"Pawnee, Indiana!" Phil announces into the cameras. Him and Claire are seated at the family couch with various-sized luggage piled behind them. "Dunphy destination numero uno."
Claire tilts her head, giving him a narrow-eyed look of consideration. "Well."
"Admittedly, more like destination number three hundred and twelve--"
"Welllll," Claire repeats.
"--seven hundred and seventy-two; ye gods, woman." Back to the camera, "We compiled a list."
And sure enough, there is a list, which he jumps up and gets. It's written on old tractor feed paper as last regularly seen circa 1993, stretching from the kitchen counter to where Phil runs with it back to the couch, such is its great length.
While this is happening, Claire explains, "Each of us wrote down where we wanted to vacation. In the whole world. And we wrote it down onto--"
Which is exactly when Phil returns with the starting half of the super long list, the rest of it still fluttering down the hallway behind him. He drops back onto the couch, holding up for show: "Sixty four pages of dreams!"
As Phil starts rifling through these pages with no small amount of delight, Claire continues less happily. "Seriously, there are sixty four pages there. Sixty four pages of handwritten pleas for Walt Disney World, for Italy, China, for London--"
"One day, London, I will walk your fancy streets and know your darkest, most ancient secrets," Phil interrupts with, this sworn murmur.
Clarie stares for long, judgmental seconds. Then, "Anywhere, okay. Anywhere in the world, that was an option. Mt. Rushmore. The Grand Canyon."
"The lost city of Atlantis."
"Somehow," Claire says, and the way she is pushing a little too hard on it, how her right eye gets THAT much narrower, you know she's hinting at something that spells of looming disaster here, "we as a family decided on Indiana." She shakes her head. "Seriously, how was that even an option?"
Luke laughs into the camera. "Pawnee," he says, and then again, only breaking it down some. "Pa. Knee." He shakes his head, marvels like it's absolutely hilarious: "Old people."
"Yep," chirps Mitchell, enthusiasm kicked all the way up to the amount of ZERO.
Cam, meanwhile, practically titters beside him. "Am I excited? Ask me if I'm excited. I'm excited! Pawnee, Indiana," he says, rolling out the twang, which makes Mitchell let out a little HERE WE GO noise, "is like a second home to me. That I've never been to, never mind that, but it's like a long lost cousin to where I grew up. You know, out in the country?" He starts to recall fondly, "Tractors, quaint town folk, apple pie--"
"You know this isn't a postcard for the stereotypical American South, right?"
"You say that now..."
While Cam trails off with a smile that suggests Mitchell will soon be singing a new tune, Mitchell stares serious-faced into the camera, pretty sure he will not be.
"MAN-NYYYYYYY," Gloria yells up the stairs, car already packed and them just about ready to go. Jay waits nearby with his hands in his pockets, slouched over, this look on his face that says he's been there a while. "We're leaving, with or without you!" And then, more desperately, "Never without you, but, aye, hurry up!"
Manny pokes his head down the staircase, a mess of clothes bundled in his arms. "But how do I know what to pack? I've never been to Pawnee. I've never even been to Indiana! How can I know I'm making the right choice? What if I go too formal? What if I don't go formal ENOUGH?"
Before this spirals into a life crisis, Jay sighs and says, "I think you'll be okay."
Manny seems prepared to believe this, but just in case: "You're sure? Because there's also an in-between."
"You will look handsome no matter what," Gloria tells him. "And if Pawnee is not formal, you will bring the formal to it."
Manny decides it: "Formal it is."
"Formal was a bad choice," Manny says an entire day later, full of regrets.
They have barely even begun to explore Pawnee, having arrived just that morning, but already he can tell.
"But on the plus side," says Phil, while together the entire family, each of them wearing bright yellow DUNPHY/PRITCHETT CLAN; TEMPORARY PAWNEEAN; WE WELCOME YOU WELCOMING US shirts -- some obviously more into this than others -- makes their way through Ramsett Park, literally the town's only advertised attraction, "look at you, buddy! You look like a fancy butler."
