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Pawnee will be missing two of its best and brightest when the fifth season of NBC’s Parks and Recreation kicks off Thursday on NBC.
Newly elected city councilwoman Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) is headed to Washington, D.C., where she’ll visit her now long-distance boyfriend Ben (Adam Scott) who headed off to work in to the nation’s capital in the fourth-season finale.
Meanwhile, Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) will attempt to hold down the fort sans Leslie, April (Aubrey Plaza) and Andy (Chris Pratt), who will join the D.C. trip to see his wife, who’s keeping busy working for Ben.
The Hollywood Reporter turned to showrunner Mike Schur to get the scoop on what to expect from Parks‘ return and what the biggest challenges are for Leslie and Ben (hint: Don’t expect to see Louis C.K.‘s Dave take advantage of the couple’s distance). Here are five things to expect from season five.
Leslie is a little fish. While she may be Pawnee’s top dog now that she’s an elected official, her visit to D.C. will be a bit of a wakeup call. “She’s feeling pretty good about herself because she won and Ben is off running this congressional campaign — she feels like they’re a real power couple and compares them to the Roosevelts and the Clintons,” Schur says. “When Leslie gets to Washington and sees there is a very stark difference between her success in her medium-sized town in Indiana and Ben’s life, which includes U.S. senators and super PACs — real national politics — and starts to feel like she’s not such a big deal anymore.” The first chunk of the season will see how the couple negotiates their relationship and the divergent ways that their lives are going.
Ben will face some big decisions. After moving from managing Leslie’s campaign to the big leagues, he’s taking Washington by storm, and that will take some getting used to for him. “His challenge, in addition to navigating his long-distance relationship, will be managing a giant team the way he is in this new job, which is something he’s never done,” the showrunner says. “That’s a challenge for him, in addition to where this leads once the campaign is over — he has some big decisions to make about what the future of his professional career is going to look like.”
Ben and Leslie’s real test: distance. While Louis C.K. popped in last season in an attempt to woo Leslie away from Ben, don’t expect to see Dave return anytime soon. “Dave does not swoop in and make a move on Leslie,” says Schur. “We felt like adding another man or a woman to the mix and trying to pass that off as a legitimate threat would seem silly because it doesn’t seem like either Leslie or Ben are very wavering in their love of the other person. The real obstacle for them right now is distance.”
The odd couple returns.Ann (Rashida Jones) and Tom (Aziz Ansari) will start the season still together. Sorta. “We do resolve her relationship with Tom in the premiere,” Schur says cryptically. “The very first time that you meet them in the premiere, at least on the surface, they appear to be together. That’s the simplest way to put it.”
Ron will step up.With four members of the Parks Department off in Washington, someone will have to step up and lead the team and you know it won’t be Jerry (damnit!). “Ron has never been a guy who cared very much about how much got done in his office, so he’s not afraid of not getting things done, but there is one duty that Leslie did that he has always believed he could do better than she did it: run the employee appreciation barbecue.” The event will mark the first time Ron will step up and really attempt to put himself out there and take charge of a Parks’ event — at least since Leslie has been working there. “And it goes perfectly smoothly. Actually … it doesn’t.” Schur says with a laugh. Also in store for Ron: going toe to toe with Xena‘s Lucy Lawless, who given her character’s name (Diane), it’s a safe bet she won’t last for too long. “We were extra sure not to have the name Tammy be anywhere near her character,” Schur adds.
Parks and Recreation airs Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. on NBC. What are you looking forward to seeing?
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