Category Archives: Parks and Recreation

The incredibly eager Leslie Knope tries to shape her city, Pawnee, into the best possible place it can be. The rest of the Parks Department isn’t quite so pleased to be trying to change their city, particularly her stoic boss Ron Swanson. Though Parks & Rec suffered through a poor first season, it became exponentially better in season two–don’t give up on it so quickly!

Parks and Recreation — Ben’s Parents (S5E06)

(My review of the last episode of Parks and Recreation, Halloween Surprise)

Nothing could ruin Leslie’s happiness about her engagement, but Ben would beg to differ. An engagement party signals the gathering of their families, meaning his divorced parents will have to be in a room together. Leslie’s secret strategy of removing people from feuds is to create a quilt, so she creates a Wyatt-Knope Family Quilt. The second Ben’s dad walks in with his young girlfriend Ulani, Ben is ready to call it quits. It would be bad enough with his parents in the room, but adding in Ulani will shatter them. And when Leslie unveils her magical quilt, it tears the Wyatt family even farther apart. Leslie didn’t make an Ulani square because she isn’t technically a member of the family, which causes her and Steve to throw a fit.

Leslie, still thinking that she can save the Wyatt family and her party, creates an Ulani square by adding a face to a waffle square and etching her name in. But Julia (Ben’s mom) quickly cut out the new square. Her refusal to accept Ulani as a part of her family is going to be a bit difficult now, though. As Leslie tries to propose a toast, Ulani blurts out that she’s pregnant. And if Ben’s going to have a baby brother/sister, Julia will have to deal with Ulani for the rest of her life. Leslie finally decides that it’s completely hopeless and tries to bail on the party. But Ben picks up the slack and gets his family in a row. He demands that everyone attend the wedding and pretend to have fun. Looks like Ben picked something up from Leslie!

Due to his therapy, Chris has been incredibly on edge. He jumps between either end of the emotion spectrum within seconds. When April and Andy work together, they actually turn into a fully functioning human being, and figure out how to manage his feelings. Andy lists off happy things while April reminds him of everything terrible and it begins to balance him.

Tom finally grows into himself when he puts some serious effort into his new company Rent A Swag. He wants to have a real proposal for Ron so he will invest in the company. When Jean-Ralphio refuses to get any work done and tries to get him out clubbing, Tom realizes that JR isn’t as serious about the business as he is. When Ron hears how hard Tom worked for this and how he kicked his best friend out of the company for his lack of responsibility, he invests on the spot. All he wanted was to work with someone serious, and he now has that in Tom. I was so thrilled to watch Jean-Ralphio getting the boot. He was an amusing character at first, but at this point I just can’t stand him. I hope that this is the end of the character, but I have a feeling we will see more of him.

Parks and Recreation has been taking a dramatic turn. The past seasons have been mainly about the humor with some drama and character development sprinkled in, but it seems to have flipped recently. The show is now powered by the relationships between the characters and only has jokes scattered through the episodes. And I think that this is a shame, they have such a hilarious cast and they are being underutilized.

 

Parks and Recreation — Halloween Surprise (S5E05)

(My review of the last episode of Parks and Recreation, Sex Education)

Ron Swanson doesn’t seem like the kind of guy that would get along with children. Not in the slightest. But he has to cope with them for his new girlfriend Diane. He, Andy, and Diane are taking them trick-or-treating when Diane gets a call from the school (She’s the vice-principal) that there are kids pooping on the lawn. Ron is left to take the girls the rest of the way, and is completely lost. When one girl’s tiara breaks, he breaks the other girl’s tiara to even it out. If one can’t have it, then neither can. Ron refuses to apologize for his terrible baby-sitting experience, which causes Diane to break off their relationship. He tries to pretend that he’s fine with it, the relationship wasn’t worth it if there were children involved. But he quickly realizes his mistake and shows up at Diane’s house with flowers, chocolates, and grout cleaner (Who doesn’t need grout cleaner?). And to sweeten the deal, he takes the girls trick-or-treating again, on November 8th.

Donna is finally given a storyline, an incredibly annoying one. When the Parks department shows the 1986 classic Death Canoe 4: Murder at Blood Lake, she rewatches and live-tweets the previous three to prepare. And during the showing of the fourth movie, she yells comments at the screen. She’s that guy.

