[Caution: Spoilers for tonight's season 6 premiere!]
Okay, so nobody actually uttered Joey Tribbiani’s temporary catchphrase during tonight’s supersized Parks premiere. Still, I can’t be the only one who thought of Friends‘ big season 4 trip when Leslie, Ben, Ron, April, and Andy briefly ditched Pawnee for stately London, home of goofy nobility, multiple rom-com bus tours, and something called Picadilly Circus that isn’t even a real circus. (Quoth Andy: “There’s no elephants, there was no cotton candy, there’s no clowns. One bearded lady — she got all rude when I marveled at her.”)
But while the Friends went to London to celebrate a wedding, the Parks and Rec crew were there to celebrate a major professional achievement. (Obviously, the achiever was Leslie; less obviously, April was the one who nominated her for a big award.) While there, each member of the group had his or her own separate adventure — as their pals at home experienced subplots of their own. Maybe it’d be easiest if we took things character by character:
Last spring, Councilwoman Knope found herself facing her biggest threat yet: Kathryn Pinewood, an angry Pawneean determined to recall Leslie from office. In the premiere, Kathryn’s still running a smear campaign against Leslie, entering her name as an answer in the Pawnee paper’s local crossword puzzle (the clue: “Who’s the worst?”) and pulling photos off Leslie’s Facebook page to “prove” that she’s gallivanting around Europe — like some kind of European! — while her hometown is in need. That last tactic — plus some innocent humblebragging from gorgeous fellow recipient Heidi Klum — upsets Leslie so much that when accepting her award, she tosses aside her planned speech in favor of an impromptu rant that skewers her constituents. Of course, the whole thing is streamed live in Pawnee for the whole town to see; of course, Jerry is the one who spearheaded the livestream. (Damnit, Jerry!) Season 4 built up to Leslie’s election; season 5 followed her battle with Councilman Jamm. Looks like 6, then, will be all about Leslie struggling to hold onto her council seat — and hopefully tearing Kathryn Pinewood a new one at some point.
Ben and Andy
While in London, these unlikely business partners pitch a new nonprofit venture to His Royal Excellency Lord Edgar Darby Covington, 14th Earl of Cornwall-Upon-Thames, 29th Baron of Hartfordshire — a.k.a. Eddie. The twist: Eddie is the British Andy, a fun-loving man-child easily distracted by toy helicopters and airborne plastic bags that may or may not be geese. The second twist: He likes his American counterpart so much that he invites the big galoot to stay in London for three months to
shoot Guardians of the Galaxy help him set up a new nonprofit. (The third twist: Andy says his newly cut physique comes not from a superpowered workout regimen but simply cutting out beer.) Raise your hand if you hope Chris Pratt and the delightful Peter Serafinowicz film a webseries as Andy and Eddie whenever they get a break from saving the world.
In a whirlwind cold open, Ron learns that his ladyfriend Diane (Lucy Lawless) is pregnant, proposes to her — and has a quickie City Hall wedding as April and an unbearably excited Leslie watch. They plan on visiting London with Leslie as a honeymoon trip; unfortunately, Diane is sidelined by morning sickness, leaving a grumpy Ron to tromp around England without her. (He is predictably unimpressed; “Look, a clock,” he deadpans outside of Big Ben. “We don’t have that in America.”) Thank goodness for Leslie: Proving once more that she’s history’s greatest present-giver, Knope sends Ron on a mystery trip that eventually leads him to the Lagavulin distillery on a remote Scottish island. There, he drinks fine Scotch, dabbles in shepherdry, and gets all misty reading a lovely Robert Burns poem. Life is good.
Back in Pawnee, someone’s trying to run Rent-A-Swag out of business. Though Tom hopes his competition is someone awesome like Jason Statham or LeBron James, his opponent turns out to be one Dr. Saperstein — father of Jean-Ralphio and Mona-Lisa. (Better yet: He’s played by
Barry Zuckerkorn Henry Winkler.) Initially, Saperstein reveals that he’s erected an identical store to punish Tom for supposedly stealing Jean-Ralphio’s business idea; when his son admits that Rent-A-Swag was Tom’s baby from the beginning, Saperstein decides to keep his knockoff open anyway because it’s making money. Fingers crossed that this means Winkler’s sticking around for a few more episodes.
Ann and Chris
The good: Ann and Chris are having a baby! The bad: Otherwise, they’re both still pretty boring, mostly because Ann and Leslie are separated for much of the hour. Maybe this couple’s imminent departure from Pawnee won’t be so bad for Parks after all.
Donna must spend most of this episode picking up dudes in the Snakehole Lounge; that’s the only explanation for her tiny amount of screentime. Note to Parks: We want more Donna! Give us more Donna!
Finally, we come to the department’s resident eye-roller, who displays more heart tonight than perhaps ever before. First, she nominates Leslie for that big International Coalition of Women in Government award; next, she tells Andy to stay in London for awhile and even utters the phrase “I believe in you.” (In between she stalks a Mongolian wolverine wrangler, but that’s neither here nor there.) Finally, April perks Leslie up by reading the letter she sent along with Leslie’s award nomination — and it’s a doozy:
Dear Award Committee:
Where I live, there are a lot of apathetic people, people who don’t care at all about what they do or how they do it. They let the world wash over them and barely notice anyone else is even there. Leslie Knope is not one of these people. She cares about everything and everyone in our town. I don’t know how she does it; people come to her with the pettiest, stupidest problems, and she cares — like, really, actually cares — what happens to them. And, if you’re lucky enough to be her friend, your life gets better every day. She spends every waking moment thinking of new ways to make her friends happy. There is something wonderful about seeing someone who has found her true purpose on earth. For some people, I guess that’s being an astronaut or a hot dog eating champion. For Leslie, her true purpose on earth, her true meaning, is helping other people with their dumb problems. That’s what I love about her, and that’s why she deserves this award.
So there you have it: Parks is back with a vengeance. How did you like tonight’s episode — and what’s your favorite line from the premiere? (My nomination: Townsperson Gretel’s explanation of how she wants Leslie to take care of her slug problem. “I want them gone, but not killed — I love animals. But get rid of them, they’re gross. But make sure they’re happy But not too happy.”)