‘Parks and Recreation’ finale recap: Michelle Obama, Jon Hamm and a surprising time jump


Leslie and Ben discussing their future. (Steve Jennings/NBC)

Well, if NBC hadn’t confirmed that “Parks and Recreation” was already renewed for a seventh season, we would have sworn that Thursday night’s season finale was the end.

Actually, seriously, NBC: Did anyone tell the producers the show was renewed? Because that really felt like a series finale.

Could things have been wrapped up in a bow any more perfectly? The show even jumped three years into the future to show how all the characters were doing down the line. Going through the list!

* Not only is Leslie pregnant with triplets, but she landed her dream job running the National Parks Service Midwest bureau, and she somehow finagled her way into staying in Pawnee — instead of moving to Chicago as the job required, a decision she had been stressing about all season. Cop out? Sure, but can you imagine a world (end of the series or not) that Leslie didn’t stay in Pawnee forever? With the help of her friends, she convinced the National Parks rep that it made a lot more financial and logistical sense to stay in Indiana. Luckily, Ron had just spent the past few months renovating the entire third floor of city hall instead of doing his job, so she had the perfect office space. And it sure helped make the new Pawnee statue’s plaque less awkward, since it was engraved with a quote: ” ‘Only a moron would ever live anywhere other than Pawnee, Indiana,’ – Leslie Knope, multiple occasions.”

* There were a slew of guest stars, from Michelle Obama to Jon Hamm to a bunch of real-life musical acts performing at the long-awaited Unity Concert. That included Letters to Cleo, The Decemberists and, most joyously of all, ’90s rapper Ginuwine, who proved that he has an amazing sense of humor by playing along with show’s long-running inside joke that he’s Donna’s first cousin — and singing along, loudly, to Andy Dwyer’s hit song, “5,000 Candles in the Wind.” (All together now, “Bye, bye Lil Sebastian…”) Hamm, meanwhile, was hilarious as usual, making a random cameo in the last few minutes, playing an incompetent office worker whom Leslie fired.

And Michelle Obama actually got some decent screen time! As the keynote speaker at the National Parks conference in San Francisco, she naturally bumped into Leslie in the hallway and tried to persuade her to take the new job in Chicago. “Well, you know how I feel about Chicago,” she told Leslie, who was stunned. “YOU ARE FROM CHICAGO, SO YOU LIKE IT,” Leslie said in response. (We’re going to need a .gif immediately of the face she made when the first lady appeared.) After a few more lines about the greatness of National Parks and the “Let’s Move” fitness program (Leslie: “I agree with you on all things throughout history and till the end of time, forever”), the first lady walked away, but only after the pair exchanged the most awkward high-five in history.

* It seemed as if nearly every important minor character over the past six years made a brief appearance: Legendary newscaster Joan Callamezzo; Tom’s BFF Jean Ralphio; Jean Ralphio’s sister, who’s so annoying we can’t even remember her name; amazing news anchor Perd Hapley; Councilman Jeremy Jamm; Ron’s ex Tammy 2, who tried to convince Ron he wasn’t that into family life. Even Mouse Rat reunited for the aforementioned Lil’ Sebastian song … and by the way, the deceased Lil’ Sebastian even had an appearance. As a hologram.

* Every character’s storyline was wrapped up in a delightful way. Ben helped Pawnee get free WiFi by beating a bunch of tech geeks in a vicious game of Cones of Dunshire, the game he created. (Ben: “Free WiFi for all! Every time someone in Pawnee clicks through a slideshow of ‘American Music Awards Red Carpet Sideboob Fails,’ they’ll say, ‘Thank you, Ben Wyatt.’”) Plus, he got a wink from Letters to Cleo lead singer Kay Hanley, and nearly fainted from joy.

Meanwhile, Ron proved to Tammy 2 that he actually did enjoy his new domestic family life by outing himself as Duke Silver, saxophone extraordinaire beloved by mature women everywhere. Tom overcame a disastrous opening night of his Italian restaurant, Tom’s Bistro, and managed to throw a VIP opening party and was a huge success. (“This is the hardest I’ve worked on anything since…wow, I’ve never worked hard on anything. What a cool life!”) April helped Andy get back together with Mouse Rat for a reunion. Even Jerry-Larry didn’t ruin too many things.

* Not to mention, in the last few minutes, the show jumped three years into the future. Leslie got her wish and the National Parks Service Midwest bureau opened in Pawnee, and three years later, was obviously killing it; she was running an office full of people, about to fly to South Dakota, and even fired Hamm. Ben was wearing a fancy tuxedo and on his way to his “big night.” Leslie’s triplets were now toddlers, and adorable, and April and Andy (obviously wearing a sling on his arm) were about to babysit them. Oh, and Jerry-Larry’s name was now Terry.

So, a perfect end to the series — er, season. Looks as though the show will be taking an interesting time-jump in Season 7. Signing off with the top three lines of the night:

Leslie on the craziness of park conventions: “What happens at a National Parks conference…will be emailed to you in a PDF the following Monday.”

Craig the crazy new office worker with a great new catchphrase: “From now on, everyone call be Kristen, ’cause I am wigging out right now!”

One of the Unity Concert artists discovering the joys of Pawnee: “I ordered a small cheeseburger and both the buns were pizzas.”

Emily Yahr covers pop culture and entertainment for the Post. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyYahr.
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