[This is a review of Parks and Recreation Episode 100. There will be SPOILERS.]
Parks and Recreation celebrated its 100th episode and its return from the mid-season break in style last night, bringing in a healthy amount of big-name guest stars while telling important stories about two of the show's three central couples that speaks to the road ahead, as major life changes either loom or stare them right in the face.
For Chris and Ann, they spend most of the episode stressing about the sex of their baby before tracking down Doctor Saperstein (Henry Winkler) at his house only to find him decked out in his PJs watching cartoons with his son, Jean Ralphio. Later in the episode, we find out that baby Traeger will be a boy, and while it's not a game-changer, it's a nice moment that continues to gently nudge those characters out the door in a satisfying way.
Speaking of being pushed out the door, the 100th also coincided nicely with the end of Leslie's time on the City Council following her loss in the run-off to former Eagleton resident Ingrid de Forest (Kirsten Bell). For Leslie, this isn't merely the end of a job, it is the loss of her identity and her dream.
It seems like kismet, then, when Councilman Dexhart reveals yet another sex scandal (Enrique Shockwave-gate?) on the day that Leslie is set to formally step down, but when she reveals that her new ambition - which mirrors her old ambition - is to up-end her life and run against him, re-claiming a seat on the Pawnee council, her husband Ben and her friends are almost all opposed.
This isn't a very heavy episode for the show's other characters, occupying them with a side story that continues to mature Tom as a businessman and as a man. The sale of Rent-A-Swag to Dr. Saperstein is finally complete and so Tom decides that he will invite people to share their ideas with him so that he can invest his money; naturally, though, the results are slim as Tom, Donna, Ron, April, and Andy (who is back) are forced to sit watching a parade of dim townsfolk.
It's those people, and the rest of the revolving collection of complain-y bumblers that Leslie fought for and fought against, losing a job that she still aspires to keep, so when Ben hires Jen Barkley (the outstanding Kathryn Hahn) for an hour of political consultation, it really resonates when she tells Leslie that she can do better.
Following that moment, the rest is a formality. Leslie will abandon her plans while surely making others down the road like Ben did when he left Washington, but at a certain point is it going to stop being romantic and just feel incredibly sad when Ben and Leslie continuously give up on their individual dreams?
Only time will tell, but maybe that's the challenge for the next 100 episodes: authentically give Ben and Leslie something that will make them happy that is within reach.
Parks and Recreations airs Thursday @8:30PM ET on NBC