig, the employees soon cave to his delicious smell.

Later that night, Ben and Leslie Skype in their offices as Leslie comes clean about her intimidation, and the pair reconcile over what else, Ben’s butt.  Over the credits, Andy avails us of his brilliant tour guide knowledge, pointing out The White House for its inclusion in Sinbad’s First Kid, while April shows support by gathering a crowd.

We’re absurdly lucky to have ‘Parks and Recreation’ back for a full fifth season, considering its status as one of NBC’s most critically beloved, yet under-watched series.  And while a relatively mellow outing, “Ms. Knope Goes to Washington” does a fine job of closing out a few loose threads from the past season, while exploring a few bigger ideas before the show tackles its main Pawnee plots.  Thoroughly amusing, if not altogether heart-warming.

I won’t be covering ‘Parks and Recreation’ on a weekly basis, but rather next Thursday you’ll have the critical stylings of the lovely and talented Miss Britt Hayes, who this week remains busy doing fantastic work at Fantastic Fest.  But, it’s been real, ‘Parks’-ers!  Pawneans?  Is there a name for ‘Parks and Recreations fans?”

What about you?  Did you get your “waf-full” of palatably-punny ‘Parks and Recreation’ politics?  What did you think about the premiere ? Join us next week for another all-new ‘Parks and Recreation’ episode recap of “Soda Tax” on NBC!

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