Due to Ben’s upcoming return home, Leslie searches for a house for them to get together. When she finds the perfect house, she and Ann blast dubstep and dance like morons; it’s quite fantastic. Because Ben’s candidate won, Jen offers him another job in Florida to run the campaign for a businessman, Kurtzwilder. Leslie freaks out, she can’t let Ben leave her again. So she goes to look at the house one last time and is surprised by Ben being there. He drops to one knee, but Leslie won’t let him ask the question. She needs to remember every detail of his proposal, because it is absolutely perfect. And once she lets him ask, she cuts him off to accept. Yet he still finishes the question, which is really cute.

Leslie and Ann tried to scare Tom as he exited the restroom, but were surprised by Jerry’s appearance instead. Jerry was much more surprised, and suffered a fart attack. He had a heart attack that induced a large excess of gas to be expelled. Since it was just a mild heart attack, Jerry is actually okay with the attack: it was a wake-up call. Since health insurance in Pawnee is completely useless (Leslie couldn’t get her medical bills covered for a sprained wrist because “having a wrist was a preexisting condition”), Leslie hosts an auction to earn the money. When they don’t earn enough money, on a whim, Leslie tries to sell Ann for a night. An incredibly creepy guy covered in tattoos wins her for $900.

And Tom has a chance to actually come up with a good idea. He loans his ridiculously fancy clothes for a short period of time: that way it doesn’t cost nearly as much for the consumers, but they can still get the nice clothes. The name could use a bit of work, though: Rent A Swag. Good luck, Tom!

(My review of the next episode of Parks and Recreation, Ben’s Parents)

Parks and Recreation — Sex Education (S5E04)

(My review of the last episode of Parks and Recreation, How A Bill Becomes a Law)

When Pawnee discovered the incredibly high level of STDs among the senior citizens, Leslie and Ann decide to teach them about safe sex. During a demonstration, Chris barges in with Marcia and Marshall, the morality watchdogs of Pawnee, and demands that they put a stop to the presentation. Apparently all government employees of Pawnee are required to teach solely abstinence, so she can’t legally proceed. When she discovers that the majority of Pawnee-ans are pro-abstinence, Leslie decides that passing a bill to change the law would be hopeless. But when she needs to teach the elderly the pros of abstinence, she returns to her old self and demonstrates how to use a condom once again. Though she gets officially written up, it was worth it. When she sees Chris about the citation, he reminds her that he is no longer her boss (which I’m glad they finally acknowledged). So rather than being weirdly scared of him, he tells her that they are best friends (poor Chris) and that he’s proud of her. Rather than apologize for her own actions, Leslie apologizes to Pawnee for the antiquated laws and promises to lower the level of STDs and unwanted pregnancies.

Ann is struggling with her own identity throughout the episode. Whenever she is with a boyfriend, she copies his style and shapes herself to fit them. She became athletic when she was with Chris, lazy with Andy, and now she became a cowgirl with her new boyfriend Ricky. But now that she is aware of this, she vows to stay herself when she is in relationships and breaks up with Ricky.

After crashing into a fire hydrant while tweeting, the judge bans Tom from using all electronics for a week. Ron invites him out to his cabin to detox, and the first step is to explain everything he does with technology daily. Bad move, Ron, bad move. Tom spends literally the entire day explaining Google, Twitter, Wikipedia, and just about anything else you can find on the web. When Ron finally stops him, Tom knows just how to make himself appear like a changed man, he’s watched every episode of The Intervention and uses that knowledge to his power. And since they reached “feelings territory,” Ron lets Tom escape to go out. But Tom can’t handle the lack of technology any more, so he picks up a burner phone and crashes Ron’s car as well. Tom finally reaches the point of honesty (At least I think he did), and tells Ron that the reason he absorbs himself in technology is because his own life is such a letdown. And the only two things Tom has to do so that Ron won’t let the judge know of his slip-up is to help Ron fix his car (by reading a giant paper manual) and promise that when he’s conversing with someone, he’ll look them in the eye.

Ben and April’s storyline was quite boring this episode. Ben is working with an incredibly weird congressman who is sort of like an automaton. He can’t handle a real conversation, but he knows how to “turn it on” when he’s in front of the camera and can sign the bills into law. Though this was incredibly dull, it was nice to see Ben and April getting along by making fun of him. With each episode they become closer and act much more like siblings.

This was a pretty weak episode, in my opinion. Tom and Ron’s storyline felt pretty obvious, anyone could have figured out the result, but it was still the best part of the episode. Ann and Chris were a little extra annoying and Ben and April’s story felt completely out of place and awkward. There was nowhere near enough screen time for Donna’s smart mouth or Jerry’s confusion, which could have really lifted the mood of this episode.