Claire snorts, both at Phil's stupid words of comfort, but also because she is thus far unimpressed with Pawnee. Their morning fun was not actually fun, but a thirty second visit to Indiana's Smallest Park. Even though Luke and Phil couldn't stop laughing and taking pictures of themselves with their arms spread out disbelievingly, just to capture how small the park in fact was, it officially set her mood to sour for the day.
She says to him now, "Seriously, how is that a plus side?"
"How should I know how plus and minuses work?" Phil defends. "I'm no scientist, Claire. Inventor, yes. Master salesmen, you betcha. But science is a tricky domain."
Annoyed at both her parents and all the standing around/walking they've been doing, Alex asks, "Do I need to look up the word science for you?"
"Just pull it out of your head, dweeb," Haley murmurs, in her own foul mood because: Pawnee. Indiana. Literally the worst vacation of her life, and it's barely even started.
Alex scoffs. "And the insult there is, what? That I'm smart? Ohhh."
"She called your head a computer," Luke snickers.
"OH MY GOD," Claire cuts in, voice rising. It's safe to say that she has completely lost it at this point, reaching meltdown mode at record speed. "Every single one of you quiet your annoying, flapping little mouth-traps, and zip it for three seconds, or so help me--"
Except just then, an unmanned, runaway golf cart comes hurtling their way, chased by a sweaty, portly-looking older guy and then, at his heels, a handsomely dressed, compactly built man-child who's shouting, "STOP, GOLF CART! DAMN YOU, STOPPPP!" to no avail.
"Oh god," Claire breathes out, grabbing Alex and Luke close while Gloria shelters Manny.
Phil, though, he gets this wild look in his eyes, knows there are times when ordinary men must rise up as extraordinary superheroes, and takes chase.
"PHIL," Claire shouts, but he only yells back, "With great responsibility comes great power! One day you'll understand!"
"THAT'S FROM A MOVIE," she cries after him. "NOT AN ACTUAL JUSTIFICATION!"
And then suddenly Cam's coming over all crazed-looking too. Mitchell notices, says right away, "Cam, no."
Only Cam's mentally already cast himself as part of the pursuit, saying, "Golf cart, farm cow, there's really no difference..."
And then, with a mighty shouted battle cry that continues on for a while, he's off and running too.
"Idiots," Jay says.
At least no one gets hurt, not counting the golf cart, which eventually meets its grizzly end when it crashes into a handball court.
"On the plus side, the handball court was completely empty, as it almost always is."
That comes from Leslie Knope, Pawnee's Deputy Director, who was a lagging participant in the dash for the golf cart. She's taken both Dunphys and Pritchetts alike under her protective wing, having guided them to the relatively safe section of the park, where it's 78% certain they will most likely not be attacked by any of the admittedly violent local animal population.
("What kind of animals?" Luke had wondered when they'd first been warned. "Rabid squirrels?"
"Raccoons, mostly," said Leslie.
"Rabid raccoons?" further wondered Luke.
"Rabid, non-rabid. Just, in general, raccoons are a problem."
"Cool," he said on this excited exhale.
"But on a similar note that's only partially cool, I'm serious about the raccoons. They will go for the kill, people.")
Cam's still energized from the chase. He flaps a makeshift fan in front of his face, rocking back on the picnic bench beside Mitchell. "Wasn't that exciting though? I feel years younger."
Mitchell murmurs, "Feel, or acting?"
Cam bulldozes right past that, insisting, "Like the years just shaved right off!"
"Tell me about it," agrees Jerry, another Pawnee employee who has also stuck around. He's sweating, his shirt soaked entirely through, and his face has turned a worrying color of red. He looks the opposite of young, basically. "Easily the best workout I've had in ages."
"It was pretty fun, wasn't it?" Leslie agrees.
