My man crush on Nick Offerman reached unhealthy levels after last night’s episode, because it was he who penned the script, his first of the series. Considering the commanding screen presence and comedic intuitiveness displayed in his portrayal of the manly, meat-loving libertarian, I shouldn’t have been surprised, but by and large his proficiency for character authenticity did not miss a beat, and may have even surpassed that of his peers as he was able to allot equal yucks to each his beloved cast members.
We drop in on Leslie as she’s picking out an outfit for an interview with Indianapolis’ number one talk show host, Buddy Wood. The last five city council candidates to appear on his program have won their respective elections and after the events of last week, where she was out-dueled by Kathryn Hahn, she could use the boost in good pub. But in a strange turn, Leslie is the one wanting to kick back, trying on horrendous attire like leather pants that say “Nympho” across the butt (Tom says it’s a “maybe”) and Ben is wound-up tighter than…well, those nympho pants. Almost immediately after his departure, Ben calls to say the interview has been cancelled. Following this news, a surprisingly stable Tom and Ann (who have been together for thirty-eight hours straight, only nine hours share of their personal best) encourage Leslie to loosen up. Leslie’s gun-ho and suggests they go out drinking to capitalize on her pre-interview adrenaline. As a fan, I was immediately giddy because I knew this meant more drunken misadventures, which have never disappointed (see: Snake Juice).
Andy studies for his Women’s Studies final at the community college with the help of Ron and April. Initially terrified of the oral exam, he wants to fake sick, but Ron insists that’s not how grownups deal with tough situations. So he grits his teeth and buckles down, regurgitating feminist theory with an almost robotic efficiency, which may be due to the Cheetos (or treats) he receives with every right answer. I adored watching Andy speak with alacrity about Laura Mulvey and her paper on the male gaze in cinema. It was a paper I read last semester in my gender studies course, and it established an immediate connection to the script, and was impressed by Offerman’s aptitude in incorporating this complex theory for comedic effect. Andy’s thorough review of the material pays off, considering how over prepared he ended up being for a Pass/Fail exam. To celebrate he invites his professor, Linda, to join him, Ron and April for dinner, adding another silly feminist joke about how he’ll “let her pay for her own food, because of equality.”
The tertiary plot is an inert one, but a laugh riot. Jerry is stuffing envelopes for Leslie at a shocking pace, and Donna simply stares in amazement, canceling a date just so she can watch Jerry in his element. To see him perform even a menial task with this level of competency is quite baffling, but the combined absurdity is what keeps it fresh each time we return to it. When this thread is clipped by Jerry realizing he’d been inserting the wrong flyer the whole time, it renews our love/contempt for Jerry, who even when he’s rolling, is prone to messing up. And his eagerness to repeat the process just fascinates and delights all the more.
Leslie’s inevitable drunkenness from fiery tequila shots is a short-lived thrill for her as Ben calls to alert her that Buddy Wood’s flight is delayed, so he will have time to squeeze in an interview. This induces a panic in Leslie, but as she’s proven time and time again, she is cool as a cucumber under pressure. Her clutch, flu-ridden performance in a speech to potential donors for the Harvest Festival was the stuff of legend. Leslie pulling out the “W” here, was a given. Except Buddy Wood wasn’t interested in highlighting an ambitious candidate. He’s out for the dirt. Like most of P&R’s satire, they nailed this particular lampooning of the instigative media, who often tries to stir up negative emotions in their subjects, hoping for scandal. Wood badgers her about the decrepit conditions of the municipal airport, insults the townspeople by calling them sad, and won’t back down when he introduces Ben and their prior scandal of an affair at work. Leslie furrows her brow and insists upon a topic change, but her pride in Pawnee overcomes her will to appear sober, and she blurts out that she’s had a couple drinks. Like a kid at Christmas, Wood is jittery about the journalistic gold he’s just discovered.
At the restaurant, April notices that Chris is at the bar alone (reading “Limb-itless,” a story of a women who tried to swim across an ocean with no arms or legs and immediately drowned) and invites him to join, acting as matchmaker again. I’m starting to really become enthralled with the consistent progress April makes each week toward concerted efforts to help in ways she isn’t obligated to. I assume the pattern will reveal its hidden agenda at/near season’s end, but for now it’s lovely just to see her relishing in the cognitive dissonance of being dispassionate, but compelled to take care of her friends.