(My review of the next episode of Parks and Recreation, Halloween Surprise)

Parks and Recreation — How A Bill Becomes A Law (S5E03)

(My review of the last episode of Parks and Recreation, Soda Tax)

When April invites Ben on a spontaneous road trip to Pawnee to surprise Andy and Leslie, he decides that “She’s like the little sister I never had. Because the sister I do have is normal and not terrifying.” When they get stuck in the world’s worst traffic jam, they finally have some time to bond, from listening to Ben’s absolutely horrendous music to him reading aloud his Star Trek fan fiction. After hours of waiting, the jam finally clears up, but Ben’s car is out of gas. After some complaining from April, Ben offers to fly them out to Pawnee on his dime. But when she gets excited, he rescinds the offer. But what does he decide at the end? I hope you like the taste of your own medicine, April! These two have an incredibly interesting dynamic that hasn’t been explored until this season. When at work, Ben is serious, professional, and on her case. But when he’s off duty, she really brings out the fun, goofy side of him, just like Leslie does.

Chris, after intensive psychotherapy, decides that everyone should receive any help that they request, so he opens up a 311 call line. Since they don’t hire anyone to man the phones, the Parks department is left with the job. Jerry’s line got mixed with the 911 call line, and is left trying to assist people in dire need. Ron gets annoyed when there is no one to fill a pothole that he is receiving calls about, so he takes matter into his own (and Andy’s) hands. While fixing the pothole, the woman who owns the house, Diane, comes out to complain. But once she realizes that Ron really knows what he’s doing, she gets to flirting. I don’t know how long Ron could last in a relationship with a woman not named Tammy, but I would kill to find out! Ron even agrees to be dressed up as a pretty, pretty princess by Diane’s daughters, because Andy suggests that Diane might like it. When she laughs at him, he runs away, scared for his perfect masculinity. Even upon Andy’s insistence to pursue Diane, Ron refuses. But it doesn’t look like he’ll be wearing the pants in the relationship, Diane comes to his work to ask him. It will be a casual date, “no need to wear makeup.” After Ron agrees, he admits that a government program works. Not only do we see the flirtatious, softer side of Ron, but we also see him willing to admit that the one thing he hates most is a success. Such a huge change, it’s quite adorable.

Leslie tries to pass a bill to allow the pool to stay open longer so that the swim team, the Porpoises, can practice for longer. Councilman Jamm, who moonlights as a dentist, decides to change his vote on the bill, causing both the Porpoises and Leslie to panic. Rather than give in to Jamm’s demands (he wants Leslie’s private bathroom), she tries to get Milton to change his vote. Milton is an incredibly ancient man who ran his campaign on de-integrating basketball. She manages to convince him, but when she refuses to kiss him and he falls over, it doesn’t look like his vote will help. Tom suggests taking the easy way out because “It’s so easy!” and give in to Jamm’s demands. At the very last minute Leslie decides to give Jamm her office and bathroom and gives into another four or five demands.

Though the bill passed, Jamm decides to tell the kids why it passed. Tom, wanting to protect Leslie, shoves him into the pool to prevent this. Leslie and Tom then jump into the pool with their suits on and declare a pool party. Tom cares so much about Leslie that he was willing to ruin his extravagant suit and give up his only chance to get into Pawnee’s famous smokehouse. Though he wouldn’t admit it, he really does care about her. In return, Leslie surprises Tom with his own private smokehouse in her own new office.

Due to Ann’s disappearance, Leslie had time to do whatever she wanted that day. She decided to get the perm that she had always wanted, which was only half finished and completely ridiculous. It’s hard enough to take her seriously as it is, but with this hair it is near impossible.

I think this was one of Chris’s best episodes. He learned from his psychotherapy that “you can’t share too much or too often,” which he disproves immediately after. He then goes on to discuss how great he and his idea for the 311 call line are. Though he usually talks about his amazing successes and accomplishments, this episode he talks about himself in the third person. This time, however, he realizes that he sounds insane when he’s talking about himself. He runs off to call his therapist and isn’t seen again.

(My review of the next episode of Parks and Recreation, Sex Education)

Parks and Recreation — Soda Tax (S5E02)

(My review of the last episode of Parks and Recreation, Ms. Knope Goes to Washington)