"Yeah," Tom scoffs -- third and final Parks person; up close he is decidedly more man than child -- sarcasm dialed way up. "'Cause running's so fresh and new. No one EVER does that. Exercise. Sports. Marathons. It's like no running whatsoever is involved."
Jay, though, has his mind on more important matters. "How'd the thing get loose in the first place?"
Jerry stands away from the group, has a camera in front of him.
"I may have accidentally left a neat-looking brick on the seat," he admits. "And a raccoon may have knocked the brick onto the gas pedal." With more conviction: "The keys I know I left in."
"DUMMY," Tom shouts from afar.
"So," Leslie says, full of enthusiasm, "look at you guys! Actual tourists."
Phil gives Claire a wide smile; Mitchell wraps an arm around Cam; Jay stares at his family with a lot of fondness.
"But for real," says Leslie, growing serious, "let me look at you. Don't move a single tourist-y muscle while I drink it all in, but mostly your faces."
"Do we get a lot of tourists?" Leslie repeats for the camera, her own separate talking head minutes later. "There's a decent runoff from Eagleton. People get lost a lot, wind up here. I'd say those are the top two contributors."
"And you," Leslie says to Manny in a posh, upper class voice, "are looking very formal, sir."
Manny sighs. "And with deep regret."
"Well, don't," Tom tells him, snapping it out because he MEANS IT. "Formal equals class, class equals cash. Remember that."
"In a way," Leslie tells them all, "Tom's right. In another way, he's absolutely wrong, but in a third way, he's close." Then, almost randomly, "Hey, have you guys been to the Pawnee Zoo yet? Because you," she says to Manny once more, "would fit right in with our penguin exhibit."
"Burn," Luke laughs.
Claire, though, perks at the thought that there's something in this town they might actually be able to do that does not involve a park. "Wait, there's a zoo?"
"Not just any zoo. What kind of zoo? you ask. Just the really awesome kind with progressive-minded penguins!"
Jay murmurs to Manny, "You'll fit right in."
"See there," Phil says, and he turns to face his family. "Rogue golf carts, progressive penguins. I think we nailed this vacation."
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves," Claire is quick to jump in with.
As realistic, and pessimistic, Mitchell says, "Yeah, it's a zoo." Under his breath, he adds, "Probably Indiana's smallest."
"As neat and fun and exciting as that sounds, no," Leslie says, then almost immediately reconsiders. "Although. Memo to Tom: Indiana's smallest zoo. Let's look into it."
"Memo to Leslie," Tom shoots back, "that's the worst idea ever."
"Yeah," Leslie accepts, with great reluctance, "you're probably right."
"The upside to having a smallest-anything is the notoriety," Leslie says for the cameras. "The downside is the massive public outcry. Pawnee's more of an Indiana's-largest town. Spatially, we run into a lot of issues."
Somehow, by some sorcery &/or many long minutes of Leslie repeatedly insisting, the group in its entirety winds up smack in the middle of City Hall. Specifically, in Leslie's office.
Leslie stands tall and proud, almost literally glowing. There's virtually no room for anyone to do anything other than, like, hang their head at weird angles to glance around them. They are being stared down by the very many pictures of Condoleezza Rice and Nancy Grace on the wall.
There is a sudden rumbling noise that hits the room like a sonic boom, and then, immediately following in its wake, an even louder bellow of: "LESLIE!"
Leslie drops the pretentious stance to work through the group, like they are a maze of tourists. "Just a sec," she explains on the go, "one minute, give me a fiver, I'll just be--" and then she shoots through the door and disappears out of there, just this flash of yellow hair.
Claire, from somewhere in the middle of the pack, says, "Wow."
"I know," Phil marvels, on a totally different page. "Best vacation ever."
Peripherally, Ron glares towards Leslie's office, where it is overrun with people.
"Why?" he asks, before anything else.
Leslie titters with excitement. "Tourists, Ron!" she says, like that is supposed to mean something, like he should automatically share her same joy.
