After seven wonderful seasons, Parks and Recreation has come to an end, sending Leslie Knope, Ron Swanson, and the many wonderful citizens of Pawnee, Indiana, off in fantastic style. Mixing off-the-wall humor with tremendous heart, it’s a TV show that made you laugh just as hard as it made you care about the characters.
That is what made Parks and Rec so special season after season.
After a difficult first season, the crew behind the show really hit their stride from the very beginning of season two and it’s been a wonderful ride ever since. Best of all, each character is fantastic. Tenacious Leslie Knope, man’s man Ron Swanson, loveable dope Andy Dwyer, dark April Ludgate, cocky Tom Haverford, and many more are each amazing in their own right. Add in the many memorable side characters and the town of Pawnee is unforgettable. It’s a place you never want to leave.
It’s tough picking just 15 episodes from all of Parks and Recreation, as there are not only so many fantastic episodes, there are countless amazing moments and quotes spread across the seven seasons. There’s really no wrong choice when it comes to choosing your favorite episodes. The Parks Department and the residents of Pawnee, Indiana, have had so many amazing moments.
Have your own favorite episodes? Leave your picks in the comment section below!
15. Greg Pikitis (Season 2, Episode 7)
Leslie is committed to stopping the yearly Halloween vandalization of the statue of Mayor Percy, which she believes is done by high schooler Greg Pikitis. So she inlists the help of cop boyfriend Dave, as well as Andy. Meanwhile, Ann throws a Halloween party, but it only makes everyone there feel awkward due to the semi lame nature of the get-together.
It’s great seeing Leslie really get frustrated over not only a kid who constantly annoys her, but a case she can’t seem to crack. Her tenacity and will to win is always admirable, but it’s always funny to see it backfire.
Best Moment: Andy interrogates Pikitis at the Parks Department in his first time as Burt Macklin, but the kid’s taunting ends up making Andy cry. “I’m not crying! I’m allergic to jerks!”
14. Telethon (Season 2, Episode 22)
The Parks gang takes part in the annual 24-hour “Pawnee Cares” telethon, which quickly becomes a disaster due to unexpected mistakes and Leslie’s lack of sleep/overdose on the suger-filled Sweetums NutriYum Bars. Everyone tries to make up for time (Mouse Rat singing “Sex Hair” is a highlight, along with Purd doing the worm), with each pitching in something to keep the telethon going. Leslie tries to get Mark to propose to Ann on the air, but finds out Ann actually wants to break up with him
“Telethon” manages to make local access telethons and wasting time fun. And Gary/Jerry/Larry/Terry/Garry Gergich gets the short end of the stick many times. Plus, it’s the first appearance of Indiana Pacers small forward Detlef Schrempf.
Best Moment: Ron decides to fill time by recaning a chair, “over, under, and, you guessed it, over again.” He actually loses money.
13. Soulmates (Season 3, Episode 10)
In her bid to get over Ben, Leslie starts online dating. But her profile says she’s a 98% match with Tom of all people. Meanwhile, Chris and Ron engage in a cook off, pitting their respective healthy and hearty diets against one another. Having the two main stories revolve around two sets of polar opposites forced to deal with one another really makes the episode pop, as the best Parks and Recreation episodes thrive off these complex character relationships.
Of course, Leslie and Tom being together could never happen. So finding out why she was matched and what they could be like together is such a fun and strange twist. And that kiss is hilarious!
Best Moment: The cook off ends with Chris and Ron submitting their burgers to judges Tom, Donna, Jerry, and Kyle. Chris makes a complex turkey burger while Ron puts meat on a bun. Of course, Ron wins by a landslide.
12. Andy and April’s Fancy Party (Season 3, Episode 9)
Andy and April hold a fancy party for friends and family at their home, only to announce that it is their surprise wedding! While it seems like it’s a terrible idea, with the two still being fairly early in their relationship, the Parks writers manage to show that they are really great for one another. Run ins with Orin, Jerry’s party shirt, and the singles event with Donna and Ann all add great little moments in the bigger narrative.
Leslie’s worries about her feelings for Ben get projected on the impending nuptials, but the wedding ends up pulling the two most immature characters on the show into adulthood. It also has one of the show’s best openings, with Ron pretending to yank out a tooth in the middle of a meeting. It’s important to show your coworkers that your capable of withstanding a tremendous amount of pain. Plus, it’s always fun to see Tom faint.
Best Moment: Andy and April say “I do” surrounded by their loved ones. The silly nature of their relationship and their event ends up being one of the show’s best moments.
11. The Debate (Season 4, Episode 20)
Leslie has her big faceoff with Bobby Newport in a political debate while all of Pawnee watches on TV. The road to the election was full of ups and downs, but this was easily one of Leslie’s biggest wins on the road to Leslie’s City Council win at the end of the season. Like most of her campaign, Leslie must fight an uphill battle during the debate, as Newport’s sanitized and dumbed down answers win over the Pawnee people with each answer. Throw in Brandi Maxxxx and a few other competitors, and it quickly turns into a disaster.
