Parks and Recreation's Season 5 Premiere: Knope vs. Reality

By Michael Svoboda

Sep 21, 2012

Parks and Recreation S05E01: "Ms. Knope Goes to Washington"

Leslie may have won the city council election in Parks and Recreation's Season 4 finale, but now she must face her biggest challenge yet: dealing with reality. How much change can a small town councilwoman really make? Our Leslie always shoots for the moon, and she was in top moon-shooting form at the start of last night's Season 5 premiere, "Ms. Knope Goes to Washington."

The whole gang was back, but half of them were running around Washington D.C. with Leslie as she tried to secure funding to clean up the Pawnee River. Andy and April, who continue to be one of my favorite TV couples EVER, seized the opportunity to take in the sites of our nation’s capital... in between makeout sessions. Andy, of course, was completely ignorant of all the national monuments: “There’s a mall?!” And of course Leslie’s trip served a dual purpose, as she also wanted to spend time with Ben, who in the Season 4 finale decided to relocate to D.C. to run a congressional campaign. But reality soon began to seep into Leslie’s idealistic vision of the change she can make as councilwoman, and she started comparing herself to all the uber-women she saw in D.C.

Back in Pawnee, Ron was running things as only Ron can: with as little empathy as possible. He'd been tapped to plan and execute the employee appreciation picnic, which Leslie always does with aplomb. But under Ron's rule, there would be no water slide, no pie eating contest, no vegetables, and most importantly, NO FUN. Instead, he introduced everyone to the pig he was planning to slaughter and roast. But that was a little too much reality for the likes of Ann, Tom (also the name of pig!), Chris, Donna and Jerry.

The contrast of Leslie’s vision of key government characteristics—altruism, hard work, and meritocracy—with Ron’s my-way-or-the-highway approach seemed to be the theme this week. One person’s reality is another person’s fantasy/nightmare.

Elsewhere, Tom and Ann, having made a drunk pact at the end of last season to move in together, were pretending to be in love, mostly so Tom wouldn't lose a bet to Donna. But the reality of a “Haverkins” household was anything but happily ever after. And I, for one, was happy to see this particular storyline end. Tom is best paired with his bromantic foil Jean-Ralphio (who is slated to return this season!).

Parks and Rec is emblematic of the best kind of comedy: Up the pathos, and the jokes will hit harder. We love(d) Cheers, Friends, and The Office because we loved and cared about the characters, not just the funny things that fell out of their mouths. We understood the hearts that pumped red blood through their veins. Parks and Rec has real characters. I can see them thinking before they speak. I’m drawn into their lives, which makes the funny things they say that much more rich, more real. And true to form, Leslie returned from D.C. not wallowing in self-pity, but ready to roll up her shirtsleeves and clean up that river by herself. She is “lead by example” personified, and this is why we love her. That, and the fact that she DOES look like Beverly D'Angelo!

This episode gave me hope for the coming season, although it did feel like I was putting on a comfortable, broken-in pair of jeans. There is a bit of wear and tear showing, and it might be time to start deepening the characters even more. Give new grist for the mill, you know? But with that said, "Ms. Knope Goes to Washington" was a strong episode and it was great to have the gang back. I, for one, am happy to be back in Pawnee.


– Who else wants a MOUSE/RAT T-shirt!?

– What did you think of the D.C. cameos?

– Will Ann ever find love? Maybe she should date Bobby Newport!

– Do you think Ben will come back from D.C.? Do you want him to?

– If you were pitching new story arcs to the writers, what would you like to see happen this season?

  • Comments (16)
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  • ssalunkhe Sep 27, 2012

    If you have missed the premiere episode of Parks and Recreation, watch season 5 premiere and last season's full episodes at

  • EsmeBuffay Sep 23, 2012

    I'm kind of annoyed they have Ben and April off in DC. By taking them away from the other characters even if they still follow their stories until they return they won't be interacting with the other characters we know and love. I hope they return sooner rather than later.

  • Spoontown Sep 22, 2012

    Decent review, apart from 'wear and tear' I don't see that at all in 20 minutes it reminded me why it's been the best sitcom for about the last 2 years.

  • tv_gonzo Sep 22, 2012

    Great episode and nice review. I totally agree that the characters are what drives the show. I told my girlfriend too many times by now that i want to live in Pawnee and be around those people. Ben abolutely should come back. The show got better infinity times infinity when he and Chris came to Pawnee. Finding a love interesst for Anne is a tough one. But i would defintely prefere her dating a scuff like Andy then some kind of fancyman. Anne is just a deeply careing person and i think she needs that to an amount.

  • torque_smacky Sep 22, 2012

    SparkleSuds: Dress Loud.

  • soapieaddict23 Sep 22, 2012

    Love what you said about loving and caring about the characters. I think I love the characters on Parks and Rec more than any other comedy. And if I don't care about the characters, I won't watch the show. That's why I'm suprisingly enjoying Go On, the characters are great.

  • CJ42090 Sep 22, 2012

    I kinda hope that Pistol Pete returns and Ann gets together with him. There certainly seemed to be something going on in "The Comeback Kid" but then we never heard from him again. I was surprised that that didn't go anywhere.

  • mad-pac Sep 22, 2012

    Here in Brazil we all know ab out the historical dependence of small towns to Federal funding. But I was surprised to find out the US has a similar problem.

    Leslie's "close encounter" with John McCain was hilarious. If only she knew what she missed...

    Yes, Ann should date Newport!

    I don't know, but Leslie has such huge ambitions. But for a woman of such ambitions, she's way past the age to be starting life as an elected officer. She should be aiming at a position in the state, and a few years later, something of national projection. I think she'll always be limited to her small town universe instead.

  • KarenPuzio Sep 22, 2012

    Hilarious! Oval Redenbacher..... Oh Andy.

  • Taccado Sep 22, 2012

    There were a few great Ronisms again!

    What I like about P&R; is that the humour is never meanspirited, it never goes to a dark place. The show is an epitome of feel-good comedy. All other comedies,despite being super-funny, at least sometimes have plots where someone is picked on, something tragic happens, or there are a negative outcomes. Even "harmless" comedies like Friends have had there moments of darkness. But every time I tune in on P&R; I always know that the events will end on a positive note. Every time the parks department is faced with adversity, they pull together and overcome the obstacles. The most tragic event on the show so far was when Li'l Sebastian kicked the bucket, and even that was handled with grace.

  • mad-pac Sep 22, 2012

    Never meanspirited? What about all the terrible things they say and do to Jerry? they don't even acknowledge his name is, in fact, Gary. This kind of thing happens in real life, and often the person goes along with the joke and pretend it's ok, but deep inside they can be very hurt.

  • riot Sep 22, 2012

    Jerry's picked on because he's basically the only person the show that's kind of normal, he's the average person that would probably work a job like that plans to retire in real life. He's the only one w/o a lot of weird quirks so they pick on his normal life. Also Jerry's a good sport, sure they knock down everyone of his ideas, but he doesn't really seem to be effected by it much.

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