April wanders in, having just noticed the sudden rise in population. "Um, there are a ton of people trapped in Leslie's office," she says.
Leslie scoffs. "Trapped. You can't trap a tourist. Not legally anyway." She searches out a camera immediately, because of course this is being filmed by no fewer than twelve camera crews. "I did not legally or illegally trap those tourists, let the record state."
Ron, though, is not in the mood. "Leslie, ridiculous as the idea of all government may be, this isn't a theme park. Let those people go."
"Thirty minutes. That's all I ask! Thirty minutes for me to open up their beautiful vacationing eyes about how great Pawnee is. Please please please please, Ron, please please please--"
"So," Haley says, twirling her hair, hip jutted way out, like indecently out, while she leans up against the desk where Andy works. Finally there is something for her to do. "Office job. I always thought those would be so boring."
"I do agree," Andy says, unsure how to play it. On one hand, Leslie told him to be nice to the tourists. On the other hand, April is staring him down with what he calls her laser eyes.
"Cool. You look cool. Like you go to college, or whatever."
Andy perks; college is a topic he is eager to talk about, having recently enrolled. "Would you say more regular-college, or community college?" he asks, and then falls into what he figures is a pretty intense collegiate pose -- one hand tucked under his chin, this faraway, thoughtful look on his face while he gazes up at nothing.
"Totally regular," Haley flirts.
"Psyched you!" he gloats, falling out of the pose. He brags, "Community college. One class. I like to dress smart, though. Lots of flannel and whatever these are called. Blue jeans. Although, I would diagnose this color as more..." He thinks about it for dragged out seconds; then, like he is plucking the word from the air, the answer having just hit him in a very smart, very college-type way: "non-blue."
(Actually, they are blue.)
"Cool," Haley says, less enthusiastic; Andy is legitimately, worryingly, loads dumber than Dylan.
"Boom," crows Tom, "check this bitch out." He scrolls through his iPad's many apps, lands on one in particular, and shows it off to Phil. "It's called What Would Drake Do? and it has literally never steered me wrong. Ask me a question."
Phil is too delighted to think properly, so it takes him long, suspenseful seconds before he finally blurts, "To Supersize or to not Supersize?!"
Tom stares back like, seriously, man? But then the app speaks, goes in this robotically urban and, like, 90% racist voice, "Fo'shizzle m'hizzle."
"Dammit," Tom says. He shakes the iPad, like it's broken. "You made it switch over to Snoop Dogg mode."
"Aaaand that's a bad thing?" Phil guesses.
"Uh," Tom practically duhs, "I don't know, are wars bad? Is mixing neon yellow with any other non-green neon color the worst possible choice? Think!" he says.
"I panicked! Panicking always leads to me questioning my fast food choices!"
Tom's tapping at his iPad again, more vigorously this time. "Ugh, now I've got to start all over, and my W.W.D.D? app will not be pleased, okay. It has a sixth sense for dumb questions. It shuts down until I diss Kanye for, like, twelve minutes straight, and I hate salting those wounds."
Mostly Phil has no idea who Kanye is, outside of one particular occasion: "Poor Taylor Swift," he murmurs. "When will she get her fairytale ending?"
"And that is why we never go inside the library," Leslie says, leading Luke and a reluctant Manny down the many halls of City Hall. Already she has had to shield them from six inappropriate murals, plus both Wino Joe and Eye Patch Joe, two of Pawnee's more eccentric citizens. However, they are coming up on one of the few non-violent artistic renderings. "Oh, oh, here's a good one! Life Blood of Pawnee," she reads from its gold plaque at the corner, and remembers at the same time that, while the first 3/4 of the mural is completely non-offensive, the rest of it, well, it's --
"Check it out. KNIFE ACTION," Luke barks, down near the horrible end.
