1. Chris–Ann OUT.
We knew this moment would be coming—we just didn’t know how. Over the summer, Parks’ showrunners announced that Rashida Jones’ Ann and Rob Lowe’s Chris would be leaving the show mid–season. It makes sense from a plot point of view—them coupling up and having a baby ties up each character’s narrative nicely—and for each character personally. Ann and Chris aren’t native Pawneeans, they’re starting a family and want to put down new roots. This makes no sense whatsoever, though, to Leslie, who goes into destructive–denial mode when Ann merely attempts to tell her she’s thinking about leaving. She struggles to understand why would Ann ever want to leave if Pawnee/their friendship are THE BEST? Ultimately, after Leslie attempts to make everyone in the office sign a 50-page loyalty oath, Leslie realizes it’s time to be a friend and listen to Ann.
2. Eagleton and Pawnee merge.
Eagleton and Pawnee’s merger means that all of their departments merge—including parks. Thus, we get a delicious reveal, and the episode’s namesake: the Eagletonian doppelgangers of each person in the Pawnee parks department. Hilarity ensues—as I’ll touch on in the next point—but there’s also a problem: with the size of the department doubled, some people need to be let go. To Leslie’s dismay, some people aren’t as upset at the prospect of leaving as others. Donna’s got her “condo in Seattle, fiance in Denver” to fall back on; Jerry (renamed Larry by the office), called out of retirement to help, has “Gail and the kids.” It seems like the Pawneeans are staying put, since most of the Eagletonians (sadly) are fired. Except for Jerry. Er, Larry.
3. Best and worst doppelgangers.
For the most part, these doppelgangers are done exceptionally well. There’s Craig—Donna’s counterpart—a loud, manic Scandal–loving guy who cares so much about his job “IT’S INCURABLE!” There’s Ron Dunn (played by the excellent Sam Elliott, of Big Lebowski fame), who’s Ron’s doppelganger. At first, Ron is in love—“I like Ron”—with his mustachioed, taciturn friend. But when Eagleton Ron is revealed to be a sandals–wearing vegan, Swanson finds not a new friend but a new archenemy. And then there’s April—diabolical, diabolical April—who develops a love–hate (it’s unclear which) relationship with Eagleton’s spacey, vapid intern, Tynnyfer. April instantly mimics her slack–jawed Valley Girl drawl: “She’s the worst person I’ve ever met. I want to travel the world with her.” The only pairing that misses the mark is Tom’s—his job in Eagleton was done by a computer program. It was a missed opportunity; let’s see Rajiv from IT back as Tom’s adversary.
4. Chris and Ben, back again.
It was nice to see a season three throwback this week, as Chris and Ben reunite to solve Eagleton’s budget woes. Chris plays good cop, Ben plays bad cop; they both berate Eagleton for having masseuses, baristas, and baristas for their masseuses. But victory dinners and celebration lunges aside, both Chris and Ben know the good ol’ days of budget gunslinging are over. “After “the intense, meth-like high of solving accounting puzzles,” Ben says, “I’m always just beat at the end of the day.”
5. Stray Thoughts
“Doppelgangers” was a very funny episode in an already strong season. It plays on what we love best about the show—its characters—by presenting us with cleverly warped versions of them. Despite some missed opportunities, it was seamlessly executed. Plot–wise, this was an important step in this season’s narrative trajectory. Chris and Ann will be leaving soon—perhaps to Bloomington?—and Ben is realizing he’s not as young as he thought. It’s been hinted at before, but perhaps there’s a baby Wyatt–Knope in Parks’ future.