Of course, the rest of the Parks team is involved too, with Andy, April, and Ron hosting a viewing party that falls apart when they forget to pay the cable bills. Ron’s handy hijacking of the cable line and Andy’s retelling of various ’80s movies really adds the laughs. Especially when Andy karate kicks the TV in celebration.
Best Moment: After Newport implies that Sweetums will leave Pawnee if he is not elected, Leslie fires back in a fiery speech that displays her independent and loving spirit. It wins over the crowd and even impresses Bobby.
10. Leslie & Ron (Season 7, Episode 4)
After jumping in time to 2017 and learning that Leslie and Ron are no longer friends, audiences finally get to find out what the mysterious “Morning Star” incident was that broke them apart. To put an end to their arguments, Leslie and Ron’s friends lock them in the Parks Department office overnight to force them to talk out their differences. There are plenty of fantastically funny moments, but it’s the emotional component of seeing two longtime friends completely at odds with one another that makes it one of Parks’ best.
“Leslie & Ron” is a real roller coaster, even though its mostly a bottle episode, with the tight focus on Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman’s performances making it all the stronger. This is one of the many examples of the real heart at Parks and Rec’s center.
Best Moment: The reason behind the Morning Star incident comes to light, with it revealed that Ron Swanson of all people planned on asking Leslie for a government job so he could be with all the friends who left the Parks Department.
9. The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show (Season 7, Episode 10)
Andy wraps up his kids show with the final episode of The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show. Easily the most experimental episode of Parks and Rec ever, the entire episode is the Johnny Karate show itself. While the show had been shown in bits and pieces throughout Season 7, here we get it in all its glory, with Andy’s eccentricities and talents (and Burt Macklin) combining for a great kids show.
While the episode is filled with zany moments, the idea of April’s guilt over her new job in D.C. ending Andy’s show gives it the emotional component it needs. Together, it makes for a vibrant installment in the awesome final season.
Best Moment: When April rushes off, overwhelmed that she’s the cause of Andy’s show ending, Andy runs off to comfort her. He’s not sad at all to leave the best job he ever had, he’s happy to continue in his life with the wife he loves.
8. Ron & Tammy: Part Two (Season 3, Episode 4)
Ron finally falls into the clutches of his second ex-wife, Tammy II, which turns him into a Ron Swanson fans had never seen before. We’d heard of how Tammy II had a terrible grip on Ron, but here we finally get to see it. And what a train wreck it is. The insanity of Tammy II only makes everyone else crazier, while Leslie tries to return sanity to Pawnee in her wake.
Except for the oblivious Jerry, the Parks Department tries to get the “goofy-looking, dirty-kimono-wearing, corn-rowed clown” to get back to normal, complete with off kilter pleas from his friends and a pre-recorded message from Ron’s sane self. It’s fantastic to see the beloved character in such a different state.
Best Moment: Ron and Tammy are encountered by the department after their wild night together and Ron has completely changed, now having cornrows and wearing a kimono. Also, the middle part of his mustache is gone. “I didn’t shave it off. It rubbed off. From friction.”
7. London Parts 1 & 2 (Season 6, Episode 1 & 2)
The Pawnee gang goes to London when Leslie wins an international award in a show that is filled with payoff for tons of continuing storylines. While it’s a two-part episode, this really is just one giant episode that gets a ton of mileage out of putting the characters in a brand new world. Not only do Ron and Dianne get married at the very beginning, but Andy accepts a job in London, Tom’s fight with his mysterious business competitor ends, and Leslie makes a major misstep in the protest against her by the people of Pawnee.
Parks and Recreation doesn’t waste any moment, filling up all of “London Parts 1 and 2” with laughs, plot progression, and great character moments.
Best Moment: Ron goes on the mysterious journey that Leslie has set up for him, which takes him to the Scottish Isles and a brewery, showing him that there’s something great about Europe after all. He deeply loves it, he just won’t admit it.
6. End of the World (Season 4, Episode 6)
The Reasonablists, the cult that worships Zorp in Pawnee predict the end of the world for the following morning (after many years in a row), so Leslie and the gang decide to live like the world was really ending. While Leslie confronts her feelings over Ben due to Shauna Malwae-Tweep’s advances, Andy and April try to complete his bucket list, which includes holding $1,000 in his hands, being an action star, and going to the Grand Canyon.
“End of the World” really gets the balance between comedy and sincerity just right, which gets to the heart of the strength of the show overall. The more you love these characters, the more they make you laugh.
Best Moment: After stealing her dad’s car, April and Andy finally reach their mysterious destination – The Grand Canyon. It’s stunning beauty silences even April as the newly married couple celebrate. Until Andy says, “Where’s all the faces of the presidents?”
5. Li’l Sebastian (Season 3, Episode 16)
The darling of Pawnee, Li’l Sebastian the miniature horse, has passed away, leading to a massive memorial service that the Parks Department is in charge of holding. The absurdity of Pawnee’s love for a miniature horse once again draws plenty of laughs, especially when it comes to making Ron laugh. Of course, things quickly get out of hand and nothing is as easy as it should be. This is Pawnee, after all. And by the end, Leslie’s secret relationship with Ben and the sudden arrival of potential candidacy for City Council set up for the coming conflict in Season 4.