"Ah!" Leslie quickly gets out, making hand-flapping motions to try and shoo the children along. "What? No. Knife? Please. No way. That's a toothpick."
Luke doesn't budge. "Yeah," he drawls, "a toothpick the size of a knife, maybe, that's also stabbing someone in the guts like a kni--"
"Like a toothpick!" she blurts.
Manny's inspecting the same area -- that is, the historical depiction of Pawnee's first (and only) public birthing, which lasted approximately fourteen grueling hours and bore witness to the brutal murder of 142 Wamapoke men and women; putting a stop to the bloodshed was the screaming arrival of a bouncing baby boy! Who would later die of dysentery during the infamous Medicinal Shortage of the entire 1800's -- he has his brow raised in a questioning manner, managing to look wise despite the overly-fancy attire. "I don't know," he muses. "I'm definitely getting knife-vibes here."
"WINO JOE ALERT, CODE RED, ABORT ABORT ABORT," Leslie shouts as a distraction, and after three previous encounters with the guy, the kids know to book it. And they do, despite Wino Joe being nowhere in actual sight.
(In fact, he is currently passed out deep in the gutters of Maplewood Park.)
"So, what, you've got some kind of drug problem?" Alex says, judging the very many bottles of pills and vitamins Chris has spread out atop his desk. They are everywhere, covering most of the surface area so there is little to no work space.
Chris beams at her, delighted by this. "Very astute! But, no. These are vitamins. You see, vitamins are essential--"
"Okay, whatever. Vitamin problem."
"Not a problem," he happily corrects. "I like to think of it more as a preventative measurement. Also, body maintenance."
"Normal people don't take this many."
"And that is precisely why I assemble my desk like so. To encourage healthy vitamin habits." He leans across his desk, picks up one of the bottles, and rattles it at her. "Would you like to try one?"
Just then, Ben pokes his head into the room. He raps at the door frame. "Hey, so, about me not working here anymore but still somewhat creepily loitering--" And then he notices Alex lurking nearby and does a legit double-take. "There's a little girl in your room," he says, like he's not sure if she's real or if he's hallucinating. "I think."
"Ben, Alex; Alex, Ben," Chris quickly introduces them.
Ben does a slow wave. It's this awkward arch that gets abandoned halfway through so that he can jerk his arm back at his side. "Oh. Okay. Hi. Alex, was it? Hey. I'm--"
"Ben, yeah. He just said."
"Right. So. I'm going to go." Then he catches sight of the vitamin bottle Chris is still angling Alex's way. "Should you be doing that? This is all very, very weird."
"Oh! Magnesium supplement," Chris tells Alex, swiping off the cap. "Lit-tra-ly God-sent. You should have some." He starts to shake a few out, but Ben lurches forward.
"Oh-kay, I have no idea what is happening, but I do know you can get sent to jail for way less than that." He goes to grab Alex by the shoulders with the intent of safely shepherding her away, but thinks better of that and instead crosses, then recrosses, his arms over his chest. "Do you have a parent here, or, I don't know, a parent?" he repeats more emphatically.
Alex shrugs, completely unshaken by the near illicit vitamin exchange. "They're all down in some lady's office. Leslie Knorp."
"Ah," Ben says.
Gloria tugs Jay into Ron's office, having noticed the large breakfast poster through the slanted blinds.
"Hello," Ron tonelessly addresses them right away. "Greetings, tourists of Pawnee. As I'm almost certain Leslie failed to mention, it now becomes my duty to tell you that this building adheres to a strict No Chit Chat policy."
"Chit chat," Gloria echoes, "what is chit chat?"
Jay gets it, though. He nods, gives a knowing smirk. "Means we should walk ourselves out." Absentmindedly, while ushering Gloria back the same way they came in, he says, "Nice bow saw," with a casual lift of his hand to gesture at one of Ron's many tools on the wall.
Immediately impressed, Ron goes, "You properly identified that. Excellent. Take a seat."
