It's been said that the more things change the more they stay the same. But Pawnee, Indiana in 2017 just isn't the same old place.
For one, Tom Haverford seems to have actually launched several successful restaurants: Tom's Bistro, a pair of fast food eateries and Tommy Chopper, a chopped salad emporium operating out of a decommissioned military helicopter. The serial entrepreneur has even been named one of Indiana Business Monthly's "35 Under 35."
Leslie Knope is no longer a Pawnee public servant. She's a federal employee now, a regional director for the National Park Service. Somehow, she's been able to convince her boss to let her run the office from Pawnee. She and Ben Wyatt are proud, poop-stained parents of triplets.
Leslie's always known that a strong staff was the secret to getting things done and she's pulled along old friends Andy, April and Larry to help her out. Of course Larry (né Gary, né Jerry) has a new name: Terry. April actually seems plugged in to and productive at her job (horrors!) as Leslie's Regional Affairs Director, while her husband, Andy, works for Leslie part-time since he's now a bona fide TV star. "The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Hour" lets him combine his love of music, karate and kids.
Ben Wyatt is now Pawnee's City Manager. Most recently, he spearheaded plans for the Pawnee Bicentennial Celebration. Ben's efforts have been so tireless that he's being honored as the town's Man of the Year at a black tie event.
And then there's Ron Swanson. It seems that after six-plus years as the Parks and Recreation Department's director, he's finally thrown off the shackles of public service and started his own business, Very Good Building and Development Company. Also surprising is that his firm has been engaged by local tech giant Gryzzl to build a new campus. BTW, Donna Meagle is helping with the real estate part of the transaction; she's hung out her shingle as Regal Meagle Realty.
Perhaps most alarming is that Leslie and Ron are now sworn enemies. In fact, Leslie has forbidden Ben or anyone else from even speaking Ron's name around her. What caused the rift? No one's talking just yet, but it's clear that sometime during the three-year interregnum, the beautiful friendship between Ron and Leslie blew sky high, apparently over something called Morningstar.
As we begin this farewell season, we find Ben warning Leslie that Ron will be attending a critical meeting over the fate of one of the largest undeveloped plots of land in Pawnee. Pawnee founding family member Jessica Wicks Newport and her attorney have called the meeting to announce that the 25-square-mile plot is being sold. Jessica is the sole heir and remarks that, "it's time to trade those dumb old trees for a buttload of cash." Sealed bids are due at 5:00 p.m. The expected winning bid will be in the neighborhood of $90 million. That's no problem for Gryzzl, but Leslie's hard-pressed to find even a couple of million dollars to bid from her budget. She exhorts Ben and her staff to find some financing sources.
At the cocktail reception for the Bicentennial Banquet, Leslie hits up local Native American leader Ken Hotate for financial help with her dream of a new national park. Ken hints that the Wamapoke tribe has been thinking of building a second resort. Leslie explains that there'd be no resort - she's looking for a donation of $90 million. Ken points out to Leslie the irony of his people being asked to donate money for a federal land purchase of territory that was taken from them by the federal government in the first place.
The banquet gets underway. Tom Haverford has requested the honor of introducing Man of the Year Ben Wyatt. But speaking before an audience of Pawnee's elites, Tom can't help but sound his own horn, which he does at length. He concludes with: "People ask me, 'Is it hard to stay humble with all you've accomplished?' and I say 'Not for me. I am pretty amazing at being humble.'"
Andy and April are simultaneously bored and terrified. After three years of marriage, April's convinced they've become complacent, boring, predictable. Case in point: they're shopping for renters insurance. They begin brainstorming how to get their reckless mojo back, imagining stealing cars and more before settling on a prank of streaking the gala. The next day, they'll get even more inspiration: making an offer on a creepy Victorian house that once housed insane assembly line workers from the nearby dollhead factory.Leslie confronts Ron at the gala, excoriating him for stealing her staff. He brushes her off, explaining that they're all independent people, able to make their own choices. The confrontation escalates as Ben finally takes the stage for his acceptance speech. Just moments after Ben steps to the podium, a fanfare plays and a massive birthday cake is rolled in. Pawnee's bicentennial celebration is here! Well-wishers carry candles to place on the cake.Not only is Ben's speech cut short, but Ron and Leslie are now engaged in a full-on tussle. Push comes to shove, and the two of them trip and hurtle face-first toward the cake. In the process, they bump a well-wisher holding a lighted candle who then stumbles into a life-sized papier-mâché statue of Ben. The statue was created to honor Ben but now it's on fire. OK, so maybe some things do stay the same in Pawnee.Knowing she can't match Gryzzl's largesse, Leslie approaches Jessica Wicks Newport with a proposition: would she be open to donating the land outright if the new park had the Newport family name on it? It would be a way for the family to erase the stigma of their most recent industrial accident, in which a chocolate pipe burst and polluted nearby Lake Pawnee. It's a long shot for sure, but Jessica and her attorney take it under advisement. The next day we hear that only two organizations' bids are making it to the final round for consideration: those from Gryzzl and the Park Service.Leslie and staff barge into Ron's office, promising a fight to the death over the Pawnee parcel. She delivers a plate of cookies decorated with the slogan "Prepare for War." Then Leslie and her team storm off, leaving Ron to take a bite of the delicious declaration of war. The battle's on.