I know this is a mighty risk I’m taking here, considering the powder keg politics is in our national landscape. But I will freely admit to you today that I am…a total liberal. That’s right! I’m a tree-hugging hippie and proud of it. Except not really. I mean, I’m far too socially progressive to ever consider voting for the current crop of Republicans, but I’m not a bleeding heart. I’m not an Obama apologist—I oppose him on several issues—but I’d say 90% of the time our views fall in line. And while never explicitly stated, Leslie Knope sure seems to lean left. After all, the ripped from the headlines story this week’s episode stems from Mayor Bloomberg’s legislative ban on selling sodas over 16 ounces. I must admit, even I thought that was taking it too far. While I have never been a soda person (unless as a chaser or mix for alcohol), I find this slightly oppressive. While I applaud health initiatives, and think government should take a bigger role in our well-being (how about an actual single-payer healthcare system?), I don’t think telling citizens what they can and cannot ingest is just.
“Parks,” however, took it to the extreme. In Pawnee, more so than even NYC, obesity is a monstrosity. And it’s not difficult to see why considering that a “small” soda is 64 ounces. By venturing into hyperbole, the show doesn’t take a position by having it’s protagonist champion a tax, because it’s an apples and oranges comparison. In this case, it would seem that the restaurant association is over-manipulative and purposefully promoting harmful addictions to their products to make more money. In this case, regulation seems called for. And by using this satirical subject mater, the show also emphasizes why it’s such a feel-good show. It doesn’t pander, it doesn’t create division among its viewers. It sides with reason, it sides with good-hearted individuals. It sides with civility. While Ron is on the side of small government, he doesn’t loathe Leslie. Truthfully, she’s one of the people he cares most about—not that he would ever admit it. It’s almost absurd to suggest that a libertarian such as Swanson, and a socialist (kidding) like Leslie would get along, and yet I buy it. I slurp it up like a gigantic soda because it’s a vision of social harmony that I embrace. Even if the country is content to rip at the seams, I’ll support community before patriotism every time. I’m much more loyal to the human spirit than I am to some arbitrary boundary that tells me how I should feel.
Speaking of love and all that gooey stuff, we start with Ben and April getting care packages from Leslie and Andy. Leslie gives Ben twelve boxes worth that includes waffle mix and new PJs. Andy gives April a stuffed three-legged dog to remind her of Champion, plus his dirty clothes. And a picture of him wearing a bandana for undies. As Ben says, “Horrifying.” April, however, gets choked up—”I love him so much.”
Leslie Knope’s first act as councilwoman is this tax on soda. Ann has being doing research for her and it shows that she could definitely lower the rate of diabetes in the town if the bill passes. We also get the visual gag of Ann pulling out a tub which represents the sugar consumed by an average Pawnee child every month. There’s also the revealing of some of Pawnee’s premier eateries—Paunch Burger, Big N’ Wide, Fat Sack, Colonel Plump’s Slough Trough. Ron objects to this tax because it’s just her personal quest to babysit every citizen. And of course the freedom to consume gross amounts of meat at these establishments is something he frequently enjoys. He professes, “Damn I love this country so much.”
At the parks department, Chris and Tom are training Andy for his physical exam to become a cop. He has to be able to run 2 miles in 25 minutes. I haven’t run long-distance since high school, and am admittedly in terrible shape and that sounds like a cinch. Hell, in high school we would fail if we couldn’t run a mile in 8 minutes. Andy, evidently is fatter than I because he runs the two in 29:53. He falls on the track panting and stripping down to his skivvies.
Ann and Leslie meet with Kathryn Pinewood of the Restaurant Association and are aghast at her standards. She’s clearly swindling consumers, only providing one size that is smaller than 64 ounces and it’s no bigger than a Dixie cup—called “the little swallow.” And she charges only a nickel less! A regular is a gallon and the next size up is “child size.” No, not fit for a child, but roughly the size of a two year-old if liquefied—512 ounces. Leslie assures that the tax will be passed, but Pinewood threatens that if it does, one hundred restaurant employees will be laid off.
In D.C, Ben is having trouble with his interns. April backs up his rant about their “crazy random font differences.” He calls for Times New Roman only (Amen!) and 12 point. Ben calls up Jenn Barkley (Kathryn Hahn’s character from last season) and says he plans to fire some interns after finding a cartoon drawing where he has a stick up his butt. Although he cannot, because they are all super connected. One is related to Donald Rumsfeld, another is the child of Ben Bernake’s dentist. So, instead, he going to be their buddy. He starts trying to use slang, and be “down,” organizing a pre-work Ultimate Frisbee. He’s totally one of the bros.
Chris motivates Andy to run faster by asking why he wants to be a cop. He says he wants to provide for April, that she is the only thing he cares about. Nothing else matters. This energizes him, but devastates Chris who realizes as he did last season that he has no one. They went to this well WAY too often last year after trying to show that the upbeat, perpetually perky Chris Traeger had the capacity for sadness. Oh, and Tom gets his pop culture reference in by tricking out the pace car to replicate Han Lu’s ride in the Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Any Tokyo Drift reference is instantly funny. What a ridiculous yet enjoyable movie.
