Parks and Recreation S7 E8, “Ms. Ludgate-Dwyer Goes to Washington”

The first of Tuesday’s two Parks and Rec episodes is probably my least favorite so far this season. It seemed to lack much of the usual sparkle and weird humor that the show is so well known for. However, a lot of exciting things did happen, there were several political cameos, and let’s be real, it’s Parks and Rec. Even a “bad” episode is still really, really good.

Leslie and April are prepping for a trip to Washington D.C. to get senators to agree to invest money in the National Parks Service. Unbeknownst to Leslie, however, is April’s continuing struggle with what she wants to do. While going to Washington marks, for Leslie, a major milestone in April’s career, it means nothing to the woman who doesn’t actually want that job. Ben attempts to get April to come clean to Leslie, but April sagely points out that Leslie would most definitely freak out. Considering her panic at the mere thought of a font change, I have to say that I completely understand April’s reluctance to clue Leslie into her current struggle.

Parks and RecreationWhile at the airport, Leslie and April sit down and have an unstructured chat. Specifically a chat about April’s future, complete with a five-year plan that Leslie established and tee-shirts proclaiming the two as “Gov Buds for Life.” At the beginning of the conversation, it seemed like April was ready to come clean to Leslie, but after Leslie dropped the five-year plan bomb, April seemed even less sure about whether or not she can tell Leslie this.

Leslie, April, and Randy (of the U.S. Department of the Interior) begin their meetings with various senators. Even though she’s apathetic at best about the job, April is still a talented and smart woman who is good at it. She and Leslie seem to be doing a pretty good job convincing people that National Parks needs more funding.

Leslie is doing so well at her job that she is offered a position as Deputy Director of Operations at the Department of the Interior in Washington. I had been wondering how the writers were going to make Ben’s need to split time between Washington and Pawnee if he wins his run for the House work, and it seems like this is the answer. If Leslie accepts this promotion and Ben wins the seat, they will both have to split their time between Leslie’s two favorite cities.

Leslie is immediately thrilled at the idea of the job, the move, and the training involved, and essentially accepts it on the spot. I was a little surprised, especially since only last week Leslie was talking about how she never wanted to leave her job at National Parks. I guess this is still close enough that she isn’t leaving the parks totally behind.

April finally works up the courage to tell Leslie everything – and quit – while the two women are admiring the view of the reflecting pool on the National Mall. All of Leslie’s talk about future plans got her so flustered and panicked that she finally blurted everything out. Leslie is hurt at first, and even stalks off. Her reaction is definitely a bit unreasonable, but Leslie has always been this way about her friends. Knowing her, she’ll never leave one of her best friends totally behind.

Parks and RecreationMadeleine Albright is the one who talks sense into Leslie and makes her see that she can be a bit of a steamroller with her friends. Apparently Leslie essentially forced Ms. Albright to be her friend, and even ate her waffle in her blind enthusiasm – a total Leslie move.

It’s really interesting to see all these levels of a fictional character: in one way, Leslie is the most caring friend ever. She remembers every occasion, small or large, and celebrates them in the most wonderful ways. But she can also be pushy and too focused on what she wants for others that she forgets what they want for themselves. This is the sort of depth that is often lost in sitcom characters over many seasons, and it’s why this show is so fantastic.

Now that’s she’s had some sense talked into her, Leslie returns apologetically to April. They share a tender moment where April reveals that if it weren’t for Leslie, she wouldn’t even care about anything enough to want to change jobs. Even though she’s leaving Leslie behind, she’s not leaving her friend. Leslie then gathers together all the enthusiasm she had once held for April’s five-year plan and instead funnels it into getting April a new job. First stop: the American Service Foundation, where young adults can explore new paths. April comes out of her meeting with a fresh new idea. She wants to work at the ASF and help people find jobs where they can help others, or as she says, “I want to tell people what to do, and then send them far away from me.”

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