New Show Recap: Parks and Rec, 6×03, “The Pawnee-Eagleton Tip Off Classic”

Everyone tries to listen to their gut feelings.

This episode, more so than the premiere, does a lot of setting up for the season: Pawnee will help Eagleton with its money woes! April decides not to go to vet school! Ann wants to raise her child somewhere other than Pawnee! Even so, it’s an enjoyable collection of plots of people trying to do the right thing in spite of themselves.

The main plot concerns itself with the chaos and change we saw last week: Eagleton is facing a financial crisis and only Pawnee can help. At first, Leslie is happy to let the town implode. She points out that doing so will probably help improve her poll numbers, and besides Eagleton didn’t try to help Pawnee. (She’s also mad about Eagleton seceding from Pawnee 200 years ago.) But Ben tries to offer real help and ultimately Leslie comes around. Her solution sows more chaos, but will lead to greater control for her.

The B, C, and D(!) plots concern adults who feel overwhelmed and try to find control: Ron wants off the grid, April decides not to go to vet school in Bloomington, and Ann realizes maybe another city would be a better home for her baby. Ron finds a compromise, April seems set in her decision, and Ann broaches the topic with Chris, with no resolution yet.

But isn’t that life? Generally, we can, at best, find a compromise. There’s always a little piece of chaos to upset our control.

Let’s look at the episode in more detail, shall we?

Leslie (Amy Poehler) and Ingrid (Kristen Bell).

Leslie (Amy Poehler) and Ingrid (Kristen Bell). From NBC.com

Pawnee and Eagleton hold a joint press conference about the annual Tip-Off Classic, a high school basketball game. Ben writes Leslie’s speech, including jokes about Eagleton, which she delivers stand-up style.

Throughout the episode, Leslie comments on how much more beautiful the Eagletonians are. Her first comment is here, at the top of the episode, when she explains how Ingrid (Kristen Bell), Eagleton’s city councilor, won the Miss Indiana beauty pageant. It always sounds false to me when Leslie jealously comments on other women in this way: not only is Amy Poehler gorgeous herself, but why would Leslie care? Surely she’s more interested in Ingrid’s actual accomplishments? Why not jealousy over some legislation Ingrid passed, instead of just her beauty?

Later, Chris reveals that his and Ben’s old boss has asked them to help Eagleton, which is now facing financial difficulties. (It turns out, they faced problems when Pawnee did back in Season 3, but instead of seeking help, they kept borrowing money.) Leslie, of course, tags along, filled with glee.

Eagleton is a tough case, since discussing money, even at a budget meeting, is gauche. Ultimately, Leslie, on behalf of Pawnee, offers Eagleton a loan, but at 25% interest and on the condition that Eagleton release a statement that “Pawnee rules and Eagleton drools.” Not surprisingly, Eagleton doesn’t take it.

Later, Ben meets again with Eagleton, in order to provide real help. Leslie is angry, both that he’s helping and that he lied about helping. At the Tip Off Classic, she says her most problematic line, “I speak for all of us in all matters. That is what you tacitly agreed to when you married me.” Ben balks and Leslie calms down, explaining that she’s been feeling a lot of pressure and needs to feel he’s on her team. Of course he is.

We all know this line would be insanely creepy and scary if it came from a man, right? It’s clearly a joke, and Ben pushes back instantly, but it’s still said with a kind of menace. It fits Leslie in that we know she steamrolls people and wants to do everything her way. A complaint about these later seasons is that Leslie doesn’t have enough flaws. I appreciate seeing her flaws but wish they could be expressed in a way that doesn’t make Leslie seem like a controlling monster. But I guess at heart she is?

Leslie, however, is able to put aside her negative feelings (thanks to Ben) and comes up with a plan: Eagleton will be reabsorbed into Pawnee. Pawnee will provide services and pay off debt. Citizens from both towns are angry, but Ingrid manages to calm everyone with a gracious thank you.

In the B-plot, Ron is angry about receiving a Penny Saver in his name at Diane’s house when he’s only been living there for a month. This begins a quest to get as far off the grid as possible. A neat contrast: Tom suggests Donna can help. He can track Donna through her Twitter feed. Donna and Tom are all about the very grid Ron seeks to escape. The trio destroy Ron’s cell phones and credit cards and remove all pictures from public spaces. However, Diane catches up to Ron as he tries to buy an RV with gold.  She points out that he has a family now and must be reachable. The compromise: a million-year-old Nokia cell phone with belt clip.

The characters never state it outright, but it seems Ron is freaking out just a little bit about his new life. Which is understandable, and I appreciate that the show has avoided the standard “Man isn’t ready to commit!” plots and jokes. Ron lived in a cabin. Of course it’s tough to adjust to a house with a wife, two stepdaughters, and a child on the way. Ron has always desired and valued privacy and now it’s gone.

Perhaps Diane and Ben should start a “Level-Headed Spouse” support group.

The C- and D-plots focus on April and Ann. Ann takes April to Bloomington for vet school orientation; Ann then shops for baby items. April decides she doesn’t want to attend school in Bloomington; she can’t give a concrete reason, only that she trusts her gut. Ann, meanwhile, falls in love with Bloomington and asks Chris about leaving Pawnee.

I hope future episodes further explore April’s decision. It’s really tough to get into vet school. St. Olaf College explains:

There are only 28 veterinary schools in the nation and the average class size is only 100 students. Because of this, it is very competitive. It varies from year to year, but the average acceptance rate into veterinary schools nationwide is approximately 43%.

That April was accepted is a genuine accomplishment. She can certainly turn it down if she wants to, but I hope the show gives us a more concrete “why” than “a gut feeling.” Does she feel bad that Andy didn’t become a cop? Is she too freaked out by the potential life change?

Besides April’s decision, we have a lot to unpack in future episodes, namely: Eagleton is going to merge with Pawnee?!

Notes and Quotes

  • Can Pawnee exist without Eagleton? I mean, can Springfield exist without Shelbyville? Night Vale without Desert Bluffs?
  • Kristen Bell made a few appearances on Party Down, which starred Adam Scott (Ben).
  • If Eagleton wins the Tip Off Classic, Pawnee will give them a basket of pesticide-free apples (which, unfortunately, have g. coli. Much harder to treat than e. coli.). If Pawnee wins, Eagleton will give them a basket of oranges made from Swavorski crystal.
  • Ben certainly did not name his calculator.
  • Hmmm, Ron wants off the grid. Leslie’s rival is named Ingrid. Coincidence?
  • Ann shops at Tots All, Folks.
  • “Unless of course you’re an Eagletonian, and then you’ll be too busy polishing your monocle at the caviar store.”
  • “Sure, let’s not have brunch, like animals.”
  • “I love you but your solution to every problem is to live inside a mountain.”
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