Presumably, Chris and Linda hit it off. He is well-versed in feminist thought, and she shares his enthusiasm for physical health. Ron simply sits back as spectator with his three Porterhouse steaks. When Chris makes his move and asks Linda on a date, she declines saying she just got out of a tough relationship. Chris, with his sunny disposition is undeterred, believing that they can reconnect at another time. After all, he is the microchip. But alas, when Ron suggests that he still has room left for after-dinner omelets at J.J’s, Linda whispers that he should go to her place instead. And the paradoxical legend that is Ron Swanson continues. Though it isn’t a simple sitcom switcheroo. With how strong women have shaped Ron’s life, he just may be the most vehement, if not silent feminist. And there’s just no denying the sex appeal that comes with that man’s affinity for chowing down on cow.
Ron comes in to work the next day, his usual post-sex Bizarro Ron, offering up donuts and wearing power red like Tiger Woods on Sundays. But Andy reminds his mentor that as a grownup he must deal with tough situations (then Andy eventually remembers aloud that Ron was the wise man who told him that). So he approaches Chris and apologizes for his carnal instincts and Chris excepts, but not without a throwaway remark of how lonely he is. I’ve enjoyed Chris’ vulnerability, but must admit that my pity for him might where thin, seeing as he hasn’t done much to help himself (and oddly un-Chris behavior).
In a frenzied attempt to steal back the tape and prevent a catastrophic blow to Leslie’s election hopes, Tom conjures up the hot tub limo and they motor over to Indianapolis. In a manner apropos of this week’s title, Wood’s bags were lost and the tape with it, and any proof of Leslie’s on-air inebriation is in the ether. Of course, the perceived luck isn’t so at all. Karma is enacted by the Pawnee Municipal Airport employees, who in response to Buddy’s petty jabs at their livelihoods, decided to accidentally dispense of Wood’s belongings in the dumpster. It’s a fitting tribute to Leslie, and to the sprit of Pawnee. Nothing Wood said was inaccurate. Pawnee is out of date, and frankly a depressing place to live for anyone looking to launch into the 21st century. But Pawneeans are loyal people. They may be misguided, fat, and perhaps even corrupt, but they stand by their own. And it is because Leslie is the sharpest and most capable representation of their best selves that they will likely vote her councilwoman.
The precedent set last week of immovable walls, held up this week. Campaigning is a tedious process, one not often rife with giggles, but grim reality. And if not for the dedication to the quirks of the players involved, the series could have come to a grinding halt. But by sticking to the old adage of “show don’t tell” we have been able to witness the unravelings and the improbable regenerations of Leslie’s dreams materializing time and time again. We know her like a sister, a fellow compatriot, a champion of what is just, and when she’s entrapped by Buddy Wood, we’re horrifed with her. They’ve constructed a gripping political thriller around the funnest, brightest souls in the fictional Midwest and damn if it doesn’t bring a smile to our faces to see her come out the other side unscathed.
Tom and Ann haven’t fizzled out yet, but they used the volatility of their relationship to noble comedic ends by illustrating Tom as a ticking time bomb. He can be fun to be around and charming for a good streak of time, but then he buys you four dozen flavored condoms and you remember why you despise him. As Tom’s tendency for self-fulfilling prophecy goes, my tolerance for this plot goes. But with a 4-week hiatus* before us, I suppose I will have the time to learn to appreciate it.
An all-around amusing episode of “Parks” is hard to stay mad at though. Reservations about the “direction” of certain character arcs aside, it was a merry occasion. I fist pumped at Ron’s power red, I beamed at Andy’s attempts at comprehending psychoanalytic approaches to feminism, and I was awestricken by Jerry’s mechanical zeal for office work. I can’t imagine a more charismatic and dynamic candidate for the most lovable comedy on TV. For providing yet another injection of the warm and fuzzies, while maintaining biting commentary and sophomoric wit, I’ll overlook any evidence of imperfections as “Parks” earns my vote for a second straight week with its recipe of good ole, homegrown fun, with hints of sweetness and zest. A.
*Let’s have a moment of silence to mourn. “Parks and Recreation” will not return until April 19th. God help us all as try to find solace in these troubling times.
L.O.L.Ls: Laugh Out Loud Lines
– “If there’s one thing I know it’s…my fantastic…it’s talk.”
– “You know who the president of the Boring Club is?” “Me?” “Nope, you lost the election because your speech was too boring.”
– “He’s like a strict mother I’m confusingly attracted to—Ben is like a MILF.”
– “If they got together, they would make a Superbaby. But what if Superbaby got too powerful?”
– “I’ve never had a boyfriend threaten to commit arson for me before!” “Eh, it gets old.”
– “Here, you kids go buy yourself a Walkman. How much does a Walkman go for these days?”
– “I’m quite lonely.” “Aw f**k.”
– “Don’t punish me, I took a risk!”