Leslie is really struggling with who she is now that she is on city council. She writes a proposition to tax sodas to try to lower the amount of citizens with diabetes and create a healthier Pawnee. When she finds out that if this tax passes, the local restaurants will be very negatively affected, which could cause hundreds of layoffs, she doesn’t know how to vote on her own proposition. When there is a town meeting, she asks to hear both sides of the argument, because she no longer knows which way to vote. She is really pro-health, but she doesn’t take layoffs lightly, either. When she polls the constituents about their opinions on the matter, they are split nearly in half, which prompts her to say, “Thank you so much, this has been very confusing.” I have never seen Leslie struggle with so much indecision before. And this indecision takes its toll. The night before the vote, Leslie didn’t sleep at all, os she drank a child-sized drink with every flavor mixed in (when they say “child-sized” they mean the size of a child, not the size for a child! It’s 512 ounces!). When asked how she will vote, she says she doesn’t know, she’ll go with her gut. And with her gut she went! She threw up when it was her turn to vote. If that isn’t enough reason to vote for the tax, Leslie goes to Ron for inspiration. He explains that he tried to fire her four times, but even though she disobeyed direct orders, what she did ended up being precisely what needed to be done, so he withdrew the requests for termination. Ron, in one of his sweetest moments in the history of Parks & Rec, gives Leslie a compass telling her that this will help guide her the right way. With Leslie’s vote making the decision, the soda tax passes.

Ben has a massive stick up his ass, he doesn’t trust his interns to do their work and he makes sure that they know it. They retaliate by drawing a caricature of him with said stick up his butt. When Ben talks to his boss about firing them, he finds out that every single one of his interns is incredibly well connected. So rather than firing them, he decides to “kiss their asses like crazy.” He throws them a pizza party and organizes an ultimate frisbee match. But the best part of this is how Ben starts to act around the employees. He pretends not to care about the job and he talks in ridiculous slang. This is so far from how teenagers actually talk, which is why it’s so great. He sounds like the biggest idiots, his employees know it, but he’s clueless. When Ben asks Ellis (the head of the obnoxious interns) who drew the caricature, he tells him that his daughter did. After a bit of confusion, he realizes that everyone thinks that April is his daughter! Not only is he freaking out that people think that he’s so old, but he’s deeply offended by April’s lack of respect. It hurt a lot worse that it was his friend than some undisciplined employee. After a decent amount of arguing, April agrees to Ben’s request to make a 15% effort. And she definitely does that, when Ellis is taking a personal phone call, she grabs his phone and threatens to torture and kill him if he doesn’t work effectively and respect Ben. I’m pretty sure that this is enough to whip anybody into shape. And man, oh man, I love this side of April!

Andy decides that he wants to have a real job so he can provide for himself and April, so he wants to be come a police officer. If he makes the cut, I feel truly sorry for Pawnee. Just as I did for Point Place when Michael Kelso became a cop in That ’70s Show. Tom and Chris agree to help whip him into shape to pass the physical tests. Andy manages to run two miles in 29 minutes (less than 25 is the requirement), which prompts Chris to be excited for how much he can help Andy improve. Andy tells Chris that he’s doing this for April, which prompts the two to agree that the only things in life are family and love. Chris says something depressing about how he is all alone, but Andy ignores him. When Andy and Chris are about to race, Chris collapses and says that he is broken. The doctor didn’t find anything, which Chris believes is the silent killer. He admits that “I’m going to die one day. Probably.” Though this might seem like nothing, Chris always insists that he is going to live forever, or at least to the age of 150. When he realizes that he’s just upset that he doesn’t have a girlfriend or any family, Tom suggests that therapy might be the best option. Chris agrees that before he climbs Mount Everest, he needs to “climb the Mount Everest of [his] mind!” Man, Chris is such a freak, but you have to love him!

It looks like this season is going to be a lot about the growth of each individual character. Leslie has to figure out who she is a city councilwoman, and it’s really difficult for her. She has never been in a position where she can make a huge difference, either positively or negatively. Ben has to learn how to manage people who don’t want to be managed; he needs to understand that not everyone is as much of a perfectionist as he is and how to deal with them. Andy is finally trying to turn himself into someone successful. Hopefully he won’t learn too much, because where would the show be without his crazy antics, such as wearing a bandana for underwear? And Chris has finally hit his midlife crisis. His life isn’t perfect just because he is fit, he needs more to be truly happy. And who knows, maybe he will find someone who makes him truly happy and isn’t overwhelmed by him this season! And Ron seems to be becoming a softie. That’ll never happen though, will it?

(My review of the next episode of Parks and Recreation, How A Bill Becomes A Law)

Parks and Recreation — Ms. Knope Goes to Washington (S5E01 Premiere)

This episode of Parks and Recreation in no way measured up to the high standard that I have set for the show. Season four had hit a very high point on the comedy scale, and it was bound to falter sooner or later. I still enjoyed watching the episode, and there were some great jokes, but compared to last season, I think this episode was a bit of a bust.

