Parks and Rec Sex Education

Parks and Recreation
Season 5, Episode 4: Sex Education
Posted by Sage

Oh, Tommy Edamame. I felt for you in this one. We all did.

In this week’s episode, Tom Haverford had an unfortunate brush with the law. It turns out that live-tweeting your drive isn’t the safest way to get from point A to point B, and Big T gets into an accident. For the last two nights, I’ve been having nightmares about the punishment handed down to him by the judge, that crafty bastard.

One week tech blackout.

George Michael depressed

Be real: you and me would tumble down the same spiral of panic and despair when faced with that prospect. Tom deals with his grief in some creative, though perhaps not so effective ways. A paper iPhone won’t respond to a thumb swipe, and spying on Jerry’s internet use is just depressing. (“Oh my god, Jerry, when you check your email you go to AltaVista and type, ‘Please go to’?!”) Who better to help a tech-addict through withdrawl than consummate outdoorsman and old-school manly man, Ron? He whisks Tom away to his cabin in the woods for some good ol’ fashioned wood chopping and sage advice. All seems to be going well, but Ron doesn’t realize that Tom’s seemingly sincere acknowledgement of his problem is just a speech he memorized from Intervention. The other shoe drops when Tom borrows Ron’s car under false steak pretenses and crashes again. While tweeting. On a burner phone. Like he’s Marlo friggin’ Stanfield.

Then Parks serves some realness. Ron is determined to get to the bottom of Tom’s addiction and asks him why he constantly needs distraction. Tom’s answer?  “The truth is – I spend a lot of time looking at screens because recently, a lot of stuff in my real life isn’t going so great.” Welcome to the internet, headquarters of, well, that. Ron decides not to turn Tom in to the judge and prolong his sentence, but does give him some Papa Bear advice: engage with people, and don’t use technology as a crutch. Message received loud and clear, LeRon James.

Meanwhile, Leslie and her team of Sex Avengers are out to tackle an STD epidemic in Pawnee’s senior centers. (“Good news! Lots of old people have chlamydia.” “Woo!”) The solution to this sexy problem is clear and simple: hold sex education seminars that encourage residents to use condoms and prevent the spread of disease. But where there is a clear and simple solution to a social problem, idiots will rear their ugly heads. Leslie’s first seminar is interrupted by said idiots, family values advocate Marsha Langman and her flamboyant husband Marshall, who has his own reasons for discouraging rampant heterosexual intercourse. Turns out, Pawnee has an Abstinence Only sex ed law, without an age limit. The Langmans take over the next session, entitled “It’s Great to Wait!”, to encourage a rec room full of 80 year olds to wait until marriage to get down to business. It’s delightfully ludicrous.

Leslie tries to play by the rules, but loses patience while reading from the “So You Think You Know More Than God?” pamphlet. (“The devil likes to hide in all your private nooks and crannies.”) She drops the pamphlet, picks up a banana, and expertly rolls on a condom. Lucky Ben Wyatt. The Langmans are horrified. She receives a censure from the mayor (on thick paper!) and learns that the majority of Pawneeans don’t support sex ed. Our friend Perd Hapley has her own his show, presumably to apologize for her misstep. But Leslie, that beautiful rule-breaking moth, takes a stand. Yes, we live in a democracy. Yes, our elected officials represent the will of the people. But if the people are uneducated and misinformed, that process breaks down. (“So we’re just gonna do the thing we know doesn’t work? Great plan!”) Leslie vows to continue her crusade and to work to change the minds of her not-insignificant opposition. I stand up and slow clap in my bedroom.

Random thoughts/B-Stories:

  • Why no sequel to Unbreakable, indeed?
  • Jean Ralphio mentions! Come back to me, you gorgeous idiot. If you pause when the court shows Tom’s tweets, you can see that Jean Ralphio favorites them all. And Tom shout outs their “Nacho Average Podcast,” where he and JR exclusively review, you guessed it, nachos.
  • “I’m April Blart, mall cop.”
  • Leslie introduces the sex ed seminar to the seniors with a Q&A. When she asks, “What do we risk when we have sex?”, one of the residents quietly answers, “Falling in love?” Classic.
  • Leslie Knope is My Hero, Reason #4820: My girl was mature, confident, matter-of-fact, and unembarrassed about dealing with and talking publicly about sexuality. Think about how any other sitcom would have treated a storyline like this one and be thankful that Parks never resorts to the cheap and easy joke.
  • I’m not sure if this was intentional or not, but Ann’s story in this episode felt to me like an acknowledgement of the problems the show’s writers have had in giving her viable, interesting storylines that don’t involve her being the girlfriend of another character. Leslie points out to Ann that she loses herself in her boyfriends. She takes on their hobbies, dresses like them, and in extreme cases, orders lassoes online. (This pattern also rationalizes Ann’s relationship with Andy in the first season.) I love Ann as a character, and her relationship with Leslie is a cornerstone of the show. But man, give her something to DO. She has TWO jobs, and we rarely see her doing either of them. Also, unless we count Jerry, there are no men on the show left for her to date. And we never count Jerry.
  • Please, please, please let there be a deleted scene on the Season 5 DVD that shows just how Donna was going about putting a condom on a pineapple.
  • Ben and April. April and Ben. I’ve left this storyline until last, because I’m still not sure how to deal with it. Why do they stand so close together? Why do they have inside jokes now? Why are their faces so beautiful and stupid?! And why would a robot need to consume organic matter? Mike Schur: get these two back to Pawnee and their respective significant others ASAP. You’re confusing us.

Ben and April

Marshall Langman

So Perd-verts, what did you think of this week’s episode?