[Contains dried robin’s blood and SPOILERS!!!]
The major story arc dominating Season Six of Parks and Recreation (2013), aside from ‘Leslie Knope’s (Amy Poehler) acrimonious recall from the City Council, was the not-entirely-unrelated merging of cash-strapped Eagleton (and its super-snooty citizens) into a resentful Pawnee. Although I wasn’t especially invested in this storyline, it did result in the introduction of my fave new supporting character, ‘Craig Middlebrooks’ (Billy Eichner), a volatile Parks Department employee who swings wildly between vulnerability and rage, often while he’s still mid-sentence! The scene where he defensively introduces himself to a work-group using self-deprecating Sex and the City comparisons will live long in my chuckle-bank: “Samantha in the boardroom, Miranda in the bedroom. I know it’s not ideal, but it’s WHO I AM!!!” (eps #6.4/8/12/14-16/19-22) Another noteworthy Eagletonian was clueless councilwoman ‘Ingrid De Forest’ (Kristen Bell), who eventually assumed Leslie’s seat, after our heroine selflessly filibustered herself hoarse to ensure that the latest additions to their citizenry could vote on her recall, despite knowing full well they intended to oust her! (eps #6.3/6/10)
At least this apparent “defeat” gave Leslie the time and freedom to explore more ambitious options, after a much-needed (and pricey) pep-talk from ace “political consultant and power broker” ‘Jennifer Barkley’ (Kathryn Hahn) (eps #6.10). Our heroine’s eventually headhunted to serve as Midwest Regional Director for the National Parks Service… though she insists on working out of her beloved hometown, after claiming a vacant floor in the Pawnee City Hall building, which ‘Ron’ (Nick Offerman) had just finished renovating as a hobby-project. The final scene of the season skipped ahead a couple months, to show her in full-swing at her fancy new job, so… is that where the next season picks up? Or will they flashback a bit, to show a little more of her learning curve…? Hmmm…
Another major shakeup our heroine had to accept/adapt to was the departure of her long-time bestie ‘Ann’ (Rashida Jones), who skipped town with baby-daddy ‘Chris’ (Rob Lowe) in search of greener/less-racoon-infested pastures (ep #6.13). Her going-away party was actually pretty sweet and weepy, though I generally prefer it when ‘April’ is being mean to her former love-rival, rather than getting mushy with her. Speaking of which/whom…
The unquestionable highlight of S6 (and the entire series so far) for me has to be seeing Aubrey Plaza going Full Goth, after so many years posing as a bat-in-canary’s-clothing. Granted it was only for a couple scenes in a couple unrelated episodes, but it made my cold, grey heart beat a little faster all the same! Typically, her Hallowe’en costumes to date have been decidedly un-spooky (a clown in ep #2.7, a deflated-sumo-wrestler in ep #4.5, a pink flower in ep #6.7), and she’s reserved the sombre black for far less appropriate occasions… such as the old-timey “pilgrim” outfit she wore to ‘Ben’s (Adam Scott) 90s-themed birthday bash (she claims she thought they meant the 1690s!) (ep #6.6), and the Victorian mourning-gown she wore for a Parks-Department-sponsored high school prom in ep #6.18. Oh, it’s also worth noting that while Leslie considers being called a witch to be “sexist and offensive” (ep #6.5), April always takes it (and being called “weird”) as a compliment, and politely thanks the confused name-caller accordingly. Blessed be!
Other April/Aubrey highlights included: The snarl she gave a random old lady when introducing herself as “Odie” (from the Garfield cartoon strip) (ep #6.1)… Her mirroring/mimicking of transferred Eagletonian temp ‘Tynnyfer’ (played by June Diane Raphael!) (ep #6.4)… Her wicked glee over ‘Tom’ (Aziz Ansari) freaking-out and adopting a fake/faulty English accent, in order to impress a cute “Doctor Without Borders” (played by Tatiana Maslany!) (ep #6.5/6)… Her demonic invocations when anyone called for a morale-boosting team-hand-stack/cheer (such as “Dark forces, arise!” in ep #6.13)… The revelation that Leslie foolishly let her name the Parks Department’s summer internship program, and she plumped for “The April Ludgate Summer Solstice Druid Festival and Buffalo Wings Eating Contest” (#6.13)… Her trolling of wine-snobs at the swanky sommelier try-outs, where she declared herself a “professional drinker”, claimed that one particular vintage “comes from your mother’s butt”, and wisely noted that “all wine tastes the same, and if you spend more than $5 on wine, you are very stupid” (#6.19). Word. Oh, and in ep #6.8, there was a sub-plot involving the characters picking the dogs that they most resembled, leading to this dead-on (and very endearing) description of April by ‘Donna’ (Retta): “You’re beautiful, yet cold and aloof. You pride yourself on being a loner. You do not obey, you choose to co-operate. And when you stop baring your fangs to pick a mate, it’s for life. And you’re fiercely loyal to your pack, which makes you a rare black Siberian husky.” Swoon! Sadly her quality-time with ‘Andy’ was seriously curtailed this season by Chris Pratt’s defection to the “Guardians of the Galaxy”… though, on the upside, he’s a lot studlier now than he was when they first met, after “giving up beer for a month” and magickally losing 50 lbs (in reality Pratt endured a strenuous action-hero diet-and-exercise regimen, of course).
