Two episodes of Parks and Rec aired last week, two episodes aired this past Thursday, and now it’s off again until the spring. Everyone got that? Also, what kind of dog are you? Or are you a cat?
Sorry I missed last week; some family stuff came up. To recap: Leslie held a filibuster in order to ensure everyone in Pawnee, including the former Eagletonians, could vote in the upcoming recall election. Parallels to Wendy Davis were many and obvious, but that’s not a bad thing. Unfortunately, Leslie is recalled. She has thirty days left on the city council.
This week’s episodes look at the consequences of that vote, or rather the lack: Leslie realizes she can do anything she wants now, including being rude to the citizens of Pawnee. She decides to spend her time working on a campaign to add fluoride to Pawnee’s water in “Fluoride.”
Jamm opposes her, because he always does (and as a dentist, he doesn’t want to lose all of the cavities). He suggests to the citizens that fluoride is a scary chemical. Tom helps Leslie turn fluoride into a cool-sounding product, T-Dazzle. Jamm then enlists the aid of Sweetums, who will add Drinkums (sugar-water) to the town water supply. Leslie goes on a public rant about how terrible this is… and discovers a consequence: Ben is fired from running Sweetums’s charity. Leslie tries to win his job back, but Ben is happy to have been let go.
Side note: I have such mixed feelings about my feelings about Ben. I like Ben a lot, especially during his first appearances as a sort of nemesis for Leslie. He was intelligent, charming, geeky, and good at his job. In his time with Leslie, he’s given up many opportunities. Often, it is the woman who is expected to give up her dreams, so it is refreshing to see a man do it. Yet he never gets angry. I should applaud his unconditional support, yet something bothers me. I’m not sure if I have some internalized misogyny at work, or if the character stretches credibility a little too much. What do you think about Ben?
Thanks to some more showmanship from Tom, Leslie wins and the water is fluoridated. Portland, OR, recently went through a(nother) prolonged fluoride debate. I wish the politics had been half as interesting as this. And alas, it didn’t even pass.
In a B-plot, April, Donna, Larry (Jerry), and Craig (from Eagleton, last seen in “Doppelgangers”) try to pick out everyone’s perfect dog. April chooses a poodle for Donna for superficial reasons, which angers Donna. April works hard to learn more about Donna and realizes Donna is actually a cat.
This subplot really clicked, as it felt like an experience many of us have had: in a work or school setting, we might try to keep our distance, yet we are upset when we feel that other people don’t know basic things about us. (Never mind that we’ve worked hard to limit what information others know about us.) Likewise, many of us have people in our lives that we think we know, only to realize we do not. Plus this plot made April reach and grow a bit; after all, in previous episodes, we’ve seen that Donna and Jerry know each other quite well. The issue was partly that April hadn’t bothered to get to know her co-worker and, after so many years, friend.
Chris and Ron are paired in the C-plot. I also like Chris a lot and I hate it when his masculinity is compared to Ron’s, and Ron is shown to be superior. Chris is a thoughtful, caring man; he’s not fundamentally wrong. Anyway, Ron shows Chris how to make a crib while Chris tries to absorb as much parenting advice as possible. Ron assures Chris he will be a good father, and that mistakes are inevitable.
The second episode, “The Cones of Dunshire,” spends more time on Leslie’s last few weeks in office.
Leslie has one last goal to accomplish: starting construction on Pawnee Commons, the park she’s been dreaming about since Season One. She reveals that she hopes that if Ann sees the park has been started, she will stay; after all, Leslie and Ann met because of the park. Alas, Chris explains that Ann is away in Michigan, signing the lease on their new home and that he has taken a new job in Ann Arbor.
However, Leslie does get her wish of being able to begin the park. However, first she must spend some quality time with Councilman Jamm. Leslie and Chris (as mediator) show up at his door Friday evening, wanting to talk. They end up staying the night. Jamm refuses to talk about the park, even as he prepares scrambled eggs on a teppenyaki table he got from Benihana’s. Leslie offers to sing karaoke with him; they perform “Summer Nights,” but he still won’t deal.
Finally, Chris is willing to deal: if Jamm agrees, Chris will owe him. Of course, Chris is about to leave, so the offer is moot.
In the meantime, Ben has started a new job at the accounting firm. His new boss loves him, and after Ben solves a difficult case, his boss even throws him a calzone party. But Ben must quit once again with Chris offers him the town manager position.
Ron decides to sell one of his cabins, and Donna, Tom, and April help. Of course, Ron hates everyone who comes to the open house, and eventually April buys the cabin for $8 and some cough drops.
This episode is particularly interested in façades, and what is real and what is fake. First, Jamm is into “Asian” culture, but he doesn’t really understand it. He pronounces words wrong, he doesn’t know how to eat edamame, and so on. It’s clear he’s not trying to be offensive, but that he really believes he’s celebrating Asian culture. Of course, his attempts look pathetic.
At the open house, a hipster couple straight out of Portlandia shows up and tries to buy the cabin. They want it, in part, because of the lies April tells (“I heard Dave Eggars wrote a short story about a cassette tape he found under that tree”). They think Ron’s mustache is ironic and can’t appreciate the cabin for what it is.
As someone who lives in Portland (and is kind of hipstery), I can’t decide if I’m tired of making fun of hipsters or not. Probably not.
Overall, these were two of the stronger episodes of the season. Leslie finally puts her energy to good use in getting fluoride for the water and starting work on her park. Ben is hopefully on to bigger and brighter things. That or realizing he’s peaked and dealing with the disappointment of a mundane life. April has grown out of her shell just a little more. And Chris and Ann are definitely leaving.
Notes and Quotes
- I won’t lie, I’d love to read a Dave Eggars story about a cassette he found under a tree. And then have Colin Meloy sing about it.
- Chris and Ann are off to Ann Arbor, specifically. There’s no JJ”s Diner, but Zingerman’s Deli is outstanding.
- “My anxiety has kept me up for 50 hours.”
- “All I have on my side is facts and science and people hate facts and science.”
- What do you think Leslie will do now that she’s out of office? Focus on the park? Run again?