Now that the vote is complicated by the weight of lost jobs, Leslie conducts a public forum. Of course, the Pawnee common folk don’t disappoint. One calls for the abolishment of all taxes (Tea Party, much?) and another is a woman-hater. The last called for a recall of Leslie Knope since she is calling for him to lose his job by voting for the tax. Of course, Leslie takes this to heart because she is a devoted public servant who feeds off approval from her constituents. When she’s in the chambers and asked to vote, she pukes in her gallon cup of soda that she drank before the proceedings. Ah, irony, my old friend.
When Chris and Andy are about to give the run another shot, Andy jets off, with April in mind to inspire him. Chris collapses, realizing he has nothing to run for. After getting blood tests done, he is proven to be physically in peak condition, as always. But Tom accurately diagnoses his issue as mental. He hesitates to tell his boss this, but he thinks a therapist might be a good idea. Any time he’s forced to think of something sad, he breaks down. It’s an interesting angle, the perfect specimen being a discombobulated mess mentally. I suppose this redeems the subplot, but it better mean “climbing the Mt. Everest of his mind” for Chris. I’m going to be sorely disappointed if we endure sad Chris for another half season. Humanizing one-beat characters is what this show continues to excel at. Give me a reason to wonder if I truly know Chris. Hell, giving Rob Lowe a reason to go dark isn’t a bad thing.
Ben tries to keep up his cool boss charade, but when he finds another drawing of him—this time in his Ultimate gear, but still with a stick up his butt—he breaks. He tells Ellis he doesn’t care who his connections are, but he’s cut off when Ellis says it wasn’t him, it was his daughter. Ben is confused, but then Ellis points to April. He’s not sure what to be more enraged about. That everyone thinks he’s her dad, or that April made a fool of him. “Sorry, dad” she sort of apologizes. He scolds April later after she tries to cheer him up with a fake memo using thirty different fonts. He expects some semblance of professionalism, especially when he took a chance on her, believing she’s smart. He asks only for 15 percent effort. She negotiates for 12, and Ben’s infuriated. I was so distraught that the episode would end without redemption for April. She evolved so much last season, starting to embody a gentler, more selfless side, I was angered they would have her regress. Instead, she gets to tell off Ellis in the creepiest, most malicious way possible. Yet it was somehow endearing. Well done, team.
The highlight of the episode is Leslie seeking advice from Ron. As I said, it’s a dynamic that sets the show apart. I especially liked the idea that at the onset, Ron wanted Leslie fired on four different occasions. Eventually, he begun to admire her conviction and would rather have him working with him than against him. Leslie doubting herself can often seem like “Parks” running in circles, but due to the circumstances it works. Now she’s going to face severe consequences for her initiatives. Ron hits the nail on the head thought when he says she hasn’t lost her conviction, she’s just in unknown terrain. He gives her a compass, “because every good adventurer needs one.” She votes “Ay” and it’s not determined yet if the job losses are a bluff or not. I hope they aren’t. Leslie needs to endure some backlash in order to leap the tall buildings we know this superwoman is capable of bounding over.
This week’s installment didn’t set my world on fire like the season premiere. While Ben trying to be bros with his interns, or just any attempt of his at being “cool” really, is comedic gold. Adam Scott is awkwardness personified, and it’s charming as hell. Leslie and Ron as mentor/mentee has become the show’s heart, but I could have done without the Chris/Andy plot. While I see comedy aplenty resulting from Andy’s foray into law enforcement, Chris was a downer this week. That was not a pleasant surprise. I would still rather spend time with these genuine folk than any of the raging pundits on cable news though, so I’ll count my blessings. This show’s sugary sweetness can’t be bad for you. And heck, if it is, maybe I can have my cavities tended to by someone who has a Washington elite’s ear!
L.O.L.Ls: Laugh Out Loud Lines
– Leslie: What did you put in this sugar, it’s so good!
– April: Papyrus? Come on people. There’s no place for that in a professional office setting.”
– Ben: “They call me Divo because I—whip ’em good.”
– Andy: “I’m never gonna be a cop. I’m gonna have to be a robber.”
– Ben: “New plan. Instead of firing them, I’m going to kiss their asses like crazy.”
– Ben: “Ellis, what’s up my male? Grab a slice of ‘za, bro!”
– Citizen at public forum: “I think we should tax all bad things, like racism. And women’s vaginas.
– Ann: “You look weird.” Leslie: “So do you! That’s a lie, you always look beautiful.”
– Andy: “It sounds like you’re going through some tough stuff right now. Too bad there aren’t doctors for your mind.”
– Ron: You were stubborn, a pain in my ass, and worst of all, bubbly.”
– April: “Ben told you to finish the website and if you don’t I swear to God I’m gonna murder you in your sleep. I know where you live. 14th street, right? I’m gonna get a melon baller and scoop your eyes out and eat them. And your Congressman uncle is gonna have to buy you a dog to drag your eyeless face around. Understand me? *kisses his nose*”