Leslie and Andy head to Washington DC for a location episode to visit their significant others, Ben and April. When they arrive, Leslie is the same chipper woman that we know and love. She is thrilled to be Andy’s tour guide, hoping that he will love the capitol’s wonders as much as she does. He, however, is completely clueless. Not only can he not distinguish the Capitol building from the White House, but all he notices about it is that it’s shaped like a boob. As they further explore explore Washington, Andy is intent on finding the clues from National Treasure to uncover government secrets or some treasure. Though this stint was funny at first, it grew boring quickly. As did Andy and April’s constant make-out sessions.

Back home in Pawnee, Ron has finally decided to take initiative in his position as the head of the parks department. During Leslie’s absence he leads the annual “Leslie Knope’s Employment Enjoyment Summer-Slam Grill Jam Fun ‘Slopsion,” however, he refuses to have any froofy things such as the Parks and Dolls play. All that the barbeque will entail is meat and quiet. The meat that he plans to serve comes in the form of a live pig named Tom. He wants the employees to understand the true circle of life, and killing a pig named Tom is just the icing on the cake. And this is exactly why Ron Effing Swanson has become such a hit and a fantastic meme on the internet. I mean, who doesn’t want Ron to teach them the ways of “meat love?”

Tom and Ann have been pretending to be in a relationship to prove that they weren’t an absolutely terrible match. That and Tom really wanted to win his bet against Donna. Though I have never shipped Haverkins and I thought that they would be an awful couple, as they share more scenes together I love them together more. And if they get together in the end, it will at least feel less awkward and forced than it did at first.

Very unsurprisingly, no one is enjoying Ron’s barbeque. They have so many complaints! They have to see the animal that they are going to eat, they want vegetables, they want non-alcoholic beverages (mainly for the kids), and they can’t handle the wait. To deal with the latter issue, Chris offers up raisins, adding (my favorite line of the episode), “Raisins, [they’re] nature’s candy!” Trust me, when people are dissing raisins, I am using this line. Skyler, you have been warned. When Ron gets sick of everybody’s ranting, he drives off, with the barbeque (still on!) in tow. This left everyone at the BBQ slack jawed and us at home laughing hysterically.

Back in DC, Leslie’s attitude shifts dramatically. She finds out that the congressman that she was in DC to contact has absolutely no interest in Pawnee: he doesn’t even show up for the big meeting that Leslie thought she had with him. Soon after, she attends a gala with Ben, where she sees countless “Hot Rebeccas,” those who she believes are perfect, both professionally and socially. She starts to doubt the glory of the city that she has loved so much when she finds out that there are so many other Pawnees and that hers is completely unknown. She quickly becomes ashamed of both Pawnee and her position on city council, and this makes her become distraught when she meets two of her idols, Olympia Snowe and Barbara Boxer. She blurts out that “We’re overrun with raccoons and obese toddlers” and runs off to the coat closet. In this closet, she runs into Senator John McCain, who is extremely polite to the strange crying woman he just met. She, however, doesn’t turn around, so she is clueless as to who is speaking to her. This guest appearance seemed a little bit odd and forced, I think they just tried to fit him in somewhere.

While Leslie is tearing up, Andy makes an amazing turn of character. He sits beside Leslie and tells her that she is better than she thinks she is. And Pawnee is the greatest town. Though this could have seemed like a strange change, Chris Pratt and the writers made it work beautifully. Andy still sounds like the same goofball that he always is, but manages to be so much more caring and understanding than he typically is. And don’t worry, right after this scene, he returns to the same nut when he gives a fake tour of the capitol. With the extra help from Andy, Leslie decides that she is going to take on the challenge of cleaning the Pawnee river herself. If the national government doesn’t want to do anything, she will do it herself!

And Andy isn’t the only one who shows that he has a genuine side. Ron, after an extra push from Chris, throws a mini-BBQ from the employees. Not only does he bring the employees a cooked Tom the pig (which they actually appreciate), but he brings them the corn that they begged for previously. Though this would seem like a tiny thing from most people, this is a huge gesture from the emotionless Ron Swanson.

The last thing I have to say about and Recreation is not about this episode, rather the coming season. I am genuinely worried about how they will manage to keep the show as fun without Ben in Pawnee. I know that I’m not the only one who absolutely adores Adam Scott and his portrayal of Ben. I love his and Leslie’s banter and I’ll thoroughly miss it. And, I’ll be honest, I’m starting to get creeped out by Leslie’s butt fetish. I bet that if Ben were home (where he belongs), it would be less obvious. Not to mention, he would have more screen time!

(My review of the next episode of Parks and Recreation, Soda Tax)

 

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