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10 essential episodes of ‘Parks and Recreation’

Though not all of the show’s memorable moments could be included in this list, here are some classic episodes you’ll need to see if you want to know the essential parts of the NBC hit comedy.

Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope in “Parks and Recreation.”
NBC, NBCUniversal

The TV show “Parks and Recreation” is known for things like JJ’s Diner waffles, Tom Haverford’s business ventures, his “treat yo self” days with Donna Meagle, Jerry Gergich’s mishaps, Ron Swanson’s affinity for breakfast food, and the Cones of Dunshire.

Though not all of the show’s memorable moments could be included in this list, here are some classic episodes you’ll need to see if you want to know the essential parts of the NBC hit comedy.

Warning for those who have not seen the series: This article contains spoilers.

‘Pilot’

Season 1, episode 1

In the first episode of the series, two Pawnee, Indiana, Parks and Recreation employees, enthusiastic deputy director Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and high-maintenance Tom (Aziz Ansari), hold a public forum. Pawnee resident Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) attends the forum to complain about an abandoned construction pit next to her house that her musician boyfriend, Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt), fell into, breaking both of his legs. Leslie promises to fill in the pit and turn it into a park.

  • Why it’s essential: Viewers get to know the main characters, and the pit project sets the entire series of events of “Parks and Rec” into motion.

‘The Master Plan’

Season 2, episode 23

Leslie gets defensive as two state auditors, health-obsessed Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe) and geeky accountant Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott), arrive in Pawnee to review the city’s budget.

  • Why it’s essential: This episode introduces Chris and Ben, who become an integral part of the show.

‘Andy and April’s Fancy Party’

Season 3, episode 9

Andy and intern-turned-Ron’s-assistant April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza) throw a dinner party that turns into a spur-of-the-moment wedding. Meanwhile, Ben asks Leslie’s advice on deciding between job opportunities in Indianapolis and Pawnee, and Ann heads to a singles party, where she runs into Donna (Retta).

  • Why it’s essential: Viewers see important developments in the relationships between Andy and April as well as Ben and Leslie.

‘Li’l Sebastian’

Season 3, episode 16

The Parks and Recreation team organizes a memorial service after the death of Pawnee’s beloved miniature horse, Li’l Sebastian.

  • Why it’s essential: Li’l Sebastian and his funeral are an iconic part of “Parks and Rec.”

‘Win, Lose, or Draw’

Season 4, episode 22

Pawnee’s election day determines whether Leslie, who has dreamed her whole life of running for office, or clueless Bobby Newport (Paul Rudd), heir to the Sweetums company fortune, will fill an empty seat on the city council.

  • Why it’s essential: This episode marks a momentous point in Leslie’s life and career and plays an important role moving forward in the series.

‘Leslie and Ben’

Season 5, episode 14

Leslie and Ben’s spontaneous wedding after a fundraising gala goes a little awry when manly Parks and Recreation director Ron (Nick Offerman) punches obnoxious councilman Jeremy Jamm (Jon Glaser) after he crashes the ceremony.

  • Why it’s essential: Viewers see the culmination of Leslie and Ben’s relationship up to this point.

‘The Pawnee-Eagleton Tip Off Classic’

Season 6, episode 2

Pawnee merges with its neighboring city and snobby archenemy, Eagleton, due to the latter’s financial troubles.

  • Why it’s essential: This is a key point in the Pawnee-Eagleton rivalry established throughout the show.

‘2017’

Season 7, episode 1

Season seven opens three years later, revealing the Parks and Recreation employees’ new ventures and a feud between Leslie and Ron.

  • Why it’s essential: This episode introduces a new time sequence needed to understand the remainder of the series, and viewers see what the characters have accomplished in the last three years.

‘Leslie and Ron’

Season 7, episode 4

Leslie and Ron’s friends lock them in the Pawnee Parks and Recreation office overnight, forcing them to reconcile.

  • Why it’s essential: Viewers learn the truth behind Leslie and Ron’s feud and see them become friends again.

‘One Last Ride’

Season 7, episode 12

The group reunites to carry out one final project, and viewers catch a glimpse of the characters’ futures, in the series finale.

  • Why it’s essential: The series comes to a fitting close, and viewers see what will become of the main characters.