Friday, May 8 by

Parks and Recreation: The Banquet

Leslie begins the episode by regaling the camera crew with the tale of William Bixby Mark, who traded a baby to a tribe of Native Americans for what is now Indianapolis. She then goes on to say that these same Native Americans cut off Mark’s face and crafted a dream-catcher out of it, before making rain-sticks out of his legs. After she praises the resourcefulness of these Natives, who use “every part of the pioneer”) the credits roll, and we’re off!

We rejoin Knope as she sits in her mother’s office, sharing a box of chocolates with her, and explains to the camera that her mother is being honored for her public service excellence with an award. Ron tells the camera that the only reason anyone is going is out of fear of the Knope matriarch (whom he has nicknamed a certain unrepeatable, bizarre phrase that I shan’t be typing tonight). Leslie is practicing her speech for the ceremony, under Tom’s tutelage, though it seems like he is trying to sabotage her and get her to admit to her own incompetence, as well as imply that her mother is racist, among other things. Meanwhile across town, Ann is also preparing for the ceremony, modeling a gown for Andy, before lamenting the recent loss of her social life on account of Andy’s disability.

We cut to the gala where Leslie is debuting her new, decidedly mannish haircut (which her barber Salvatore refers to as “the mayor”), and, after she is mistaken by April for a man, she is arm-in-arm with a very overdressed Ann. As Ann becomes more uncomfortable by the second, the two are mistaken for a lesbian couple, and we cut to commercial.

After Leslie debuts her new haircut to her co-workers, she tries to work up the courage to speak with a member of the zoning board, concerning the pit (of course). She goes to her mother for help, who councils Leslie to amend her speech (originally 22 minutes long, with a song) so that it will work to her advantage with the zoning board member, whom Leslie plans to butter up “like a human dinner roll.” She gives a short, strange speech, ending with a declaration of love for Janine (the zoning board member), and returns to her table with mixed praise. Tom gives her a resounding “You the man!” while Ann is upset at being Leslie’s trophy wife for the evening.

Tom takes the podium and gives a funny/inappropriate speech (calling Mrs. Knope sexy several times), while Leslie is brushed off by Janine after trying to set up an appointment with her to discuss the pit. Ron is next up at the podium, and delivers a less-than-flattering speech (he refuses to kiss up to Mrs. Knope) where he compares Mrs. Knope to “a good varnish.” After this embarrassment, Leslie seeks her council, and is informed that she was summarily blown off, and is encouraged to blackmail Janine with the information about her husband’s recent DUI. Apparently, as Mrs. Knope goes on to tell Leslie, all the governmental higher-ups in Pawnee have secrets, from sleeping their way to the top, to trying to re-segregate drinking fountains. Ann disagrees with this dastardly tactic, and, after a short spat with Leslie, she storms out of the ballroom, leaving Leslie to her own devices.

Leslie approaches Janine, full of confidence, and lays her cards on the table, letting her know that she knows about the recent DUI, at which point Janine throws a drink in Leslie’s stunned face. Meanwhile, Mark and Tom, having left the ceremony, have begun awkwardly hitting on some boring women at a nearby bar, until Mark abruptly leaves, with Tom stuck with his new acquaintances.

Meanwhile, Leslie, having left the gala, shows up at Ann’s house to apologize for leaving her alone during the ceremony, and Andy is momentarily angry with her for hugging Ann until he figures out that, despite her haircut, she is not “a dude.”

We are left with two parting images: one is Tom, at a bar trying to pick up a disinterested girl, while he explains that he and his wife are both disappointed with his inability to cheat. The other is Mark, returning to the ballroom to find it empty after the gala, perhaps trying to find and bail out Leslie, or maybe even Ann, after some minor sparks between the two of them earlier in the episode. Hopefully, we’ll find out next week.

Recap by Evan Stewart

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