Meanwhile, it was also a surprisingly strong season for April’s performance-artist pal ‘Orin’ (Eric Isenhower), who played the part of doting (undead?) mother during her prom send-off (#6.18), and even managed to endear himself to Leslie… in the sense that she’d finally stopped insulting him to his face (or behind his back) and started employing him instead (as an Easter Bunny in ep #6.13)… though she was still quite snippy to/about him, and refused to even consider letting him headline the landmark Unity Concert, despite April’s insistence that “it’s a no-brainer… he dislocates his shoulder to the music of Billy Joel. The Pawnee Journal called it, ‘Why would anyone do this?’” (#6.15) Hee.
Other returning Pawneeans included: A couple cameos by Lucy Lawless as Ron’s awesome new-wife ‘Diane’ (eps #6.1-3/21-22), and Jenny Slate as Tom’s monstrous ex-girlfriend ‘Mona-Lisa’ (eps #6.1-2/21-22)… Mo Collins as trend-hopping TV presenter ‘Joan Callamezzo’ (eps #6.7/14/16/21-22)… and Alison Becker as super-cute newsie ‘Shauna Malwae-Tweep’, whose self-esteem/sanity seems to have taken a serious nosedive, as she admitted crushing on scandal-ridden sleaze-bag ‘Councilman Dexhart’ (Kevin Symons) in ep #6.10, before revealing in ep #6.17 that she’d been dating a married man (who’d since gone back to his wife). She also claimed to be writing a memoir based on her blog: “It’s called ‘Tweeping Up Appearances’, and it’s about my journey to find happiness by smiling through the pain.” Harsh. All this led to Leslie summing her up thusly: “Pretty, fragile, makes terrible life decisions. A real fixer-upper.” Bless. I hope she takes Leslie’s advice and goes to see a therapist during the hiatus! I’ve got a real soft spot for that gal, and I’d like to see her find happiness before the series finale seals everyone in amber. I also have to give a belated shout-out to Susan Yeagley, who plays ‘Jessica Wicks’, a former beauty-pageant-winner-turned-judge, who went on to marry into the wealthy/influential Newport family, and now oversees the Sweetums corporation’s charitable trust, which employed Ben as its president for the last couple seasons (eps #2.3/21, 5.7/15, 6.1-2/8). I’m really not sure why I didn’t mention her before, except that maybe her character was kind of a cypher… though the episode where she fired Ben for disloyalty (over their plot to replace the local tap-water with a sugar-y juice drink) certainly made an impression! Oh, and technically Kelly Washington made a second appearance as a high school student being mentored by Leslie (ep #6.13), except that her character’s name was ‘Cassidy’ when we first met her as a member of the “Model UN Club” back in ep #4.7, and was given as ‘Allison’ here. Ooops? As for Megan Mullally’s perfunctory appearance in the finale as an all-mouth-and-no-crazy ‘Tammy Two’… meh…
Notable newbies included: Heidi Klum as ‘Ulee Danssen’, a beloved Danish mayor receiving an International Coalition of Women in Government award alongside Leslie in London (ep #6.1)… Erinn Hayes as ‘Annabel Porter’, an influential local trendsetter Tom desperately wanted to impress (ep #6.7)… Megan Amram as ‘Viv’, the fairer-half of a hipster couple trying to buy Ron’s cabin, where they were fluffed by April during an “open-house” (ep #6.9) (Fun fact: Off-camera Amram is a writer/producer, who’s worked on Kroll Show, Childrens Hospital, and The Good Place, as well as P&R)… Ashley Wigfield as ‘Sansa Faramir’ (!), an eavesdropping fiancée at the ring store where Ann and Chris dilly-dallied over getting engaged (ep #6.11) (Fun fact: Off-camera Wigfield is also a writer/story-editor, who’s worked on Jean-Claude Van Johnson, Great News, and Runaways)… Debra Mooney as ‘Rosie Demarco’, the bitter half of a bickering married couple “celebrating” their 50th wedding anniversary (ep #6.14)… Sydney Endicott (aka Sydney Ann Endicott) as ‘Madison’, a friend of Craig’s who also sat on the Pawnee-Eagleton Youth Committee, and helped to organise the Unity Concert… Lilan Bowden as ‘Sam Nut’, a millennial “geekpreneur” Ben shamed with his superior knowledge of needlessly-complicated board games (ep #6.21/2)… and finally, Michelle Obama (of FLOTUS fame) and Kay Hanley (of Letters to Cleo fame) rocked up as themselves in the big-finish finale, to gee our heroes along (ep #6.21-22). Huzzah!
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