'Parks and Recreation': 9 hints about tonight's finale

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Image Credit: Ben Cohen/NBC

Are you ready to rock and/or roll with the merger? The Pawnee/Eagleton Unity Concert — and a whole lot of other events — will take place in the season 6 finale of Parks and Recreation on Thursday at 8 p.m. The hourlong episode is brimming with famous guests, plot twists, and, yes, a decision from Leslie (Amy Poehler) on whether she’ll stay in Pawnee to raise triplets or move her family to Chicago so she can take a dream job at the National Parks Service. Want a few more hints about the big night? Executive producer Michael Schur has you covered:

Leslie is at a career crossroads. In California. The episode begins with a conflicted Leslie attending a National Parks conference in San Francisco, where she will make a presentation on merging governments and further agonize over pulling the trigger — or the ripcord — on the Chicago gig. While she’s there, though, “she’s confronted with something that makes her want to take the job and another thing that makes her not want to take the job,” says Schur. “The big question in the first half is: ‘Is she going take the job?’ and she makes that decision halfway through the episode. And then the second half is the concert and the ramifications of her making that decision.”

The lineup of bands at the Unity Concert would impress a real-life festival booker. In addition to Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy returning as Scott Tanner to lead a Land Ho reunion, acts including The Decemberists, Letters to Cleo, and Ginuwine will perform as themselves, while Yo La Tengo will hit the stage as Bobby Knight Ranger to perform “Sister Christian.” Let’s have Schur explain that one: “[Co-executive producer] Donick Cary is friends with Yo La Tengo — he emailed them and said, ‘Hey, do you guys want to play a band called Bobby Knight Ranger that dresses up like Bobby Knight and plays Night Ranger songs?’ and they said, ‘Yes, we do!’ They’re on camera for like 20 seconds, and it was so cool of them to fly in and do this ridiculous thing. … There were some bands who shall remain nameless — who are huge bands — who expressed an interest in doing it, and then it felt kind of absurd. So we had to balance this desire to throw an awesome concert with a little bit of a reality check: Kendrick Lamar and Jay-Z would never do this, [but] the Decemberists felt like exactly the right band — they would hear about a cause and decide to come and play a show. And Ginuwine would do it because he’s Donna’s cousin. And this isn’t expressed in any way, but the backstory in my mind is that booking Letters to Cleo (of which Mark Rivers — who plays drums in Andy’s band Mouse Rat and writes the songs for Parks and Recreation — was a member) was Leslie’s anniversary gift to Ben for next year.”

Between the rock stars and other famous faces, the guest list for the finale is “bonkers.” “I think we had 60 speaking roles in the finale, which is easily an all-time record for us,” marvels Schur, noting that Henry Winkler, Ben Schwartz, Jenny Slate, Megan Mullally, Lucy Lawless, and Billy Eichner make return appearances in the episode. Speaking of Eichner, Craig will continue to rage all over the show — if Schur has his way. “We’re trying to work out now some kind of deal for him for next year,” says Schur. “He has his own show and he has a million other things and he’s kind of blowing up, as the kids say, but we’ve made no secret of our desire to have him be a big part of the world, so hopefully that’ll all work out.” And yes, the decision to give a job as a part-time sommelier at Tom’s Bistro was “just another way to enmesh into the universe.”

First lady Michelle Obama makes a cameo as the keynote speaker at the National Parks Service conference, and her acting chops are… “Incredibly good!” he says. “Amy did some improv with her and she totally rolled with it. There’s one little small moment in it where Amy just haltingly and stumblingly asks if she can give her a high-five, and Michelle Obama’s physical acting is incredibly funny and good. She never had to look at her script, she hit her mark every time. It was really impressive!”

Blake Anderson of Workaholics fame will pop up. Without shoes. Ben (Adam Scott) and Andy (Chris Oratt) visit the HQ of a tech start-up named Gryzzl, which is offering free WiFi to selected U.S. cities, and the duo try to sell one of Gryzzl’s founders, Mike Bean (played by Anderson) on Pawnee. Anderson’s character “just walks around barefoot all day ” — and winds up with one of Schur’s favorite lines in the episode: “Ben is like, ‘Wow, this company’s really taking off!’ and Mike says, ‘Six months ago, I was working in a taco truck, and now I own one third of the Portland Trailblazers!'”

A return of a certain role-playing game is in the (Spirit) Cards. “Of all of the things that could make or break a deal for Ben and Pawnee,” he says, “the last one he ever expected would’ve been a Cones of Dunshire tournament.”

Eat, drink, and… be wary. “Tom (Aziz Ansari) makes the gamble of his life and tries to open his restaurant way before it’s ready,” says Schur.

Brace yourself for one other big guest star. And he/she has been kept a secret. “The only thing I can say about this person — let’s give this person a gender-neutral name, Chris  — is that when Chris shows up on screen, it’s really just going to make people delighted and happy,” he teases. “It’s a person who makes total sense to be in the world of the show.”

The final scene of the finale is a game-changing cliffhanger. “The biggest show move we’ve ever made is the last minute of the finale,” declares Schur. “The last 60 seconds raise huge questions for every character. And it’s not a traditional TV show cliffhanger. It’s a different kind of thing that’s going to shake up the world of the show.”

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