Trust Parks and Recreation to take the most traditional, maybe even overused, sitcom plot points like estranged parents and engagement parties and still find new and completely ridiculous material to mine.
Let’s break it down…
Leslie (Amy Poehler) and Ben (Adam Scott) are back together and all is right in the world, or at least that’s what Leslie thinks. She wants to bring together Ben’s spiteful parents with one carefully planned engagement party, at least until Ben’s father (played by Jonathan Banks from Breaking Bad) shows up with his new girlfriend. Of course, Leslie still won’t be deterred (Leslie to Ben: “Everything is terrible, but I am going to fix it”), and with the help of some straight talk and her beautifully crafted Knope-Wyatt unity quilt, the parents at least agree to come to the wedding.
It’s these kinds of plots for Leslie that were missing from the past few pre-proposal episodes this season. Part of the joy of the show is getting to see all the weird and loving ways Leslie’s passion for her friends and family can be channeled. That unity quilt is a thing of beauty, with Leslie represented by the city hall and Ben by his cellphone and the Game of Thrones logo. And that’s even before they show the face of Joe Biden in the corner (a shout out to the Veep’s cameo next week, since he’s got the body of Leslie’s dream man). Also, the moment when Leslie gets advice from her mother is a nice bonding moment for the pair, and helps remind us that Leslie still has some learning to do about relationships.
Likewise, Tom (Aziz Ansari) does some growing up himself this week. Not only is it exciting to see another of Tom’s business ideas come to fruition, but it’s an interesting change that this one might actually make money for him and he’s pursuing it seriously. Unfortunately the resolution feels pat, wherein Ron (Nick Offerman) accepts Tom’s business proposal so easily because Tom fires Jean-Ralphio (Ben Schwartz). This doesn’t really gel with what we know of Ron: he’s a careful guy, and if his secret wealth saved up in gold is any indication, he’s not likely to part with it so quickly. My only fear is that the end of Tom and Jean-Ralphio’s business partnership (and the imminent return of Schwartz’s Showtime series House of Lies) means that Jean-Ralphio might not be on the show anymore. I hope that the ending – Jean-Ralphio falling onto Tom’s couch and singing “technically I’m homeless” – means that this isn’t the end of this dynamic duo.
Chris’ (Rob Lowe) crushing depression, on the other hand, can’t end soon enough. This storyline is starting to wear a little thin. In theory, the show says he’s making progress in therapy, but watching what seem like bouts of bi-polar disorder is not exactly fun. Yet it does lead to some fantastic moments with the rest of the Parks Department. When Chris leans onto Donna’s (Retta) chest, she gives this fantastic look to the camera as if Chris is her next conquest. April (Aubrey Plaza) and Andy’s (Chris Pratt) attempt to energize Chris by listing off happy things, then sad things, is a bit of a stretch until we get to the Dave Matthews Band punchline, which is definitely both a happy and sad thing. And last, but certainly not least, Champion makes his much welcome return.
- Leslie’s descriptions of Anne’s (Rashida Jones) beauty are usually on the strange side, but this week’s is one of my favorite, calling her “a musk ox.” What does that even mean?
- Ron suffers no fools, especially ones who try to steal his food. And when it’s Jean-Ralphio tempting the fates, it leads to the fantastic moment when Ron stabs his hand with his skewer and tells him “Rethink that move, son.”
- Does anyone else suspect that if we had gotten to see more of the party after Leslie and Ben left that Larry Bird might have actually come? I bet Leslie could actually make that happen.
Your turn! Do you buy that Ron would invest in Tom just for firing Jean-Ralphio? And how awesome is that make-out session between Leslie and Ben in the back of the cab? Sound off below!
Parks and Recreation airs Thursdays at 9:30 EST on NBC.