There are many amazing moments here and every character gets a chance to shine as the town comes together to commemorate Li’l Sebastian. From “5000 Candles in the Wind” to Tom’s memorial, complete with English accent, everyone gets to do a little something for the little horse. Plus, maybe the best Jean-Ralphio quote ever? “I hope you brought a change of clothes because your eyes are about to piss tears.”
Best Moment: Ron lights the torch for Li’l Sebastian, but Gerry has filled it with way too much lighter fluid, leading to a massive fireball that engulfs Ron’s head and burning off his beloved facial hair.
4. Pawnee Rangers (Season 4, Episode 4)
Ron’s Pawnee Rangers and Leslie’s Pawnee Goddesses both go camping, contrasting their youth camps against one another. Ron’s spartan ways and Leslie’s feminism are at their extreme differences here, leading to one of the few times where Ron realizes how wrong he actually is. Seeing Lesli’es Goddesses win over Andy and the boys on the camping trip is a fun twist on the battle of the sexes embodied here. It’s also hilarious to hear them take the girl-centric pledge.
Of course, “Pawnee Rangers” is best known for the first appearance of Treat Yo Self, the one day each year where Donna and Tom go all out spoiling themselves. Their escapades are not only hilariously over the top, but they play a big role in helping Ben get back on his feet. By inspiring him to buy a Batman costume.
Best Moment: Tom and Donna outline the idea of Treat Yo Self:
“Once a year, Donna and I spend a day treating ourselves. What do we treat ourselves to?” “Clothes.” “Treat yoself.” “Fragrances.” “Treat yoself.” “Massages.” “Treat yoself.” “Mimosas.” “Treat yoself.” “Fine leather goods.” “Treat yoself!” “It’s the best day of the year.” “The best day of the year!”
3. The Fight (Season 3, Episode 13)
Spurred on by Tom’s creation of his brand new drink, Snake Juice, the Parks Department celebrates at the Snake Hole Lounge and gets incredibly drunk. While the main conflict of the episode is between Leslie and Ann, who have a lengthy drunken fight concerning Leslie’s feelings for Ben and Ann’s refusal to work at the Parks Department, everyone gets to shine in another episode that turns every character on his or her head by getting them drunk. Blending all those alcohols together with sugar and coffee was clearly a bad idea.
It’s also the return of Burt Macklin of the FBI, as Andy and April role play when they take Tom’s mandate to sell Snake Juice a little too far. Their insane mugging and commitment is further proof how perfect these two are together.
Best Moment: The morning after the drunken night, April tries to make Andy feel better at the shoeshine stand by continuing to pretend to be Janet Snakehole. When Andy gets up, he throws up all over Kyle’s shows.
2. One Last Ride (Season 7, Episode 12)
With Season 7 being so consistently great, it was clear that Parks and Recreation would have little trouble sticking the landing when it came to the series finale. What was so surprising was how perfect the final episode really was. The show has always been about the relationships between the characters and how Leslie’s love and commitment united them all, so having that be the focus of the end was wonderfully fitting. Focused on the Parks gang getting together for one final task (fixing a swing) was a lovely little piece, as they all united before going their separate ways.
Of course, the show’s out of order flashbacks to the future highlighting each character’s lives caused huge laughs and many touching emotional moments, as they all went on to live happy and fulfilling, but not cliched, lives for the many years to come. Best of all, showing them years and even decades into the future helped ensure that we knew the characters we loved not only got to see their dreams fulfilled, but still had one another in their lives, despite living many miles apart. Is this possibly the best television finale of all time? It’s quite possible.
Best Moment: Every single one of them. But the hint that Leslie may be President in the future is especially fantastic.
1. Flu Season (Season 3, Episode 2)
Flu season hits Pawnee, wreaking havoc on its many citizens and throwing their relationships into chaos. Ann’s previous kiss with Andy has April furious with her, who takes out her frustrations while sick in the hospital. Despite Leslie’s efforts, she falls ill too, just in time for her presentation to the Pawnee Chamber of Commerce about the Harvest Festival. Ron and Andy bond over football and relationships. And perhaps most hysterical, the super in shape Chris catches the flu, which is his worst nightmare.
Once again, Leslie’s tenacity wins out. Even though the room is spinning around her (she thinks she’s doing cartwheels, she puts on an amazing speech to win the approval for the festival. This one is filled with amazing lines (“Leslie, I typed your symptoms into the thing up here, and it says you could have ‘network connectivity problems”) and fantastic character pieces. There’s a reason why “Flu Season” is seen as one of the series’ all time classics.
Best Moment: After having finally been taken down by the flu (his body is a microchip) Chris tries to rally by desperately commanding himself in the mirror, “Stop. Pooping.”
Honorable Mentions: Time Capsule, Halloween Surprise, Smallest Park, Doppelgangers, Harvest Festival, Tom’s Divorce, Ann and Chris, The Trial of Leslie Knope, Win, Lose, or Draw, Camping, Comeback Kid, Hunting Trip