SPOILER ALERT: The following story reveals storyline and character spoilers from Thursday’s episode of "Parks and Recreation."
Now that Pawnee's citizens said nope to Knope on Thursday's episode of "Parks and Recreation," the NBC comedy will be slowly "moving away from the city council for the time being," according to creatorand producer Mike Schur.
"The next few episodes are largely about Leslie with a massive ticking clock on her career and how she tries to finish off her career as a city councilor, trying to jam through — no pun intended — some last second [legislation]," Schur explained to a small group of journalists at a screening earlier this week, coincidentally held within the faux council's chambers on the Studio City lot where the series is filmed. "And then the 100th episode, which airs in January, is literally about her final hours in office."
Poehler chimed in, "We had a lot of fun with what she does as a dead man walking, as a lame duck so to speak."
Could this mean the return of the fight for the park that started it all? Schur said it comes up in at least one episode. Poehler's take: "It's always there. It's very symbolic of her progress or lack of."
Schur admitted that getting Leslie kicked out of her dream job in local government was not always in the cards. "We didn't specifically have a plan to have her win, but we got her recalled in the finale last year and then the writers spent the 10 weeks leading up to shooting talking about the options and seeing what was the best juiciest [one]. Once we committed to having a recall, it was like, 'Well, if she wins the recall vote, she's just back where she was before.' The more exciting and interesting thing seemed to be booting her."
Plus, it gels better with the overall theme they devised six seasons ago. "Schur and I talked at the very beginning of the show about the idea of this long arc of one person with very little power believing that they could make a difference," Poehler remembered. "When you start being that person, people don't always like it or things you change especially when they're small and personal like the size of your sodas. It is cool to play around with the idea that just because Leslie's getting things done that doesn't mean that people like what she's doing. How do you fight the cynicism and disappointment that come along with that and when people still kick you out?"
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It was Schur's turn to piggyback on the thought. "You can't tell that story if everything is going great and nothing challenging happens in her life. If her best friend doesn't leave town or if she gets elected to office and everything she wants to accomplish is very easy to accomplish, then you can't tell the story of how to stem the tide of cynicism. So occasionally we have to knock her around a little bit especially professionally. This year it's both personally and professionally."
So where does that leave the political powerhouse of positive for the rest of the season? Viewers will find out the results of the election and who will take Leslie's seat although Schur said, "It is off to the side" of the main storylines. And in typical Leslie fashion, she doesn't stay down for long and will quickly start planning her next move. "In the Halloween episode, she's a disaster for about an hour and 40 minutes and then her very close friend knocks some sense into her. By the end of the episode she's bouncing back. She's going to mole some stuff over and she gets a lot of advice from a lot of different people like Ron Swanson along the way. She actively seeks out a bunch of different possibilities for her life and certain things present themselves to her. She's a shark, she never stops moving and eventually she's going to figure out a path that makes sense to her."
It appears she won't be the only one contemplating the next step. Ben, who joined Leslie's "Did I peak?" pity party in the Halloween episode, gets to a better place about his past by the middle of the year. "He's had this life where this awful thing happened when he was 18 and he's spent his entire life trying to prove that he's not a screw-up to himself and to other people. There's a point in the season, not that it comes full circle, but he seems like he's moved beyond that moment and mindset," Schur revealed. "There are actually a couple of moments like that. We don't make a big deal out of it. When Adam first came on the show and had this backstory, we talked about figuring out a way to make him mayor. That would be the storybook ending. We went a different direction, but this year we are telling a story about him in a very subtle quiet way about [how] he doesn't need that determination that he has had his entire life to prove something anymore."
He's not the only cast member who has his mind set on something. Nick Offerman offered up his best plot pitch. "The Milwaukee Brewers start a farm team in Pawnee and [we're] instrumental in administrating." Schur practically rolled his eyes in response to an idea he's obviously heard a lot. "Nick keeps pitching us that idea. Nick also pitches Sam Elliot coming back every episode. 'Hey, I think Sam could do this.'"
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Without a moment's hesitation, Ron Swanson's alter-ego tossed the joke back at his boss. "Yeah, he could be the assistant manager of the baseball team."
A few previous guest stars have already booked their return ticket to Indiana. Schur confirmed Kristen Bell has already shot one more episode and invited her to return "basically anytime she wants to come back." Henry Winkler as Jean-Ralphio's dad and Tom's retail nemesis may be back now that he's successfully bought Tom out. Schur said they were also trying desperately to get Lucy Lawless to reprise her role as Ron's only wife not named Tammy. "She's a very busy lady. In fact, we just tried to get her for an episode and she's unavailable because she's doing a play, but they're pretty stable. Don't worry about Ron and Diane."
Poehler and Adam Scott started conspiratorially giggling and trying to outdo each other with bogus bold names.
Scott kidded, "Other than Kanye West and Miley Cyrus, there's not really anybody."
Poehler rebutted, "Oh and Psy."
Scott continued the bit. "Psy as the mayor of Pawnee."
"Parks and Recreation" airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on NBC.