in Television

‘Parks and Recreation’ Season 6 Episode 18 Recap: “Prom”

The Eagleton-Pawnee merger strikes again this week, causing cuts in Pawnee’s schools that lead to the Parks department staging a make-shift prom for all of the seniors. (Which, I have to say, looked so much better than my own ball, but we didn’t have Leslie Knope, I suppose.)

We get a few storylines out of the prom, and unfortunately, the hardest to watch is Leslie’s. Every week the writers are forcing her further and further into a position where turning down the Chicago job isn’t going to be an option. But that doesn’t make it any less hard seeing her flopping around in the Parks department, so clearly the fish that’s too big to comfortably fit back into its old pond.

That being said, I completely appreciate how she tries so desperately to make the small matter each week. “Prom” focuses on her efforts to engage Alison, a Pawnee Model UN student if you remember back to season four, whom Leslie decides is worthy of the Parks department’s summer internship.

Until, that is, Ron gets in the way, with a better idea: paid work.

Andy, meanwhile, drags April to the Prom, where the event brings out her insecurities in their relationship, as well as allowing everyone  to talk about their own experiences with the ‘coming-of-age’ event.

I say ‘coming-of-age’ like that, because high school is this weird thing that the media very rarely documents with any sort of reality. Freaks and Geeks is the only true show you can point to and say, that’s what it felt like. So watching April miserably sit, watching Andy have the time of his life while she was transported into another world, one where they met and didn’t click at high school… A little bitter piece of me was happy. Because Prom is promoted as this celebration of a thing that means so much when, in reality, you’re probably in an uncomfortable dress that you’re not happy with, watching all of the more popular students having a better time than you, those miserable feelings you felt throughout high school, and the lack of freedom you felt there, bubbling to the surface.

And, of course, the music is always terrible.

Which is where Ben and Tom come in, co-DJ-ing the event. Well, Ben and ‘DJ Rumble-Drop’ co-DJ Tom who is too embarrassed to be seen in public with Ben. Until, that is, the kids call him out on his music, telling him that it’s old, before dancing to Ben’s “classic” 90s rock. Tom’s slowly but surely realizing that he’s growing up this season, but that doesn’t mean that he has to lose everything about himself (like his “banging” music on his iPod), it just means that he’s got more responsibilities now and isn’t mentally eighteen years old.

But back to April and Andy. Their differences were highlighted tonight, but so too were the reasons that they’re so good together. I mean, who else would go along with the set-up of Orin being April’s mother taking photos, while Champion was suited up to be April’s father? Not many people. And even fewer would wish Champion goodnight. (Except, perhaps, Harris Wittels himself, who co-wrote this episode and definitely helmed that scene. Something that I can just tell, because it was fucking weird, in the best way possible.)

April’s worrying, because when she and Andy are at the Prom she sees this version of him that she can’t connect with herself, or the version of herself that existed during high school. It’s always hard seeing someone in a situation or from a perspective that you don’t usually view them from. But as Andy tells her, they didn’t go to high school together. Love’s all about timing, in a way, and April and Andy got it right. In the end, she rigs the ballot for him, Andy being crowned as Prom King at thirty-three, stealing the Queen’s crown for April as he does so. Who, by the way, is forty-seven/immortal. I almost believe it, too.

As for Leslie, she’s dealing with her own kind of fear, acting out because she’s afraid of the future. Taking this new job would mean leaving Pawnee, and as she tells Ron, she wants to leave it in the right hands. But that’s not what she needs to be worrying about, Ron telling her to just enjoy the night for what it is, because who knows where she’ll be in a year or two (or three episodes from now), because plans don’t always work out how you envision them at the start.

The night ends with a surprise, Alison thanking Ron and Leslie for their help before introducing them to her boyfriend, who is none other than the famed Greg Pikitis. (And so with one smug grin – and Leslie’s dress being stapled to the food table – all of Alison’s job offers disappear for the summer. I guess she’ll have to spend it reforming her boyfriend, instead.)

As April learns in “Prom,” situations with pre-existing expectations attached to them can be kind of shitty, but when you’ve got your friends around you, and remember to exist in the moment, rather than living for the fantasy, like Leslie, things like prom can actually be kind of fun.

Grade: B

Memorable Quotes

  • “They also wanted to cut AP Latin, so I volunteered to teach AP Latin. Which reminds me, I have to learn Latin.”
  • “Aw, did you wanna DJ Lil Puppy? I didn’t know that lil puppies could operate iPods with their lil puppy paws.” “Ew, and boo. Y’all two are getting out of hand with this kind of thing. I’m giving you an official warning.”
  • “Prom is nothing but a huge party full of smiling, dancing people enjoying themselves. It’s my worst nightmare.”
  • BEN’S PARENTS THREW HIM A PROM IN THEIR LIVING ROOM AFTER HE GOT IMPEACHED: “I think I’m still messed up from it.” As for Donna? She didn’t go, because she was dating an older man. Donna’s wiser than all of us, I think we can agree.
  • The point to take away from this episode is that prom is like the movie Expendables 2: “First time, hated it. Second time, hated it. Third time, thought it was okay. The fourth, fifth, seventh, tenth times I watched it? It’s just – it’s not good. It’s just not a good movie.” (Neither is Prom. Unless you have people there to enjoy it with, I suppose. Or alcohol, as my own personal history could teach you all.)
  • …I’m not sure what happened to that scene that was filmed with Leslie and Ben dancing, but I sure hope it gets released somewhere soon. And as for Ben’s trench: was that a reference to Lloyd Dobler? Or am I just reaching super, super far into Ben’s 80s past?
  • And to end? Here’s a little Ron Swanson wisdom: “Blueprints for the future are a fools errand. One year or the next, you’re going to be somewhere else. So enjoy yourself now.”