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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

"Are You Better Off?" With Parks and Recreation

Article first published as "Are You Better Off?" With Parks and Recreation on TheTVKing.

In the fifth season finale of NBC's Parks and Recreation, "Are You Better Off?," Leslie (Amy Poehler) asks the people of Pawnee if they feel they are better off than they were a year ago, when she was elected. At first, she doesn't like the answers of many of her fellow citizens. One person, though, has a definite answer, when they find out they're going to be a parent.

I like the mystery story where Andy (Chris Pratt) attempts to figure out who left the positive pregnancy test at Ron's (Nick Offerman) cabin. He assumes it is one of his co-workers, and with Ann's (Rashida Jones) help, attempts to determine who. It's nice to see Andy and Ann as friends, so different from their early dynamic, and the two don't normally get a lot of screen time together. Plus, this plot opens up a lot of fun possibilities to ponder.

They are several viable options for who might be knocked up, each with varied implications. But "Are You Better Off?" pulls a total shocker when it is revealed that Diane (Lucy Lawless), who is not even on the suspect list, is the one with the bun in the oven, and presumably it is Ron's.

While many of the characters on the show would relish a baby, Ron's main goal is to keep his life the same. I do think, based on how he is with Diane's kids, he'll be a good dad. However, it's not an adventure he seeks out, and it's one sure to change him. I guess we'll have to wait until next year to get his reaction, but if nothing else, it should provide plenty of laughs.

I do feel bad that Ann and Chris (Rob Lowe) have not succeeded in having a baby, though they may not be ready for that yet. They have not proven to be the most compatible couple, and even though they are good people individually, that doesn't necessarily mean they should be bringing a child into this world. I'd rather see them figure themselves out before being tasked with caring for an infant.

At least it's not Mona-Lisa (Jenny Slate) that's pregnant, though. Tom (Aziz Ansari) has a lot on his plate, with his business really taking off, and then being threatened when he refuses to sell. The fact that he's dating Mona-Lisa, who is crazy and a terrible influence, is bad enough. If he were to be tied to her with a child, there would be no escape for him. Tom is getting his stuff together. He deserves to ditch this psycho and find a woman that respects him and treats him right.

I also am glad that April (Aubrey Plaza) is in the clear. She has been accepted to vet school, and seems to be moving up in the world. Like Tom, she is at a critical point in her career, one in which things are going well for her, and she's really coming into her own. When the time is right, I'm sure she and Andy will make interesting excellent parents. But they need time to pursue their own dreams first.

Leslie's story in "Are You Better Off?" is the most introspective. She knows she has fought hard for those she represents, and she is able to brag about positive change that she has helped bring about. Yet, people never agree on everything, and some of the crazies that come out of the woodwork, including many returning Parks and Recreation guest stars, test her mettle and determination.

Leslie takes exactly the right tact in telling them that if they don't approve of her job, recall her. It does make her a bit of a target, and puts her job at risk. However, she works to serve the people of the town, and she wants to make sure she is helping them. Yes, her actions have been in their best interests, but if they don't see that, or don't approve of her, there's not much she can do. Pawnee is filled with adults capable of making their own decisions. Leslie believes in herself, and will work hard to make sure her fellow citizens believe in her, too.

"Are You Better Off?" is sort of an understated finale, much calmer than the election of last season. But it's a nice ending, with good character moments. There are some cliffhanger elements, so this won't make a satisfying season finale, but it does set up some nice arcs for a sixth year without being all about making fans wait.

Parks and Recreation has not yet been renewed, but will most likely return next season to NBC.

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