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New Show Recap: Parks and Rec, 6×04, “Doppelgangers”

I debated, but the Night Vale joke won over the Mystery Science Theater 3000 joke: “They come in twos. You come in twos. You and you. Kill your double.”

“Dopplegangers” is a fun, breezy episode that both sets some major plots in place (Ann and Chris tell Leslie and Ben they might leave; Ben seems to be thinking about a new job) and quickly introduces and dispatches other plots (the various government departments are merged, and most of the Eagleton people quickly fired). It’s light, but entertaining. I especially appreciated that the doubles weren’t exactly the same or exact opposites. Maybe “parallel” is the right term (from Futurama‘s “The Farnsworth Parabox”.)

And look at that, in 100 words, I’ve already referenced three other shows that use this plot. Many long-running shows do. It’s a new way to explore old characters. On the commentary of “The Farnsworth Parabox,” the Futurama writers discuss how they idea they wanted to develop was: Could you stand yourself? If you hung out with your double, would you love or hate yourself?

That particular thread is not fully developed in this episode, but it’s exciting to see the gang bounce off of new characters who aren’t good or bad, just different.

April (Aubrey Plaza) and Tynnyfer (June Dian Raphael) from Parks and Rec.
Okay, Tynnyfer is clearly bad. From nbc.com.

The episode begins by reminding the audience about the Pawnee and Eagleton merger; the two cities are reunited after nearly 200 years. The Eagleton government workers are also being absorbed by Pawnee (except for the departments of Infinity Pool Design and Dressage). We only meet the Parks Department doubles.

I was about to say I was hoping we’d spend more time with the characters, but actually only two left; it seems we’ll have a little more time with Evelyn and Craig. But I get ahead of myself.

April is paired with Tynnyfer, Ron with Ron Dunn, Tom with Eric, Ann with Evelyn, and Donna with Craig. Leslie doesn’t have a double, and no mention is made of either Ingrid (from the previous episode) or Lindsay Carlyle Shay (Leslie’s former friend-turned-Eagleton-Parks-Director from Season 3). Given the emotional turmoil Leslie suffers with Ann, adding Ingrid or Lindsay would have been overkill (never mind Kristen Bell’s and Parker Posey’s schedules).

April immediately dislikes Tynnyfer, a ditzy Valley Girl. April immediately begins copying her speech patterns and eventually succeeds in talking her into leaving. Ron at first likes Ron Dunn, a man with a large mustache and few words. However, Ron Dunn reveals, to Ron’s horror, that he recycles, practices yoga, and is a vegan. Even though Ron is horrified, Ron Dunn himself is not presented negatively. In fact, it seems like Ron Dunn and Chris would probably get along well.

Tom discovers E.R.I.C. is a computer program. He convinces Leslie that E.R.I.C. is a real person (perhaps a drug-dealing racist) and manages to keep his job over the more efficient program. Donna doesn’t know what to make of Craig, who is deeply passionate and melodramatic. She does appreciate his commitment to the job, and tells Leslie if it comes to it, to pick him over her.

Evelyn is really a non-entity as she tries to help Leslie deal with Ann. Leslie is devastated to hear Ann is thinking of leaving, acting childlishly by giving Ann the silent treatment, being angry with everyone, and trying to force a friendship with the new members of the office. Leslie looks like a jerk, but understandably so, and the two Rons talk some sense into her.

This was my favorite plot line and I hope it’s further explored in future episodes. So many television shows depict these people who are lifelong friends. In my experience, people move all the time. Sure we stay in touch by Facebook and email, but leaving or having someone leave is common and heartbreaking.

To get personal for a moment: I moved from Wisconsin to Georgia when I was nine, from Georgia to Nebraska when I was 18, and from Nebraska to Oregon when I was 23. The worst part about leaving Nebraska specifically is that now nearly everyone else has left, so it’s that much harder to get the gang together. Of course, I’m excited for my friends and the new opportunities in their lives. It was hard when I left. I envy what I see on TV even though I know it’s not real for many people.

Leslie’s bad behavior is much easier to take in this episode as it comes from a place of real, understandable human emotion. Sure, many of us have a rival of some kind, but her hatred of Eagleton can approach cartoonish levels. Acting inappropriately about a friend’s news is much more relatable. We cringe for Ann, but know Leslie will come around.

Of course, I’m sad Ann is leaving, too, as I love Rashida Jones. Her character hasn’t had much to do since about Season 2, so I understand why the actress is ready to move on. But so few shows depict deep female friendships, so there will be a real hole when Ann leaves.

In a minor plot, Ben and Chris team up to go over Eagleton’s finances. Ben enjoys the work and the two reminisce about the old days. Ben takes the news that Chris might leave quite well; he admits he’s happy and sad. It’s definitely fun to see the two working together again; their chemistry compliments each other well. Ben points out something else most of us have to deal with: our friend-partnerships get replaced by romantic partnerships. But that’s okay.

Notes and Quotes

  • Jerry returns as a temp to help with filing. He asks that people call him by his real name, Gary, but April instead gets everyone to call him Larry.
  • No mention of Andy. The actor, Chris Pratt, was filming a movie at the time.
  • Donna has a condo in Seattle and a fiancé in Denver. But it won’t last.
  • I won’t lie, I loved Tynnyfer. A much more bearable version of Mona Lisa: “I used to be Jennifer but then I decided to rebrand myself. Hang on, it’s Xanax o’clock.”
  • Imagine a show with April, Tynnyfer and the Mongolian woman from “London”!
  • “I just need to talk some more words into Leslie’s face.”
  • “Sorry for the delay, ladies, I was busy being ambushed by treachery.”
  • “You know what, this calls for some celebratory lunges.”

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