The plot this week feels a little stale, but some surprising revelations about Mr. Stalwart himself Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) are forced out in an unexpected way and gives the episode some unexpected heart.
Let’s break it down…
The A-storyline once again falls into a formula that is definitely being overused this season. Leslie (Amy Poehler) encounters an ‘–ism’, this week tackling the town’s well-established sexism. She fights that ‘–ism’ with April (Aubrey Plaza) by acting as a temporary trash collector to show that women are just as capable of performing the job as men. And while she doesn’t conquer that ‘–ism’, she makes strides, getting the department to hire 3 female trash carriers. The story is peppered with some fantastic jokes, like Leslie posing on the truck just in case Google Earth photos are being taken, and April’s assorted 1950s June Cleaver-esque jokes about women being submissive and following behind their men.
But if the writers want this story overall to be more compelling, they need to shake up the formula a little – maybe make the arc longer, so that it plays out over a couple episodes, or create some real consequences for Leslie’s need to prove that women can be trash collectors. Having Leslie state to the camera that feminism in Pawnee will be over if she and April fail to push the refrigerator onto the truck does fit Leslie’s character, but in this situation, it feels more like a cop-out by the writers so that they don’t have to try to fabricate real stakes.
Meanwhile, Tom (Aziz Ansari) pressures Andy (Chris Pratt) and Ben (Adam Scott) into teaching him about basketball to help him connect with the kids shopping at Rent-A-Swag. This story shows how much Tom has changed over this season because of his new business. In the past, most of his the stories that focused on him were motivated by his need to look cool. But he’s finally being motivated by a desire to succeed at something, and is actually –gasp- self-reflecting and thinking about how he can make his business better.
The only problem with this story, and it’s a minor one, is how that turns into playing basketball with Andy and Ben. Wouldn’t Ben and Andy just watch a game and explain it to him if he wants to be able to talk about it? It seems like getting Tom back on the basketball court was the main objective and connecting with his customers is just an awkward way to get him there. Although from the standpoint of the viewers, seeing Andy bulldoze through two middle-school boys just to score a point is totally worth any logical inconsistencies getting him there.
But this episode is ultimately redeemed thanks to the efforts of Ron Swanson. We’ve seen him getting more and more attached to Diane (Lucy Lawless) throughout the season, and now he’s stepping up and showing her that he’s ready and willing to be there for her as more than just a casual boyfriend. And he even directly tells her that he loves her! Although the best part of his confession is that it doesn’t come with flowers or chocolate. Just like Ron, it comes as he stands in the middle of his destroyed office after Diane’s two monsters have chopped each other’s hair off. It’s a well-crafted moment that manages to be sweet without betraying Ron’s character.
- As I watched Chris (Rob Lowe) navigate his nascent relationship with Shauna Malwae-Tweep (Alison Becker), I realized that there is not a single relationship in turmoil on this show. Are these characters all finally getting their happy endings or are we facing a lull before a storm?
- April gets most of the best lines this week: “Leslie, you will never land a beau with that domineering tone.” “Mmmm… If I were 300 years older, Councilman.”
Your turn! Are you counting down the days until a Ron/Diane wedding? And what kind of fireworks does Andy need $1500 for? Sound off in the comments below!
Parks and Recreation airs Thursdays at 8:30 EST on NBC