Jay does, with a shrug, like it doesn't bother him whether he stays or goes. Gloria says, "What about the chit chat?"
"Ron Swanson," Ron says, making no other move to shake hands or further be introduced. "I'm what you would call an avid woodworker. That bow saw has seen more action than my first and second wives combined." Jay chuckles at that, while Gloria folds her arm over her chest and stares Ron down, sternly and greatly unimpressed, but he pays no attention to it. "Let's chat."
Mitchell and Cam take vending machine acquired snacks to the nearest available dining setting, which happens to be an open courtyard. They find a clean table and sit down.
"Told you it would be quaint," Cam says, eyeballing Mitchell's open bag of pretzels with meaning.
"Oh, right. Absolutely. Let's see, you've got your over-priced, dust-laden, generic bag of OH MY GOD," he wheezes, bolting to his feet. Cam is immediately up and alert, too; he whips his body around in a series of circles, looking for whatever it is that has Mitchell so suddenly worked up.
"What is it?" he asks when he sees nothing out of the norm.
Mitchell, however, digs his hands into Cam's shoulders and clutches himself close. "Cam Cam Cam Cam--" he freaks out, because, of course, there on the ground is an entire flock of pigeons stealthily moving in on them. All twitchy heads that cock unnaturally to the side, and big, unblinking eyes, and an ominous amount of cooing.
"Oh sweet Elizabeth Taylor in Heaven," Cam breathes out.
A rogue pigeon breaks from the ranks, juddering upwards with this feathery flutter of its wings. It lands at the table Cam and Mitchell have already begun to back away from, where Mitchell's pretzels have spilled and scattered.
"Just take it easy," Cam guides, in this soft, soothing voice, barely more than a murmur. "Avoid eye contact. Everything's fine."
"Obviously I'm avoiding eye contact," Mitchell hisses back, crazily, but he's listening.
"It's like a tiny little army of gray-breasted soldiers."
"Yeah, that can peck out our eyes while infecting us with who knows what disease."
"Three more steps."
A second pigeon joins the first on the table, almost menacingly. This one is noticeably larger than the rest.
"Ohh," Cam reports; Mitchell is still avoiding all possibilities of direct human-to-bird eye contact. "That must be the Lieutenant. What do you think? Lieutenant Feathervest--"
Just then, with a strong gust of wind and a mighty whoosh-sound, there is a sudden moment of chaos as the entire group of pigeons bursts into flight. Mitchell ducks safely into the building, screaming.
As the Dunphys and Pritchetts wave off, headed back to their hotel -- a Holiday Inn, Pawnee's most glamorous with THREE (3!) recently added buffet tables -- Leslie calls after them, "Make sure you stop and visit the Pit Park on Sullivan Street! It's been called a can't-miss! Oh, and Wamapokestone! And remember, like we say in Pawnee, You'll almost certainly never want to come back again, unless you have to!" To Jerry and Tom, who are at her side, she says, "We should really change that."
"Totally," Tom agrees. "It's the Jerry of slogans."
"Hey," Jerry says, hurt. But then, with some resignation, "No, you're right."
"Of course I'm right, stop trying to Jerry me, Jerry."
"You're Jerrying this whole conversation!"
"Seriously, Jerry," Leslie piles on. "Boooo."
"So," Phil says, four days later. Their Pawnee adventure is done and over. Bags are unpacked, each family has gone their separate way. "Official report, our vacation was a bust." Then he leans forward and goes, "If bust means MOST WONDERFUL TIME EVER, maybe!"
From beside him, Claire rolls her eyes, but she's smiling a little, the corners of her mouth tugged up some. "Seriously, dial it down there."
"What an adorable little town Pawnee, Indiana turned out to be."
Claire says, "Let me sum up our vacation this way: we survived."
"And to further sum it up in an even more correct way: Leslie Knope," Phil talks into the camera, holding out his iPhone so it shows that he has one new Facebook friends request. "Friendship accepted."